The most important day in the Onam festival calendar - Thiru Onam - was celebrated across Kerala on Monday with the 26-dish 'sadya' traditional feast being savoured by most Keralites.
Onam falls in the month of "Chingam" which is the first month according to the Malayalam calendar. In the Onam calendar even though the 'sadya' is consumed on the previous day of Thiru Onam and also the following day, the Thiru Onam sadya is the most popular one. It is cooked in all homes cutting across religions.
According to legend, the state had its golden period during the reign of King Mahabali as everyone was contended. Onam is celebrated to mark King Mahabali's annual visit to see his subjects.
As a norm the 26-dish sadya is served on a plantain leaf. With demand peaking for plantain leaves, the price has crossed Rs 10 a leaf.
Old timers are very particular about the manner in which each of the sadya dishes is served on the leaf in a particular sequence. The dishes include various types of pickles, several vegetable dishes, banana chips, a sweet made of raw banana, a ripe plantain and not to mention sambar, dal, rasam and butter milk.
The only difference in the Onam sadya is that except in the northern districts of the state, in the other areas the sadya is pure vegetarian.
Restaurants, hotels and caterers on Monday had a field day with orders booked well in advance. The price of an Onam sadya in these places ranged from Rs 150 to Rs 700.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his family served the traditional sadya at his home to several cancer patients hailing from the weaker sections of society .
Some people also decided to fast on the day in a mark of protest as their demands were not met.
The scene in the front of the State Secretariat - the seat of power like in the past witnessed a hunger strike for the day, called by three different groups - employees of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation owing allegiance to the Congress-led UDF, retail ration dealers, and LIC agents protesting against their demands not being met.
At Thrikkakara temple, near Kochi, one of the few temples in the country dedicated to Lord Vamana, the sadya started at 10.30 a.m., with more than 15,000 people expected to take part in the feast, which would get over by evening.
Tuesday is also a public holiday for the state government and numerous private organisations, while educational institutions in the state open only next Monday.