Onam is probably the only festival in Kerala which is celebrated cutting across caste, creed or religion. Historically it has been named the ‘harvest festival’ of the state.
The Onam week starts Saturday with the first Onam followed by the Thiru Onam, the next day, and the third Onam on Monday and fourth Onam on Tuesday being the key days of the 10-day festival.
The making and the eating of the Onam sadya (noon meal) on a plantain leaf is perhaps one event that is now keenly awaited.
A few things have changed and an important one is the style of eating. Gone are the days when people ate squatting on the floor. Then, unlike in yesteryears, the making of the sadya is now more hotel-centred.
The mouth-watering lunch includes chips, pappad, various vegetables, a large number of pickles both sweet and sour, the traditional aviyal, sambar, dal served along with a small quantity of ghee, rasam, two different types of buttermilk, a chutney powder prepared from grated coconut and a series of payasams eaten either straight or mixed with a ripe small plantain.
“Even though it’s a 26 dish-meal, very few make each and every one. In my parent’s time, I remember the preparations for Onam would begin at least a month before. Does this happen now? No.
But I find these days, in spite of the busy modern world, the excitement is greater compared to the past because these days, the number of preparatory days is just one or two and hence there is a lot of excitement,” 75-year-old Kottayam resident Bhanumathy Amma told IANS.
Caterers do roaring business during the festival.
“We have a facility for making around 600 Onam sadyas and we are fully booked for the first four days. Last year, we made 500 sadyas and kept them packed for our clients. Barring vegetables, all the items are ready. We will begin the cooking from Thursday after a small family prayer,” said Sukumaran Nair, who runs a small catering unit in the capital city.
Meanwhile, hotels have also started advertising to taking orders for Onam sadya. People can book their tables in advance, otherwise the sadya would be delivered at their homes. The price ranges from Rs.150 upwards.
Executive chef at the luxury Hycinth by Sparsa Hotel in the capital, Max M. Colbey, said that they have already started serving the sadya to IT companies who are holding the Onam celebrations in advance to enable their staff take holidays during the festival.
“We can seat 90 people at a time and have already received around 150 bookings for the lunch,” Colbey told IANS.