Mahaprasad is the main offering of rice in Jagannath Temple.
In most temples of India, devotees may take “PRASAD”, holy food that has been offered to the deities. But only here in Jagannath Puri is this blessed food called “MAHAPRASAD”. “MAHA” has two meanings here. First, it means great. Lord Jagannath is described as MAHA BAHU, the Lord with the great arms. MAHA PRABHU, the great Lord, and the family name of one of the main groups of worshippers isMAHAPATRA. So this word MAHAPRASAD it self gives us the impression of something great.
The second meaning of MAHAPRASAD is MA-PRASAD”. for the main thali must be taken to Mother Bimalas temple and returned and mixed in all the other pots offered before it is considered fit to be “eaten” by Lord Jagannath. Only then can it be distributed to all, without distinction of caste or creed.
Only MAHAPRASAD can be eaten by all together, whatever the religion or race, even on the same banana leaf. Daily 5,000 may be fed. but on big festival days, one to ten million. The temple kitchen of Lord Jagannath is considered to be the biggest hotel in the world, serving all without reservation or previous notice.
MAHAPRASAD originated in the remote past in connection with Jagannath in His original form of Neela Madhava. The tribal chief Biswabasu in the Nilagiri mountains of Orissa daily gave fruits to the deity at the time of worship. But in this forest area, there were no rice paddies or fields of vegetables growing. When Biswabasu opened the temple doors in the moming with his meagre offering of fruits, he would find daily huge quantities of rice dishes and especially delicious curries. Biswabasu was taken aback. People said gods and goddesses would come at night from the whole universe and Heaven itself to have DARSHAN. They would offer the best dishes of rice, dal, and sweets. The spiritual fragrance of this holy food was overpowering, so all knew it had to be of divine origin.
Even today, the taste of MAHAPRASAD cannot be duplicated outside the temple. It is also the direct experience of devotees inside that when cooks carry the BHOG from the kitchen to the temple, it has no VASANA, no fragrance, no sweet aroma. But after offering, when they carry it from the temple to ANANDA BAZAAR for sale, it smells divinely sweet. In the process of puja, it is blessed by all the gods and goddesses, and by Lord Jagannath Himself. At the time of food offering, only the three priests doing the puja are allowed to be inside. It is felt Lord Jagannath is actually “taking His food” at this time.
In the 1800″s one British Collector of Puri by the name of Armstrong questioned a worshipper about this. He gave 108 Magajaj Ladus to oiler in the temple. The sevaka returned later, but all’ 108 were still there. So the British collector doubted Lord Jagan-nath even more. The worshipper suggested that the weight of] the offering be taken next time. When it was returned, the weight was 4 or 5 kg. less, and Armstrong became a great believer after-wards.
Actually MAHAPRASAD is cooked by no one but Mother Lakshmi Herself; all are felt to be Her servants.
As she is not attentive to the cooking on the days when Lord Jagannath is said to be sick before RATH YATRA, the food is less tasty. During RATH YATRA, when Lord Jagannath is in another temple, called GUNDICHA TEMPLE, she is said to have no mind to cook and the food is totally tasteless.
The kitchen fire is called VAISHNAVA AGNI, because it is the fire in the kitchen of Lord Jagannath, and used to serve Vishnu Himself. If is never put out. Charcoals are kept burning day and night by one worshipper, called AKHANDA MEKAPA. It is considered to be a great blessing to be a worshipper of Lord Jagannath in the temple. When one dies, the relatives take fire from the! temple kitchen itself to bum the body in the cremation ground. He is considered a member of the Lord’s immediate family.
MAHAPRASAD is a intimate part of the day to day life of the worshipper community. It is taken and distributed at the time a child is born. at every holy ceremony throughout his life, and at the time of death. One of the most famous Oriya poets, Banamali Das, tells of the last wish of a worshipper in this song :
“Marana Kalare taba chhada mala,
Mukhare thiba tulashi. Mane mane muhin,
ghosi heuthibi Tume hey, Niladribasi !”
“Please grant me this,
Oh Lord Jagannath,
At. the time of death.
May your used flower
Garlands be beside me.
And Your tulsi MAHAPRASAD be in my mouth,
Uttering the name of NILADRI VASI,
The One who resides on the Blue Mountain,
Let me die.”
That is the poet’s vision of the most peaceful death. In a broad sense, everything touched or used by the deities of Jagannath Temple is felt to be MAHAPRASAD, used tulsi leaves, used bath water of the deities, called PADUKA, cloth, or food.
