Naivedyam – II Temple Prasadams



Read the previous section of this series here

Chandan, kumkuma and flowers for worship
(Source: SreeKumaramangalam.in)

Customarily food is always offered first to the Deity, be it at home or in temples. Even the smallest temple has regular puja and a naivedyam for the Deity. The prasādam typically gets distributed to those who are present at the time of the puja. Even in large and famous temples, naivedyam specially made for the puja is offered to the Deity and distributed in small quantities to the devotees present. For the rest, prasādam made in commercial quantities are either distributed free or sold. Vibhuti[1], Kumkum[2], Chandan[3], sindoor[4], tulsi teerthh or flowers, boondi[5] and chironji (sugar balls) are also given as prasādam in our temples.

If one were to research into how a particular naivedyam gained popularity in a particular temple, or who offered it to the Deity the very first time, it would require a volume or two to chronicle all the legends, beliefs and local lore related to it. So, I will restrict myself to just a few of them here.

The saltless prasādams of Oppiliyappan temple:

The Oppiliyappan temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu near Kumbakonam, is a completely saltless temple with all the naivedyams offered being completely devoid of salt! No salted item or even a grain of salt is allowed inside the temple complex. Oppiliappan literally means ‘The peerless Lord’, though the name has got corrupted in usage to ‘Uppiliappan’ (Uppili in Tamil means ‘saltless’). There is a sweet and heartwarming legend behind the saltless offerings.

 

Oppiliappan – the Deity who opted to eat saltless food in order to marry Devi Lakshmi
(Source: ePuja)

A great sage by name of Markandeya did arduous penance to beget Lakshmi as his daughter and Lord Vishnu as his son-in-law. Pleased with his devotion, the Lord granted him the boons. And one day, Lakshmi appeared as a little girl under a tulsi plant. He named her Bhoomi Devi and brought her up with love and care. She grew into a beautiful young woman and was soon of marriageable age.

One day a very old and ailing Brahmin appeared at his doorstep. The sage welcomed and offered him hospitality. But the old man only asked for the hand of Bhoomi Devi to cook and care for him. Appalled at the thought of his beloved daughter marrying an old man, Markandeya tried to dissuade him saying that she was not only too young for him but also didn’t know how to cook – and in fact didn’t even know that one has to add salt to food.

But the old man was adamant and said that he would be happy even with saltless food. Hearing them discuss her marriage, Bhoomi Devi threatened to commit suicide if she were forced to marry him. Sage Markandeya prayed to Lord Vishnu to bail him out of his dilemma, and lo and behold! In place of the old man stood Lord Vishnu in all his resplendent glory. Overjoyed, the sage gave his daughter’s hand to Him and asked for some boons. One was that Lord Vishnu should reside in that place and another was that all offerings at the temple should be prepared without salt. The Lord granted him both the boons.

And that is why even today, all prasādams including vadas, chakli, tamarind and curd rice – are without salt. One can’t but wonder if Sage Markandeya had deliberately asked for this boon, knowing how harmful salt is to the human body! I guess this is another example of the wisdom of our ancestors!

Aravana Prasādam at Sabarimala:

The aravana naivedyam offered to Lord Ayyappan at Sabarimala, similarly has an interesting legend behind it.

The Deity Who ‘drinks’ panakam!

There is another unique and ancient temple in Mangalagiri in Andhra Pradesh, where the presiding Deity Lord Narasimha ‘drinks’  the panakam (panakala/panagam), which He is offered! Panakam is flavoured palm-jaggery water, which has cooling properties.

 

Mangalagiri Panakala Swamy
(Source: IshtaDevata)

The temple on a hill inside a cave has no murti of the Deity, but just an opening in the rock, over which an image of the Lord’s face has been installed, so that the opening is His mouth. Throughout the day litres of panakam is poured into the opening and there is a distinct gurgling sound of drinking. The most astonishing thing is that no matter what the size of the vessel with the panakam –be it half a litre or five litres– only half of it would be taken in. Thereafter the drinking sound would stop and the panakam would start overflowing! This would then be distributed as prasādam to the devotees. I can vouch for this miracle as I have seen it. Another astonishing phenomenon is that despite the sweet offering, some of which inevitably spills, one can’t find a single ant or fly!

Why is panakam poured into the mouth of the Lord and where does it all go? It is a mystery. It is believed that Mangalagiri was a volcanic mountain in ancient times and the jaggery water neutralises the Sulphur compounds in the rocks and prevents it from erupting. The ferociousness of Lord Narasimha who becomes a ugra (fierce) after the slaying of the Asura king, Hiranyakashipu, is effectively cooled by the panakam too. He is therefore known as ‘Panakalu Narasimha’ by the locals.

