Prepared by 600-700 cooks and partaken by up to 50,000 pilgrims daily generating a business of Rs 8-12 lakhs, the mouth-watering “Mahaprasad” (food first offered to the deity) of the Jagannath Temple has retained its appeal among tens of millions of devotees for ages.
The Mahaprasad cooked on the premises of the temple at Ananda Bazar (abode of peace) – deemed to be the biggest open-air eatery in the world – is consumed by thousands of devotees, who purchase and eat together irrespective of their caste, creed or status.
“We, on an average, cook Mahaparasad for 20,000 people on any given day and on special occasions, we prepare food for nearly 50,000 people,” Damodar Mahasuar, the president of the suar nijog (temple cooks), told.
Mahaprasad is only cooked in earthen pots on wood fires.
Mahaprasad is of two types – ‘Sankudi’ and ‘Sukhila’ (dried). ‘Sankudi’ Mahaprasad includes items like rice, ghee rice, mixed rice, cumin seed and asaphoetida-ginger rice mixed with salt and dishes like sweet dal, plain dal mixed with vegetables, mixed curries of different types, ‘Saaga Bhaja'(spinach fry), porridge and the like.
All these are offered to the Lord in ritualistic ways.
While thousands of devotees relish the Odia delicacies at the Ananda Bazar, people also take Mahaprasad to their homes to offer it to their guests during social functions such as thread ceremonies and weddings.