If someone is sick, MAHAPRASAD is healing. If one takes MAHAPRASAD daily, people say, he will never suffer from disease in his life. When cured of Incurable Illness, a man will feed 7,21 or 108 poor Brahmins MAHAPRASAD. So MAHAPRASAD is also called “NIRMALYA”, that which makes one completely pure like a lotus.
Another name of MAHAPRASAD is “KAIBALYA”, that which gives Moksha, salvation or liberation. It is said if one takes this food of Lord Jagannath, he will have not only physical well- being, but spiritual enlightenment as well. Salabega, a great Muslim devotee of Lord Jagannath, sings of his longing to take MAHAPRASAD. Whenever devotees think of Lord Jagannath, they think of His MAHAPRASAD also. In these lines from his famous Oriya bhajan. THAKA MANA CHALA JIBA, Salabega sings,
“Let us go to Puri,
And on the 22 steps of the temple,
To our heart’s content !”
“Baisi pabachhe aka,
KAIBALYA heuchhi bika.
Handike pade siuka,
Manaranka chhadaiba !”
To seal any promise or vow, two friends hold a pot of MAHAPRASAD together and eat together from this same pot. This pot is called ABADHA, meaning that which cannot be taken away or put into another pot. Friends then say to each other, “You are my MAHAPRASAD, You are my ABADHA.” When they see each other in the future, they address each other as “ABADHA” only, that which cannot be taken away.
In the month of January, MAHAPRASAD is sometimes referred to as PAHILI BHOGA. If friends wish to take MAHAPRASAD at this time, they say, “Let us take PAHILI BHOGA,” This is taken in memory of the special morning bhoga offered to Lord Jagannath during this month. Traditionally, wives at this time visit their mother’s house for a few days. So it is said that Lakshmi has . gone to her mother’s house also. Mother must feed Jagannath. as Mother Yashoda fed baby Krishna. This special food is called PAHILI BHOGA. It is the first food given to a baby and is of two types. One is very tiny little balls made of Bin Dal. The second is a very soft Khechedi rice. It cannot be eaten afterwards by devotees, and it must be offered just at dawn. This makes seva at this time very difficult for sevakas. All morning rituals must be completed before dawn. Then Lord Jagannath as baby Krishna “eats” this special Ballaba bhoga.
Because the food in the temple kitchen must be prepared in such a pure way and with deep devotion, great spiritual impact is felt, both by those who cook and those who eat. Actually no man can prepare so many items, more than 56 items daily, for so many. Clay pots are placed in a special earthen oven, five in number, one on top of another. Yet the one on top is cooked first, not last.
Another strange phenomena is that many times pots are broken on the way to the temple, or the food is spoiled in preparation and must be discarded. It is said that the cook was impure in some way. To cook for God. body and mind must both be pure. On the morning of a service clay in the kitchen, when food is carried to the main temple, a cloth must be tied over the mouth, so that no human saliva contaminates the prasad. If one is feeling proud that he has made a good preparation, it is said, his pot is sure to be broken.
It is also said that if Mother Lakshmi is displeased with the preparation by the cooks, a dog will appear mysteriously on the temple grounds, usually as food is being carried to the deities. As no dog is allowed to enter the temple, this dog is said to be KUTAMA CHANDI, a Tantric goddess in charge of purification of food. If the dog is seen, all the food must be buried and prepared again.
In home offering of BHOG, worshippers wives take bath before cooking, do puja in a wet sari, read spiritual books like Gita, and then put on a special sari meant only for cooking the rice meal to be offered to the deities. If she goes into the bathroom during this time, she must change her cloth to the one meant only for bathroom use. In both temple and homes, no garlic or onion is offered to the deities, and no “foreign” vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes. In the temple, masala and spices such as cardamon and cloves are added only after offering, after the MAHAPRASAD is brought to Ananda Bazaar. The meaning of ANANDA BAZAAR is that which gives great happiness. This MAHAPRASAD of Lord Jagannath is said to have that power when it is eaten. All food offerings in both temple and home are offered in clay pots or copper plates, called KANSA THALIS.
The main 56 items of CHHAPANA BHOGA.or MAHAPRASAD, are as follows:
1. Sadha Anna – simple rice water, 2. Ghee Anna- rice mixed with ghee, 3. Kanika- rice, ghee, and sugar, 4. Khechedi rice mixed with lentils, 5, Dahi Pakhal- curd rice and water, 6. Mitha Pakhal- rice and sugar water, 7. Ada Pakhal- rice, ginger, and water, mixed, 8. Oriya Pakhal- rice, ghee, lemon, and salt, 9. Thali Khechedi- lentil rice with sugar and ghee.
