Prasadham (food offerings) served in Hindu temples are generally prepared to please the palates of devotees. But there are some exceptions, it is also served for the sole purpose of cleansing the souls of pilgrims in sacred temples like Puri Jagannath Temple. It is believed that one can attain moksha (salvation from sins/ rebirth) by partaking the prasadam offered in this temple, hence the offerings in here are known as Mahaprasad (supreme offerings). Chhena Poda is one such Mahaprasad prepared in this temple kitchen, the largest in the world.
We celebrate a plethora of festivals continuously between August & November every year. Every festival is celebrated distinctively in various regions across India. It is quite astonishing to find how the cuisine, culture, and customs vary from one region to other. Kosambari is a traditional lentil salad popular in South India (particularly in Andhra, Karnataka and some parts of Tamilnadu) with little variations. This salad is offered to deities in this festive season and also served to guests at the wedding banquets or festive gatherings.
Sweet saffron rice (zarda pulao) is a Persian rice dish, and it was the most sought-after pulao among the royals during the Mughal era dated back to 16th century. Noor Jahan, the multi-talented Mughal empress, devised new techniques to stain rice grains with edible dyes. Zarda pulao was made using such rice grains of various colours and it became so popular that it was served to the guests at the royal weddings & banquets. She brought revolutionary changes in every art form, she designed dresses with silver or gold-threaded brocades, cutlery & crockery engraved with rubies & emeralds, and she also commissioned magnificent buildings including a tomb for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg which is regarded as a draft of Taj Mahal.
Navarathri is a festival of worshiping the goddesses Parvathi (for creative power), Saraswathi (for wisdom) & Lakshmi (for wealth). Navarathri celebrations in Tamilnadu is incomplete without offering sundal (legume salad) to deities. I like to make karamani (black eyed beans) sundal for the soft skin & creamy texture. Today I used karamani of mahogany, peach & white colors and prepared 4 types of sundal.
Lord Ganesha is regarded in the same manner as God Janus in Greek mythology. It is interesting to find the striking similarities between the two, as they both hold the honor of being the first god worshiped in every ritual. I like to start my day by listening to the soul-stirring hymn, Vinayagar Agaval, written in Tamil (the oldest language) and sung by the late legendary singer M.S.Subbulakshmi.
Ashoka halwa is a protein-rich sweetmeat usually prepared during festivals or special occasions. Ashoka halwa is also offered to deities as neivedyam and served as prasadam particularly for Navarathri. It is one of my favorite sweets for its beautiful silky texture and the sweet aroma, and I find this as the best alternate for kesari. So I like to prepare this often and serve for the breakfast on any special occasion.
Sweet pongal, popularly known as sakkarai pongal, is one of the most common neivedyam (food offering to deities) prepared not only in temple kitchens but also at our homes. We find sakkarai pongal as one of the most delightful prasadams served almost in all the Hindu temples in South India. So I set this prasadam as the benchmark for my sakkarai pongal, then I tried various methods to perfect the recipe for the same and finally succeeded to my heart’s content.
Panchamirtham is the sacred fruit salad offered as neivedyam to deities at home, and also used for abishegam (bathing deities) in Hindu temples across Tamilnadu. The most renowned Palani panchamirtham is prepared using unique bananas that are exclusively grown near Palani hills. It is offered to Lord Muruga in Palani temple and also to devotees as prasadam. You can check out this video to see how panchamirtham abishegam is performed to the deity in a temple.
Aval puttu is a traditional sweet prepared using beaten rice mainly for Chithirai Vishu (Tamil New Year). We usually offer this sweet dish to the deities at home as neivedyam during festivals especially Chithirai Vishu and also serve as prasadam during Navarathri. Beaten rice (rice flakes) is easily digestible, and the gluten in rice is reduced to a large extent when beaten. So we can also serve aval puttu as a light healthy snack on other days.