Conscious Travel: An Insight Into Bhubaneswar’s Centuries-Old Temple Kitchens

In the corridors of Bhubaneswar’s Ananta Vasudeva Temple, a copious amount of holy food is prepared and sold each day. By virtue of this daily practice, visitors get their prasadam, and the people working at the temple, their livelihood. By Rashima Nagpal

It felt like the best time to be in Bhubaneswar. The winter sun shone brightly, the roads were clean, some neighbourhoods were decked up with lights, lanterns dangled from trees, walls with fresh graffiti caught my eye around inconspicuous corners, and a cheerful uproar rose in the background—the Men’s Hockey World Cup lent a festive spirit to the Temple City.

Queen Chandrika of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty built the Ananta Vasudeva Temple in 13th century

But hockey had not brought me here, the Dot FEST had. The first-of-its-kind festival that celebrated Odisha’s cultural riches with concerts, a culinary fair, literary sessions, and a variety of trails around the city, had put the state’s tourism vision at the forefront and exposed first-time visitors like me to its history and heritage.

You’ll find different forms of a lion scuplture in Kalinga architecture

Of the two days spent in Bhubaneswar, I especially enjoyed the one that was spent trotting through the Old Town, as part of the Ekamra Walks. Beginning with the Mukteswara Temple, “the gem of Kalinga architecture,” my guide Tushar offered interesting insight into the intricate details of the sand-stone temples that dot the region. A bit amused, I told him that it was pleasant to learn about ancient art and aesthetics from a young engineer. “A lot of us volunteer with Detour Odisha (the organisation that conducts Ekamra Walks) over the weekends,” he said. “It helps us stay connected to our local history.”

Not a day has gone by without food being cooked in the temple kitchens ever since

A breakfast of dahi bara aloo dum (buttermilk-soaked vadas topped with spicy potato curry) and plenty of informative temple-visits later, one thing was clear—the people of Bhubaneswar take their history seriously. That part became all the more evident as I approached the end of the trail, the Ananta Vasudeva Temple. A stroll halfway around the Bindu Sagar in the heart of the city brought us to the 13th-century Vishnu Temple. Unlike all the other temples I had seen so far, this one was filled with food. “Two temples in the city—this and the more famous Lingaraja Temple— double as temple kitchens,” Tushar said. I observed men going in and out of the kitchens bordering the temple premises, carrying food in earthen pots. “Every day, food for about 2,000 people is prepared and sold in the market square adjoining the temple. And at the end of each day, the used pots are broken and discarded,” he added. On one hand, this is a virtue of sattvik bhojan or prasadam, and on the other, this practice that has been uninterruptedly going on at Bhubaneswar’s temple kitchens for centuries, sustains the temple workers.

As a virtue of sattvik food, only organically grown seasonal vegetables are used in the prasdam

It was late afternoon by the time we reached, so I couldn’t see the beginning of the elaborate process. Early in the morning, after taking a bath, the cooks peel, wash, and precisely chop seasonal vegetables using a traditional knife called paniki. Once cooked, a pot of the dish is served to the Gods as bhog, following which the rest of the pots are taken to the adjoining market square for visitors who buy and relish the food on banana leaves. Ritualistically, the platter includes delicacies such as the traditional dalma (lentil stew with vegetables) among others. It is also common for locals to order an exclusive feast on special occasions. By the end of the tour, I realised I couldn’t leave without a taste of the divine. Before I could ask, Tushar handed me a coin-size serving of kanika (sweet rice sprinkled with raisin and nuts) from the platter, a slice of centuries-old tradition in my palms.

Photos Courtesy: Detour Odisha

Related: Unexplored India: Visit Odisha For its Hidden, Wild Gems

Kumar Shree

View Comments

Recent Posts

These 11 Indian Hotels Are Offering Ultimate Republic Day Deals

We always look for opportunities to rejoice. And the upcoming Republic Day paired with the…

1 hour ago

Xigera Safari Lodge In South Africa Is Putting African Arts & Culture On The Global Map

Inside one safari lodge’s two-year effort to put African arts and culture at centre stage.…

4 hours ago

Uttarakhand To Organise First-Ever Snow Leopard Tours

Uttarakhand Tourism has come up with a unique way to drive its conservation message. The…

5 hours ago

#TnlAudioStories #DiscoverTheUndiscovered : Sharchi, Himachal Pradesh

Away from the loud crowds and gaping tourist gaze lies Sharchi, a small Himachali village…

24 hours ago

The First Zanskar Winter Sports Festival Starts Today!

Winter at Ladakh's Zanskar valley just got cooler as the region's first Zanskar Winter Sports…

1 day ago

Whistler In British Columbia: Why You Need To Plan A Winter Sojourn Here

Home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America, Whistler in British Columbia,…

1 day ago