(usually shaped in small balls and deep-fried)
10. Khaja- made of wheat, 11. Gaja- made of wheat and sugar, 12. Ladu- made of wheat, sugar and ghee, 13. Magaja Ladu, 14, Ladu, 15. Jagannath Ballava- made of wheat, sugar, and more ghee, giving it a black color, 16. Khuruma- made of wheat, ghee, and salt, 17. Mathapuli- made of ghee, ginger, and a kind of bean ground into a thick paste, 18. Kakara- made of ghee and wheat, 19. Marichi Ladu- made of wheat and sugar, 20. Luni Khuruma- made of wheat, ghee and salt.
CAKES, PANCAKES AND PATTIES
21. Suar Pitha made of wheat and ghee, 22. Chadi Lada-made of wheat, ghee and sugar, 23. Jilli- rice flour and ghee and sugar, 24, Kanti- rice flour and ghee, 25. Manda- made of wheat and ghee, 26. Amalu- made of wheat, ghee, and sugar, 27. Puri-made of wheat and ghee and deep-friend like a small thin pancake, 28. Luchi rice flour and ghee, 29. Bara- made of curd, ghee and a kind of bean, 30. Dahi Bara- cake made of a kind of a bean and curd, 31.. Arisa- a flat cake made of rice flour and ghee, 32, Tripuri- another flat cake made of rice flour and ghee, 33, Rosapaik-cake made of wheat and ghee.
34. Khiri- milk and sugar with rice, 35. Papudi- prepared only from cream of milk, 36. Khua- prepared out of pure milk slowly boiled over many hours to a soft custard -like consistency, 37. Rasabali- made of milk, sugar, and wheat, 38. Tadia- made of fresh cheese, sugar and ghee, 39. Chhena Khai- made of fresh cheese, milk and sugar, 40. Papudi Kahaja- cream of milk, sugar, and ghee, 41. Khua Manda- made of milk, wheat., and ghee, 42. Sarapulli- this is the most famous and most difficult milk dish to prepare. It is made of pure milk, boiled slowly for hours, and spread into a large pizza – shaped pan in thin sheets. Only very few cooks of the temple today know the art of making this MAHAPRASAD.
43. Dal, 44. Biridal, 45, Urid dal, 46. Muga dal (the above three preparations are types of lentil dal), 47, Dalama – this is one of the most typical dishes in an Orissan home. It is a combination of dal and vegetables, usually eggplant, bean, sweet potato, and tomatoes, although tomatoes are not used in temple preparations. Coconut and a dried root vegetable known as Bodhi which looks like a mushroom and is high in protein are added. 48. Mahur- mixed vegetable curry, 49. Besar- mixed vegetable curry with black mustard seeds, 50. Saga – a spinach dish 51. Potala Rasa – an Oriyan vegetable, potato, with coconut milk, 52. Goti Baigana- small eggplants with a shredded coconut sauce, 53. Khata – a sour side dish made of cooked mango, or apple, mango, and grape mixed and cooked together. 54. Raita a yogurt-like dish with cucumber, and radish, 55. Pitta- fried flowers of the Neem tree, 56. baigana – fried eggplant
In the home it is not possible to make 56 items, but some are prepared for special festivals. Here are recipes for some of the most common Jagannath “PRASADAS.”
KHECHEDI – rice mixed with lentils 2 cups Arua or Basmati Rice 4 cups water 1/2 teaspoon salt. 1/2 cup Channa Dal Boil all the above until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Add ghee, hingu after. In the temple kitchens cashews are not used, as they were considered Ravana’s food in Sri Lanka, but they may be added in the home.
KANIKA – rice mixed with ghee and sugar. This rice preparations is cooked in the same way as the first but adding 1/2 cup sugar to 2 cups rice. Cloves may be added after removing the rice from the fire.
DALAMA- a dal and vegetable dish common in Oriya homes. 1 cup Harada Dal (a type of lentil) 4 cups water 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
When the lentils are boiling ahout 10 minutes and slightly soft, add chopped vegetables such as potato, tomato, (in the home only), bean, eggplant, sweet, potato, one tablespoon of ghee can be added at this time and half of a grated coconut on top. When the vegetables are soft, spices are added. In a separate frying pan, 1 tablespoon putano, or curry spices, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 or 2 dried red chilis are fried in ghee. The DALAMA is then mixed with the spices over low heat until the soup becomes thick.
