Sadhya a celebration of flavours | Recipes | Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

Home » Season & Festivals »

Sadhya, a celebration of flavours!

Onam is a harvest festival and is celebrated to welcome back Mahabali, one of the most loved kings of Kerala, in whose reign, the kind of prosperity and happiness that was witnessed is unmatched till today! People were so happy that they forgot God. Hence, he was banished by Vishnu, yet got a boon that he could visit his subjects once a year. These roots probably paved the way towards a strong presence of a communist ideology in God’s own country, in the present times as well. Quite literally, of, for and by the people! Thus, it’s quite apt for Kerala to celebrate the king on this day with feasting and much merriment. When we talk of traditional and elaborate feasts, the first thing that always strikes the mind is the much celebrated ‘Sadhya.’ This colourful full-course meal, with many beautifully crafted savoury and sweet dishes, served on a fresh banana leaf, is a treat to the eyes as well as palate. Sadhya is considered to be very sacred to the Malayalis. In fact, there’s an ancient saying in Malayalam which means “even if you’ve just sold your most prized possessions, you still have to enjoy the Ona-sadhya.”


Did you know?

The word ‘Sadhya’ literally translates to ‘feast’ in English. This 9-course meal, normally has about 26 dishes (sometimes more) depicting all flavours of food, and is savoured by everyone, without any barriers. This sacred meal is supposed to be relished with bare hands because according to Ayurveda, the fingertips connect to the heart and also boost digestion.

On this auspicious festival, it only feels right to decode the Sadhya – the mighty food spread. Because it’s not just a feast, it’s a feeling!


  1. Uppu: The term ‘Uppu’ means salt and it is always served at the corner of the banana leaf on which Sadhya is served.
  2. Pazham Upperi: One of the most popular snacks in South India is also an essential feature on the Ona-sadhya. People generally begin the feast with chips considering it as a light snack to prepare their stomach for the upcoming heavy meal.
  3. Sharkara Varatti: This is a sweeter version of the banana chips. Fried plantains are thinly coated with jaggery syrup and served as a snack to kick-start the feast.
  4. Puli Inji: A splendid chutney served as a side dish. Prepared with tamarind and ginger, it’s sweet, spicy and extremely flavourful.
  5. Mangai Achar or Mango Pickle: Every meal is incomplete without some tangy achar. Sadhya includes the very popular and delish pickle prepared with raw mangoes. Some people also like to zest up their share of this meal with lemon pickle.
  6. Pineapple Pachadi: Another delicious accompaniment which is a must in Sadhya is the Pineapple Pachadi where fresh pineapple is cooked in a coconut masala and served. Another popular version of pachadi is made with bitter gourd.
  7. Cabbage Thoran: This one’s a staple amongst the Malayalis and is prepared often in all Kerala households. It is super simple to prepare and can be made with any of your favourite vegetables. Here’s a cabbage version for you to indulge in.
  8. Kootu Kari: The word ‘Kootu’ means a mix or combination. A classic curry from Kerala with a mix of vegetables and chickpeas flavoured with coconut. Definitely, a must-try for everyone!
  9. Aviyal: A famous recipe which is a definite feature during Onam. Prepared with an assortment of fresh, seasonal vegetables cooked in a coconut and curd based gravy.
  10. Kachiya Moru/Chaas: The filling meal includes this spicy buttermilk tempered with curry leaves, green chilli and ginger to help accelerate digestion.
  11. Pazham or Banana: A smaller variety of banana is served which is supposed to be enjoyed with the dessert. The best way to savour it is to mash it with hands, mix it gently with the Payasam and crush a Pappadum for that extra crunch.
  12. Inji Chammanthi: Another accompaniment to add that extra zing to this royal feast. A ginger flavoured chutney which is supposed to be mixed with rice and enjoyed.
  13. Pappadum: Papads prepared with rice flour are served as an appetiser. A lot of people also eat it with the served dessert.
  14. Nei Paruppu: ‘Nei’ means ghee in Hindi and this is a basic but mandatory South-Indian dal which is paired with steamed Matta Rice and enjoyed with copious amounts of ghee in it.
  15. Matta Rice: A variety of rice which is extremely popular in Kerala. Very nutritious, but takes a little more time to cook than the regular rice.
  16. Varutharachha Sambhar: You might know how important sambhar is for all the South-Indians and people adore it all over the country. This is a typical Kerala style sambhar which is soul-satisfying and an essential part of this feast.
  17. Rasam: Every cuisine offers some recipes which are very regular in their households. Rasam is one of the recipes which is an important part of Sadhya as well as the South-Indian cuisine. Here’s the recipe to make it in your home kitchen.
  18. Parippu Payasam: Every festival and meal is absolutely incomplete without a dessert. And this shahi feast has got you one of the best one. Payasam is just the South Indian cousin to the much loved kheer, creamy and delectable prepared for all special occasions and a quintessential part of the Ona-sadhya too.

If we have missed out on some recipes, we have got you the full-fledged Sadhya to make every recipe at home in the most authentic and traditional way, this year. Here’s the link.

Happy Onam!


Recommended Recipes

Recent Festivals

website of the year 2013
website of the year 2014
website of the year 2016
MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.