Sadhya (Malayalam: സദ്യ) is a feast consisting of a variety of
traditional vegetarian dishes usually served on a banana leaf in
Sadhya means banquet in Malayalam. It is a
vegetarian feast prepared by both, men and women, especially when
needed in large quantities, for weddings and other special events.
During a traditional
Sadhya celebration people are seated cross-legged
on mats. Food is eaten with the right hand, without cutlery. The
fingers are cupped to form a ladle. A normal
Sadhya can have about
24–28 dishes served as a single course. In cases where it is a much
larger one it can have over 64 or more items in a Sadya like the Sadya
for Aranmula Boatrace (Valla Sadhya). It is eaten in certain ritual
style and environment preceded and succeeded by vanchippatu
(traditiona boat race songs). In this sadhya the guests can also ask
for some surprise items that the host should be prepared for. It has
to be prepared by approved chefs to be eligible as a valla sadhya,
where physical and spiritual purity is important.
The main dish is plain boiled rice, served along with other dishes
collectively called Kootan (കൂട്ടാന്) which include
curries like parippu, sambar, rasam, pulisseri and others like kaalan,
avial, thoran, olan, pachadi, kichadi, koottukari, erissery, mango
pickle, pulinji, naranga achaar (lime pickle), as well as papadam,
plantain chips, sharkara upperi, banana, plain curd and buttermilk.
The traditional dessert called
Payasam served at the end of the meal
is of many kinds and usually three or more are served. Some of the
varieties are Paal Ada, Ada Pradhaman, Paripu pradhaman,
chakkapradhaman, etc. The 'Kootan' are made with different vegetables
and have different flavours; some say the reason for including so many
dishes in the
Sadhya is to ensure that the diners will like at least a
The dishes are served on specific places on the banana leaf in
specific order. For example, the pickles are served on the top left
corner and the banana on the bottom left corner, which helps the
waiters to easily identify and decide on offering additional servings.
The most common ingredients in all the dishes are rice, vegetables,
coconut and coconut oil as they are abundant in Kerala.
is used in some dishes and coconut oil is used for frying and also as
an ingredient in others.
There are variations in the menu depending on the place and religion.
Some communities, especially those in the northern part of Kerala,
include non-vegetarian dishes in the sadhya. Although custom was to
use traditional and seasonal vegetables indigenous to
Kerala or South
West Coast of India, it has become common practice to include
vegetables such as carrots, pineapples, beans in the dishes. Tradition
has it that
Onion and garlic are not typically used in the sadhya.
Conventionally, the meal may be followed by vettila murukkan, chewing
of betel leaf with lime and arecanut. This helps digestion of the meal
and also cleanses the palate.
2 The usual items in a Sadya
4 Glossary of ingredients
5 See also
The sadhya is usually served for lunch, although a lighter version is
served for dinner too. Preparations begin the night before, and the
dishes are prepared before ten o' clock in the morning on the day of
the celebration. On many occasions, sadhya is served on tables, as
people no longer find it convenient to sit on the floor. Sourcing of
Sadhya is an elaborate and careful process to
ensure quality. The lighting of the fire to prepare the sadhya is done
after a prayer to Agni and the first serving is offered on a banana
leaf in front of a lighte d nilavilallku as an offering to god.
Traditionally, the people of the neighborhood spent the night helping
the cooks in cooking. They also volunteer to serve the food for the
hosts to the guests. This involves a fair amount of social interaction
which help build rapport with the neighbors.
Sadhya is served in Pankthi (Sanskrit) - panti in
Malayalam - meaning
in lines or rounds where sets of people are served in sitting lines,
on the floor earlier, now on benches and desks. There can be many
Pankti's depending upon total size of the crowd and the capacity of
the place. The hosts normally sits only during the last pankti. The
host will eat at the last and will go around every pankti/panti to
greet the guests and to ensure that they are satisfied.
In a Sadhya, the meals are served on a
Banana leaf. The leaf is folded
and closed once the meal is finished. Closing the leaf away from you
signifies complete satisfaction with the food and closing it towards
you would mean a signal to the cooks that it needs improvement. The
guests as a sign of satisfaction fold the leaf towards them, except
under rare situations it will be folded over to the opposite side to
indicate that it was not up to the mark.
The Central Travancore-style sadhya is renowned to be the most
disciplined and tradition-bound. There is usually an order followed
in serving the dishes, starting from the chips and pickles first.
However, different styles and approaches to making and serving the
dishes are adopted in various parts of
Kerala depending on local
The usual items in a Sadya
The items include:
Sadya items ready to be served. Clockwise from top: paayasam (in
stainless mug), bittergourd thoran, aviyal, kaalan, lime pickle,
saambaar, buttermilk, boiled rice in center (annotatated image)
Rice: It is the main item in a sadya. It is always the
Kerala red rice
(semi-polished parboiled brown) which is used for the Sadya. The
rice is also called '
Parippu : A thick curry lentil dish eaten with rice, papadum and
Sambar : A thick gravy made of lentils, tamarind, vegetables like
drumsticks, tomato, etc., and flavored with asafoetida.
Rasam : A watery dish made of tamarind, tomatoes, and spices like
black pepper, asafoetida, coriander, chili pepper, etc. It is very
spicy in taste and aids in digestion. However, in some regions Rasam
is not counted as part of Sadhya.
