As you gear up to welcome the Great King Mahabali, make sure you impress him with some traditional and mouth-watering Onam Sweets. Yes, the most awaited Harvest Festival of Kerala is around the corner, and we can already feel the excitement in the air. From delicious Onam Sadhya to the Colouful Pookkalam (Rangoli made using flowers), everything about this 10-day festival, breathes celebration of a different kind. Children at home wait in anticipation for the festival to arrive, as they are eager to relish Onam special sweets made mostly from sugar, jaggery, coconut and rice. Let’s explore how you can go the traditional way this Onam.
Onam Sadhya and Sweets
It’s that time of the year when friends and family get together to relish the Grandest Feast together. Served on Banana Leaves, an elaborate Onan-Sadhya can have up to 25 preparations. The main highlight of the feast are the sweets for Onam. Pal Ada Payasam, Ari Pal Payasam and Semiya Payasam are different varieties of Kheers that are prepared in Milk. Pradaman is a Brown Coloured Kheer, that’s everyone’s favourite when it comes to Onam Sweets. While most other sweets are prepared using sugar, Pradaman is a special variety of Payasam made using Jaggery, rice and coconut.
Another delectable and traditional sweet made using Sugar, Jaggery, Coconut and Rice Flour is Ela Ada. This unique dessert is made by first applying semi-fluid rice batter on small pieces of Banana Leaves. The batter is then topped with a mixture of Coconut, Sugar and Jaggery. The Banana leaves are then folded from the middle to sandwich the toppings and then steamed. Finally, the Banana Leaves are peeled off, and the enticing Ela Ada can be served hot as a dessert. The Spongy and Temping Unni Appam is another delicacy that everyone enjoys during the festivities. The Best part is that Unni Appams can last for several days if stored in air-tight containers.
Apart from food, the second most important tradition of Onam that has been followed for many years is the Pookkalam which is a Rangoli made of colourful flowers. In modern times, flowers are purchased from the market to make the Pookalam, but traditionally, children went out to pick flowers and used them to make the Rangoli, making it a lifetime experience to cherish. The most commonly used flowers are Chethi, also known as flame of woods, Chemparathy or hibiscus, Shankupushpam or butterfly pea, Jamanthi or marigold, Tulasi and Thumba or Ceylon Slitwort.
Onam is also the time when people organize and take part in a variety of cultural activities. It all starts with the Thripunithura Athachamayam, which is an inaugural event comprising a street parade of Kerala Art Forms, Musicians, Dancers, Decorated Elephants and much more. Aranmula Snake Boat Race is Kerala’s oldest Boat race which is witnessed and enjoyed by thousands during Onam. The Pulikali or Tiger Dance is a 200-year-old ritual where dancers dress up and paint their bodies like tigers and dance to the beats of traditional drums. The Thumbi Thullal Dance or Kaikottikali, is where women dressed in beautiful white coloured sarees, perform in a circular formation and in a coordinated fashion.
Traditions, history and culture are deep-rooted in all the Onam celebrations. As we march ahead with time, it is important to preserve the beauty and originality of these traditions for our future generations.