South Indian Weddings and banana leaves go hand-in-hand. It's hard not to imagine a South Indian wedding without one!
South Indian weddings and banana leaves go hand-in-hand. It's hard not to imagine a South Indian wedding without one! This is because the banana leaf’s cultural and social impact runs deep. Let’s peel out the reasons why the banana leaf is so fondly used across South Indian weddings.
The mighty Banana leaf has a humble origin dating back to the Mesopotamians and the Indus valley civilization. Back then and even now, the Banana leaf has had a simple and sole purpose, which is to - serve. The humble use of the banana leaf can be seen across many South Indian states. Especially in states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Odisha. In Hindu mythology, it is also believed that the Banana symbolises prosperity and fertility.
In temples all over India, the banana leaf is used to carry the darshan and prasad offerings. The green on the banana leaf signifies that the couple is blessed with a new beginning in life. It is a traditional custom in Hindu culture to decorate the entrance of the wedding hall and the wedding house of both the bride and the groom with two banana stems. This symbolizes eternity and prosperity for the wedding that is about to happen.
One particular and popular use of the banana leaf can be observed in Kerala during the Onam Festival. It is believed that King Mahabali himself comes down and blesses the occasion and a celebratory meal is prepared called the “Sadhya.” The meal is said to be a meal fit for the gods. Sadhya’s are also served at weddings, known as wedding Sadhya
Culturally across India, the plantain leaf represents hospitality and kindness with food. When a couple is newly married in South India, the first meal that they serve guests who visit them (Virundhu), is a meal on a Banana leaf.
Photo by Nixon Johnson
Everything tastes better on a Banana leaf, especially South Indian meals. A South Indian meal on a banana leaf has different names in various South Indian languages.
The banana leaf meal is known as Vaazhai Elai Sapad in Tamil Nadu, Sadhya in Kerala, BaaLe Ele OoTa in Karnataka, and Arati Aako in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The proprietary dishes that get served on a Banana leaf are similar in all the 4 states. Some of the staple South Indian dishes that get served on a banana leaf are:
1. White Rice: The quintessential part of any south Indian meal is, white rice
2. Sweet: Every meal has a sweet dish that is consumed at the last; Payasam, kheer, rice pudding, etc.
3. Dhall podi and Ghee: Dhall is a spicy lentil powder that is mixed with desi-ghee and rice which results in a gastronomical experience
4. Sambar: Aromatic mixed vegetable lentil gravy. This is a staple gravy in all South Indian meals
5. Poriyal: Stir-fried vegetables of different variations in cooking.This is also called Palya or Sabzi
6. Kuzhambu: This is a spicy gravy that is served next to the Sambhar
7. Rasam: A spicy broth that is light and tangy. This aids in the digestion of the food
8. Appalam: Also called as papadum is prepared with urad dal and deep-fried in oil
9. Vadai: Deep-fried lentil fritters
10. Payasam: Also called as kheer or pudding
11. Curd Rice: Yoghurt and rice are mixed in what is popularly known as curd rice. A delicacy that is enjoyed by all
12. Pickle: Brined vegetables like garlic, ginger, lemon, onions, etc., are mixed with chilli powder and other spicy elements
13. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is a fermented dairy drink that is had at the end of the meal. The sour drink aids with digestion.
14. Banana: A banana is served at the end of the meal
15. Pan / Beeda: A sweet Beeda, or Date Beeda is served at the end of a meal. There are different varieties of Beeda like Ice-cream beeda, Maghai Beeda, Date Beeda, Gold-foil Beeda, Silver-foil Paan,
Plain Beeda with just betel nut and leaves, Sweet Paan, Banarasi style paan, etc.