Odisha’s culinary culture is quite distinct and appreciated worldwide for using less oil and spice nonetheless, remaining flavorsome. Everyone loves food; God, too! Yes, in this article we’re discussing about the food which soothes your soul and fully satisfies your sense of taste; the food which is our Lord Jagannath’s favorite, it’s PURI ABHADA or MAHAPRASAD.
The world famous Puri Jagannath temple’s kitchen is said to be the largest kitchen in the world because the temple’s kitchen is capable of cooking for a lakh devotees on a day. Thousands of Chefs are working on 752 wood-burning clay chulas (hearths) to feed more than 20,000 devotees daily. In most temples of India, the holy food that has been served to the deities is called as ‘PRASAD’. But only here in Jagannath temple this blessed food Abadha is called as ‘MAHAPRASAD’. ‘Maha’ means Great. Therefore, the word ‘MAHAPRASAD’ itself gives us the sensation of something great.
Generally, there are two types of Prasad that are served to the dark Lord Jagannath. One is Sankhudi bhoga (popularly known as Abadha/ Abhada) and another is Nisankhudi bhoga/ Sukhila bhoga (Dry). Puri Abhada comprises Sadha Anna (rice),Ghee Anna, Mitha Dali (Dal),Dahi Pakhal, Besara, Mahura, Dalma, Saga, Kanika, khechudi, Pita etc while Nisankhudi bhoga comprises all types of sweets, deserts and pithas (cakes) like Khaja, Gaja, Feni, Nadi, Manohara, Jhili, Puli, Mathapuli, Arisha, Chakuli, Ballabha, Malpua etc. All the vegetables and ingredients used in the cooking of Abadha are local to the region.
What does ABADHA (ABHADA) mean?
The term ‘BADHA’ means to serve and it is ‘A-BADHA’ which is not served. Abadha is that type of Prasad which is not served for anyone. Everyone eat this Puri Abhada as a blessed food and it is never regarded as a false food (Aintha, in Odia). Whenever you’ll visit Puri Jagannath temple you’ll notice a group of people eating in the same pot or on the same banana leaf. There is nothing such as rich, poor, religion or any racist thing.
However, don’t get confused between ABADHAand ABHADA. Abhada literally doesn’t make any sense but it’s just an evolved word from Abadha. Anyway, this corrupted usage Abhada is popular too.
Mythological and Historical Evidences:
As per the myth, this Abadha or Mahaprasad started in the remote past when Lord Jagannath was in his aboriginal form of Neela Madhaba. The tribal head Biswabasu offered fruits to the deity at the time of worship inside the Nilagiri Mountains of Odisha. As it was a forest area, there were no rice paddies and vegetable fields. But when Biswabasu opened the temple door in the morning, he would find huge amount of rice dishes and mouth watering curries near the deity daily. The legend says that, Gods and Goddesses would come at night from the heaven for having a DARSHAN of the deity, Neela Madhaba. At the time of worship they would offer the heavenly dishes of rice, dal and sweets to the Lord and the spiritual aroma of this holy Prasad was so overpowering that all came to know it had to be of godly origin.
In Madalapanji, it is mentioned that the Sankhudi bhoga or Abadha was in place during the ruling of King Jajati Keshari, although King Ananga Bhimadeva added many other dishes in the Lord’s ashet. During the Mughal invasion (1568 AD – 1575 AD), this Abadha or Mahaprasad could not be served to the three deities. But, Mahaprasad is being served without any fail with all allegiance and custom since 1751 AD.
A Basic Puri Abhada Thali:
- Sadha Anna- Simple Rice
- Ghee Anna- Rice mixed with pure ghee
- Khechudi- Rice mixed with lentils
- Kanika- a combination of Rice, Ghee and Sugar
- Dahi Pakhala- Rice mixed with Curd and water
- Odia Pakhala- Rice mixed with ghee, lemon and salt
Dal and Other Side Dishes:
- Sweet Dal- A thick dal made from Arhar dal (Pigeon pea/Legume) which is sweet in taste.
- Dalma- It is a typical Odia dish which is a combination of dal and vegetables such as: Baigana (Eggplant), Kakharu (Pumpkin), Bean, Kanda Mula (sweet potato), Coconut, Bodhi (a dried root vegetable that looks like a mushroom having rich proteins) with hing (asafoetida). Tomatoes (Bilati Baigana in Odia) are not used in Puri Abhada as it’s a foreign vegetable.
- Besara- It’s a mixed vegetable curry with plenty of coconut and black mustard seeds.
- Mahura- Another type of mixed vegetable curry that uses very basic ingredients like Kakharu (Pumpkin), Saru (Arbi/ Taro) Kanda Mula (Sweet potato).
- Saga- A dish made with leafy green plants like Leutia, Koshala etc.
- Khata- A sour side item made with cooked mango, apple and grape mixed and cooked together
- Potala rasa- It’s spicy gravy based odia dish in which the main ingredients are Potala (Pointed gourd), potato with coconut milk.
Puri Abhada Thali Price:
As per the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) decision, devotees visiting Puri Jagannath temple can buy an Abadha thali at different price ranges of Rs 70, Rs 80 and Rs 120 with distinct lists of items. The rate charts are put up on walls at Ananda Bazzar,Baisi Pahacha and all the four entrances of the temple.
The dry-rice of Mahaprasad is well known as Nirmalya/ Kaibalya as the rice dried up in hot sun at Kaibalya Baikuntha. Nirmalya is said to be more hallowed than the Ganga water which gives redemption or liberation (Moksha) and in our Hindu culture, there is a belief that if ‘Nirmalya (Kaibalya)’ is given to a person at his death’s door, he/she is sure to find a place in the heaven after death expiation of all his sins.
Devotees can buy Abadha at any time of a day as some items are always available and no one leaves Puri Jagannath temple without taking this Abadha or Mahaprasad. Abadha is consumed by all devotees freely without any caste, color and creed discrimination. There is nothing which gives more satisfaction than such a spread of Mahaprasad, let it be in taste or aroma. Abadha is an emotion for all the Odias and nothing can beat the taste of this Puri Abhada.
Well, it’s been a few months that we’ve started this site Best in Odisha and the sole reason was to explore and take Odisha’s History, Tradition, Cultural heritage, Tourism, Cuisine, Art and Craft, Literature into national and international level. We’ve started the A to Z Odia food series with this Abadha/ Abhada article. In our upcoming blogs, we will share recipes of some best authentic odia cuisines which are simple yet tasty.
Till then, stay tuned!