Tiruvadirai Kali:

 

Thiruvadirai Kali
(Source: YouTube)

In the month of Margashirsa or Margazhi in Tamil (pre-winter), falls the festival of ‘Ardra Darshan’, Ardra being the nakshatra (lunar mansion) associated with Lord Shiva. Night-long puja to Lord Shiva as Nataraja (the Lord as the cosmic ecstatic dancer) culminates in His Darshan[6] in the early morning. The naivedyam is a sweet dish made with rice flour and jaggery called kali. The legend of a great Shiva devotee Sendanar of Chidambaram, is associated with this naivedyam. Having nothing to serve the mendicant –who was none other than the Lord Himself– who came to his door on a rainy day, he offered him a mixture of rice flour cooked with jaggery. Pleased with his devotion the Lord expressed his desire for the naivedyam thenceforth.

Prasādam as medicine:

Palani Murugan Abhishekam
(source: YouTube)

Some prasādams are actually infused with curative ingredients, like the panchamritam of Palani Dandayudhapani (popularly known as Murugan) temple in Tamil Nadu. That is, at least till the abhishekam was done to the original murti of Murugan, which is made of nava pashanam, which literally means nine poisonous substances/minerals. Tamil Nadu has been home to scores of siddha[7] saints who were well versed in herbal medicines and even alchemy. One of them, Siddhar Bogar, carefully selected and combined over 4000 herbs to create the nava pashanam mixture, which has tremendous healing properties. With this, he sculpted the murti of Murugan, which he established in Palani. When abhishekam is performed on the murti with milk or panchamritam, they absorb the healing herbs in the right quantity and help free people from all diseases and ills.

Palani Panchamirtham
(Source: Palani.org)

A scientist’s perspective about the Palani Murugan murti can be read here.

Then there are some temples which give herbal medicine as prasādam. These are made of local ingredients and actually have curative powers.

 

 

 

Kashaya Prasādam at Mookambika temple:

The Mookambika temple at Kollur has the unusual naivedyam – a herbal concoction called Kashayam, or kādha in Hindi (potion) after the night puja. The much sought after Kashayam is then offered as prasādam and is believed to cure diseases. The custom came about after Adi Sankara, who had become ill when he came to the temple and the Devi is said to have herself prepared a herbal kashayam to cure him.

Marundhu (medicine) of Vaitheeswaran temple:

The Vaitheeswaran temple near Kumbakonam is another temple that has marundhu or medicine as prasādam.

Tiny pellets of this medicine is made of the mineral-rich clay from a pond nearby, mixed with essence of neem leaves, neem bark powder and vibhuti, and given as prasādam to devotees. Neem has innumerable curative properties. Many temples in Kerala have medicine as prasādam too.

Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (9.26):

पत्रं पुष्पं फलं तोयं यो मे भक्त्या प्रयच्छति |

तदहं भक्त्युपहृतमश्नामि प्रयतात्मन: ||

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” He says, “I accept the bhakti[8].”

Many are even now following His teaching in word and spirit. Contrary to those who mock our customs and the very religion, it is exemplary how Hinduism adapts to and adopts the mores of changing times and lifestyles. Our customs and even traditions are constantly evolving. Is there any wonder then, that devotees offer the most unusual of naivedyams to their beloved Deity? Here are some:

Munch Murugan

There is a Bala Murugan (Baby Subrahmanya) temple in Kerala, where the Lord is offered Nestle Munch chocolates! He even wears a garland of the said chocolates. This custom is very recent and has come under the mocking lens of many. Apparently, about seven years ago, a young devotee offered his favourite child God some Munch chocolates and had his wish fulfilled. This tale spread and others started offering chocolates too. Soon, the Deity got named ‘Munch Murugan!

Offering at Bala ‘Munch’ Murugan Temple.
(Source: ScoopWhoop)

Noodles for Kali!

The Goddess at a Kali temple in Matheswartala Road, Tangra (Kolkata) which is in a locality with a predominant Chinese population (China Town), is offered a naivedyam of noodles and momos!

Chinese Kali Temple
(Source: Youth Ki Awaaz)

This is by no means an exhaustive article as there are many unusual prasādams, both edible and non-edible ones that are given to devotees in many temples. All one can say is that whatever be the prasādams, they should be taken with reverence and faith by the devotees. After all, one of the most important curative and palliative components of a prasādam, is shraddhā, or Faith.

Read the next section of this series here

Cover Picture: Offering to God by Hindu Custom (source: Eat Treat)

Author: Zephyraka Cybernag, is an award-winning blogger and writer, who blogs on social issues, culture, spirituality and family.

Published: June 30, 2018

Disclaimer:The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. Jagrit Bharat is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Jagrit Bharat and Jagrit Bharat does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


[1] Sacred wood ash from ritual fire

[2] Coloured pigment of turmeric and lime

[3] Sandal paste

[4] Vermillion

[5] Sweetened, fried chickpea flour

[6] The opportunity to see or an occasion of seeing a the image of a deity or a holy person

[7] Ascetic who has attained enlightenment

[8] The feeling of devotion