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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) is a variety of dishes traditionally served on a banana leaf in Kerala, India.[1] Sadhya means banquet in Malayalam. It is a vegetarian feast prepared by both, men and women, 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).suhaim

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, Kichadi, Koottukari, Elissery, Mango pickle, Pulinji, Naranga achaar (Lime Pickle), as well as Papadam, plantain chips, Sharkara Upperi, Banana, plain curd and Buttermilk. 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 a few 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, vegetables, 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 a Sadhya, the meals are served on a Banana leaf. The leaf is folded and closed once the meal is finished. Closing the leaf away from you signifies complete satisfaction with the food and closing it towards you would mean a signal to the cooks that it needs improvement.

The Travancore-style sadhya is renowned to be the most disciplined and tradition-bound.[2] There is usually an order followed in serving the dishes, starting from the chips and pickles first. However, different styles and approaches to making and serving the dishes are adopted in various parts of Kerala depending on local preferences.

The usual items in a Sadya[edit]

The items include:[2][3]

Sadya items ready to be served. Clockwise from top: paayasam (in stainless mug), bittergourd thoran, aviyal, kaalan, lime pickle, saambaar, buttermilk, boiled rice in center (annotatated image)
  • Rice: It is the main item in a sadya. It is always the Kerala red rice (semi-polished parboiled brown[2][4]) which is used for the Sadya. The rice is also called 'Kerala Matta'.
  • 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. However, in some regions Rasam is not counted as part of Sadhya.
  • Avial : 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, and typically can last for a longer period owing to the lower water content.[3]
  • Olan : A light dish, prepared of white gourd or black peas, coconut milk, and ginger seasoned with coconut oil.[2]
  • Koottukari: Vegetables like banana or yam cooked with chickpeas, coconut and black pepper.
  • Erissery: A thick curry made from pumpkin, black-eyed peas and coconut.
  • Kichadi: Sour curry made of yoghurt and usually cucumber or sliced ash gourd cooked in coconut ground with mustard seeds and seasoned with sautéed mustard seeds and curry leaves.[3][5] In Tamil Nadu, this dish is known as Pachadi. It is somewhat similar to a Raita.
  • Pachadi: A sweet form of Kichadi, made with pineapple, pumpkin or grapes in yoghurt. The gravy masala comprises coconut ground with cumin seeds and green chillies.[3][5] Due to its sweetness, it is also called Madhura (sweet) curry in some places.[5]
  • Pulisseri: A sour, yellow-coloured thin curry made with slightly soured yoghurt and cucumber. A sweet variant called 'Mambazha Puliseri' replaces cucumber with a combination of ripe mangoes and jaggery.
  • Injipuli : A sweet pickle made of ginger, tamarind, green chilies, and jaggery, also called Puli-inji .
  • Thoran : A dish of sautéed vegetables such as peas, green beans, raw jackfruit, carrots, or cabbage (usually) with grated coconut.
  • Achaar : Spicy pickles of raw mango (Mango pickle), lemon, lime, (Narangakari) etc.
  • Pappadam: Made with lentil flour, it is crispy and can be eaten as an appetizer.
  • Sharkara Upperi : Jaggery Chips
  • Kaaya Varuthathu : Banana Chips
  • Banana: A ripe banana is often served with the Sadhya to be eaten with the dessert, Payasam.
  • Sambharam: A drink made from salted buttermilk with green chilli, ginger and curry leaves. Drunk to improve digestion.

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. ^ a b c d N. Satyendran (2010-08-10). "Onam on a leaf". The Hindu. Retrieved 2016-09-14. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Onam special: Here's what a traditional Onam sadhya consists of". The Indian Express. 2016-09-13. Retrieved 2016-09-13. 
  4. ^ Ramya Menon. "God's Own Feast-ival!". Cucumbertown. 
  5. ^ a b c N. Satyendran. "Pachadi". Retrieved 2016-09-14.