Saturday 24 February 2018

Devbhog for Uttarakhand Temples and evolution of Prasad!

Written by Anil Singh

Somewhere in this website we shared a view as to why the temples in Uttarakhand must think about including agricultural produce unique to Uttarakhand in their prasad offerings (edible things offered to a God). We assumed that such a step will increase the consumption of produce locally at hopefully competitive costs. We also assumed that it will help boost the rich Uttarakhand culture. It is important here to mention that the idea was not unique to the writer, he read it somewhere else.

The present Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat Government's latest decision sell prasad made from Uttarakhand's local produce in 625 temples is praiseworthy. The Government plans to create a brand named Devbhog for this purpose. It can be expected that the brand will procure the raw material from cooperatives run by Uttarakhand farmers. Lets hope the initiative succeed.

If implemented well and with the correct intention, then the initiative can prove to be a stellar example of a brand worth mentioning.

If I'm not inflating numbers then close to 2 crore pilgrims must be visiting the temples and shrines in Uttarakhand every year. This number is big. If done correctly then this will surely help the state. A few things the Government can ensure are: 1) make farmers run it on a purely cooperative basis 2) Removing any intermediary in between.

Evolution of Prasad (edible things offered to a God)

If one sees the prasad in any temple or place of worship, one concludes that there is one thing unique to it. The prasad seems to be obtained from the agricultural produce specific or unique or abundant to that place. And it seems quite true as well. Take for instance, Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine's prasad. It contains dried dryfruit, dried apple and popped up rice flakes and sugar (ilaichi dana). Lets take another example. In most temples in south India, rice and coconut is offered as prasad. Both are cultivated and veiled in plenty in south India. In more drier regions of India such as Rajasthan and Gujarat, one finds food obtained from millets (in Hindi, mota anaj) in the Prasad basket. In many temples in India even liquor or soma (ancient name) is offered to Gods to appease them. So there's no fixed rule to what constitutes a prasad. Actually it appears that what people produced 50 or 100 years ago or even today can easily be offered as a prasad offering. At a time when people were primarily husbanders, they even offered flesh to the deity. This tradition is still with many Uttarakhand people and is adequately supported in their folklore. So over all, the offerings made to a deity often reflect the produce specific to a region. Over time nice folklore and unique traditions get weaved around the offering.

That said the homogeneity which we see today in Prasad offered in most temples may be because of the presence of priests from a very specific region of India. It is believed and observed that priests from South India migrated as head priests in many North Indian temples. This may explain the presence of coconut, rice pops etc. in temples across India.

To conclude, the Uttarakhand Government's initiative latest initiative is praiseworthy. Let's see how Uttarakhand Government's Devbhog Prasad experiment evolves.


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