Inside the World’s Biggest Kitchen at Srimandir, Puri around 600 cooks and their 400 assistants can cook food for few thousand on regular basis to lakhs of people on a special occasion. In this article, we share some of the interesting facts of the World’s Biggest Kitchen and the unique rituals and processes followed to also make it one of the most organized kitchens in the world.
It is that time of the year when Lord Jagannath comes out of the sanctum to bless his devotees. Devasanan Purnima/Jyestha Purnima, the first festival of Lord Jagannath for the year, falls on full moon day of the Odia lunar month Jyeshta, i.e., the 24th of June this year, on which all the Deities will be on the Snana Vedi (Stage for Bathing Ritual) for the only physical bath of the year, with holy-fragrant water and will bless the devotees from the gallery.
The Daita Sevakas are the main servitors and often the center of talk, as they serve inside the temple for a definite amount of period. However, one sect of servitors, those are most important is often ignored. They are the servitors of the temple kitchen, belonging to the “Suara Nijog”. Suaras and Mahasuaras or the chefs and sous-chefs equivalent of the Srimandir Kitchen. They are in charge of preparing, cooking, and serving food to the Lords daily. On the day of Snana Purnima, the induction of new and young servitors to the temple kitchen is held. Most sub-sects of Suaara (Supakaar) are inducted after the thread ceremony and after they attain a certain age of maturity just as generation after generation, few servitors of certain sub-sects (Who should be recognized by formally initiating) are inducted by the ritual known as “Saree Bandhaa”. It’s a ritual of tying Pata sarees on their head and all those servitors serve the Lord for the first time on the occasion of Snana Vedi or the ritualistic bath, and thereafter they are allowed to serve the lords inside the Sanctum Sanctorum.
The 250 earthen ovens in the kitchen, are all twelfth century made, food is cooked 5 times a day all in separate earthen pots called Kuduaa, provided by the Kumbhakaaras of nearby, over a wood fire, by drawing water from the two wells inside the kitchen premise known as Ganga-Yamuna. Even with such traditional techniques, the kitchen is able to feed a flexible number of devotees from around a few thousand daily to tens of lakhs on special occasions, without failing to serve hot and hygienic prasad every single day.
Every day after the Rosa Homa (Offering to the sacred & eternal fire, named Vaishnavagni) in the cleaned kitchen, the fire is taken from there to light the hearths and those Servitors entitled to enter for that meal preparation, enter the premise. It is the utmost devotion and discipline in them that helps them do this laborious hustle, a mundane job. They can not keep a beard, mustache, or long nails or wear silk garments or any other accessories such as beads or bracelets. They have to clean not just their body, but also mentally as in after entering the premise, they can’t abuse, gossip, sing or even chew pan/tobacco. Even after food is cooked, they have to tie Baagha-mukhaa (Tiger-mask) to their mouth and nose tightly, so that not even their breath can contaminate the food. A single sign of contamination, and all the food goes to the burial ground. Centuries-old temple and its age-old traditions follow the highest levels of food safety and best kitchen practices. Till now there have been absolutely no reports of food poisoning among devotees, rather the shelf-life of food is higher than normal cooked food.
Thus, your beloved Mahaaprasaad/Abadhaa reaches you in its purest ever form without any modern facilities, with maintaining all safety and contamination measures even before any sign of pandemic and related awareness.
Liked this article! Let us know in the comments about your Abhadaa Experience in Puri and if you would like to read more on the Mahaaprasad. Jay Jagannath!
Author: Swetak Abhisek
Featured image source: Abadha Spread PC; Asutosh Sahu @exposurepunch