No meat, no celebration.

A Kings feast For some Malayalis no Onam sadhya without non-veg dishes
news Onam Wednesday, September 14, 2016 - 19:16

The Onam Sadhya (Onam feast) is a significant part of the ten day Onam celebrations for Malayalis across the world. As Shashi Tharoor wrote on Zomato, the feast is so critical that ‘in Travancore, on state occasions, the cutting of the vegetables always began with the Prime Minister or Dewan arriving in his palanquin and ceremoniously chopping a cucumber or whatever vegetable most appealed to his exalted status.’

For many Malayalis, a feast was not complete without a few meat or fish dishes, and Onam is no exception.

 Though traditionally Onam sadhya is a sumptuous vegetarian meal, over the years, depending on their geographical location and convenience, many families have made non-vegetarian dishes a part of their Onam meal.

65-year-old Narayani from Kannur, a northern district in Kerala, does not remember a single Onam she celebrated without fish dishes on the banana leaf in which more than 20 vegetarian dishes are served.

Sreeja from Kasargod feels that vegetarian dishes alone do not complete the Onam lunch. 

“In the beginning, people from coastal areas used to include non-vegetarian dishes in their sadhya. But gradually other people except certain communities began to adopt the practice,” she says.

According to Balakrishna Poduval, treasurer of Kerala Hotels and restaurant Owner's Association, though most people in central and southern part of the state still refrain from consuming non-vegetarian during the 10 days of Onam, the situation is different in northern Kerala. 

60-year-old Pushpa, who hails from Kozhikode, a district famous for its non-vegetarian cuisine says that not only is non-vegetarian food part of their Onam sadhya, but the family cannot think of celebrating any festival without meat. 

BC Bawa, who runs a hotel in Kasargod says that though most families chose to make non-vegetarian dishes part of their Onam sadhya, hotels still stick to tradition. 

"I feel Onam sadhya needs to be maintained as a purely vegetarian meal. But most people who come to our hotel for the special lunch would inevitably order some non-vegetarian dish also," he says.

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