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Onam Sadhya 2020: Know Everything About It

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7 Min Read

The traditional Onam Sadhya is much more than an elaborate feast comprising 26 dishes. Undoubtedly the highlight reel of Onam, the Sadhya is a hearty meal that the Malayali people, across the world, cook for their family and friends. While it seems indulgent, the meal is genuinely one of the more healthy options that one can dig into.

What is Onam?

God’s own country becomes magical and comes alive during the months of August and September, when the entire state gears up to celebrate Onam. One of the most awaited festivals in this region, Onam is celebrated to mark the birth of Chingam, the first month of their calendar.

The place, which is already picturesque enough for travellers to tempt travelers to visit, turns more charming during Onam as houses have decorated flower arrangements called pookalams, traditional performances, elephant processing shedding light on the grandeur of the festival and more.

At this time of the year, you would also witness the Vallamkali boat race. Also known as the snake boat race, this race involves boatmen rowing their hearts out to emerge victorious. 

Onam is truly a sight to behold if you’re in Kerala around this time.

But Why Is Onam Celebrated?

The festival of Onam is celebrated for 10 days in the months of August and September. It is celebrated to mark the homecoming of one of Kerala’s most just kings – King Mahabali.

If you’re in for an interesting story, it goes like this.

King Mahabali was an asur by birth. But by virtue he was a sur – meaning, the one with compassion and good intentions. Despite being an asur, King Mahabali is regarded as one of the best kings of Kerala. The state is believed to have witnessed a great time of prosperity and happiness.

As a ruler, he was just and generous. Those who came with a need to his court never returned empty handed. It is also said that King Mahabali was a keeper of his words and prioritized his promise over anything else.

Myth also reveals that the King had sacrificed himself just to keep the promise he had given. And because of this same gesture, he was immortalized with the commemoration of an entire festival on his sacrifice. Onam signifies his eternity in the hearts of the people of Kerala and it is believed that during this time, he comes back to earth from patal-lok (his underground kingdom).

Since this is also the time of harvest in Kerala, it is also believed that he visits Kerala and blesses people for a better year of harvest and prosperity.

And one of the special aspects of the festival that signifies this prosperity is the Onam Sadhya, a generous 26-course meal. 

Not just in Kerala, Onam is a time of festivity and Malayalis around the world celebrate the festival. From pookalams and traditional dance performances to an elaborate Onam Sadhya, the festival is truly a special occasion for the people.

Significance of Onam

Onam is a grand annual festival that is predominantly celebrated in Kerala to usher in the harvest season. The Sadhya — comprising 18-26 dishes — is testimony to the abundance and prosperity of the Malayalis.

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In 2020, Onam will commence on August 22 and go on till September 2.

The goodness of Sadhya

South Indian cuisine is surely one of the healthier cuisines in the world. Almost every item is cooked in keeping with Ayurveda recommendations and seasonal cooking style. The Sadhya is especially nutrition-dense, no matter how lavish and lip-smacking it may seem on the outside. The large spread is replete with antioxidants, gut-friendly foods, and foods rich in calcium and anti-inflammatory properties.

In this post, we tell you why the Sadhya is considered a super-balanced meal that nutritionists vouch for the world over. Let’s delve deep:

How is the food served?

All the items in the Sadhya are spread out on a banana leaf.

  • Experts believe that the banana leaf is loaded with a type of antioxidants known as polyphenols that get absorbed in the food when it is served warm. These antioxidants lessen the extent of damage otherwise caused by free radicals in the body, reducing the risk of multiple disorders (including certain cancers and heart diseases) in the process.
  • Importantly, the leaf’s anti-bacterial properties fight germs that may be present in the food, aiding digestion in the process.
  • Every part of the plant can be used – from the stem and roots to flowers and fruits. That makes the banana leaf a sustainable and eco-friendly option.
  • There is, of course, no question of washing the banana leaf with soap or any other chemical. All you have to do is clean it with water, and it is ready to use. It is 100% natural and hygienic at the same time.


Eating with your hands – A healthy habit?

This may read surprising, but eating with your hands is believed to be healthier vis-à-vis using shiny cutlery. The reason behind this is that when you use your hands, you tend to be more mindful of what you’re eating, and how much you’ve eaten. This serves to control portions, something that plays a critical role in healthy weight management.

