Indian Temple Cuisine

Our Recipes are based on Temple Cuisine of Ancient Vedic India. For thousands of years Temple Food in India, as well as in Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, has  been considered the best of the foods. 

Thirunelli Thrimadhuram at Maha Vishnu Temple

Thrimadhuram means the triple sweet, made of sugar, banana and honey with a tinge of ghee. 
 
 
Sri Jagannath Puri Temple
 
Kitchen in Jagannath Temple
 

From earlier times the food available at a Temple for travelers and worshippers is considered the best. The haute Indian cuisine as well as home Indian food is inspired by these ancient temple recipes - that in itself is based on Ayurvedic principles, prepared in sattva (goodness), cooked by temple priests who had undergone years of meditational purification and assiduously cleanly prepared to Brahmin standards. 

 

Udupi Temple
 

 Priests at Udupi Temple

Most villages and towns in India have many Temples.

Sri Rangam Temple
 
Temple Deity Sri Ranganathswamy
 

These temples are visited by thousands daily, who are offered free Temple Food called Prasadam.

 

Tirupati Temple

 

Temple Deity Lord Sri Venkat

 

Tirpuati Temple's famous Laddu Prasadam
 
As a monk in 1997 Nimai visited this temple kitchen where priest cooks were preparing many dishes for offering to the Deity Sri Venkat. 
 
 

There were hundreds of cooking pots arranged on the floor. Each priest was placing one portion of each spice, like clove, black pepper, cardammom etc. in each pot - that seemed to be his only duty. On inquiry we were told the recipe of this Pongal (a rice dish) was given by their spiritual teacher, Sri Ramanaju Acharya, a thousand years earlier!

Sri Ramanuja Acharya (1017–1137 A.D.)

Each Temple (and its Deity) owned many farmlands around it. Seasonal produce was grown only for the Deity.

 

Moreover, nearby farmers would offer their first harvest of each crop to the temple deity.

Priests in Sri Ranganath Temple
 

Thus the priest Chefs have access to best and the varied seasonal local ingredients. Many ancients recipes are used while also adding new recipes.

Each preparation in the Temple Food is arranged on a special Deity plate, in Ayurvedic sequence of bitter to sweet, as per season (Ritu) or time of the day and adapted to local produce and customs, that is then offered to the Deity.  

 

The Deity is considered a person, who will eat the offering by His eyes, being omnipotent. This famous verse from the venerated Bhagavad Gita (9.26) explains the reason of the offering.

पत्रं पुष्पं फलं तोयं यो मे भक्त्या प्रयच्छति।
तदहं भक्त्युपहृतमश्नामि प्रयतात्मनः।।9.26।।
 
patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
aśnāmi prayatātmanaḥ
 
"If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit and water,
I will accept it."  
 
Deity Sri Sri Radha Krishnachandra
 
The process of offering entails chanting certain mantras as per the spiritual tradition one practices.
Priest offering Holy Tulsi to Deity Udupi Krishna
 
Once offered, the Temple food is then called Prasadam or blessings. This blessed food portions are subsequently mixed with the larger cooked portions and served elaborately to the eagerly awaiting worshippers.

 

One uniqueness of the Indian Temple Food is that Chefs do not taste the offerings - a strict tradition going back thousands of years - first taste of any offering ought to be by the Deity - the master. The Priest Chefs meditate on the Lord in one's heart to direct one to add the right ingredients, at the right time, in the right quantity, to prepare the best as one's humble offering. It requires minute spiritual synergy.

His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhhupada
 

The resultant preparation is considered a test of ones own meditation practice - imperfect dishes reflect on different aspects of meditation one still needs to perfect.

 

As is the case with Temple foods of Japan (Shojin ryori), Korea, China, Vietnam, the Indian Temple food too does not contain meat, fish, eggs, not even garlic, onions, leeks, scallions etc.

Aranmulla Valla Sadya at Parthasarathy Temple

But it does contain milk and many different milk products, sourced from the cows pasturing on the Deity lands. None of the cows are slaughtered even when old nor do their male offsprings.

 

 

The cooks need to be strict vegetarians, partaking of the same pure diet while not consuming any alcohol or intoxication - not even green tea or coffee due to the small quantity of nicotine and caffiene in them. These "distracting" ingredients disturb the meditative aspects of the food - the premise is that the purity and spiritual love of the cook in preparation is infused in the food, which is then not only fit to offer to the Deity, but also to uplift the consiousness of the ones partaking of Prasadam.

The Temple food thus is not only healthy and nutrititious for the body, but also tasty to satisify the tongue which is the most diffcult sense to control in ones spiritual pursuit. Additionally, it helps in purifying the mind of the partaker to make ones spiritual pursuit easier. 

 

 

Here at Gopal Farm, this what we are trying to create. As a monk and a temple priest for more than two decades, Nimai trained in the meditative spiritual aspects of the thousands of years old spiritual tradition called Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya. This spiritual tradition or Sampradaya is one of the four Vaisnava Sampradayas or worshippers of Lord Visnu. The main acharyas or Spiritual preceptors of this school...

Lord Brahma
 
Sri Madhvacharya (1238-1317 A.D.)
 
Lord Chaitanya instructing Srila Rupa Goswami (1514 A.D.)
 

We consider the gopal farmland to be of our Deity - Sri Nitai Gauranga. The first harvest of all of the crops each season is brought first to the kitchen for an offering. The subsequent excess crop is then sold. 

Many of the recipes that we offer here are inspired from the different temple visits that we have stayed in. Nimai was trained in Ayuveda cooking, starting from his mother, and in different temple recipes from different regions in India. 

"The Deity is the head of the house, A silent listener in every conversation and an unseen guest at every meal"