Puri Jagannath temple's Kitchen - What is unique about it? - 01

Puri jagannath temple kitchen, Odisha.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

In no other Hindu temples across India will you see such a huge and unique  temple kitchen (in Tamil: Madapalli) as in Jangannath temple, Puri, Odisha where mahaprasad is being prepared by the priests to feed almost 30000 devotees a day. On special occasions the temple will provide  more than 50000 a day. The kitchen cover a total area of 15000 sq.ft built up area on a plot of roughly one acre. Devotees visiting the 12th century Sri Jagannath Temple to have a darshan of the deities  are now being offered  free mahaprasad, which is very much sought after by every devotee. 

Puri Jagnnath kitchen, Odisha.in.pinterest.com

Jagannath temple, Puri earthen pot for prasad. utkaltoday.com

The tradition of offering free food to pilgrims/devotees has been around in this temple for centuries and this custom persists in all Hindu temples. Annadhanan is a common feature in all Tamil Nadu temple where the food is served free on the special premises after major prayer rituals are over. The steam-cooked food is offered to Lord Jagannath first and then to Bimalaa Debi after which it becomes Mahaprasad.  It is  being served near the Lion's entrance gate - temple's  baisi pahacha or 22 steps Traditionally, it is prepared  only in earthen pots  using fire wood as fuel.

Cooking of Mahaprsada, Puri, Odisha.in.pinterest.com

The kitchen at the Puri temple has the capacity to cook food for 100000 devotees on a single day and the temple authorities have employed 500 to 600 cooks Swaras to handle mainly cooking. ''Jogunias' or helpers about 300 in number  take care of various phases of cooking, right from procuring, cleaning of  earthen pots, vegetables, groceries to fetching water. Since the offerings are made for the deities, invocation of god on the Nab chakra yantra as per  Tantric invocations   is essential before lighting the main fire - ''Vaishnava Agni'' (which is never put out),  The pots are staked up one over the other - mostly 5 in number on the stove /chullah.   No common people are allowed inside the kitchen. ''Mahaswaras" take prepared food from the kitchen to the offering area. Except the Suaras and the priests, no one can touch the pots; otherwise the food becomes unfit for offering  before the god and has to be thrown away.  The divine offering -prasad  retains a distinct taste that is irresistible for people of all ages.   

Jagannath temple,Puri.  Prasad in earthen pots.in.pinterest.com

offering to god, Jagannath temple, Puriin.pinterest.com

Above image: At the largest kitchen in the world at Puri Jagannath temple, the cooks prepare   fifty-six varieties of dishes to be reverentially offered to the three deities in th inner sanctuary.. These consist of preparation of rice, dal and other selected vegetables. Tomatoes, potatoes are not allowed so are onion and garlic. Only traditional cooking method is followed. No modern gadgets are allowed. .......

Preparation of quality food with bhakti is not that easy and the mahapasad has to be prepared periodically by cooks following certain strict norms like no chewing of betel leaves or tobacco,  head bath, prayer,  clean cloth, no moustache or beard, etc.,  besides personal hygiene for each temple kala poojas. The Puri temple kitchen, the largest of its kind in the country, gets a total of 240 earthen stoves (Chullahs;  actually it is more than twice the number) going. Each chullah is  about three feet square in shape and four feet high  Source of energy is through  fire wood as fuel. Modern gadgets are prohibited and it is believed, they will negate the divine aspect of Gods' offerings.  Part of the fire wood needs is met by using the dismantled wood of the annual three rathas. A total of 13000 cubic feet of dismantled wood  is used this. Cooks water from the bore well near the kitchen.  No water from outside is allowed. 

The temple authorities have a proposal  to offer 1000 plus kanika, a special dish in  mahaprasad.  What is special about the Mahaprasad, here is both at home and in the temple garlic or onion is  prohibited in the preparation. So are  "foreign" vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes. However, masala and spices such as cardamom and cloves, ginger, etc  are added only after offering is made. Finally after all the rituals are over, the mahaprasad will be available  for sale in Ananda Bazaar. They mix certain spices, etc.,  that produce anti-oxidants, so health wise mahaprasad is good for you.  To make mahaprasad daily nearly 50 to 60 quintals of rice, 20 to 24 quintals of dal (pulses) and a whole lot of vegetables are cooked only in earthen pot on wood fire. Depending on the needs th quantity may increase. 

Almost multitude of devotees decent on this place  to get blessed by the lord of the universe -Jagannath (Jagannathan) in his eternal abode - Badadeula which is always full of ardent devotees. A visit to this place will be incomplete  if you do not partake of mahaprasad. Attending the puja rituals and partaking of god's offering are said to be important if a devotee is on a pilgrimage to this holy place. It provides him an opportunity to start his life afresh with hope and positive attitude after redemption of his  past sin or misdeeds..