Mayapur (West Bengal): From pizza to flapjacks, and pasta lasagne to fried noodles, besides a plethora of mouth watering Indian delicacies of varied tastes like pakodas, sabzi, dal and rasamalai are among the “mahaprasad” or food offered to Lord Jagannath daily during the ongoing Ratha Yatra (chariot festival) at the global headquarters of ISKCON here in West Bengal’s Nadia district.
“As per scriptures, Jagannath Mahaprasad is so pure that whoever partakes it is sanctified and is bestowed with the boon of liberation. In common lingo Lord Jagannath is also referred to as the Eating God,” says Subroto Das, media spokesperson of ISKCON Mayapur.
During the nine days of the Rath Yatra festival — that plays out all over the world the annual two-way journey of Lord Jagannath, and his siblings Baladev and Subhadra from the Jagannanth Temple, Puri, to their aunt’s residence in the Gundicha temple, — a minimum of 56 food items or Chappan Bhog are offered to the Lord daily here.
“On some of the days, the number of food items prepared may go up to 150 even,” said Das.
A lot of attention is given to the food served to Lord Jagannath during these nine days, when the three siblings reside at the ISKCON Mayapur Gundicha temple.
Devotees enthusiastically toil hard to prepare a large range of lip-smacking platter.
“Jagannath is Lord of entire universe so at ISKCON, he savours not only Indian recipes but dishes from all over the globe, said Das.
While the Italian devotees come up with offerings of Pizza, Pasta Lasagne, the Americans prepare dishes like fruit cakes, pastries and flapjacks.
Not to be left behind, the Chinese followers of the Lord prepare their signature tune stuff like fried noodles, vegetable dumplings, and chow mein.
In the main kitchen here, as many as 45 devotees — both male and female — under the guidance of a kitchen head engage day and night to prepare the ‘MahaPrasad’.
The deities are served food six times a day — at 4 a.m., 8 a.m., 12 noon (Raj Bhog), 4 p.m., 7.45 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. (Sayan bhog or food offerings before sleep), said kitchen in-charge Nitai Naresh Das.
The morning food offerings include a large number of popular sweets like rasamalai, barfi, sandesh, halwa, masala puffed rice along with poori and a variety of juices.
The Raj Bhog in the afternoon involves cooking of Chappan Bhog which include five types of lentils or dal, seven to eight varieties of rice, 24 kinds of sabzi or vegetables, seven to eight types of pakodas (pieces of vegetable, coated in seasoned batter and deep-fried).
“Lord Jagannath has an insatiable sweet tooth,” said head cook Gaur Hari Das, wearing a broad smile on his face. He takes special care to prepare 12-15 kinds of sweets like Rasagolla, Gulabjamun, sweet rice, pati sapta, laddu, milk cake, varieties of peethas, malpua for the afternoon lunch of the Lord.
But that’s not all.
The menu for the day also includes continental dishes like custard and coconut cake which become a part of evening appetite.
Night offerings are generally kept light. “Kheer” is the last offering.
On an average 500 people which includes special guests, pilgrims and devotees partake of the prasad.
“All the offerings are indigenously prepared by using best quality spices, oil, butter and ghee by the devotees. Strict standards of hygiene are maintained,” said Das.
A large queue forms for the Chappan Bhog during all the nine days. Devotees can savour a plate for Rs 201, said Subroto Das.