INDIA, January 15, 2020 (Outlook India): The Jagannath temple in Puri is one of the chardhams--the four most revered pilgrim spots--of Hindus. Every day, at all hours, the majestic 12th century temple by the Bay of Bengal in Odisha is a bustling sea of humanity--devotees offering prayers, fulfilling vows, sitting in silent communion or waiting patiently in queues snaking around the 400,000 sq ft temple courtyard--for a darshan of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra, the reigning Deities. For die-hard devotees, however, there is a special area of the temple that draws the eye: the temple kitchen. Considered to be the largest kitchen in the world, a variety of at least 56 meals, or "bhoga" in Odia, are cooked in the kitchen every day for the Deities, over a wood-fire and in earthen pots. The sacred "mahaprashad" then feeds a staggering 100,000 people a day.
On January 15, as the harvest festival of Makar Sankranti, celebrating the end of winter solstice, unfolds, the entire temple is devoted to preparing a special kind of bhoga, known as the "Makara Chaula," or Makara rice. Prepared from harvested rice, Makara Chaula is comprised of banana, jaggery, sesame, milk, ghee, coconut, freshly-made butter, fruits and dry fruits. A delight for its sweet taste, the dish is high in nutritive value. For instance, jaggery is loaded with properties that help in digestion. Rich with anti-oxidants and minerals, such as zinc and selenium, jaggery prevents early aging. Sesame forms blood cells and helps in burning excess fat in our body. Herbs, such as cardamom and black pepper, are potent antioxidants, bringing the sweet dish to life. Coconut adds a distinct flavor to the delicacy. It's also heart-friendly and controls blood sugar levels in our body.
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