The biggest festival of God’s own country, Onam, is celebrated with fervour by the Malayali community. Some of its well-known rituals include donning the traditional kasavu and a feast that involves some particular dishes, called the “Sadhya". A clothing brand called “Cottons Jaipur" attempted to represent a piece of this culture for its Onam collection, which went slightly awry and ended up drawing the ire of social media. The brand, in its promotional pictures, showed two models dressed in white and gold salwar suits and eating a Sadhya meal that included South Indian dishes dosa and idli, which, social media users pointed out, do not belong in the traditional Sadhya. Onam Sadhya is a multi-course vegetarian elaborate meal usually spread on banana leaves, while people sit cross-legged on the floor.
Some Twitter users said brands should not “use" cultures of which they know nothing.
Has no one from their team ever attended a sadhya before? If they had they would never have done this. Moral of the story: Don’t use cultures you don’t know the basics of. https://t.co/UAxbIybz7w— Neha Kapoor (@PWNeha) August 12, 2021
“I’m guessing this is how it went; they hired a random mediocre creative agency who were like, Onam is a south Indian festival. Go to a south indian restaurant and order the first three things on the menu. Because South-India is a monolith," another user wrote. They went on to point out the following:
The funny part is, any agency creative director/photographer worth their salt would have googled what an Onam Sandhya consists of. Pretty much every tier-1/tier-2 city will have at least one malayali eatery which could provide the sambhar, parippu, kootucurry, thora/upperi etc.— Sethu (@theSethu) August 12, 2021
Another user said that what was depicted was a “waste" of a Sadhya meal.
Honestly - its a waste of a sadya opportunity, if they have dosai and idli in it. where is the kalan, olan, avial, pachadi, erisseri? To each their own, i guess. 🤷🏽— Arjun 🇮🇳 (@arjun_siva) August 13, 2021
One user started a thread on the Onam festival and its cultural significance for Malayalis. “Onam belongs to everyone who was born or has links to Kerala. “In the eyes of Asura King Maveli (Mahabali), all Keralites are the same regardless of caste & religion," they wrote. They ended their thread with the assertion: “Stop the Northsplaining of South Indian History & Culture."
Here are some of the other arguments that came up on Twitter:
Onam is a South Indian festival, idli and dosae - South Indian ; same same 🙂🙃— 🌺 partyparrot 🌺 (@ravaeidli) August 12, 2021
By that yardstick we should serve 'sarson da saag' to Biharis for 'chhatt puja' and 'litti chokha' to the Punjabis for 'lohri'. Same same.— Veeraa (@ferrero_raocher) August 12, 2021
Any part of south = Idli + dosa + chutney + white gold + maligai— Nareal Chutney (@VeduVada) August 12, 2021
The clothing brand, after some conversations with social media users who messaged them privately, took down their Instagram post depicting the Onam Sadhya. Their Facebook post, however, remains.
Gigantic banana leaves, fresh flower decorations, power-packed boat races are some of the best highlights of Onam festivities. Erissery, rice puttu, kadala curry, rasam, thenga choru, paal payasam are some of the popular Onam sadhya dishes.