Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Naivedyam - Offering of Food to God

Naivedyam (Offering of Food to God)

Naivedyam  is the Food offered to a Hindu deity as part of a worship ritual, before eating it. As such, tasting during preparation or eating the food before offering it to God is forbidden. The food is placed before a deity and prayers are offered. Then the food is consumed as a holy offering. The offerings may include cooked food, sugar canes, and fruits. Mostly, vegetarian food alone is offered to the deity and later distributed to the devotees who are present in the temple. Great care is taken when food is cooked for the deity.

Cultural Beliefs:

Hindus offer cooked food or some fruits to a picture or idol of a deity and later partake of it as prasaada ,a holy gift from the Lord. In our daily ritualistic worship (pooja) too we offer naivedyam (food) to the Lord.
Naivedhya is not necessarily a food offering to God and actually means 'offering to God' in the stricter sense of the words. It could be any offering, tangible or intangible. A resolution, a promise or even a willingness to do, perform or restrict from certain things can also be connoted as offering to God.
The food offered will naturally be pure and the best. We share what we get with others before consuming it. We do not demand, complain or criticize the quality of the food we get. We eat it with cheerful acceptance (prasaada buddhi).

Naivedyam Items:
  • Fruits like Grape, Mango, Coconut, Jack Fruit, Apple, Banana, Lemon Fruit, The Wood Apple,
  • Rose Apple, Indian Gooseberry, Red Date and Pomegranate.
  • Eatables like vadai, appam, murukku, butter, milk, ladoo and sweets.
  • Food Items like Curd rice, Pongal, Lemon rice, Milk rice, Sweet pongal, payasam and Ghee rice.

Benefits:

The food symbolically stands for our ignorant consciousness, which we place before god for spiritual enlightenment. After he suffuses it with knowledge and light and breathes a new life into our bodies, it makes us divine. When we share the prasad with others, we share the knowledge we thus gained with fellow beings.

Scientific Reasons:
  • The activity may be changed into sacrifice. This reminds us that food is not merely intended to appease our taste. This act also purifies the food.
  • food is digested through the gastric fire.
  • The life force within us as the five physiological functions like respiratory, excretory, circulatory, reversal and digestive systems are getting purified and best.
Interesting Facts:

Before we partake of our daily meals we first sprinkle water around the plate as an act of purification. Five morsels of food are placed on the side of the plate acknowledging the debt owed by us to the Divine forces (devta runa) for their benign grace and protection, our ancestors (pitru runa) for giving us their lineage and a family culture, the sages (rishi runa) as our religion and culture have been “realized”, maintained and handed down to us by them, our fellow beings (manushya runa) who constitute society without the support of which we could not live as we do and other living beings (bhuta runa) for serving us selflessly.

Learned people recite the following Gita verses while having meals so that this Thinking of God before taking food makes it a spiritual act.

Mantra-

Brahmarpanam Brahma havir brahmaagnou brahmanaayutham
Brahmaiva taena gantavyam Brahma karma samaadhina

Meaning-
The ladle is God , the oblation is God, it is offered by God in the fire, which is God.
God shall be attained by him who is absorbed in God as the act of such sacrifice.

Sprinkle water on the food, place a tulasi leaf and chant

Mantra-

Om bhoorbhuvassuvah amrutho(u)pasvaranamasi
Pranaya svaha apanaya svaha vyanaya svaha
Udanaya svaha samanaya svaha brahmane svaha

Meaning-
The three worlds are pervaded by the Lord, the creator.
I offer this to prana (respiratory system)
I offer this to apana (excretory system)
I offer this to vyana (circulatory system)
I offer this to udana (reversal system)
I offer this to samana (digestive system)

Mantra-

Aham vais(h)vaanaro bhoothvaa praaninaam daehamaas(h)rithah
Praanaapaana samaayukthah pachaamyannam chathurvidham

Meaning-
Becoming the fire of life in the bodies of living creatures and united with Prana (ingoing) and Apana (outgoing) breaths, I digest the four kinds of food. The four kinds of food are
1 – that which is chewed by teeth – rice, vegetables etc
2 – that which is swallowed – milk etc
3 – that which is sucked – mango, sugar cane. The immovable beings such as trees etc receive food this way.
4 – That which is licked – honey etc.

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