India is divided into 29 states, has 22+ languages and 720 dialects, various religions, and more than 2,000 ethnicities. For the first time, I had the pleasure of attending a South Indian Hindu festival called Onam this past weekend.
Onam is celebrated by Hindus in the
state of Kerala, located in southwest India. It commemorates the return of a
Hindu King from the underworld, but can be considered a harvest festival. In
Kerala it is celebrated for 10 days and includes traditions such as a huge
feast, wearing new clothes (usually white or ivory), pookalams
(flower arrangements) for the King, and attending a boat race.
|pretty flower arrangement with South Indian Hindu lamps|
Here in Phoenix we attended a one day festival at the Indo American Cultural & Religious Foundation. There was singing, dance performance, a lighting ceremony, and some other speeches. The only downside was that most of this did not take place in English, and as a result I could really only enjoy the dance performances.
They did, however, provide a delicious traditional feast. The best South Indian food I have ever tasted! The Onam sadya (feast) usually consists of small portions of 26 dishes served on a plantain leaf. This version took place on a plastic plantain leaf was under 20 dishes and super yummy.
|Left to Right... 1st line: banana, plantain chips, plantain pieces fried in jaggery, pineapple chutney, cabbage dish, avail, fried okra raita. 2nd line: papadum, parboiled matta rice, lentil dhal|
According to Ayurveda, any sadya is said to fulfill both the body and mind. Eating with your hands in general is said to aid digestion and the various dishes offer a balance between hot, cold, sour, sweet and spicy. Desert dishes were served towards the end of the meal.
It was definitely a fun meal to experience!