Gayopakhyanam in Malayalam

Summary by A. Purushothaman

In Malayalam, there are at least two poems in the Tullal style dealing with Gayopakhyanam. Tullal poems are used for the performing art Tullal, refined and popularized by the poet Kunchan Nambiar in 18th century. Tullal is mainly associated with temple festivals in Kerala. Summary follows.

Krishnarjunavijayam (Ottan Tullal)

By Ambayatt Panikkar (a disciple of Kuncan Nambiar) Summary based on the text given in Page 829-841, Ezhupattanchu Tullalkathakal, Edited by Dr.V.S. Sarma, D.C.Books, Kottayam, Kerala (1976)

As Krishna was performing his morning rituals, a Gandharva called Gaya was travelling on his horse in the sky. The froth from the horse's mouth fell in the water in the hands of Krishna. Krishna discarded the water and looked up. He saw Gaya in the sky and understood the situation. Krishna became angry and he vowed to kill Gaya.

Hearing the vow, Gaya panicked. Indra asked Gaya the cause of his worry. Indra advised Gaya to pray Brahma to save him. Brahama asked Gaya to approach Siva. Siva indicated his helplessness. Certain about his death, Gaya started crying.

Narada was passing by. Hearing Gaya's plight, Narada thought of setting up a fight between Krishna and Arjuna. Narada asked Gaya to meet Arjuna and appeal to him to vow to save his life. Gaya fell on Arjuna's feet and pleaded to him to save his life. Dharma's son asked Vijaya to help Gaya. Gaya asked Arjuna to pledge that he will save his life. Arjuna vowed to do so. Gaya disclosed that Krishna has taken a vow to kill him for disturbing his morning rituals. Pandavas were worried to hear this. Bhima opined that Gaya should be handed over to Krishna. Dharma's son declined saying that Vijaya has vowed to save Gaya's life. Death by Madhava's hands is welcome.

Narada arrived, Dharma's son apprised Narada about the developments. Narada comforted him saying that Arjuna will never die by Krishna's hands. Long ago, the daitya, Sahasrakavaca (one with thousand shield) was confronted by Nara and Narayana. To destroy one shield, twelve years penance was required. Nara and Narayana fought with Sahasrakavaca taking turns alternately of fight and penance. In this manner ninehundred and ninetynine shields were destroyed and one shield remained. Then Pralaya occurred. The daitya took shelter in the sun. He is now born as Karna with one shield (kavaca). Now it is Arjuna's turn to spend twelve years in forest as penance. Both Krishna and Arjuna together are destined to kill the daitya(Karna). There is nothing to worry at all.

Narada then proceeded to Hastinapura and met Duryodhana. He appraised Duryodhana about the developments and asked him to help his cousins, Pandavas. Duryodhana agreed. Krishna summoned Garuda. Then Narada arrived and told Krishna that Gaya is with Pandavas.

Krishna asked Subhadra to request Arjuna to surrender Gaya. Arjuna refused. All Yadavas proceeded to Dwaitavana to fight with Pandavas.

A fierce war broke out between Yadavas and Pandavas. Kauravas also fought against Yadavas. In the end Krishna sent his Sudarshana Chakra. In response, Arjuna shot Pasupata Astra. Brahma requested both to recall their weapons. Both agreed.

Brahma asked Arjuna to hand over Gaya to him. Then Brahma asked Arjuna to close his eyes. Brahma handed over Gaya to Krishna. Krishna cut off Gaya's head. Brahma joined the head to the body and revived Gaya.

Pandavas praised Krishna. All of them had food together. Kauravas were unhappy. Hali (Balarama) and Hari returned to Dwaraka.

Krishnarjunayuddham ( Parayan Tullal )

Summary based on the text given in Page 815-828, Ezhupattanchu Tullalkathakal, Edited by Dr.V.S. Sarma, D.C.Books, Kottayam, Kerala (1976)

Krishna was performing morning rituals standing in a river. He took water in his hands. Sweat from a horse's face fell in the water. Krishna became angry.

Ganga informed Krishna that a Gandharva called Gaya was proceeding on his horse to meet Brahma. Without his knowledge, the sweat from the horse's face fell into the water in Krishna's hands. Krishna vowed to kill Gaya for disrupting his morning rituals.

Gaya came to know about this. He prayed Brahma to save him. Brahma told Gaya that he is helpless in this case. Gaya prayed Siva. Siva also indicated his helplessness.

Knowing that his death is certain, Gaya fell down on the way. On the way, Narada met Gaya and heard his plight. Narada asked Gaya to go to Dwaitavana and meet Arjuna. Narada advised him to disclose the matter only after Arjuna vows to save him. Accordingly Gaya met Arjuna. Arjuna gave his word to save him. Gaya disclosed that Krishna has vowed to kill him. Arjuna informed the matter to son of Dharma. The son of Dharma was worried.

Yadavas found out that Gaya was in Dwaitavana with Pandavas. Krishna asked Uddhava to meet the son of Dharma and ask him to surrender Gaya. The son of Dharma refused. Then Krishna asked his sister Subhadra to request her husband Arjuna to surrender Gaya to Krishna. Arjuna refused to do so. Krishna proceeded to attack Pandavas.

Narada informed Duryodhana about the impending war. The Kauravas also proceeded to Dwaitavana to watch the war.

War broke out in which Krishna and Arjuna shot many divine arrows at each other. Many men lost their lives. At last, Krishna took out his (Sudarshana) Chakra and asked Arjuna to surrender Gaya. Arjuna, ready to meet Krishna's challenge with the Pasupata Astra given to him by Siva, refused. Seeing the grave situation, Brahma requested Siva to intervene. Siva asked Arjuna to hand over Gaya to him. Siva asked Krishna to put his Chakra on Gaya's neck and consider that as equal to killing him. Krishna did so and the situation was saved. Dharma's son asked Krishna to revive all the dead men.

(This tullal is assumed to be composed about 100 years before Kuncan Nambiar (A.D.1700 to 1770) composed Tullal - comment by editor in his preface on page 17)

(This is the only tullal thought to be composed before Kuncan Nambiar given in the book even though the editor mentions about the existence of tullal compositions before Kuncan Nambiar).