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Bhog — the offering made to the temple God before it is served to the devotees — has always played a significant role in Indian rituals at most temples across the country. Be it pure manna such as kada prashad oozing with ghee at the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, the rice and green dal khichdi prepared at Mathuradheesh, the kadhi served at Shrinathji temple in Nathadwara or the puri chana halwa at Vaishno Devi — the holy morsels are not just sanctified prasad but also culinary treats, the recipes of which have been passed down from generations. Now, two authors, the husband wife duo of Arun and Geeta Buddhiraja, have unfolded the secrets of these divine kitchens in a 205-page self-published coffee-table book titled Bhog- The Temple Food of India (Rs 3900).
Culled out from our very own temple kitchens, the book is a result of the Buddhirajas' three-year-long journey to 56 temples across the country. "Our temples are not just places of worship, they are universities. These are the places where art and culture originated, where education found roots, where animals were tended to — like a centre point of a village — of which cuisine was an integral element," says Arun, who began with the Braj region, but soon decided to go pan-India.
He found that there was a recipe for every palate, which was cooked with local produce, was economical and eco-friendly. "I had travelled the world before I began this journey and I thought I had done it all, but when it came to temple food, I just surrendered," says Arun, who also found that all the dishes followed the pattern of being related to the six seasons and eight prahars (hours) of a day. So while a delicacy like nei payasam (ghee rice) forms an important element as the first offering of the day, afternoon meals are extremely elaborate with lentils, khichdi, ghee arno and sweets such as pal payasam served at Guuvayoor and kheer at Radha Raman temple in Vrindavan.
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