Food is the basic necessity of life. The body itself is a miraculous machine and what we put into it is of utmost importance for its optimum well being. Food that we consume is a part of Pancha Mahabhuta.
In Ayurveda, it is said that the components & functioning of our body components and its functions mimic nature. Pancha Mahabhuta theory states that everything in the physical creation is composed of 5 elements. The very first element that comes into existence is akash (Ether). It is the most expansive and least concrete of all. The next element derived is Vayu (Air) then comes Agni (Fire), then Jala (water) element is formed and lastly Prithvi (earth) element is formed.
According to Yog-Shastra, our body is called annakosha, that is, flesh formed from anna i.e food. Our flesh then becomes food for other animals. Plants consume the elements, especially the Pancha Mahabhut, including sunlight and water. Plants, in turn, are consumed by animals, which are then eaten by other animals.
Naivedhya – The Pious Food
The food that we offer to God is considered to be naivedhya or bhog. It is not a custom to offer the entire food to God so a portion may be taken out separately and offered. The portion offered to God is then mixed with the major helping. It is treated as a blessing from God and utmost respect is shown for it.
Our religion provides us with enough occasions to revere each god and elaborate ways of pleasing God. Food is the way to heart some say, and that seems to apply for the Hindu gods as well. Here are a few of the preferred food of our deities.
Common offerings to the deities
In the Vedas, milk is given a lot of importance. Ghee, a milk product, is offered during yagnas to Agni, said to be the hunger of the gods.
Panchamrita contains five milk products – milk, both raw and boiled, ghee, butter, and yogurt. Go-ras, cow urine, honey, and jaggery are all mixed in and offered to the gods. In the Puranas, it is said that Vishnu lies on Kshir Sagar, an ocean of milk.
Fruit may be raw or ripe. All fruits have different tastes and are offered to the gods depending on the type of fruit.
Modaks are dumplings made with rice flour and packed with coconut and jaggery. Of course, there are many variations prepared across India.
Legend has it that a special modak was presented to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati by the demi-gods and it was said that the one who ate it would have command over scriptures, art and writing. Being a mother of two, Goddess Parvati wanted both her sons to have it, but the brothers weren’t willing to share. So it was decided that the one who would travel around the world three times first would get the modak. Instantly, Lord Karthik mounted his peacock and set off to travel the world. But Lord Ganesha wisely mounted his vehicle (his mouse) and went around his parents whom he considered his world.His wisdom won him the special modak. Since then, modak is Lord Ganesha’s, favorite sweet.
Lord Shiva is one God who is satisfied with minimal offerings. Milk or any sweet that is made of milk is his favorite.
It is said that bhang is the most famous prasad that is offered to Lord Shiva, the Neelkantha. He is also worshipped by preparing panchamrit, which is a mixture of five nectars – milk, curd, ghee, honey, and sugar. These items are mixed in equal proportions and offered to Lord Shiva.
The Goddess of fortune is one of the most revered Goddess. She likes anything that is made of rice. So, your best bet would be offering her rice kheer and rice pancakes. Along with kheer, assorted mithais are made during this festival like gulab jamuns, pedas, ladoos are also offered to the Goddess.
Shri is Lakshmi, phal is fruit. It’s a fruit that you get round the year and one which is easily available. These are always kept in the thali for puja. Not only are these nutritious, but they are also a symbol of endless wealth and affluence.
Lord Vishnu said in Srimad Devi Bhagavatam: “The worshipper is to offer cake flour to Devi Durga. It is a rule to give an offering of payasam or kheer (known as Devi Payasa).” On Navarati various offerings are made to the Goddess for nine days like; Pure Ghee, sugar and fruits, milk and sweets, malpuwa, banana, honey, jaggery, coconuts and sesame seeds or til respectively for 9 days.
Lord Vishnu incarnated himself as Lord Krishna and Lord Rama in different Yugas. Yellow colored food products are preferred. Offering him yellow lentils mixed with jaggery in order to please him. Even yellow laddu is commonly offered to Narayan or Vishnu. Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Narayan was very fond of butter so white butter mixed with a little sugar is often offered to Lord Krishna in order to please him. Lord Krishna also loves laddu made of coconut.
On his birthday, Krishna Jayanti or Janmashtami, mouth-watering delicacies are prepared to please him. Gopalkala and srikhand are prepared in the northern part of India and seedai, tattai and muruku are made in the southern part of the country.
A day after Diwali, a special spread with 56 food items called chhappan bhog is offered to Lord Krishna. The day is called Annakut Utsav or Govardhan Puja. It celebrates his victory after he lifted the Govardhan hill to save his villagers from the wrath of Lord Indra.
The immortal bachelor is considered to be the Lord who removes all obstacles and protects his devotees. His favorite food is red lentils. You can offer red lentils soaked in water with jaggery to the Lord.
Shani Dev, Rahu, and Ketu
These Lords love the color black. This is exactly why you can offer black sesame seeds and black lentils to these Lords in order to get blessed from them. In addition, mustard oil is used for making different foods to be offered to Shani Dev.
She is the goddess of knowledge and intellect. Khichdi is often offered to goddess Saraswati in order to please her. Boondi is very desirable offering to Goddess Saraswati. It is advised to offer the Prasad to the deity and share it among her devotees.
The god of wealth is fond of all things yellow especially laddoos. You can also make yellow custard or kheer to please him.
Considered to be another form of Goddess Durga herself, she is worshiped for strength. Rice is prepared along with kheer, vegetables, and sweets to please her.
For Devis, traditionally, there would be blood sacrifices – goats, buffaloes, birds. Bhudevi, the earth goddess, is considered to be a cow whose milk sustains everyone. In the form of Gauri, she gives milk, and in the form of Kali, she drinks blood – the cycle of life, as it were. This is to emphasize the idea that whenever you eat, you’ve killed something, sacrificed someone, offered bali.