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.

The story of Yayati – Part 3


<< PART 2 >>

Yayati then approached his eldest son Yadu and requested him to exchange his youth with old age so that he may satisfy his sensual needs and enjoy the pleasures of youth for a few more years. Yadu refused to do so citing the fact that he had not been young long enough to experience the bodily happiness of youth and would therefore not be able to become indifferent to material pleasures, having never experienced them.

Yayati then approached his other sons Turvasu, Druhyu and Anu who refused his offer as they did not know the true nature of the human soul and accorded too much importance to their temporal human body and its youth.

The old king finally found in his young son Puru someone who was willing to take on his old age in exchange for youth. The following were Puru’s words when he accepted Sukracharya’s curse

Not too many people in this world get a chance to repay their fathers who have given them their body. He who acts as per his father’s wishes is surely destined to be blessed even by the Gods.

As a young man again, King Yayati then enjoyed sensual pleasures and pleasures of the flesh for many more years. Years later he realized that the craving for sensual pleasures is not satiated by indulgence and if anything such indulgence only serves to increase the cravings even more. Upon achieving this realization, he goes back to his son Puru and gives back his youth to him and gladly accepts old age.


Dr Devdutt Pattanaik, eminent mythologist in this article [Link to article] describes how the events in Yayati’s story contribute to the inherent struggle between the older and younger generations. In this case, the older generation in the form of Yayati has his way and how the defeat of the younger generation in the form of Puru is often glorified and celebrated as a large sacrifice.

This is what is termed the Yayati Complex by many Indian psychologists, where the son sacrifices his pleasures to heed to the demands of his father, in order to obtain the goodwill and appreciation of his father. This is a clear contrast to the Western psychological precept of The Oedipus Complex discussed in my earlier posts [Link to post].

Another wonderful example of the Yayati Complex is found in the Mahabharata where Bhishma takes on two terrible vows – one to make Satyavati’s sons the heirs to the throne of Hastinapur and two never to marry so that his children might never stake a claim to the throne themselves. Bhishma takes these vows to ensure that his father Santanu’s desire to marry Satyavati is fulfilled, and is therefore a classic example of the Yayati Complex.

The story of Yayati – Part 2


<< PART 1 >>

After some time, King Yayati who was out on a hunt happened to come by that way. Feeling thirsty he stopped near the well and happened to see Devayani in the well. Desirous of helping her, he took off his upper garment, reached down to her and pulled her out of the well.

Addressing him Devayani said O King, by taking my hand into yours, you have accepted my hand in marriage. It will now never be touched by another man, as it is providence that our relationship has so been consummated.

Know this o King, no qualified Brahmin can ever become my husband because Kaca, the son of Brihaspati has cursed me so.

After Yayati had agreed to her statement, Devayani then went to her father Sukracharya and narrated all that happened. Enraged with the princess’ behavior Sukracharya then went to Vrishaparva with the intention of punishing her. Vrishaparva however satiated his guru’s anger by offering Sharmistha as a maidservant to Devayani.

Once Sukracharya’s anger was mollified, he then sent Devayani with her thousand maidservants which included Sharmistha to her husband, King Yayati’s palace. Giving his daughter’s hand in marriage to the king, Sukracharya warned Yayati to never allow Sharmistha into his bed.

The king and his newly wed queen enjoyed marital bliss and soon Devayani was pregnant with their child. Seeing her old friend enjoying her pregnancy, Sharmistha approached Yayati in a secluded place and asked him to marry her as well and promised to be a faithful wife to him. Neglecting the holy Sukracharya’s advice, the king went on to marry Sharmistha as well and gave in to her demands for a child from him.

When Devayani found out that her former friend was also pregnant with the king’s child, she was angry and immediately left the palace for her father’s place. The distraught Yayati followed her there and despite his entreaties and pleading, she refused to come back to his palace. Angry at the king not following his specific advice to the contrary, Sukracharya cursed Yayati

You womanizing, deceitful man, may you immediately enter old age which disfigures the human body

Yayati begged the holy man for his forgiveness who then relented and told him that if he could transfer his invalidity and old age to some young man, then he could remain young and enjoy the pleasures of the flesh if he so desired.

