The Hindu tradition of prasad is rooted in the belief that sharing food is a spiritual experience. One of the most effective ways to show someone you love them is food. This holds good for god too and its idea behind the custom of naivedyam, an offering made to a Hindu deity or guru.
Naivedyam is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘offering to God’ in the stricter sense of the words. It could be any offering, tangible or intangible. A resolution, a promise, or even a willingness to do, perform, or restrict certain things can also connote an offering to God. It means food offered to a Hindu deity as part of a worship ritual, before eating it. As such, tasting during preparation or eating the food before offering it to God is strictly forbidden. The food is first placed before a deity and specific prayers are offered with accompanying rituals. Afterward, the food is considered as having been Blessed by God and has officially become the prasad.
Prasad is a material substance of vegetarian food that is a religious offering in both Hinduism and Sikhism. It is normally consumed by worshippers after worship. Mahaprasada which is popularly known as Bhandara in Hinduism, similar to the langar in Sikhism, is the consecrated food offered to the deity in the temple which is then shared and eaten by the masses without discrimination.
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Prasada literally means a gracious gift. It denotes anything, typically an edible food, that is first offered to a deity, saint, or an avatar, and then distributed in his or her name to their followers or others as a good sign. Vegetarian food is usually offered and later distributed to the devotees who are present in the temple. The offerings may include cooked food, sugarcane, or fruits.
By the word, prasad people feel sacred and they have a high belief that God has offered them and feeding them from prasad. In its material sense, prasad is created by a process of giving and receiving between a human devotee and the divine god. For example, a devotee makes an offering of a material substance such as flowers, fruits, or sweets. The deity then enjoys or tastes a bit of the offering, which is then temporarily known as bhog.
It’s cooked with the best ingredients you can afford, usually in a heavy-bottomed bronze vessel, and served on a banana leaf in a certain region of the south. That order is important too- you are not allowed to eat the naivedyam or prasad without first offering it to god. The concept behind this kind of offer is to remind oneself that food is not merely intended to appease the taste buds or mind and soul. It is believed that the sharing of prasad result in the sharing of wisdom. In, certain cultures the freshly prepared food is transferred into a vessel then followed by the chanting of sacred mantras. It is believed that every deity has a favorite food.
For example- Lord Vishnu is though of kheer (made with milk and rice) or sheera (made with semolina, sugar, and butter). Lord Ganesh likes modak (rice dumpling stuffed with jaggery and coconut) and most goddesses have sweet tooth which can by payasam ( made with milk and rice). But there are many gods who have been offered much different variety of prasad.
Unique Prasad At Temples
Khabees Baba Temple
It is located in the Sitapur district of UP. This temple doesn’t have any deity or any priest. Devotees offer liquor or a pair of slipper-shaped structure on a raised platform where a saint lived here for 150 years. Devotees get some portion of the alcohol in prasad.
It is a very popular temple and commonly known for its rath yatra. The temples offer mahaprasad to the deities which consist of 56 varieties of uncooked and cooked food dishes. After being offered to deities, devotees can purchase the prasad from the stalls.
Alagar Kovil Temple
It is popularly known as the Azhagar Kovil in Madurai. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and distributes dosas as a prasad to devotees. Many devotees offer grains as an offering to the deity and these grains are then used to make fresh, crispy dosas as prasad.
Chinese Kali Temple
The Chinese Kali Temple was built by the Chinese who migrated to the place. The temple is located in the Tangra region of Kolkata, which is also known as India’s Chinatown. The prasad served here includes noodles, chop suey, and fried rice.
Vaishno Devi Temple
It is a temple situated in Katra is perhaps the most famous temple in North India with lakh of devotees flocking to pilgrimage each year. Devotees are offered puffed rice, balls of sugar, dried piece of apple, and coconut as prasad and packed in eco-friendly jute bags. The temple offers steaming rajma chawal, kadi chawal, poori chana which are served at all of the shrine board eateries that have been constructed all along the pilgrimage trek.
It is a holy pilgrimage of Sikhs in Amritsar. It offers meals to the devotees and they’re all fed for free sitting next to one another at the langar. It is estimated that 2,00,000 chapatis and 1.5 tonnes of dal are cooked on a daily basis for the thousands of devotees who come here for the blessings.