Aranmula valla sadya: The sumptuous feast with 64 dishes

Around two lakh devotees and food lovers reach the quaint countryside of Aranmula, every year, to offer prayers at the famous temple and to enjoy the sumptuous meal. File Photo

The iconic Aranmula valla sadya has earned a pivotal position in the world of impeccable culinary heritage. The sadya or the grand feast that is offered as part of the annual festival at the Parthasarathy temple is known around the globe for the incredible number of dishes that are served and the overwhelming participation from the public.

Sadya for 30 days
Around two lakh devotees and food lovers reach the quaint countryside of Aranmula, every year, to offer prayers at the famous temple and enjoy the sumptuous meal. The sadya is served at the dining area in the temple from the 15th day of the Malayalam month of Karkidakam to the 15th Kanni. Devotees sponsor the sadya as an offering of gratitude or a prayer to fulfil their wishes. The legends and the cultural traditions that are associated with the feast are unique and interesting.

The valla sadya is prepared only after seeking the permission and blessings of the representatives of the ‘palliyoda kara’ (the region from where the palliyodams or the boats reach the temple with ingredients for the sadya) that have offered the sadya. The rituals begin when the devotee who has sponsored the sadya reaches the temple and fills the ‘para’ (offering rice grains in a cylindrical measuring vessel) at the flag post.

Enough food for all
The Aranmula sadya is not just known for the sheer number of dishes that are served but also for the legends that are associated with them. For instance, even though the Aranmula temple is in the Pathanamthitta district, the yoghurt that is served for the iconic sadya is brought from Chenapady in the neighbouring Kottayam district.

The devotees ask for dishes or second helpings poetically in the traditional ‘vanchipattu’ (song of the oarsmen) style. The dishes that are asked like this should be immediately served. As per the tradition, there should be enough food for everyone and the servers cannot deny the diners a dish just because they have run out of it.

The curries, snacks and more
Kadumanga, uppu manga, lemon, hog plum, ginger, gooseberry and puliyinchi are some of the pickle varieties that are served for the sadya. Meanwhile, crunchy sarkara varatty, plantain chips, jackfruit chips, unniyappam, sesame balls and uzhunnu vada are some of the snacks that add the perfect crunch and texture.

Avial, olan, erissery, coconut-based erissery, mango pachady, koottu curry and stir fries made with Chinese potato, long beans and ivy gourd are the main dishes. The inchi thairu or the ginger yoghurt is perfectly bitter and sour. Meanwhile, you could mix some chutney powder, kichadi, spinach thoran and takarayila (oval-shaped cassia) thoran in the piping hot rice.

Gravy-based curries include dal with a dash of ghee, sambar, kaalan, pulissery, yoghurt, rasam and buttermilk. If you are a dessert lover, then you wouldn’t be disappointed as you could enjoy at least five varieties of delicious payasams. While the legendary Amabalapuzha paal payasam is the star among the desserts, you could also enjoy the good old palada, moongdal payasam, jaggery payasam and aarunaazhi payasam.

Do not forget to mash the ripe banana in the payasam for that extra flavour sweetness. Piping hot red rice is served on the plantain leaf along with big and small papads. Besides, ada or steamed rice patties with sweet fillings, salt, jaggery balls, rock candies, fluffed rice, raisins, sugarcane and honey too are served.

The blessings and adieus
When the sadya gets over, the devotee who had offered it would prostrate before the idol, at the flag post. The devotee would then bent the para that he/she had filled earlier and spill the contents in it. Meanwhile, the people from the palliyoda kara would receive the Dakshina or monetary offering and return in their boats after blessing the devotee. The family that had offered the sadya would sit down for the meal only after bidding adieu to the boatsmen. The rituals related to the valla sadya would end when the family relishes the sadya that they have offered to the Lord.

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