How to - create and arrange a maharashtrian thali on banana leaf

Two states by Chetan Bhagat, talks about the cultures of north and south india. In between the two, there is this middle belt, which maintains the fine balance of north indian pompousness and south indian simplicity. Maharashtra state, is home to diverse groups which speak marathi as their first language. The state has regions with hill tops, coastal sides and flat terrains. The food and grains also differ from each area.
And yet when you happen to meet maharashtrians, you may find all of them similar. Primarily it is the language that binds one and all.  Most things would have a rule or protocol in all families and each love to say, this is our family's tradition.
Every family is willing to judge the others on their skills of hospitality, cooking, cleanliness and many other things. You cannot simply please people by cooking delicious food. It has to be accompanied with right serving skills and knowledge of how much to serve and when.

With time, ofcourse, things have eased out for most, and now people are happy to be invited for a meal.

Maharashtrian thali, comprises of the state's staples. However, if the occassion is special, there are some food items that you ought to avoid. Also the way you arrange your food on the thali, is of great significance. 

1) Arrangement of dishes - Each food item will have a specific location on the leaf. You always start serving with salt. Salt is placed in the centre and at the top. The position of 12 on the clock. Then you start serving the left hand side (daava) food items. The daavas, always include the supporting dishes like chutneys, nashta, achar,riata, papad and sweet. The right hand side (ujwa) always made of main course like vegetables, curries, rice and roti/ puri. For the second serving, you will be asked whether you need daava or ujwa, which means you want some more of left hand side items or right hand side? This practise could be because of the kamandalus segregated for vegetables or side dishes.

2) Position of each item
Salt - centre
Lemon Wedge - left hand side of salt
Chutney - Below lemon
Raita - under chutney closer to right hand side, for easy access while eating rice
Fritters/bhajji/ nashta - under the raita
Sweets- lower base on left hand side
Gravy/ Curry - Right hand side, always top of the leaf
stir fries- below the gravy on right hand side
Rice - Off centre on the right hand side
Puris/ Phulkas - Under the rice

3) Serving sequence
Start with salt always. Next serve all the side dishes like raita, papad, bhaji etc. Serve buttermilk if included after this, place it outside the thali
Then serve the rice , topped with varan and ghee followed by other gravies or curries.  You may then serve the sweet or puris.

4) Eating sequence
Normally people break fast by consuming rice first. Even when you have special rice varieties like masala bhat or pulav, the first serving will always be plain rice with varan and ghee. Most people like to end their meals with buttermilk or curd. 

Other rules
Rice serving- Usually rice is served in moulds even for large gatherings. It is not appreciated when plain rice is directly served on leaf. Topping it with plain dal (varan ) and ghee is implicit. This item is not asked for but served mandatory  This should be smallest moulds so that people can later eat other food servings. By regions, the tradition of adding one mould or two differs. Most parts would serve 2 moulds of rice.

Bread - Even when bhakri and zunka are declared as states staple food, they are never prepared for special occassions. It will be usually puris or phulkas (the former most of the times). If puranpoli is included on the menu, then no other flat bread is served that day. 

Nashta - Items like fritters/ bhaji, kothimbir vadi/ alu wadi/ zunka wadi/ sabudana wada/ bakarwadi etc, If you wish to add more than one dish, ensure that the 2 items do not have the same base ingredient like chickpea flour or maida

Sweet - Puranpoli is made often for special occassions and also couples as flat bread. Usually there is one or 2 dishes served. Combinations are puri - shrikhand, puri aamras, masala bhat-boondi laadu, masalabhat-jilebi-mattha

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Archana said…
This is great Pradnya. Love the thali next time my kids ask me abt the placement etc they will be stuck in front of your post. Great one Pradnya.
Srivalli said…
Awesome explanation Pradnya. I must say many of the things you have said, are similar to our south way of serving...except the rice moulds, varan and ghee is a must for us as well in andhra..and some parts of TN..and the rest of the items are also placed the same way. Except poli is not part of TN, but very much the part of andhra's nice to see the similarities and difference of each well done..thanks..:)
Harini R said…
That is a very sumptous meal ..Love to eat the traditional meals on a banana leaf.
Very interesting background on how the food is served. The order is different in our families.
Priya Suresh said…
Very interesting post, love to read how the foods are serve in Maharashtiran Thali Prandya. Beautiful post.
Nupur said…
Hey , thats really nice ! unfortunately I have never had food on a banana leaf ever, but would love to have it..

good information provided ! :)
Rajani S said…
THis is more or less similar to the way we serve here in South. But for the leaf itself is kept so that the wider part (not the end) is onto your right side. So pickles end up on top left. Is it the same here, cos I am a tiny bit confused as to how will you sit facing the leaf?
what should I say to this have taught me how to display a Maharashtrian Thali...and I love the way you have given detailed explanation..super!!
Manju said…
Interesting one, there are lot of things to be know in this display and serving foods,
Pavani said…
Very interesting to learn about the food customs & traditions in Maharashtra.
preeti garg said…
Yummy platter
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Shyama said…
what if i have to serve in a round steel thali ?
Anuradha said…
Lots of mistakes on the placement of items

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