Here's the lesser-known story of why Mahabharat's most hated character is worshipped as a god in a village in Kerala.
Duryodhana, is perhaps the most hated figure in Mahabharata. In the epic, the Kaurava prince is shown as an egotistical maniac, who molests Draupadi and whose actions lead to the bloody 18-day war.
Yet, if you travel enough around the country, you’ll likely realise that in some parts of India, the prince isn’t just loved but also worshipped. In the Gharwal region, there are even temples dedicated to Duryodhana. These temples are primarily in the Jaunsar-Bawal sectors where Duryodhana is believed to have spent some time. The story goes that he was so enthralled by the beauty of the region, he appealed to the local deity to let him reign a part of the valley and take care of its people. It was thus that Duryodhana came to rule over this part of the country… by divine will. And it is here that there are temples dedicated to him. However, over the years, certain villages have distanced themselves from the presiding deity as his portrayal in popular culture casts him in a poor light.
This is not the case in the small village of Poruvazhy in Kollam district of Kerala where the Poruvazhy Peruviruthy Malanada Temple doesn’t just exist but also thrives. An annual festival attracts hundreds of people as they celebrate a prince who they see as a god.
Legend has it that Duryodhana travelled the length and breadth of the country in search of the Pandavas who were living incognito for a year. As part of the punishment they received for losing the game of dice to Duryodhana, they were exiled for 13 years. Additionally, to avoid another 12 years of exile, they were to live incognito during the 13th year. It’s during this year that the Kauravas launched an empire-wide search for the five princes and their wife, Draupadi.
At one point in his search Duryodhana, whose real name is supposed to be Suyodhana, reached this part of Kerala. Tired and parched, he went to a nearby house and requested for drinking water. An elderly woman gladly obliged but soon realised that the man at her doorstep was an upper caste prince. Typically, such an act – despite its benevolent nature – would have cost the woman her head. However Duryodhana, recognising the hollow nature of such traditions, didn’t just thank her but also granted her and her family hundreds of acres of agricultural land as a token of gratitude.
In return the locals built a temple in Duryodhana’s honour. The temple doesn’t have an idol. At the heart of the temple is just a raised platform and devotees submit themselves to a divine power of their imagination through a process called Sankalpam.
The Poruvazhy Peruviruthy Malanada Temple is located about 27 km from Alumkadavu, which is a village that’s known for its houseboat making industry. And every year, there’s an annual Kettukazhcha festival which is celebrated with much pomp.