It's that time of the year when people across Kerala step into Onam festivities. Onam is probably the only festival in Kerala which is celebrated cutting across caste, creed or religion. Historically, it has been named the 'harvest festival' of the state. It is celebrated for about ten days starting on 6th September, Saturday. The highlight of the festival is the grand 'Onam sadhya' feast. It is a multi-course vegetarian meal served with a variety of 24 to 28 authentic dishes. Sadya, in Malayalam, means a banquet. (More: All About Onam Sadhya)Over the years, a few things have changed and one of them is the style of eating. Gone are the days when people ate squatting on the floor. The elaborate meal includes chips, pappad, various vegetables, a large number of pickles both sweet and sour, the traditional aviyal,sambar, dal served along with a small quantity of ghee, rasam, two different types of buttermilk, a chutney powder prepared from grated coconut and a series of payasams eaten either straight or mixed with a ripe small plantain. It is traditionally laid on a banana leaf and eaten with hands while sitting on the floor. (More: Why People Eat With Their Hands in Kerala)"Even though it's a 26 dish-meal, very few make each and every one. In my parent's time, I remember the preparations for Onam would begin at least a month before. Does this happen now? No. But I find these days, in spite of the busy modern world, the excitement is greater compared to the past because these days, the number of preparatory days is just one or two and hence there is a lot of excitement," says 75-year-old Kottayam resident Bhanumathy Amma. Caterers have roaring business during the festival. "We have a facility for making around 600 Onam sadyas and we are fully booked for the first four days. Last year, we made 500 sadyas and kept them packed for our clients. Barring vegetables, all the items are ready." said Sukumaran Nair, who runs a small catering unit in Thiruvananthapuram.Meanwhile, hotels have also started taking orders for Onam sadya. People can book their tables in advance, otherwise the sadya would be delivered at their homes. The price starts from Rs.150. Max M. Colbey, Executive chef at Hycinth by Sparsa Hotel in Thiruvananthapuram, said that they have already started serving the sadya to IT companies who are holding the Onam celebrations in advance so that their staff can can take leaves during the festival. "We can seat 90 people at a time and have already received around 150 bookings for the lunch," Colbey added.
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