Vaikom temple's 'valiya adukkala' and the legend behind it

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The 'valiya adukkala' (huge kitchen) at the iconic Vaikom temple in Kottayam is quite famous. The deity here is known for its commitment to feeding the masses. The kitchen is headed by the patriarch or the senior namboodiri at the Muttas mana (traditional Brahmin household).

As per the legends, the king of Travancore who had heard quite a lot about the delicious dishes cooked at the temple’s kitchen summoned Muttas namboodiri to his palace. The king requested the namboodiri to prepare the legendary breakfast dishes that are usually cooked at the Vaikom temple for him as well.

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Ingredients were specially brought from Vaikom to the royal kitchen. However, the dishes didn’t turn out as well as the ones cooked at the temple kitchen. Angry and agitated, the king asked the namboodiri why the dishes weren’t as good. The namboodiri replied that the dishes would taste amazing only if they are cooked at the 'valiya adukkala' in Vaikom.

The huge kitchen is at the northeast side of the nalambalam (set of four smaller shrines) in the temple. This is where the breakfast dishes that are specially offered to the deity are prepared. 

Rice, payasam or dessert and dishes like kalan are prepared at the traditional huge kitchen. Meanwhile, other dishes are usually cooked at the 'chorucurrypura'. On special occasions when the breakfast has to be offered to the deity, the Muttas namboodiri wakes up at the wee hours and takes a dip in the temple pond before entering the kitchen.

He scoops out coals from the traditional stove at Thidappally and takes it to the shrine of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati to offer his prayers. These coals are then used to light the fire on the stove at the huge kitchen.

The cooking begins only after lighting a lamp in front of the Ganesh idol, for good luck. During the Vaikathashtami festival, the cooks at this grand old kitchen cook dishes using 551 para (traditional measurement) rice. 

During the days of the monarchy, food was served to the devotees throughout the year. Mats woven using dried palm leaves are spread on the kitchen floor on which half cooked rice is spread. Then a batch of uncooked rice is mixed with the half-cooked batch. Within a few minutes, the whole rice would be perfectly cooked.

Interestingly, the dishes that are cooked at the 'chorucurrypura' are tasted for seasoning by smelling them. On special occasions, the breakfast offering is sponsored by the Dewaswom board. Meanwhile, the devotees can offer it on other days. However, the breakfast offering has only been done minimally, just for the sake of custom, since the lockdown began in March.

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