By Vaibhavi Mahade
When someone told me that the “bhog” at the Jagannath Puri Mahaprasad is a spread of 56 dishes, I simply blinked. But as I found out soon, it was true!
A Divine Experience
We left our hotel at 10 am to visit the Temple. You can take your vehicle only up to a certain point, after which you can get into a shared auto from Medical Chowk. The half-kilometre ride costs Rs.10 per person.
You must have seen or heard of Puri’s famous Rath Yatra. So, this is the road that the Rath Yatra passes. Shri Jagannathji, Balabhadraji, and Subhadraji ride in separate chariots to their aunt’s home, the Gundicha Temple, three kilometres from the Puri Temple, during the Yatra.
After an eight-day visit, they return to the Puri temple. The Rath Yatra is a symbol of unity, brotherhood, and peace. Thousands of devotees travel from all over the country to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime event.
About the Temple
This Temple is home to the idols of two brothers and one sister: Shri Jagannathji, his elder brother is Dau ji (Balabhadraji) and their sister Subhadraji. There are four entrances to the Jagannath Temple. In the East is Sinha Dwaar (Lion Gate), the West has the Baagh Dwaar (Tiger Gate), the North has the Haathi Dwaar (Elephant Gate) and in the South is the Ghoda Dwaar (Horse Gate).
We had a beautiful view of the idols inside the Lord Jagannath Temple. Unlike in most temples, the idols here are not made of stone or metal, but of wood. We had an incredible darshan without having to wait in line for hours. The main attraction of the Jagannath Puri Temple ceremony is the Bhog (religious offering)
I have always been a great admirer of the different temple food, whether it was the Prasadam at Tirupati or Langar at Golden Temple or Shirdi. I can go on and on, but the Mahaprasad here was simply out of this world!
- Salianna: Fine Sunakhila rice with desi ghee and orange segments.
- Khirana: Basmati rice with desi ghee, salt, and cow’s milk.
- Dadhianna is a simple curd rice dish.
- Sitalaanna is made from plain rice, salt, and lemon juice.
- Odia Rice: A fragrant pulao with a subtle flavour of raisins and spices.
- Sadha Anna, also known as Arna Rice, is a type of steamed rice.
- Thali Khechedi, also known as Prasadam Khichdi, is a sweet rice dish cooked with lentils and ghee.
- Ghee Anna: rice cooked in clarified butter (desi ghee).
- Rice with ghee, lemon, and salt (Odia Pakhal).
- Meetha Kanika Rice: mildly sweetened yellow rice. It’s more of a dessert.
- Dahi Pakhal (water rice) is a fermented curd rice dish (Great probiotic).
- Meetha Pakhal is a type of rice that grows in sweet water.
- Rice with ginger and water (Ada Pakhal).
- Asafetida-ginger rice
Then come the lentils. Daal: slow-cooked lentils over a flame. Mitha Dali, Chana Daal, Muga Dal, and Muga Daal are all mildly sweetened lentils. Dalma is a lentil-based dish with daal and veggies. I’ve been told that the Dalma that you get to eat in Jagannath Puri temple, you won’t get anywhere else.
The Mahaprasad prepared inside the Temple premises doesn’t have potatoes, tomatoes, onions and garlic in it. It is prepared using local ingredients such as brinjals, yam, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, beans, bodhi (a dry root vegetable), coconut, parval and pointed gourds.
Mouth watering yet? There’s More
- A dish called Besara is a mixed vegetable curry prepared with black mustard seeds.
- Mahura is a mixed vegetable curry.
- Choley: chickpeas fried in spices
- Goti Baigana: Eggplant in coconut sauce,
- Potala Rasa is an Odian curry made with vegetables and coconut
- Potolo Channa Masala is a pointed gourd stewed with chickpeas
- Saaga Bhaja is a curry with leafy greens
- Pachidi is a raita made with yoghurt, spices, or coconut, and fruit such as cucumber, apple, or grapes.
- Khatta is a sweet and tart chutney made from apples or mangoes combined with grapes. Dates and tamarind can also be used to make tangy Khatta.
- Kheer is a sweet rice dish cooked with milk and dry fruits, as well as a dry confectionery produced with jaggery (gur)
- Chenna sweets — sweet split milk – and Khaja are two other varieties.
When the Mahaprasad is being prepared inside the temple complex, nobody except the Temple staff is allowed inside the kitchen. After the Mahaprasad is ready and offered to the deity, the priests bring it out and offer it to the devotees. There is no fixed time for the Mahaprasad bhog, but generally after 1 or 2 pm, you have a better chance of being served.
Another option is to buy Prasad. Inside the temple complex, there is an Anand Bazaar, which some say is the world’s largest open-air food court. In there, you can eat the prasad. We joined the other devotees at the Anand Bazaar, which was bustling with people filling their bellies with varied delicious-looking delicacies on a banana leaf, with salt and chillies on the side. The Prasad was absolutely delicious, a divine experience for us indeed.
In the temple, the prasad is served in earthen pots. That includes Dalma, Ghee rice, Khichdi, and Sweet Kanika, also known as sweet rice and Besar.
Don’t Miss The Dhwaja Ceremony
We were also fortunate to witness the Dhwaja ceremony. Every evening, between 4 and 5 pm, the priests replace the Temple flag, Dhwaja. It is fascinating to watch them climb the mighty white pagoda-like pro athletes. There is a family whose job is to change the Dhwaja. There are 36 such families, who have served inside the temple premises since the beginning.
The priests run the Temple in collective harmony. They not only organise the rituals but also supervise the daily operations, monitor the chefs who prepare the prasad and work as event coordinators for one of India’s largest gatherings, the Rath Yatra.
My ears resonated with praises to Lord Jagannath and the faith and devotion of the devotees that come here. The pleasure of eating food prepared in the world’s largest kitchen and offered to people from all walks of life is unrivalled and is a spiritual experience unlike any other. The Jagannath Mandir Mahaprasad is an experience in itself!
Do come to Jagannath Puri, visit the temple and enjoy the company of the gods. Jai Jagannath ji ki!
Know Before You Go:
- You cannot take mobile phones and cameras inside the Temple. There’s a cloakroom for keeping your belongings.
- The temple does not allow non-Hindus to enter. Visitors who cannot enter the temple may have the opportunity to view it and its precinct from the roof of the nearby Raghunandan Library and pay their respects to the image of Lord Jagannath at the temple’s main entrance.
- From 5:00 a.m. to midnight, the temple is open. Devotees can walk around and behind the idols, unlike at many other temples.
- Devotees pay a nominal price to go right up to the sculptures during the special darshan, or parimanik darshan.
- During the sahana mela (general appearance) from 7 to 8:00 a.m., all devotees are free to approach the deities, without any charge.
Vaibhavi, a travel and tourism student, spoke to Drisya Fernandes from Team Travel Secrets
Note: For someone so young, Vaibhavi has travelled a whole lot—along with her mother, she has been to over 20 countries and 12 states, meeting great people and gathering incredible experiences. She counts her visit to Jagannath Puri as among her most unforgettable.
Featured video credits: Karl Rock