In Hinduism, food is offered to the gods while giving rituals and worshiping. According to Babb, ritual is any form of activity that symbolically conveys information (32). In passing these messages, rituals play a significant role. This is known as Prasad, which means mercy or the divine grace from god. …
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This is known as Prasad, which means mercy or the divine grace from god. The food offered to the deities is said to bestow religious merit, purifying body, mind and spirit. One of the rituals performed in Hinduism is known as puja. It is an offering done to various deities or special guests. It is done in variety of occasions and settings, but it is mainly performed at home or in public temples. However, Puja has different ritual performances, which basically, exhibit the same structure. Pitar pak, a family rite consisting of simple rituals andinvolves a few participants (Babb 34). The matar festival in whichtheparticipants’ number are in hundreds unlike the pitar Pak. Singing Bhajan and a domestic puja called saptashati path. These ceremonies are performed to persuade deities to grant favors that the worshipper is seeking. Food offering is the central feature of the rituals Hindus perform. Otherwise, without food offering, the ritual would simply not be Puja in the conventional sense of the term. Food is offered to the deity and in turn, the deity in some way partakes of the offering. Sometimes, the consumption of the food is symbolized physically, like in homa where the food is consumed by the fire. Other times the food is set before the god often behind a concealing cloth. In both cases, it is assumed that the deity actually partakes of the food. If the deity does eat the food placed on the altar, the leftover is then taken back for distribution. Upon eating this food, the participants are giving the most profound honor to the god. Therefore, the exchange of food in puja is in consonance with general principles that order Hindu life. More so, it shows that the food exchange that takes place in puja is a necessary pattern of human interaction with the gods. In presenting the food, the deities are paid for the past of future favors. Apart from the food, offering of clothing, money, and precious metals are used to pay the deities. The deities are supposed to be given expensive type of foods, and if simple, they are usually prepared under stringent conditions of purity, which is the universal rule of Hindu ceremonialism (Babb 47). Rituals should be performed to honor god and at the same time to pay the god for all the favors. Several rituals in Hinduism are associated with food. For example, when a child feeds for the first time, it is celebrated as Samskara known as annaprasana. The funeral rite involves offering food to the departed soul. Devout Hindus observe some rituals before eating it. They sprinkle water around the food to purify it and make it worthy to the gods. In addition, they clean the place first because Hindu law books proscribe eating food in dirty places. They offer food to their personal gods before eating. In doing so, one’s body becomes a sacrificial alter. It is also believed that offering the gods food is a mark of self-devotion. As stipulated in the Hindu scriptures, anyone who offers food to gods before eating it come to no harm as the qualities in the food are neutralized by their positive energies. Therefore, it is important that the food is presented to “temple” where the gods are waiting on their altars (Yalman 293) The Hinduism community in honor of the gods holds different festivals, for example, the Annakuta festival. Annakuta literally means, “A hill of food”. On this day, worshippers offer Krishna great varieties and large quantities of vegetarian food. It is a celebration of an event in Krishna’s life. He lifted the mountain of Govardhan for seven days to protect people against the deluge of rain sent by the god of heavens and rains, and that is why Hindus celebrate this day (Toomey 123). They prepare hundreds of different food and take them to the
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