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MAHAPRASAD, THE HOLY FOOD

Everyday throughout the year fifty six varieties of dishes are prepared and offered to the Deities of the Jagannath Temple. These consist of preparation of rice, dal and other selected vegetables. The food is cooked in accordance with prescribed procedures, and is offered first to Lord Jagannath and then to Goddess Bimala after which it turns into Mahaprasad. Mahaprasad, the holy food, is freely shared by people of all castes and creeds without any discrimination. In all religious and social rituals in Puri and Odisha, Mahaprasad plays a very important role. Exchange of Mahaprasad between two persons belonging to two different castes binds them in an abiding relationship. Mahaprasad and other offerings made to the deities are sold to public in Ananda Bazaar on the north-east corner of the outer enclosure of the Jagannath temple, where every day thousands of piligrims buy and eat various types of food.

There are four abodes of Hindu Gods located in the four directions of the Indian sub-continent. They are known as Çhar Dhams and considered as the most sacred sites for Hindus. The Char Dham consists of four sites - to the north is Badrinath, to the west is Dwarka, to the south is Rameshwaram and to the east is Puri. Puri is also popularly known as the Jagannath Dham. All the four holy abodes are believed to have been liked by Lord Vishnu intimately. It is said and believed that Lord Vishnu takes His bath at Rameswaram, meditates at Badrinath, dines at Puri and finally retires at Dwarika. Therefore, a lot of importance is given to the Mahaprasad of Puri Jagannath temple.

A commemorative postage stamp issued by India Post on Mahaprasad
Postage Stamp on Mahaprasad
Issued by: India Post | Issued On: 3rd November, 2017 | Denomination: INR 05.00

Mahaprasad is cooked only in earthen pots inside the temple kitchen and medium of food is fire wood only. Mahaprasad can only be eaten on banana leaf while sitting on the floor. In most temples in India, the food that has been offered to the Deities is called as 'Prasad', but only in Lord Jagannath temple the food that has been offered is called 'MahaPrasad'. In Odia language 'Maha' means 'Great', so the word 'MahaPrasad' itself depicts the sagacity of greatness.

Dried rice Mahaprasad known as 'Nirmalya' is also used by devotees for different sacred occasions. Nirmalya is equally important as Mahaprasad. It is also believed by Hindus that at the time of death, the Nirmalya and holy basil (Tulsi) with water is poured in the tongue and throat of the imminent deceased persons with the belief that by taking these items after their death their soul will remain in peace and there will be no 'Jamadanda' (Punishment by death God) of the Belzibup. Tourists visiting Puri prefer to carry this dry Mahaprasad with them which they can keep at home and consume whenever required.

Every day throughout the year millions of devotees from around the world visit Jagannath temple to get the divine blessings of Lord Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe. It is believed that both Lord Jagannath and the Mahaprasad share an equal status. Sharing the Mahaprasad is considered as a blessing through which devotees get salvation from their sins. Therefore the visit to the Lord Jagannath temple is incomplete without having the Mahaprasad.

Types of Mahaprasad:

There are two types of Mahaprasad. They are Sankhudi Mahaprasad and Sukhila Mahaprasad. Both the types are available for sale in Ananda Bazaar of the Lord Jagannath temple.

  • Sankhudi Mahaprasad includes wet food items like rice, butter rice, hing-ginger rice, mixed rice, sweet dal, mixed vegetable curries of different types, and porridge, etc. Sankhudi Mahaprasad has shorter self-life. ‘Mahaprasad’ is a commonly used term by rest of the world, but the people of Puri also called the Sankhudi Mahaprasad as ‘Abhada’.

Sankhudi Mahaprasad
Sankhudi Mahaprasad

  • Sukhila Mahaprasad includes dry food items like various salty and sweet dishes (Kahaja, Sarapuri, Amalu, Khurma, Magaja Ladoo, Kakara etc) made from flour, sugar, wheat, jaggery, rice flours, and ghee, etc. Sukhila Mahaprasad has longer self-life. ‘Nirmalya’ (dried Rice Mahaprasad in hot sun) is also another type of Sukhila Mahaprasad.

Sukhila Mahaprasad
Sukhila Mahaprasad

Why Sankhudi Mahaprasad is also known as Abhada?

In Odia language the term 'Badha' means 'something that is servered' and 'A-badha' means 'something that is NOT served'. The Sankhhudi Mahaprasad that has been offered to the Deities is in the form where the entire cooked food along with the earthen pot is offered without parting it. All the earthen pots with the cooked food are carried from the temple kitchen to the Bhoga Mandapa (offering hall) and offered to the Deities, that's why it is called Abadha'.

