In the previous part, we read about the Pallippana ritual and the legend behind it. Today, we will read a slightly different version of the same, where the ritual is not conducted by the Malayi.
A slightly different version from the above is observed in the Nizhalkkuttu attakatha which was composed by Shri Pannisseri Nanupillai in 1925, and according to the author, there weren’t too many Hindu homes (then) which did not perform the Nizhalkkuttu attakatha at least once a month to annul the effects of abhicara which could have been performed by some unknown person.
The story behind this is similar to the above with a slight difference. Duryodhan calls Bharata Malayan to perform abhicara. When Malayan learns that the victims of his act were going to be the Pandavs, he declines to do it, as for him both the Pandavs and the Kauravs were Kings, besides the fact that Krishna was with them, due to which he would not be able to do so. Duryodhan threatened him with dire consequences if he did not comply with his order.
Malayan agreed but asked for certain things for the ritual – the sun as a lamp, the moon as a plate, measures of darkness, egg of an elephant, arrows used by Lord Rama, some leaves made of water, etc. Besides all such impossible things, he also asked for the sacrifice of their sister, Dusshala. On hearing all this Duryodhan was enraged and threatened to kill him instantly, if he did not begin the abhicara. A reluctant and a scared Malayan decided to perform the ritual.
When the ritual began, Malayan realised that he was unable to see the shadows of the Pandavs on the stone. He was worried, if the ritual was not successful, Duryodhan would kill him. He prayed to the gods to bail him out of the plight. Soon he noticed that he could see the shadows of the Pandavs along with that of Lord Krishna. He prayed to Krishna to show mercy on him as he was doing this only under utter duress. Soon the shadow of Krishna went missing and his task was accomplished. He begged forgiveness and left with all the gifts heaped on him by Duryodhan.
When he reached home, his wife found it unusual that he should return with so many gifts, and still be sad. On asking him the cause of his unhappiness, Malayan said that on his way back he practiced abhicara on five does, who were with a deer. Malayi was not convinced and on insisting to know the truth, Malayan told her that he had killed the Pandavs by Nizhalkkuttu, shadow-piercing. When Malayi learnt this, she was enraged. She killed her son, so that Malayan could feel the pain of Kunti and rushed to the spot where the Pandavs were lying dead.
In the meanwhile Kunti finds her dead sons and calls for Krishna. Krishna revives them and soon Malayi arrives there and tells all that had happened due to her husband. Krishna assured her that he knew everything and killing her own son was too drastic a reaction and that his son would be alive too and that there would be no hatred towards Malayan as he had done it out of sheer compulsion.
Krishna then goes on to say, that anybody who listens to this tale would never be affected by abhicara ever.
The above version is different in the fact that here Krishna is credited with the revival of the Pandavs and not Malayi as in the previous version. Also, Malayan is shown making efforts to avoid the abhicara and thus he is not spited for greed, again, as against the previous version. Also, in the earlier version, the son remains dead, unlike this version, where the son is given another lease of life. The bottom line is that in the previous version the Malayi is at the centre stage whereas in the present, it is Lord Krishna.
Needless to say, that both the versions are depicted in different dance forms in Kerala, like Theyyam and Kathakali, and people who have witnessed the performances say that the depictions of the abhicara episode in Kathakali is extremely colourful and rich in details.
NB – The pictures shown in this and the previous article are not from a ritualistic performance, but stage performances of Kathakali, depicting the episode.
Before we conclude, we will read an altogether different version of abhicara. Keep reading……