Mahaprasad (Sacred Food)
Monday, Jul 06, 2015
'Mahaprasad'(Sacred Food) consists of food offerings made to the Triad at different times, during daily rituals. The dignity as well as specialty of 'Mahaprasad' is acclaimed throughout the world. It is another attraction for the devotees who believe that receiving 'Mahaprasad' will bring virtue, purity and piety. It is taken as blessings irrespective of caste, creed and gender. Here untouchability is dissolved. Even conservative Hindu society has accorded permission in taking 'Mahaprasad' without any prejudice. Some opine that this is a Tantrik Evolution.
It is known from archival sources of the temple that food offerings were served to the deities in the Nrushingha Temple, situated beside the 'Mukti Mandap' (Council of scholars) and subsequently the practice continued after the deities are brought to the 'Ratna Sinhasana' (Jeweled throne).
There are 'Roshasala' (kitchen) for preparation of all types of food offerings and 'Ananda Bazaar' (comparatively a vast yard) to be used for marketing, distribution and dinning. 'Mahaprasad' is prepared by 'Suara Sevakas'(category of servitors) through certain rules, technique and methodology. This service is hereditary. It is said that the Triad enjoy 56 varieties of food items which are prepared. 'Mahaprasad' is kept on the 'Bhoga Mandap', in the premises of the temple. The Lords are offered all the food items. 'Mahaprasad' is cooked by 'Suara Sevakas' based on the assessment of pilgrims expected to visit on a particular day, requisitions obtained from the public.
After the 'Dhupa' (offering ritual) the cooked foods are dedicated to Goddess Bimala. Then only it is called 'Maa Prasad' (blessings of the mother) and there after it can be touched, served, tasted and consumed by anybody, thus said in 'Tantrik' scripture.
'Mahaprasad' out of 'Bhoga Mandap' puja are meant for public distribution and sale. Although cooked food is considered stale after a night, 'Mahaprasad' is always regarded afresh and can be offered to any body. Sometimes the rice item of 'Mahaprasad' is dried in the sun to be called 'Nirmalya' (dry rice) and is kept for days for use of devotees. There is also separate arrangement for preparation of 'Nirmalya' in the temple.
Usually, 'Mahaprasad' is a 'Bhoga' supplementary to 'Sakala Dhupa'(Morning offering), meant for sale in huge quantity. Generally, the 'Bhoga Mandap' 'Prasad' is offered once after 'Sakala Dhupa'. But sometimes it is done after 'Madhyahna Dhupa' (Midday offering). On certain occasions, 'Bhoga Mandap' Puja is performed twice or thrice after morning, and evening Dhupas to meet the demand of pilgrims or public for the sacred food.
As a convention, the 'Suara Sevakas' who render all types of assistance for preparation of 'Mahaprasad' are given their share of food offering without any payment. This is called 'Khei'. Sometimes 'Mahaprasad' is prepared by indent or sponsorship. In Odisha, most of the observances and celebrations are accomplished with 'Mahaprasad', provided with indent which is called 'Khatani'.
'Mahaprasad' is of two types: cooked and dry. The quantity and number of items prepared as food in the temple have gone up gradually. Kings and queens of Odisha have commissioned various types of Prasad at different times.
It is peculiar that certain vegetables such as potato, papaya, cabbage, tomato, garlic, onion and chilies can not be used for preparation of 'Mahaprasad' in the temple.
Source :I & PR Department