Onam, a festival celebrated with a lot of fanfare, fervor and feasting by Malayalees (and others) across the world, will be ‘special’ this year, because of the challenging times we all are going through. From dressing up in traditional attire to feasting on the much-awaited Onam Sadhya, the annual celebrations, have always happened in the presence of family and friends.
Onam, a 10-day long harvest festival of Kerala, celebrating the homecoming of King Mahabali, who Malayalees considered to be very humble. Apart from just the famous Onam Sadhya, there’s much more to this celebration. Women participate in Pookolam (rangoli made of flowers) and perform Kaikottikali, a dance form. Dressed in their best fineries, women look resplendent in an off-white Kasavu sari with golden border, teamed up with gold jewelry. The men look dapper in white Veshti (dhoti) and shirt. People get together to participate in several cultural activities to celebrate the festival in unison. Boat race (Vallam Kali), Pulikali (folk dance in the disguise of a tiger) and other dance and art forms specific to Kerala.
It’s that one day for Mallus (Malayalees) when food brings everyone together, irrespective of their religion or caste; everyone is simply appreciative and proud of their culture. Just like me and my family. Onam, for us, has always been about celebrating family togetherness and food.
Sadya literally means a banquet in Malayalam and staying true to the literal meaning, the feast does offer a whole lot of 25 dishes (or more) for the foodies. A spread laid out in a specific manner (small portions of each dish) and eaten in a specific order, is truly what this is all about!
Keeping aside the traditional story behind this day, it is actually an important celebration for Mallus. Or like I fondly remember my Ammuma (Grandmother) often saying, during our debates, “Mone (Son), I have eaten a lot more Onasadhya than you, so stop arguing with me”. Depending on the number of Onasadhya’s you’ve indulged in, your age and wisdom is determined. Yes, Onasadhya is that important to a Malayalee.
But in 2020, the mighty harvest festival may witness a low-key 10-day festivity — that has already begun on August 22 and will end September 2. However low-key the celebrations will be, people have taken it in their stride saying it is just a passing phase – this is the same spirit that kept us going, even during though times.
Tomorrow, August 31 is the most important day – Thiruvonam and thanks to technology, virtual family gatherings will still be possible and the many restaurants, homechefs etc. will take care of the other most important element of Onam – the Onasadhya – even if everyone will not make or eat the usual 25-30 dishes as part of this year’s Sadhya.
Many restaurants across the country have converted the Onam Sadhya into packaged meals for takeout, rather than the usual dine-in feast. While researching for our own Onam Sadhya meal delivery for tomorrow, I came across this lovely listicle that features restaurants delivering packed Sadhya to your homes.
If you’re specifically in the Andheri East, Mumbai area, you could order from the likes of Just Kerala or Benzy’s Palace. Just Kerala is offering about 15-18 dishes for Rs. 900, whereas Benzy’s Palace is offering about 20-25 dishes for Rs. 500, along with banana leaf. And I think Swiggy/Zomato will provide doorstep delivery.
This Onam might be a little different. Nevertheless, I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s celebration with family, the Onam Sadhya and much more. This meal must be enjoyed in total peace, to attain the foodgasm I’m talking about. I hope I have managed to get you thinking of Onam Sadhya. Wokay Wokay, without further delay, go figure out your Onam Sadhya now!
I leave you with a video that combines Maveli, Onam and the COVID-19 pandemic – a hit on social media!