Ambalapuzha palpayasam, the famous milky-sweet dessert, offered daily to the presiding deity of the 17th century Ambalapuzha Sri Krishna temple, has been dragged into a bitter controversy. Against the backdrop of fake versions of this ambrosia being floated by some sweetmeat traders, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the temple, has decided to add its original name—Gopala Kashayam (Krishnan’s potion)—in brackets, along with its popular name on the container, to help devotees identify the genuine one.
Before we dive into the bitter controversy, it must be stated here that among all the iconic celestial sweetmeat offerings in the temples managed by TDB, Ambalapuzha palpayasam is the most sought-after one. Devotees do not expect to get it without booking it in advance. The gap between demand and supply is very wide, but TDB cannot reduce it by producing more payasam as the mammoth brass vessel used to prepare the offering is permanently fixed on the hearth installed exclusively for it. Besides, the custom does not permit the vessel to be replaced with a larger one. Not just that, the High Court is not in favour of increasing the production as the court fears that it would compromise the quality of the holy offering.
In all other temples, only a portion of the celestial food is offered to the deity, but here the pal payasam is offered in its entirety. Just before the uchapooja (forenoon pooja), the ritual offering of lunch to the deity of the temple, Keezhsanthis (sub-priests), in pairs, carry the vessels containing the palpayasam on their shoulders with the help of a long and strong wooden log from the thidapally (kitchen at a temple) to the inner court of the temple chanting “Gopala… Gopala…”