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Celebration of Kerala's Tradition & Culture

Ants' Sadya

The beauty of Onam lies in the concept of seeing all living beings as one. This is reflected in the legend of Mahabali and songs sung during Onam, evoking the message that Onam and Onasadya are for all. One ritual followed, based on this concept, is ‘urumbinulla sadhya’, meaning sadya for ants. This is served on the evening of Thiruvonam.

A dish made with rice flour, scraped coconut and jaggery is placed on tender banana leaves in the four corners of the house as it is believed that ants accompany Mahabali on his annual visit to the earth from the netherworld. This ritual is prevalent in Kuttanad, Kottayam and north Malabar. In some places, rice flour mixed with water is used for the dish. In other places, the Athapookalam is made with rice flour or hand prints made with rice flour are pasted on the walls of the house. In central Travancore, the offering is made to common house geckos instead of ants.

South Travancore has the tradition of honouring cattle during Onam. They are given an oil bath and made to wear a tilak on their foreheads with a mixture of rice flour, turmeric powder and slaked lime. The animals are also given rest on that day. 

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