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Food Mythology

The Delicious Debt

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The festive season is here; with festivals approaching everybody is busy shopping. It is a season of sales and discounts, attractive offers. People are busy buying electronics, furniture, clothes, and some even buy a new house or their dream car. The best part is that everything you want to buy you can get it instantly, whether you have the money or not, you need to just strongly think of buying it. What are banks for? What are credit cards for? We see so many offers on “buy-in easy 0% interest EMIs, buy at affordable interest rates, at times we also see offers “shop with your credit card” and the best spender will get gold from the bank. People are so blinded that they go and buy it right at once.

Little they realize that they are falling in the dark dungeon of debt. Let me tell you debt is a scary word. We are going after the American Dream “we want stuff that we can’t buy, the credit card will help us buy”. Living in this illusion America seems to have the highest score of debt; every 8 out of 10 individual is in debt. With the entire scary introduction, the debt might be looking a little bitter in taste. But I know of one debt that is actually sweet and delicious in taste. Let me help you taste this debt.

You can taste this sweet debt in Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple, located at a temple in Ambalappuzha, Alleppey district of Kerala about 53 Km from Kochi, the district where you enjoy your backwater houseboat cruise. This temple is very famous for its ‘Pal Payasam’ a sweet pudding made of rice and milk.

The ‘Pal Payasam’ story.

As per legends, this incident goes in the time of a Chembakasserry King Devanarayanan, (Pooradam Thirunal Devanarayanan Thampuran) was a ruling Namboothiri King. The king was a great chess enthusiast and would love to defeat people in chess. He would walk his gait with his big ego, that there was nobody in this land that could defeat the king.

Once when Devanarayanan was taking his daily brief about his kingdom, a young boy came to his court and challenged him to a game of chess. The king looking at the young boy was a little laid back, He thought “does this boy even knows what chess is “,” Can this boy actually play”. Keeping his thoughts aside the king could not say no to a challenge, so a game was started. Devanarayanan asked the little boy to start. The boy made his first move, the king made the next. While the spectators deeply engrossed in the game, as if they were in some trance. The suspense was extremely high. The boy made one more move and King Devanarayanan had lost the game.

“The king lost” the people watching were in a deep state of disbelief as the king had never lost to anyone, and the king lost to a little boy. Even the king was a little surprised; people thought that the boy must have won by chance. Devanarayanan also asked the boy for one more game. The boy accepted with a smile. A new game started, this too lasted a few moves, once again the champion King Devanarayanan lost again. King Devanarayanan now accepted his defeat gracefully.

The boy was about to leave. Devanarayanan stopped the boy and told him “There is nobody who could defeat me in this game, it’s you who defeated me for the first time, please accept a reward for your great feat. The boy replied he does not expect anything in return; all he wanted to do was meet the king and possibly play a game with the great master. The king could not accept this excuse and kept on insisting to accept the gift. The boy then said “if you insist so much then please give me some rice grains” the king asked, “how many you need?”

The boy said “Let this chess board only decide” Devanarayanan was a little confused with the reply, he asked the boy “What is your calculation?” The boy said “starting from the first square, one grain of rice would be placed, and would be kept on doubling for every next square till the 64th square, of the chess board. It would be 1 in the first, 2 in the second, 4 in the third, 8 in the fourth and so on, that all.

The king was a little baffled by this demand, being little irritated he asked the boy “why such a simple demand?” I am a wealthy man I can give you cart load of precious items, and you seek mere few grains.”The boy modestly told the king Devanarayanan “I do not intend to insult you, if you feel my demand is unjust please let it be, I seek nothing as my reward. 

Devanarayanan felt this was a question of his status as a king, he immediately ordered his ministers to make calculations and fulfill the requirement.

As the ministers were calculating the rice grains to be given, the number started with just one or two grains had reached million tons by the square 40th and was increasing. The king Devanarayanan was shaking with fear, his face had turned pale and legs weak. His whole kingdoms rice was not enough to pay this debt. The amount of rice the king had to give was somewhere in a million trillion tons. It would take hundreds of years to produce.

Devanarayanan in despair called out “Krishna, Krishna please helps me”. Lord Krishna then came in his original form, the boy was none other than Lord Krishna himself, who had come to destroy the ego of his devotee king. Upon seeing the Lord in his true form, tears of ecstasy started to flow from his eyes; he prostrated himself at his feet begging forgiveness for his arrogance. Lord Krishna seeing the king’s dilemma smiled and told the king that he need not pay the debt immediately but could pay him over time “More like easy EMIs.

It was since then the king built this Krishna temple, of Ambalappuzha. The king would serve ‘Paal-Payasam’, made with rice in the temple freely to the pilgrims every day until the debt was paid off. Till date, pilgrims from all parts of the country go and relish this delicious ‘Pal -Payasam’.

It is a must try the food, you would not find such a taste anywhere in the world, cause this contains Lord’s mercy. It is also believed that “Guruvyaur Aapan” (another form of Lord Krishna, the deity of a famous temple in Kerala), comes here to relinquish this ‘Pal -Payasam’.

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