Four hallowed shrines located at cardinal points of the Indian sub-continent i.e. Puri,Rameswar,Dwarika and Badrinath are believed to have been liked by Lord Vishnu intimately. It is said and believed that He takes His bath at Rameswaram, meditates at Badrinath,dines at Puri and retires at Dwarika.It is therefore,a lot of importance is given to the temple food "Mahaprasad" (not simply prasad) here at Puri.

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 itself 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 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 Jagannath 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.

It is believed that 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."

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 eka,
KAIBALYA heuchhi bika.
Handike pade siuka,
Manaranka chhadijiba !"

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.


10. Khaja- made of maida, 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.


21. Poda Pitha made of Rice, Urad Dal ,coconut,jaggery and ghee, 22. Chittau - rice, coconut, sugar, ghee, 23. Jilli- rice flour and ghee and sugar, 24, Kanti- rice flour and ghee, 25. Manda- made of rice,coconut,jaggery,cheese 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- urad dal,and curd, 31.. Arisa- a flat cake made of rice flour , ghee, jaggery32, 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. Malpua- made of maida, milk, sugar, and ghee, 41. Khira - made of milk, cheese, sugar, and ghee, 42. Sarapulli- this is the most famous and most difficult milk dish to prepare.made of cream, milk, and sugar.

43. Sweet Dal, 44. Biridal, 45, Chana dal, 46. Muga dal/muga dalma (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, but no tomatoes, as tomatoes are not used in Jagannath temple's food preparations. Coconut and a dried root vegetable known as Bodhi which looks like a mushroom and is high in protein are added. 48. Mahura- mixed vegetable curry, 49. Besara- 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,  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

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. . 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,
Nasti Sanspasta,
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 or 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".
Source:- Welcome Orissa


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