Sukhila Mahaprasad
Abadha - Unserved Mahaprasad - This is how it is offered to the Deities
Sukhila Mahaprasad
Badha - Served Mahaprasad - This is how it is consumned by the devotees

What is Kotha Bhoga and Baradi Bhoga?

In local Odia language the offering to the Deities is known as ‘Bhoga’. The Mahaprasad preparation in the kitchen are categorized into two parts, Kotha Bhoga & Baradi Bhoga.

  • Kotha Bhoga is prepared daily at the cost of temple administration or State Government. It is also known as Raja Bhoga. After being offered to the Deities, Kotha Bhoga is distributed to different servitors providing their services to the temple kitchen as per temple record. Kotha Bhoga is the remuneration or share of the servitors, in local Odia language it is known as their ‘Khei’, it is not meant for selling to the devotees in Ananda bazar.

  • The second category of Bhoga is called Baradi Bhoga. Baradi Bhoga or common Bhoga is prepared daily for the pilgrims and visitors to the Jagannath Temple and meant for selling in Ananda bazar. In certain occasions, Baradi Bhoga is prepared keeping in view the demand of that occasion.

Follow below rules while partaking Mahaprasada

This is very important to follow below rules while distributing and consuming Mahaprasada. These rules are a mark of respect to the Lord and His Holy Mahaprasada.

  • Don't discriminate on basis of caste, creed, gender and religion. Mahaprasad can be consumed by all.
  • Don’t serve Mahaprasad on any metal/plastic/thermocol plates or utensils, always serve it on banana leaf.
  • One should not use spoon while eating Mahaprasad, always eat Mahaprasad using your hand.
  • If you are taking Mahaprasad outside of any temple premises, put off your shoes/sandals before taking this Holy food.
  • Before taking Mahaprasad, one should wash one’s hands and mouth.
  • One should not sit on any asana (sitting mat) while eating Mahaprasad.
  • One should not take any other cooked food along with Mahaprasad.
  • While taking Mahaprasad, you need to first touch your head with a little of it before start eating.
  • Only take that much quanity of Mahaprasad which you can consume, don’t leave Mahaprasad on the banana leaf.
  • After taking Mahaprasad, one should not wash one’s hands and mouth in a dirty filth or dirty place.
  • Nobody should walk over Mahaprasad at any place.

Why Mahaprasad is always served on banana leaf and eaten while sitting on the floor?

  • Using banana leaf as a plate is hygienic since it is a one-time use. Banana leaf is biodegradable and environment friendly.
  • Banana leaves contain large amounts of polyphenols that are natural antioxidants. The food served on the banana leaf absorbs the polyphenol preventing diseases.
  • The antibacterial properties of banana leaf can kill the germs in the food.
  • Eating food on banana leaf improves health and avoids issues like skin diseases, constipation, and indigestion.
  • By sitting on the floor, our brain automatically receives signal to prepare our stomach for digestion.

Mahaprasad served on banana leaf
Mahaprasad served on banana leaf
Devotees eating Mahaprasad while sitting on the floor
Devotees eating Mahaprasad while sitting on the floor

Did You Know?

When the cooked food is carried to the offering hall in slings of earthen pots no flavor comes up from the food but when the same is offered to Lord Jagannath and Goddess Bimala and carried back to Ananda Bazzar (the sale point), a delicious smell spells along in the breeze to the pleasant surprise of the devotees. Now the food is blessed.

Did You Know?

  • Rice that is used for cooking (before being cooked) at Lord Jagannath Temple at Puri is called ‘Amunia’ (ଅମୁଣିଆ)
  • Cooked rice in the temple kitchen is called ‘Anna’ (ଅନ୍ନ)
  • When cooked rice moved out of temple kitchen, it's called ‘Chheka’ (ଛେକ)
  • When kept on the Bhairavi Chakra of the offering hall, it is called as ‘Bhoga’ (ଭୋଗ)
  • When Bhoga is offered to three deities, it is called ‘Naibedya’ (ନୈବେଦ୍ୟ)
  • When Naibedya is offered to Goddess Bimala, it is called ‘Mahaprasad’ (ମହାପ୍ରସାଦ)
  • When Mahaprasad is offered to Panch Parameswar, it is called ‘Kaibalya’ (କୈବଲ୍ୟ)
  • After Kaibalya is consumed by devotees, any leftover Rice is dried up in hot sun and it is called ‘Nirmalya’ (ନିର୍ମାଲ୍ୟ)

Next Page - Chappan Bhoga and Offering Timings >>

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