Another related benefit of giving your food a hand is that you are more likely to eat slowly compared to what you would’ve with cutlery. This prevents sudden spikes in blood sugar levels in the body, thereby keeping in check the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Dishes that make up the Sadhya

Brown rice

The primary feature in the Sadhya is brown or red rice.

Why is it good for you?

Besides being tastier as compared to its polished (white rice) counterpart, brown rice is also more nutritious. This variant is loaded with proteins, selenium and fibre.


An essential element of the Onam Sadhya, kalan is a traditional curry that is very popular in this part of the country.

Why is it good for you?

This dish packs the right amount of probiotics and is made with a mix of chillies, coconut, buttermilk, turmeric, sweet potatoes, yams, and other herbs native to India. On the nutrition meter, kalan ranks high, considering the sweet potatoes and yams are alkaline root vegetables rich in starch – something that helps the ‘good’ bacteria inside your gut.



White gourd goes into making this scrumptious dish that is loaded with fibre.

Why is it good for you?

Thanks to its diuretic and laxative properties, the gourd has a cooling effect on the digestive system. Experts are at one with how wholesome and nutritious olan is, particularly when it is cooked with coconut, a fruit that packs calories, lauric acid (its anti-microbial agent, monolaurin, fights pathogens), and saturated fat in the form of MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides).

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MCTs reach the liver directly from the digestive tract, where the body uses them for ketone production that helps with metabolism. That is why MCTs are far less likely to be stored in the body as fat.


Kooto curry

Made with chickpeas, this flavourful dish is incredibly healthy and replete with proteins.

Why is it good for you?

The low glycaemic index of this dish makes kooto curry an absolute delight for weight-watchers and those afflicted with insulin resistance and diabetes.


This is prepared with coconut and a mix of heart-healthy vegetables and then seasoned with curry leaves and vegetable oil. Avial is also replete with antioxidants and nutrients.


This is a dry dish that is made with vegetables, including green beans, peas, carrots, cabbage, and raw jack fruit.

Why is it good for you?

It is the vegetables and the generous use of coconut that make this delicious and healthy at the same time. Thoran has antioxidant properties and packs all the essential nutrients like proteins and fiber, minerals like iron, and other vital vitamins.


This delicious dish is made of tomatoes and dal.

Why is it good for you?

This South Indian staple is just the right mix of healthy ingredients and herbs like coriander seeds, fenugreek, peppercorn, and turmeric. Experts extol the virtues of these ingredients, considering they help to restore immunity, and help your body with energy and sustainability. Popular across ages, the anti-bacterial rasam is loaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well.

It is the perfect tangy soup that is sure to whet your appetite for the other delectable dishes to follow.

Parippu Payasam

It is a much-loved dessert that is made with coconut milk, dal, and jaggery.

Why is it good for you?

The yellow dal is a rich source of complex carbs that have more fibre quotient and digest slowly, thereby keeping blood sugar levels in check. Complex carbohydrates also promote satiety, something that makes this macro class an excellent option for healthy weight management. They’re also great for people suffering from type 2 diabetes as they check spikes in blood sugar after meals.

Coconut milk, on the other hand, packs plenty of MCTs. The iron-dense jaggery has antioxidant properties and is loaded with minerals like selenium and zinc that fight free-radical damage and better the body’s ability to ward off infections.

In conclusion

One look at the individual dishes should give you an idea about how the Sadhya is a well-balanced, healthy meal. The brown rice and lentils provide your daily fix of complex carbs. The sambhar is loaded with vegetables that help with your daily vitamin requirements.

Avial is made with coconut and seasonal vegetables that are rich in dietary fibres that improve digestion. The pickles and pappadam help you get the right amount of sodium. At the same time, the payasam, if enjoyed in moderate quantities, provides the right carbohydrate quotient and delights the sweet tooth.

All the dishes are prepared with a sprinkling of heeng that boasts of digestive properties. With that in mind, we hope you now see how the Onam Sadhya is not only a gastronomic delight but an incredibly healthy platter!

1 Comment

  1. Keneth Gertz April 21, 2021

    Yes, I love this place


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