Sri Krishna and Paal-payasam!

Lord Krishna is worshipped as Parthasarathi, the charioteer of Arjuna at Ambalappuzha in the Alappuzha district of Kerala. The Lord has the whip in one hand and the conch in the other. The temple was built by the local ruler during the 17th century. The unique feature of this temple is the PAAL-PAYASAM (rice and milk kheer) which is offered to the Lord as naivedya and distributed as prasad to all the devotees. Tradition has it that Lord Guruvayoorappan daily comes to accept the Paal-payasam!

Chembakassery Pooradam Thirunal Deva-Narayana Thampuran was the king of this region. He was very good in the game of dice (chathurangam). One day, Sri Krishna disguised as a sadhu approached the king and challenged him for a game of dice. The king who was an expert in the dice-game readily agreed. Now there has to be a prize for the winner of the game. The king who was very confident of winning the game asked the sadhu what he wanted in case he happened to win the game. The Lord told the king that a sadhu’s life is a simple one and therefore he did not have any big demands, and all that he wanted was a few grains of rice as measured by the number of squares on the dice-game board. One grain of rice for the first square, two grains for the second square, four grains for the third square, eight grains for the fourth square, sixteen grains for the fifth etc., by the process of doubling (exponential growth!). The king readily agreed. 

The king very confidently participated in the dice-game with the Lord, but he lost the game. According to the terms and conditions of the game, the king asked for rice to be brought. He started calculating and placing the grains of rice in each square. Suddenly he realized that this was a measurement on a very large scale ! A 64 square dice-game board needs trillions of tons of rice!! All the rice from the granary was brought and still there was a shortage!

The king was in a dilemma because he was unable to fulfil the requirements of the sadhu and this was unpardonable. He knew that this was no ordinary sadhu. He prayed to the sadhu to help him with a solution. Lord Krishna revealed his true form to the king. The king was overwhelmed since he had had the unique fortune of playing the dice-game with none other than the Lord himself. Indeed what a blessing! Since the king was unable to fulfil the conditions that had been put forth prior to the game, as an alternative, the Lord told the king to serve “PAAL-PAYASAM” every day to the pilgrims until the debt is cleared. The king joyously agreed and started the unique tradition of offering PAAL-PAYASAM as Naivedya to Sri Krishna daily.
Every day, early in the morning, the preparation of large quantities of paal-payasam starts. Those in-charge of preparing the payasam seek the Lord’s permission at every stage of adding ingredients into the huge cooking vessel. When the sugar is being added to the payasam, one of them comes to the door and loudly calls out: “VAASUDEVA!” It is to inform the Lord to come for naivedya since the payasam is almost ready! Normally a small portion of the food is offered as naivedya at the Lord’s altar. But in this temple, the entire quantity of Paal-payasam prepared is offered to the Lord. The payasam filled vessels are carried to the altar to the accompaniment of shankha-naada. The paal-payasam is then offered to Sri Krishna and then served to all the devotees who come to the temple. The paal-payasam has immense medicinal value and benefits and hence is known as GOPALA KASHYAYAM.

“May Sri Krishna, the Madhuradipathi (the Lord of Bliss), the Lover of PAAL-PAYASAM, reside in our minds and render it pure and sattvic (like milk), fill it with sweet devotion (like sugar) unto His lotus feet, and finally grant the State of Realization unto us (like the cooked rice in the payasam: Annam is Brahman)!”

“Sri Krishna Govinda Hare Murare, He Natha Narayana Vaasudeva!”

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