Pongal To Puliyogre: The Temple-Style Prasadam In Bengaluru

A visit to any holy place of worship in India will show you how integral food and feasting are to religious cultures in India, which has been the birthplace of many religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and more. In Hindu temples, the consecrated food offered to the deity is known as Mahaprasada or bhandarā. This sanctified food is considered sacred and is shared among all devotees, regardless of their background or beliefs.

Prasada, also spelled prasadam or prasad, holds religious significance in Hinduism. It refers to the offerings of fruits or cooked Sattvic vegetarian food made according to brahminical traditions for the temple deities as an expression of devotion and gratitude. After the offering is made, it becomes prasada, which is then distributed among devotees without any distinction or discrimination.

On that note, can we avail prasadam anywhere else apart from the places of worship? Yes, a small eatery in Bengaluru called Brahmana Prasadam is a unique place that serves healthy and traditional prasadam dishes that are inspired by the temples of India at pocket-friendly prices. The menu mostly offers South Indian dishes that are also offered as prasadams in temples or prepared in brahmin households across the region.

Brahmana Prasadam started off on the streets near the BDA park in Banashankari, where people would initially stop by to get a quick breakfast, including different kinds of brahmin-style dishes in a bowl made of sal leaves or areca nut palm leaves called a donne. Soon, the lines formed by people to collect food grew longer than the lines that would form at a temple for prasadam. Eventually, it has become a hit with everyone from the area who would go for morning walks, bloggers, and beyond. Now, they have opened an outlet at Banashankari and will also continue to serve breakfast near the park at BDA.

The concept of prasada is closely related to naivedya or naivedhyam, which refers to the food specifically offered to the deity, while prasada signifies the blessed food that is returned by the deity to the devotees as a divine blessing. With that belief in place, "A naivedya of the food from the daily menu at Brahmana Prasadam is done before the early morning prayers by giving utmost importance to cleanliness and traditional methods," says Suman Bharadwaj who runs this place along with his brother, Pavan Bharadwaj.

They started this venture to revive the traditional temple foods and provide clean and nutritious food at nominal prices to all their diners for breakfast and lunch. All of these preparations are void of onion, garlic, and a few other ingredients, which are prohibited in Brahmin-style Sattvic cuisine. Sweets like laddoos, rabadi, halwa, sajjappa (stuffed sweet bread), holige (lentil-jaggery-stuffed sweet chapati) with rabdi and sheera, and snacks like vada, chakkuli, and murukku, are some of the popular offerings that make their way into their rotating menu.

"Every day the menu keeps changing. The selection of dishes are sattvic vegetarian dishes that we would prepare for consumption at home. While it is strictly traditional brahmin food that is offered daily as a naivedyam to the gods in the early hours of the morning at our home shrine, it also reaches the pantries of our eatery to be sold as prasadam. Hence, the name, Brahmana Prasadam," says Suman Bhardwaj.

The menu has so many varieties of traditional dishes like gojju avalakki (a flavourful flattened rice dish), chitranna (lemon rice) and its variations, coconut and hing rice, bisibele bath (a runny dish made from rice, vegetables, and lentils), ganji, or porridge, which is made in 7 different ways like coconut porridge, millet porridge, red-rice porridge, and more. Some of the prasadam dishes famous in North Indian temples, like rabri, rasmalai, and more, are also available on select days.

"Panchamrutha, chakkuli, and usli are some of the regular items that are available on most days. Sweet pongal, panchamrutha, and puliyogre will be available every Friday. Our menu comprises fresh food made with seasonal produce and also includes dishes that are synonymous with various religious occasions. Take Ganesha sankashti every month; for instance, there will be modaka, karjikai, etc. We have so many varieties that one will have to wait for a month for a dish to be repeated on the menu," says Suman's brother, Pavan Bharadwaj, adding, "Everything on the menu for breakfast is cooked by my mother with our help, of course. But they are mostly my grandmother's and mother's recipes. Since my father was in the catering business too, my mother has assisted him in the past and learned a lot about cooking from him as well, which can be seen in the chakkuli preparations and so on."

Brahmana Prasadam also serves unlimited lunch on a plaintain leaf every day for Rs. 199. It consists of a traditional brahmin-style South Indian lunch that includes gojju, puliyogre, payasam, rice, sambhar, rasam, a sweet, and more. Pavan says that 80% of their diners or customers are health-conscious, reside in the local areas, and visit over and over again for fresh food. "I just had the coconut ganji, which was cooked with coconut milk and peppercorns. It seems like a perfect breakfast on a rainy day like today. My family and I regularly enjoy eating breakfast from here as it is homemade, healthy, and tasty," says Rekha Chandrashekar, a nearby resident of the area, between mouthfuls of the porridge from her sal-leaf bowl, while the vedic chants played on as background music at the eatery.

If you are craving for some prasadam that you might have relished on your visit to a temple, you might find it here at Brahmana Prasadam, be it rabadi from the Amarnath temple or puliyogre from the Melkote temple. And their wholesome portions do allow you to savour these dishes in hearty portions until you're content.