The sound of chime of bells made us rush to the small room where the grandfather would be waking up god early in the morning,with a lighted diya in one hand and a small bell in other. These are the earliest memories I have, of the brush with divine ! He would recite the prayer and follow up with a Aarti while offering the Jalebis and Kachori to the Lord. The routine would follow day after day while we children scrambled around him to ensure that we get the chance to distribute the 'prasad' to rest of the family members who had missed the morning ritual. Who does not love the delicious Prasad, or the offering to the god?
In India there is hardly a temple where the god is not made an offering of 'Prasad' invariably as a meal at least three times a day. It is later distributed among the devotees! The more affluent temples have this at even more intervals of time ranging from six to eight offerings in the entire day . There is a strong relationship between the spiritual bonding with the God and food in almost every temple not only of Hindus but other religions like Sikh, Buddhism and many others too.
In early days the lure of Prasad was one of the reasons to visit the ‘Hanuman Mandir’ located in the heart of Delhi on Tuesdays! As I started to travel around, I got to see some of the most simple to exotic temples across the country and even on trips abroad. The aroma of the Prasad ,incense and flowers would draw me to the temple . The ‘laddus’ offered to Lord Balaji at Tirupati ,the various delicacies to Lord Jagannath and Krishna at temples in Puri, Mathura nd Vrindavan are just fabulous with an unmatched taste. These have also long shelf and can be conveniently carried. The same is true of ‘langars’ served in gurudwaras all across the country. The Golden temple at Amritsar to many lesser known ones serve millions across the country. Even Steve Jobs has mentioned about eating at a Hare Krishna temple located seven miles away every Sunday in his early years of life, before the ‘Apple ‘ days. He was drawn to India in search of spirituality through this early bond.
The temples that are located in Himalayas offer one of the best ‘prasad ‘ to devotees ranging from ‘rajma-chawal’ at Katra on way to Vaishno devi,’chana cooked in natural springs in a gurudwara at Manikaran near Manali, to the humble prasad of ‘tulsi leaves ‘ at Kedarnath to name just a few.Likewise at ISKON temples acrosss the globe one can enjoy lovely food and snacks prepared hygenically and without use of onions and garlic.
The list could be endless. Even now, the love to taste the offerings made to the lord after a visit to temple stays as in early childhood years.The best thing about the food offerings is that it is a great equalizer where regardless of the social standing one and all are served together, though unfortunately this is not followed in the spirit in many places.
PS: Image kind courtesy Google