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Sadhya DSW.jpg
Alternative names സദ്യ
Place of origin India
Region or state Kerala
Cookbook: Sadhya  Media: Sadhya

Sadhya (Malayalam: സദ്യ, Sanskrit: सग्धिः, Sagdhiḥ) is a variety of pure vegetarian dishes traditionally served on a banana leaf in Kerala, India.[1] Sadhya means banquet in Malayalam. It is a feast prepared mainly by men, 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 items in a Sadya like the Sadya for Aranmula Boatrace (Valla Sadhya).

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, Mango pickle, Naranga curry, as well as Papadum, Banana, plain Yogurt or Buttermilk, and plantain chips. The traditional dessert called Payasam served at the end of the meal is of many kinds and usually three or more are served. 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 two or three dishes.

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, coconut and coconut oil as they are abundant in Kerala. Coconut milk 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, 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.


The sadhya is usually served for lunch. 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.

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.

In Sadhya - the meals are served on Banana leaf. It is folded and closed once the meal is finished. Closing the leaf away from you signify - complete satisfaction with the food and closing it towards you would mean a signal to the cooks that it needs improvement.

The usual items in a Sadhya[edit]

Sadhya items ready to be served, Clockwise from top Paayasam, Bittergourd thoran, Aviyal, Kaalan, Lime Pickle, Sambar, Buttermilk, Boiled rice in center

Rice  : It is the main item in a sadhya. It is always the Kerala red rice (semi-polished brown[2]) which is used for the Sadhya

Sharkara Upperi: Jaggery Chips

Kaaya Varuthathu : Banana Chips

Parippu : A thick curry lentil dish eaten with rice, papadum and ghee.

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. Although in some regions Rasam is not counted as part of Sadhya.

Aviyal : 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

Olan : A preparation of white gourd, coconut milk, and ginger seasoned with coconut oil.

Koottukari / Erissery : One or two vegetables like banana and coconut with a hot and sweet taste.

Kichadi : Made of yogurt and cucumber in raw or cooked form.

Pachadi : A sweet form of kichadi, made with sliced ash gourd, or a squash, and also these days with pineapple, grapes. the gravy masala comprises coconut ground with mustard seeds and green chillies.

Puliyinchi : A dish of paste like consistency made of ginger, tamarind, green chilies, and jaggery.

Thoran : A dish of sauted vegetables such as peas, green beans, raw jackfruit, carrots, or cabbage (usually) with grated coconut.

Achaar : Spicy pickles of raw mango, lemon, lime, etc.

Pappadam: Made with lentil flour, it is crispy and can be eaten as an appetizer.

These side dishes are followed by desserts like Prathaman and Payasams.


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 coconut milk.
  • 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[edit]

See also[edit]

Media related to Sadya at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ Kerala's Slow Food; The Indian banana leaf banquet that tastes like home by Shahnaz Habib AFAR March/ April 2014 page 49
  2. ^ Ramya Menon. "God's Own Feast-ival!". Cucumbertown.