The Germans call it milchreis, the Spaniards call it arroz con leche, Malaysians pulut hitam and the Greeks call it rizogalo…any guesses?
How about ‘eight treasures’? or Shola-e-zard ?
Kheer, payesh, phirini, payasam?
The first mentions of payasam were recorded in the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana, as ksheer or kshirika in Sanskrit, which translated to a dish made with milk.
According to the legend, Sri Krishna once appeared in the form of a rishi in the court of the king who ruled the Alapuzza district of modern Kerala, and challenged him to a game of chaturanga (or chess as it is now known).
The king being a chaturanga enthusiast himself gladly accepted the invitation. The prize had to be decided before the game and the king asked the rishi to choose his prize in case he won.
The rishi told the king that he had a very modest claim and being a man of few material needs, all he wished was a few grains of rice. The amount of rice itself shall be determined using the chess-board in the following manner. One grain of rice shall be placed in the first square, two grains in the second square, four in the third square, eight in the fourth square, sixteen in fifth square and so on. Every square will have double of its predecessor.
The king lost the game and rishi demanded the agreed-upon prize. As he started adding grains of rice to the chess board, the king soon realised the true nature of the rishi’s demands. The royal granary soon ran out of grains of rice. The king realised that he will never be able to fulfill the promised reward as the number of grains was increasing as a geometric progression and the total amount of rice required for a 64-squared chess board is 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains, translating to trillions of tons of rice.
Upon seeing the dilemma,Sri Krishna appeared to the king in his true-form and told the king that he did not have to pay the debt immediately but could pay him over time. The king would serve paal-payasam (pudding made of rice) in the temple freely to the pilgrims every day until the debt was paid off.
This is the story behind the world-famous Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Swamy Temple paal-payasam.
The Mughals called it kheer or phirni, and the Iranians named it Shola-e-zard. The Chinese called the dish eight-treasures, since it also contained eight fruits and raisins, meant to honor victories in war.
Closer home, payasam is still the staple of any good occasion in Indian households. Simple and easy to make, and tasty beyond compare.
By the way, why have I dedicated a whole blogpost (that too with yog-daily as a tag) to a sweet dish?
Mostly because I had some today:) But also to remind you that it is such little pleasures in life that make things worth it. We often overlook these in pursuit of larger happiness, which is but a collection of moments such as these.
So, let me go grab my share of happiness, and you try yours too. See you tomorrow!