<< PART 3 >>

The story of Yayati – Part 1


King Nahusha had six sons; Yati, Yayati, Samyati, Ayati, Viyati and Kriti. When he grew old and wanted to renounce his kingdom, his eldest son Yati, did not accept the kingdom offered by his father, knowing fully well that a person who becomes the king can never succeed in the pursuit of self-realization. Therefore, when circumstances intervened and Nahusha was forced to give up his kingdom as he had offended Saatchi, Indra’s wife and was cursed to live the life of a snake, his second son Yayati became the king. He nominated his four younger brothers as regents for the four directions of his kingdom and took Devayani, the daughter of Sukracharya and Sharmistha, the daughter of Vrishaparva as his queens. The story of Yayati’s marriage to these two ladies goes thus.


One day Vrishaparva’s daughter Sharmistha along with her thousand companions which included Sukracharya’s daughter Devayani were walking in the palace garden. The garden was well renowned for its beauty and was full of lotus flowers, crammed with blossoming trees and almost always nicely buzzed with the activity of bumblebees flying around collecting honey from all the flowers. When the princess and her companions arrived at the lake in the garden, they took off their clothes and started playing in the water.

Seeing Lord Shiva pass by that way with his consort Parvati, the young women quickly got out of the water and covered themselves with the garments they had casually discarded on the banks of the lake. In her hurry to get dressed, Sharmistha unknowingly put on the dress of her guru Sukracharya’s daughter, Devayani. Devayani, angered by this act of the princess, exclaimed

Alas, despite being a princess, Sharmistha’s actions are against etiquette. She desires clothes which are not her own and her actions are like that of a dog which lusts after the sacrificial ghee. My father who is a descendant of Bhrigu, and the spiritual guru of her father Vrishaparva, is a learned and a chaste man and the princess by virtue of stealing my clothes reminds me of somebody who is unchaste trying to master the Vedas.

Angered by this outburst of her companion Sharmistha retorted What nonsense Devayani? You don’t know your place. It is you who waits outside our doors for food like crows do when fresh rice is cooked.

Saying so she removed the garments that Devayani was wearing and threw the naked girl into a well.

<< PART 2 >>

Sahadeva’s secret

Years of meditation and austerities in exile had rendered Pandu, the father of the Pandavas a wise and learned man. He had a premonition of his death and instructed his sons –

Years of celibacy and meditation in the forest have given me great knowledge which is embedded in my body. When I die, eat my flesh and all of you will be blessed with great knowledge. That shall be your true inheritance from me.

After Pandu died, his sons cremated his body, but could not bring themselves to follow their father’s instructions. But Sahadeva, the youngest of the sons noticed that ants were carrying a tiny piece of their father’s body before it burnt. Unable to resist himself, he took that piece and put it in his mouth.

In an instant, he knew everything about the world – all that had happened in the past, and all that was going to happen in the future as well.

He started running towards his mother and brothers to tell them about this, when he was stopped by a stranger –

Do you want God as your friend?

Yes said Sahadeva. Then, never voluntarily tell anyone about this wonderful gift of yours. And when any question is asked of you, always reply with another question he was instructed.

Sahadeva immediately realized that he was being addressed to by none other than the Supreme Lord himself. He agreed to these terms and lived a life where he always kept silent despite knowing all the events that were about to transpire and being able to do nothing about them.

As time went on, he realized that the future that he knew about could be deciphered by observing nature and celestial bodies very carefully. He is therefore credited with putting together various occult sciences which help man predict the future.

As for his whole life, Sahadeva kept waiting for people around him, including his brothers to ask the right questions of him and hence was always pictured as a silent, thoughtful person.


Story courtesy: Dr Devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘Jaya : An illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata


I am just speculating here, but while I always knew about the fact that Sahadeva is credited with coming up with the science of astrology, this is the first time I have read about the story of Pandu and his flesh being consumed by his youngest son.

However, this does give a lot of credibility to the stories and legends that one keeps hearing of people practicing some occult sciences and tantric events consuming human flesh and the like.

One way or the other, this does make for an interesting small little tale from the Mahabharata, doesn’t it.