Aviyal – A possible origin story

Ask any true-blue Malayali and he/she will tell you that the festival of Onam is not complete without the traditional Onam Sadhya (the Onam feast) and the Onam Sadhya is not complete without the addition of Aviyal to the menu.


So in true Malayali tradition and on the occasion of Onam, here go a couple of links to the recipe of preparing the delectable Aviyal. Not one, but two links, one a Malayali version and another a Tam Brahm version.

Malayali version of Aviyal

Tam Brahm version of Aviyal



Now that all of you readers, especially the ones with an inclination to cooking and enjoying good food have had your exposure to this lovely dish, courtesy Padhu’s Kitchen who provided both recipes, let me tell you one version of how this awesome dish came into being.

Legend has it that Bhima, the second Pandava prince liked troubling his traditional rivals, the Kauravas quite a bit when he was young. He often bullied them, picking them up and throwing them to the ground, shaking the trees on which they were perched upon until they fell off the tree and other such juvenile stunts.

One day, tired of Bhima bullying them ever so often, the Kauravas decided to poison him. They offered him sweets laced with poison and when he fell unconscious after eating them, they tied big stones to his feet and threw him into the river.

Little did they know that the river was populated by the Nagas. They rescued Bhima and took them to their king Vasuki, who lived in their underwater city. The Nagas then hosted a banquet in honor of their royal guest and also gave him a potion which rendered him immune to any poisons known by humans so far.

Back in Hastinapur, the remaining Pandavas had already assumed Bhima as dead and had organized a funeral feast in his honor to mark the end of the official mourning period. On that day, all the vegetables had been cut and spices prepared to be cooked for the feast.

It was in this melee that Bhima appeared from the river, alive, hale and hearty, to the great relief of his mother Kunti and his brothers.

Being the gourmand that he was, Bhima did not want the cut vegetables and spices to be wasted. He therefore offered to cook a special meal putting them all together which went against conventional cooking conventions of the day, which prevented multiple vegetables from being part of the same dish. The dish that he cooked that day with all the vegetables and spices came to be called Aviyal.

Little did he know that this dish would then go on to become staple fare for all Malayalis during most of their festive days including Onam.


Story Courtesy : Dr Devdutt Pattanaik’s “Jaya : An illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata


While some of you readers might be surprised at the inclusion of a food recipe on the blog or the introduction of mythology and Mahabharata in a food recipe post, seasoned readers of Mahabore’s Mumblings will know my penchant, both for good food as well as for the Mahabharata.

And I couldn’t resist combining both these passions into one post, could I? Do leave behind your comments on the post and let me know whether you liked the Aviyal, the story behind its origins, or both.

19 thoughts on “Aviyal – A possible origin story

  1. With the chosen pic of Onam meal you took me back to the time when I was a kid! Being an Army kid all these festivals meant bada khana in the mess and that too in traditional style — be it onam, pongal, or any other festival! Good write up and yes we know your penchant for Mahabharata!

  2. We have a similar dish on Goa called “Khatkhatem” it is made of a medley of vegetables (traditionally around 30-35) in a coconut (with turmeric and chilly) gravy. The differentiating factor however is the use of schezuan peppers which are an integral part of Konkani cuisine 🙂

  3. I know this story..I know this story…*Does a happy jig* For the first time..a story on your blog..and I know it *gives sheepish grin*

    BTW..Appa told this to bro and me when we were kids and were wondering why Amma cant make pavbhaji instead of avial..after that..avial is a favorite in our house 🙂

  4. I heard this story from my grandma when I was a kid. I adored Ganesha and Bhima because they were huge and powerful. And hence my love for Avial. 😀

  5. I didn’t know this story. Thanks to you, now I know
    Aviyal has been my favorite and now the son carries on that tradition.
    Had been to India and had been without a net connection and I can’t tell you how much I missed reading your posts.

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