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Summary of Sections of Mavaratam Pattu

There are many sections of the oral epic, Mavaratam Pattu (Mahabharata Song). The following three sections are given in the book, Malayalathile Pazhaya Pattukal by P. Govinda Pillai (Chirayinkeezhu, Kerala) [1].

1. Partaking in the Feast
2. Marrying the Naga Maiden
3. Shadow Piercing

Summary of the Section: Partaking in the Feast

There are two provinces called Karuland and Kuruland. The queen of Karuland is Kantakari (Gandhari?) and the queen of Kuruland is Kuncutevi (Kunti Devi?).

Kuncutevi has five children, pANTavanmAR (Pandavas). Kantakari has ninetynine children known as turiyOtanaR (Duryodhanas!).

Kantakari wishes to see the children of Kuncutevi. (Kantakari thinks that the Pandavas, children of Kuncutevi, pose a danger to her dear sons and she should put an end to their life.) Kantakari sends a message that she is not well. She wishes to see Kuncutevi's children and hence she is inviting them for a feast. The messenger arrives at Kuruland and delivers the message to Kuncupeeman (Little Bhima?)

Kuncupeeman requests his mother for permission to visit Karuland. Mother denies the permission explaining the attempts made by Kanthakari to kill her when she was pregnant. (In the seventh month of Kuncutevi's pregnancy, Kantakari had sent food cooked in snake ghee (poison); Kuncutevi was careful to test the food by giving it to a cock and a cat, which died on consuming it.) Kuncupeeman promises that he will be careful and "the five of them will return as six". Kuncupeeman goes to Karuland with his four elder brothers. (In this version, Bhima is the youngest!)

Next day, they return to their mother disguised as "gypsies" ( PaNTArangaL). The queen Kuncutevi, sad due to the departure of her sons, does not recognize them. She recognizes the manner in which Kuncupeeman eats. Then she is assured that no harm will come to her sons. Now Kuncupeeman informs his brothers that he will be the leader till they return from Karuland.

On the way, they discover obstacles organised by Kantakari to endanger the Pandavas. First they meet a drugged elephant. Kuncupeeman asks the mahout to take away the elephant. He does not obey. Kuncupeeman kills the elephant with his mace and the Pandavas proceed.

Then they see a rest house, a well and an eating place. Kuncupeeman destroys the rest house with his mace. Then they see a bridge across a river. When Kuncupeeman climbs on the bridge, it breaks down. He picks up the broken pieces of the bridge and throws them towards the entrance of Kantakari's palace. Kantakari recognizes this as a sign of Kuncupeeman's arrival.

When Pandavas arrive, Kantakari offers them seats and asks them to sit down. But Kuncupeeman discovers sharp pins hidden under the seats and declines to sit down. She offers coffee and cakes. Kuncupeeman tests the cakes and discovers that those are poisonous. Hence they do not eat them. They go to a bathing pond and see women standing on the bank holding iron pestles. The women tell the Pandavas that there are crocodiles in the pond. The Pandavas return without bathing. Then they are served food. But the food is poisonous. They do not eat. Then they go to sleep - Peeman in one room and others in a separate room.

Karnan's wife ( karNNanuTe pArya ) warns Peeman that arrangements are made to kill the Pandavas.

After some time, a woman comes to Peeman's room and calls out. She is a maid called pUmAla (Garland of Flowers). Peeman demands that to enter his room, she should untie her hair. Peeman discovers a sharp knife hidden in her hair. Peeman ties her up and goes to his brothers' room. There he finds the maids preparing to kill his brothers. Peeman kills the women. Seeing the blood coming out through the drain, Kantakari assumes that the Pandavas are killed. She rejoices and bathes in the blood.

In the morning, the doors of the room are not opened. Kantakari calls out the women who were assigned to kill the Pandavas. She announces various gifts to be given to them. Hearing her voice, Peeman opens the door. Kantakari deplores the cruel killing of the maids by Peeman. Peeman is enraged and he moves forward to kill Kantakari. The eldest brother stops Peeman saying: You may kill your own mother, but you should not kill your stepmother.

Peeman returns to Kuruland with his brothers and the maid, pUmAla. All six of them bow to Kuncutevi.

Summary of the Section: Marriage to Naga Maiden

In the Naga City ( nAgapuram), there is an unmarried Naga maiden ( nAgakanni) having many married friends. Some of them have two children as well. The maiden is waiting for a proper suitor.

On a Friday, she plants flowering plants such as Jasmine, Chempaka etc. Looking at the sun, she takes a pledge that these plants should flower only when her marriage takes place.

