India is a place of spirituality and divinity with more than a million temples that are visited by thousands of people each year. A few of these temples date back to as early as the 4th century. Out of these millions of temples, the food or as we call it “prasad” or “bhog” also varies from temple to temple. Let us look at some peculiar and amazing prasads and bhogs served across Indian temples.
This bhog as the name suggests consists of 56 dishes in total. This kind of prasad is offered to Lord Krishna during Krishna Janmashtami.
In Lord Krishna’s village Vrindavan, the farmers used to offer rich and expensive food to Indra, the God of storm and rain so he may bless them with rain for a good harvest and save them from bad weather. Young Krishna thought that this practice was unfair and that Lord Indra should bless Vrindavan with good rainfall without expecting anything in return. Eventually, Krishna pestered the farmers to stop offering Lord Indra food and they relented out of their love for Him. Seeing no food being offered, Lord Indra was furious and sent a massive amount of rain to Vrindavan causing the village to flood. Seeing this Krishna asked everyone to gather around the Govardhan Parvat (mountain) and lifted the mountain with only his little finger to save everyone from the flood. He stayed thus for seven whole days till Lord Indra cleared the rain upon realising his mistake.
Krishna ate 8 meals a day and had the mountain atop his finger for seven days without eating. After the floods were cleared, the farmers and the villagers made 56 dishes (7*8) as an expression of their gratitude to him.
Chappan bhog is a mix of cereal, fruits, dry fruits, sweets, drinks, namkeen and pickles. Some of the common items found in the Chappan bhog are makhan mishri, kheer, rasgulla, jeera ladoo, jalebi, rabri, mathri, malpua, mohanbhog, chutney, murabba, saag along with many other things and they are all arranged in a particular sequence. Milk items are placed first, followed by salty items, and sweets at the end. There is no use of garlic or onion in any dish. While Chappan Bhog looks appealing, preparing the meals can be quite difficult. So, people usually go for 8 - 9 items that are both satisfying and representative of different regions of the country, such as puri bhaji or sabudana from Maharashtra and gujiya from Uttar Pradesh.
India is filled with cultures with more than a hundred languages being spoken, but did you know about the Chinese Kali temple in Kolkata? This unique temple is known especially for its extraordinary prasad - Noodles and Chop Suey.
This temple is located in Kolkata’s famous Tangra area also called the “Chinatown”, dedicated to the Goddess Kali. The Chinese prasad served here is a major attraction. Locals in the area claimed that by building this temple they were attempting to preserve Indian culture while introducing Chinese elements.
The story goes that long ago a 10-year-old Chinese child had fallen ill and no physician or treatment was able to cure him. His parents grew despondent and slept near some stones as a last resort and prayed to God for their son's health. Miraculously, he recovered in a matter of days. Ever since, the location has gained significance for the Chinese community as well as other people and a temple was finally built there.
Another story says that this temple was built after some Chinese people fled to India during China's civil war in the 1930s. A Chinese person in exile had a darshan of Maa Kali in his dream and was motivated to build this temple with other communities. These migrants settled in Tangra, Kolkata brought their culture with them.
Although we don’t know which one is accurate, we do know is that this place is heavily influenced by Chinese culture and thus the prasad is unique.
The famous Tirupati Laddoo is offered to Lord Venkateswara at the Tirumala Venkateswara temple in Tirupati. This Laddoo, made using gram flour, cashew nuts, cardamom, ghee and sugar, is given as a prasad to all the devotees who seek the darshan of Lord Venkateshwara.
This is prepared in the kitchen of the temple and even has a GI tag. According to temple officials, this laddoo was first distributed on August 2, 1715. Under normal circumstances, this laddoo costs INR 25, yet, at times, they sell two ladoos for a very subsidized price of INR 10 as a special treat for devotees. The sale of prasad is the temple's primary source of revenue.
The laddoo is in high demand on important occasions. During Brahmotsavam, officials sell prasad around the clock. 1.8 million laddoos were served in the first 7 days of Brahmotsavam in 2015, exceeding all previous records. The authorities make substantial efforts to make sure that pilgrims have access to laddoos every time.
Khabees Baba temple situated near a forest near Sadana town in Sitapur district near Lucknow is one of the few places where devotees offer liquor to the deity. Locals say the temple was established some 150 years ago in honour of a saint named Khabees Baba, who spent his life in Sitapur worshipping Lord Shiva. This temple has neither a priest nor an idol; there are no other offerings either. It is like a room with rocks around and a raised platform on which rests two slipper-shaped structures that are taken to symbolise the feet of the saint. They offer liquor to this saint inside the temple because he was said to enjoy his drink in the evening. He is said to have had a knack for clairvoyance and cured people of their illnesses. Khabees Baba was a spiritual healer who spent 150 years of his life just curing people of their injuries just by touching them on the injured spot. He was said to have lived in the forest spending his time either worshipping Lord Shiva or healing people and at night drinking whiskey while staring at the clear open sky.
This temple is popular all around Uttar Pradesh and though the devotees visit the temple round the year, they throng here in large numbers during the month of Ashadh (June- July) of the Hindu calendar, especially on Guru Poornima. The locals say that people visited him on Mondays usually in those times.