KHIRI- a sweet milk preparation There are many types of KHIRI in Purl, but rice khiri, suji khiri, and chuda khiri are most common. If rice is used, it is boiled till it is very soft and mushy, then milk is added. Suji is cracked wheat; it must be browned first until a sweet smell comes and then cooked in milk. If Chuda Khiri is being prepared, this flat dry rice must be ground to a fine powder and then added to the boiling milk. Half a cup of raisins, and at home half a cup of cashews may be added at last. Also cardamon powder may be used on top.
KHAJA- a sweet pastry made of fine corn flour, much like the Greek Baklava. As KHAJA is a dry sweet, it can last one month and is the most usual MAHAPRASAD taken on long journeys to distant places. First the fine com flour is kneaded and rolled like chappatis on a chappati board. It is made into fine layers, like Baklava’s Mo dough. This is done by first cutting the KHAJA pieces into flat strips. With the three middle fingers, the cook dips his hand into a bowl of 1/4 cup ghee and 1/4 cup water. He runs his fingers in straight lines across the rolled dough. Then the KHAJA is rolIed like a chappati or tortilla and cut into 1 “sections. These are rolled out. flat, in pieces 4 by 6”. In hot ghee they are fried until golden brown. Hot sugar water is boiled until it becomes a thick syrup (1 glass sugar, 3 glasses water). The fried KHAJAS are lightly dipped in this syrup and set aside. KHEERA SAGARA KHAJA is Khaja soaked in leftover sugar milk for one or two minutes, then the milk is drained off.
MOHAN BHOG – This is an addition to BHOG. 1 cup sooji 1 cup ghee 1 cup sugar Sooji is fried in ghee until the color is golden brown and a sweet smell comes. Sugar water is boiled and the sooji is very slowly added. When it is thickened, 15 minutes or more, raisins and cashews in the home are mixed.
PANA – a sweet curd drink
For the 15 days between SNANA PURNIMA and RATH YATRA, the deities are said to be sick. They take no food, but only this cool refreshing drink. As it is hot summer still, guests in the home are also given PANA drink.
4 glasses water 1 glass curd 1/2 glass sugar
Bananas and raisins can be added for other festival days.
Devotees may buy MAHAPRASAD at any time of the day; some items will always be available. They can choose an item for one rupee or one costing fifty rupees. Rice, dal, and vegetables dishes together cost about 5 rupees for a main meal. No one leaves Puri without taking MAHAPRASAD.
Lord Jagannath is said to be DARU BRAHMA, life force Itself in wood. He is also called SABDA BRAHMA, life force in all sound and vibrations. He is known as NADA BRAHMA, the primal sound of OM also. He is AHAM BRAHMA, life force in man. in the same way, he is called ANNA BRAHMA, the life force in rice, in all food we eat. When we eat His MAHAPRASAD , we take of Him also. In Kali Yuga, it is said, man cannot live without taking rice. This was not so necessary in previous yugas. But now ANNA, or rice, has become life force itself, and so all must be fed. In Jagannath Temple people can give donations of money. but donations of rice are just as gladly accepted. It is called ANNA DANA. Jagannath Puri is, therefore, known as ANNA KSHETRA, because so many rice offerings are made daily, and in no other temple of India is rice offered as the main prasad to deities, and then distributed to all.
Prayers that may be told at the time of taking MAHAPRASAD are as follows:
From Brahmanda Purana –
“Jagannath tastwa Nividya,
Dusanam Sakruta Vakshana
Matruna Papcvwo Muchyatc Puman”.
“May I commit no more sin in past, present, or future, By eating this MAHAPRASAD offered to Lord Jagannath”.
From Padma Purana –
“Tatranna Pachaka Laksmi, Swayam Votka Janaijana, Tasmatta dana bipasa Daivataurapi durllabam”.
“Let me be freed from sin. Eating this holy MAHAPRASAD Cooked by Maha Lakshmi herself, Rare even for the Gods to eat”.
From Bhagavat Gita –
“Brahmarpanam Brahma habir, Brahmangno Brahmana hutam, Brahma tena gantabyam, Brahma karma samadhina. Aham baiswanar vutwa, Praninam dcha mastritam, Pran apan samajukta, Pachamyanna chatur bidham”.
“Brahma is the puja,
Brahma is the food offering,
Brahma is he who offers to the fire that is Brahman.
If a man sees Brahma in every action, He will find Brahma.
“I am there as Fire in the body of all, I change all the items of food
(Prana, Apana, Sumana, Udana, Byana) Giving Life Force to all”.