On the seventh day, flowers bloom on the Jasmine plant and the atmosphere is full of fragrance. The maiden is angry to find that her pledge had no value at all!

Enraged, she sets free her pets, a beetle and a bird. They fly off to the seven seas. They land on a lotus. Sitting on the lotus, they spot a boat drifting on the sea. Helped by the beetle, the bird enters the boat. It discovers a body along with a mace, sword, lamp and golden note inside the boat. The bird picks up the golden note. It seals the boat with soil from the sea bed, returns to the Naga City and hands over the note to the Naga maiden.

The maiden goes to her father and tells him that the boat has to be given to her. The father tells her that he has four nephews and she should marry one of them. She does not agree. He send his men go to the sea but they are unable to move the boat.

The maiden brings the boat by reciting mantras and discovers the body inside. (This is Peeman.) She removes the poison from Peeman's body.

The maiden marries Peeman. They have a son. One day morning, the wind brings a burning smell of sandal. All of a sudden, Peema gets up. He tells his wife that this is the smell of his palace burning. He wants to return immediately. Wife tries to prevent him unsuccessfully. Then she asks her son to stop Peeman. Peeman gifts him the strength of three elephants and proceeds to his burning palace.

On the way, he finds a five headed serpent blocking his path. Peeman is unable to overcome the serpent. Peeman asks the serpent who he is but the serpent questions him. Peeman informs the serpent that he is the youngest Pandava.

The serpent informs Peeman that he is Peeman's father. Peeman asks for a boon. The serpent gives him the strength of seven elephants. Peeman continues his journey. On his way he pulls out a palm tree from the river bank.

In the Kuruland, the Pandava brothers tell their mother that they can hear the footsteps of Peeman. Then the mother, Kuncutevi says: Kantakari had sent a flute putting a snake inside. They had to use it. Not using the flute would bring a dishonour to the family. But Peeman volunteered to use the flute. Immediately, the snake bit Peema and killed him. Peeman's body was bathed, kept inside a boat and left in the sea. The boat drifted away.

"Will the poisoned Peeman ever return ? He is already dead. We had put his body inside a boat and set it free in the ocean. Will Peeman ever return?"

Kuncutevi is desperate. She spreads her hair and waits for death by the fire which is enveloping the palace.

Suddenly she sees that the sparks of fire are falling down as flowers. Peeman arrives and extinguishes the fire.

Peema bows to his mother and brothers. He takes them to a forest and provides them roots to eat.

Summary of the Section: Shadow Piercing (Nizhalkkuttu)

Peeman saves his mother and brothers from the fire at the house and takes them to the forest. Peeman locates a Kuratti known to him. She provides good roots to Panadavas as food. When Kuratti returns to her home her spouse, Kuravan, asks her about good roots. She answers that good roots are not available. Not believing her, Kuravan goes to the forest and discovers Pandavas there. He informs Turiyotanan (Duryodhana) that Pandavas are alive and they are in the forest! Turitotanan does not believe Kuravan and tries to kill him. Then Naratan (Narada) appears and certifies that what Kuravan says is true.

Turiyotanan orders Kuravan to perform Nizhalkkuttu (piercing the shadow) on Pandavas. Kuravan demands things such as sword of thunder, eggs of elephant and horse, shoots of moonlight, powder of darkness, ropes of sand etc., which are impossible to get! This enrages Turiyotanan. He asks Kuravan to arrange these things himself. Kuravan is unable to do so. Turiyotanan threatens to kill Kuravan. Kuravan agrees to perform the abhicara using available things such as coconuts (instead of elephant and horse egg), shoots of jackfruit tree, rice powder, coir rope etc. He performs the abhicara and Pandavas are made unconscious.

Turiyotanan gives gifts to the Kuravan. When he returns home, Kuratti questions him about the things he arranged. Kuravan refuses to answer, asking her right to question her master. Kuratti prepares to go to the forest. Her son stops her. She kills her son, throws away the body and proceeds to the forest. She discovers Pandavas and their mother lying unconscious on the ground.

Kuratti makes the necessary preparations and recites mantras to remove the effect of shadow piercing. She frees the Pandavas from the abhicara and revives them by singing pAratam (Bharata, the epic?).

[1] Xerox copy of the pages of the book, Malayalathile Pazhaya Pattukal by P. Govinda Pillai (Chirayinkeezhu, Kerala) containing the sections of Mavaratam Pattu was provided by Prof. Vattapparampil Gopinatha Pillai from a copy available at Sahitya Akademi, Thiruvananthapuram.
English Summary by A. Purushothaman, August 2004