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Book Review – Tirumala – Sacred Foods of God

Tirumala – Sacred Foods of God is a praiseworthy and unique attempt to understand and share the knowledge of prasads offered in the world famous Tirupati Balaji Temple. The book is published by Lustre Press/Roli Books and is written by AV Ramana Diskhitulu and Kota Neelima.

The seven different sections in the book give a deep insight into the various rituals followed in the Tirupati Temple with importance given to the naivedyams or food offering and explanations from the Agama Shastra.
“Food offerings require good harvests, which in turn, require high agricultural activity. The food after it is offered to God, is distributed among assembled devotees irrespective of caste, creed, gender, age and social status” AV Ramana Diskhitulu (Molecular Biologist and Archaka of Sri Venkateshwara)


There is a customary introductory chapter with information on the Venkatachala Hill, the Outer Temple and Inner Temple. But what surprised me here is a couple of pages dedicated to dos and donts, codes of conduct and rules of conduct. I found it quite irrelevant to the topic of the book. The introductory chapter has some wonderful pictures including that of the Temple Floor Plan. A slight error here is that the map showing Tirumala still has united Andhra Pradesh (not the divided Telangana and Andhra Pradesh).

The chapter ‘Perspectives about Prasadam’ is exhaustive and explains all the doubts of even the most skeptics. For a devotee of Venkateswara each page of the chapter is filled with important information that helps in understanding the meaning of each ritual that is performed within the closed doors of the sanctum sanctorum and outside.
Mentioning each cooked rice variety and the sweetmeat, the Archaka requests God to accept the food. While doing so, he recites a sacred Mantra called Anna Suktam. This Suktam describes food as the Supreme God Himself nourishing the entire Creation.
Schedules of offering daily and weekly, special offerings, the amount offered, reasons for offering and popular prasadams are explained in detail. The popular Tirupati Laddu is not missed.

Next important chapter is the Prasadam in Agama Shastra. The chapter basically gives information on explanation regarding Naivedya in Agama Shastra – it is followed by all Vishnu Temples in fixing various rituals.

The book would have been incomplete if it had not shared the sacred recipes of Tirupati Temple. The book does in detail with all measurements. But it is not for home cooking but based on temple measurements so the end product will be in kilos and not for a family. Special offerings and that have a unique significance is mentioned under each recipe.
Like Matra – Annam or Butter rice –
 This is the only prasadam that goes into the sanctum of the Temple across the sacred threshold, called Kulashekhara mettu, which is named after the famous Alwar Saint. The Prasadam is high in energy and has ginger for general well being.
The Prasadams are classified into four – offerings made with rice, prasadams with jaggery or sugar, offerings made with salt and prasadams that are uncooked.

An example of a recipe from the book

Marichya – Annam
Kali Mirchi Chawal/ Malahora or Black Pepper Rive

Measurement
For Kaaa Sola or 6.4 kg of the final preparation, including all ingredients.

Ingredients
Larger measure
Rice – 6.4 kg
Salt – 395 gm
Clarified butter – 1.4 kg
Black pepper – 140 gm
Asafoetida – 18 gm

Preparation
White rice is washed and cooked to soft consistency. Powdered black pepper and asafetida are added to the rice along with enough salt. Finally, ghee is added to the preparation and mixed well.
The prasadam is offered daily during the evening pujas.

The book has also got a good chapter with a brief explanation of all the ingredients used and their energy and nutritional value.

The language used is simple and the articles and information are arranged aesthetically. There is no clutter. There is a good glossary and high quality photographs of the temple, devotees, rituals and food prepared.

Tirumala – Sacred Foods of God
Hardbound
Published by Lustre Press/ Roli Books
A.V. Ramana Dikshitulu (Author), Kota Neelima (Author)
Price – 695/-
Published in 2017

Available on all online stores

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