Around 40 chullas (earthen ovens) at the famous Jagannath temple in Puri were found vandalised on Sunday morning. The chulhas are used for cooking the holy ‘Mahaprasad’, which is offered to Mahaprabhu Jagannath, Balabdhadra & Subhadra in the ‘Rosa Ghar’, the world’s largest kitchen. According to the Records of Rights (RoR) of the 12th-century shrine, there are 240 registered ovens in the kitchen, of which 40 were damaged. The incident affected devotees in getting the ‘Mahaprasad’.
The incident of vandalism raised concerns over the security of the temple. It is suspected that some unidentified persons allegedly ransacked the chulhas after completing the traditional rituals on Saturday night. Sources said the pithagada, Kothabhoga, Satapuri and Thaliada chulhas had been ransacked. It has sparked resentment among lakhs of devotees in the State and outside.
Puri Srimandir’s Rosa Ghara is the largest and biggest kitchen in the world. Several types of hearths are used in the kitchen of the Srimandir to prepare different types of ‘Bhoga’ for Lord Jagannath and his sibling deities.
A joint inquiry has been started by the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Administrator (Niti) and additional SP (temple security), Puri Collector Samarth Varma said.
It is for the first time that such an incident has occurred. The incident is suspected of six to seven people involvement as a single miscreant could not do it. It will take another three to four days to repair the chulhas.
Around 100 servitors run the Roshaghara kitchen. The Mahaprasad cooked at the Roshaghara can serve one lakh devotees every day. Going by the custom of the Puri temple, the cooked food is first offered to Lord Jagannath and then to Goddess Bimala, after which it is called the ‘Mahaprasad’ and distributed among the devotees.
According to “Skanda Purana”, Lord Jagannath redeems the devotees by permitting them to partake in his Mahaprasad, have his darshan and worship him by observing rituals and by offering gifts. Mahaprasad is treated here as ‘Anna Brahma’.
Mahaprasad is cooked only in earthen pots and uses firewood as fuel.
Legend has it that when the steam cooked food is carried to the Lord in slings of earthen pots, no essence can be smelled from the food but when the same is carried back to the sale point (Anand Bazar) after being offered to the Lord, a delicious smell spreads along in the breeze to the pleasant surprise of the devotees.
(The writer is a Senior Journalist based in Odisha. He tweets at @BiswalAnil)