Avial : Thick mixture of various vegetables, and coconut. It is
seasoned with coconut oil and curry leaves.
Kaalan : Made of yogurt, coconut, and any one vegetable like
"nendran" plantain or a tuber-like yam. It is very thick and more
sour, and typically can last for a longer period owing to the lower
Olan : A light dish, prepared of white gourd or black peas,
coconut milk, and ginger seasoned with coconut oil.
Koottukari: Vegetables like banana or yam cooked with chickpeas,
coconut and black pepper.
Erissery: A thick curry made from pumpkin, black-eyed peas and
Kichadi: Sour curry made of yoghurt and usually cucumber or sliced ash
gourd cooked in coconut ground with mustard seeds and seasoned with
sautéed mustard seeds and curry leaves. In Tamil Nadu, this
dish is known as Pachadi. It is somewhat similar to a Raita.
Pachadi: A sweet form of Kichadi, made with pineapple, pumpkin or
grapes in yoghurt. The gravy masala comprises coconut ground with
cumin seeds and green chillies. Due to its sweetness, it is also
called Madhura (sweet) curry in some places.
Pulisseri: A sour, yellow-coloured thin curry made with slightly
soured yoghurt and cucumber. A sweet variant called 'Mambazha
Puliseri' replaces cucumber with a combination of ripe mangoes and
Injipuli : A sweet pickle made of ginger, tamarind, green
chilies, and jaggery, also called Puli-inji .
Thoran : A dish of sautéed vegetables such as peas, green beans,
raw jackfruit, carrots, or cabbage (usually) with grated coconut.
Achaar : Spicy pickles of raw mango (
Mango pickle), lemon, lime,
Pappadam: Made with lentil flour, it is crispy and can be eaten as an
Sharkara Upperi :
Kaaya Varuthathu :
Banana: A ripe banana is often served with the
Sadhya to be eaten with
the dessert, Payasam.
Sambharam: A drink made from salted buttermilk with green chilli,
ginger and curry leaves. Drunk to improve digestion.
These side dishes are followed by desserts like Prathaman and
Payasams. There is a strict order and placement in which it is served
on the banana leaf. Aranmula Valla
Sadhya is the most celebrated one
with over 64 items served in the traditional way.
Prathaman is a sweet dish in the form of a thick liquid; similar to
payasam, but with more variety in terms of ingredients and more
elaborately made. It is made with white sugar or jaggery to which
coconut milk is added. The main difference between a prathaman and a
payasam is that the former uses coconut milk, while the liquid
versions of the latter use cow's milk.
Palada prathaman is made of flakes of cooked rice, milk, and sugar.
Pazha prathaman is made of cooked "nendra" plantain in jaggery and
Gothambu prathaman is made of broken wheat.
Parippu prathaman is made of green gram.
Chakka prathaman is made of jackfruit.
Kadala prathaman is made from black gram.
Glossary of ingredients
Asafoetida : Kayam
Ash gourd : Kumbalanga
Banana : Vaazhakka/pazham
Bengal gram : Mani Kadala (Kadalakka)
Bitter gourd : Kaippakka (Pavakka)
Black gram : Uzhunnu
Cabbage : Muttagoosu
Cardamom : Elakkaya
Cashew nut : Kashuvandi paruppu
Green Chili : Pacha mulaku
pepper : Kurumulagu
Turmeric : Manjal
Coconut : Nalikeram or Thenga
Coconut oil : Velichenna
Coriander : Malli or Kothumalli
Dates : Eenthappazham or kayakka
Cowpea : Van Payar
Cumin : Jeeragam
Drumstick : Muringakkaya
Eggplant (Brinjal) : Vazhuthinanga
Fenugreek : Uluva
Fennel : Perinjeeragam
Mung bean : Cherupayar
Garlic : Veluthulli
Ghee : Nei
Butter : Venna
Cheese : Paalkkatty
Ginger : Inji
Groundnut oil : Kadalayenna
Jackfruit : Chakkha
Mango : Manga
Lemon : Cherunarrenga
Orange : Madhuranarrenga
Gooseberry : Nellikka
Jaggery : Sarkara (vellam)
Milk : Paal
Onion : Ulli
Shallot : cheriya ulli or chuvanna ulli
Black pepper : Kuru mulaku
Pea : Payar
Pineapple : KaithaChakka
Plantain : Nendrakka
Potato : Urulakkizhangu
Pumpkin : Matthan
Raisin : Unakka mundiri
Spinach : Cheera
Salt : Uppu
Chili powder : Mulaku podi
Turmeric powder : Manjal podi
Sesame oil : Ellenna or Nallenna
Sugar : Panchasara
Tamarind : Puli
Tomato : Thakkaali
Tapioca : Kappa or Kolli or Poolla or Cheeni
Oil : Enna
Media related to Sadya at Wikimedia Commons
Cuisine of Kerala
^ Kerala's Slow Food; The Indian banana leaf banquet that tastes like
home by Shahnaz Habib AFAR March/ April 2014 page 49
^ a b c d N. Satyendran (2010-08-10). "
Onam on a leaf". The Hindu.
^ a b c d "
Onam special: Here's what a traditional
consists of". The Indian Express. 2016-09-13. Retrieved
^ Ramya Menon. "God's Own Feast-ival!". Cucumbertown.
^ a b c N. Satyendran. "Pachadi". Retrieved