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'Bitter-Sweet' Row Erupts in Kerala Over New Name for Popular Temple Prasad, Congress Wades In

On the backfoot, the Travancore Dewaswom Board said there were no plans to rename the temple offering and that it was filing for a patent on the previous name.

Chandrakanth Viswanath | News18.com

Updated:November 6, 2019, 10:41 AM IST
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'Bitter-Sweet' Row Erupts in Kerala Over New Name for Popular Temple Prasad, Congress Wades In
The lore says that the ‘paayasam’ is a medieval ruler's never-ending debt to Lord Krishna. (Representative image/Reuters)

Thiruvananthapuram: The reported decision of the Travancore Dewaswom Board (TDB) to rename the prasadam (offering) at one of the temples under it has triggered a row as the new name suggests that the offering is a ‘bitter decoction’.

The prasadam at the Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Swamy Temple was earlier called ‘Ambalappuzha Palpayasam’ which means traditional dessert. But a section of the media recently quoted TDB president A Padmakumar as saying that the board is planning to rename the prasadam as ‘Gopala Kashayam’ or ‘bitter decoction’.

With stumped devotees opposing the move, Padmakumar on Monday denied the reports and said no such decision had been taken to rechristen the offering.

Moving in to capitalise on the discontent, the opposition Congress alleged that the renaming was proposed to honour AK Gopalan, the leader of CPM in the first Lok Sabha. “The renaming of the temple offering had been opposed by people, including historian and writer Ambalapuzha Gopakumar and poet Sreekumaran Thampi. If this offering was earlier known as ‘Gopala Kashayam’ and this has been done to please the people as Padmakumar says, then why did he wait till the last few days of his tenure to do this?’ asked former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief MM Hassan.

The TDB, however, said it doesn’t plan to change the prasadam’s name and is, in fact, applying for a patent on the name ‘Ambalappuzha Palppayasam’. “It has been called ‘Gopala Kashayam’ ritualistically and it will be recorded in the history of the offering when we file for Ambalappuzha Palppayasam patent. However, there is no change in the name of the offering,” G Byju, TDB deputy commissioner in charge of the group district, which covers around 400 temples, told News18.

Media reports also quoted Padmakumar as saying that the board had decided to print ‘Gopala Kashayam’ in bracket along ‘Ambalappuzha Palpayasam’ on the prasadam bottle.

What’s in a Name

The TDB’s decision to legally own the paayasam’s name was triggered by a bakery’s clever strategy to sell a similarly named product during Onam two months ago barely 20 km from the temple. Instead of ‘Ambalappuzha’, the sticker on top of the container said ‘Amblpzha’, similar enough to be confused with the original but different enough to avoid any legal action.

When called out, the bakery swiftly apologised on Facebook. The TDB filed a case against the owner.

Sweet Revenge

Ambalappuzha Palpayasam’, which is prepared using rice, milk and sugar, is said to be a medieval ruler's never-ending debt to Lord Krishna. According to the lore, the king, confident of his skills as a chess (Chathurangam) player, once asked a sage to sit with him for a game. Confident of victory, the king offered the sage whatever he wanted if he won. The king lost the game of 64 squares and was all set to lose the kingdom. However, instead of the kingdom, the sage told the king to offer payasam to Lord Krishna of Ambalappuzha on a daily basis. The king then realised that the sage was Lord Krishna himself who came in disguise to teach him a lesson.

The prasadam is now distributed and sold to devotees after being offered to gods every day for Rs 160 per half litre. Though the demand is higher, the TDB had to restrict its production following a suggestion from the Kerala High Court as part of the efforts to maintain the quality of the temple offerings.

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