By Subhojit Panda

Appealing Pookalam (or floral carpet) at the entrance, a large image of Onathappan (representation of King Mahabali) in the house with ladies dressed up in white or off-white saris having a golden border and the tantalizing aroma of Onasadya (traditional vegetarian meal)…that’s when you realize that the auspicious festival of Onam has arrived. According to the Hindu mythology, the festival marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali during whose reign Kerala had witnessed its golden era. Onam, a 10-day long harvest festival which falls in August or September (in the Malayalam month of Chingam) is celebrated with religious fervour and gaiety by the Keralites all over the world. Traditionally the Onam festival is marked by boat races, colorful parades, dance events, martial arts and other celebrations, with the elaborate feast Onasadya, as the highlight of the festival. Odisha is also home to many Malayalee families who make it a point to celebrate Onam in its full grandeur with their families and friends. To know more about the delicacies prepared during Onam especially Onasadya, we caught up with a few members of Kerala Kala Samiti, a 50-year old Bhubaneswar-based organization that has been extensively promoting the culture and tradition of Kerala in and around Bhubaneswar. “The Onam celebrations are simply incomplete without the Onasadya. Every Keralite takes pride in preparing the meal as it forms an indispensable part of the Onam celebrations it is the traditional vegetarian meal which is generally prepared on the first day of the festival (or Atham).”, said Mr. K.R. Nair, President of Kerala Kala Samiti. “Onasadya is much more than just a meal, it is an elaborate meal. Since it is believed that King Mahabali visits his people during the festival to ensure that they are well-fed, prosperous and satisfied, the meal is made very grand so that the great king is elated to see his people wellfed and happy while having the meal,” said Mr. Radhakrishnan, Secretary of the organization.

Served traditionally on a banana leaf, the Onasadya is a multi-course vegetarian meal that features over 20 to 30 dishes which make a spectacular sight. It is eaten mostly during lunch and the usual items in the Onasadya include, boiled rice, Kaaya varuthatha (banana chips), chena varuthatha (yam chips), sarkara upperi (Jaggery coated banana chips), mango pickle, lime pickle, puli inji (tamarind & ginger chutney), kichadi (Gourd in mildly spiced yoghurt), pachadi (Pineapple in yoghurt), olan (ash gourd with black beans in a coconut milk gravy), stir-fried vegetables with grated coconut, theeyal (mixed vegetable gravy), erissery (mashed beans and pumpkin with coconut gravy), avial, puliserry (yogurtbased curry), kootu curry (black chickpeas curry), sambar, rasam, spicy buttermilk, bananas and papad. And not to forget payasam that serves as a dessert in the meal! “The grand meal served on Onam is purely vegetarian prepared without using onions and garlic and is eaten sitting on the floor. Use of any cutlery is not encouraged while having the meal,” quoted K Vineesan, Joint Secretary of Kerala Kala Samiti. So if you thought Onam was all about fresh flower arrangements and boat races then think twice! We bet nothing can beat the gastronomical delight of having Onasadya this festive season.Santeasakaramaya Onam (Happy Onam)! It couldn’t get better…Heres a special Aviyal onam recipe from Rj Raajiv which you may like to try.

Aviyal (Avial)
Serving size: 4
• Assorted veggies – 3 cups, cut
lengthwise (refer notes)
• Water – 1.5 cups
• Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
• Pepper powder – ¼ tsp
• Coconut – ½ cup
• Green chilly – 2-3
• Jeera – a pinch
• Water – ½ – 1 tbsp
• Yogurt – ¼ cup, beaten
• Coconut oil – 1 tsp
• Salt
• Curry leaves
1. Grind together pepper powder, coconut, green chilly, jeera and water (1tbsp) into a thick paste. Cook the veggies with turmeric powder, water (1 1/2 cups) and salt.
2. When the veggies are half cooked, add the ground paste. Mix well. Cover and cook till the veggies are done and the raw taste of coconut paste is gone.
3. Add yogurt and mix well. Cook for 2 minutes more just before removing from the gas, add the coconut oil and curry leaves. Serve hot with rice..

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