Tirupati Laddoo: Do You Know The History Of This Revered Sweet?

The Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, dedicated to Lord Venkateswara (an incarnation of Vishnu), situated on the Tirumala hills, is considered to be one of the most sacred shrines in the country. The Tirupati ‘prasad’ is a sweet and aromatic dry laddoo, whose recipe has gone through quite a few re-iterations, although its history dates back thousands of years ago. 

This laddoo is not only a prasadam but also a part of the heritage of the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, one of the most visited pilgrimage centres in the world. According to legend, the temple dates back to ancient times and has been mentioned in various Hindu scriptures. The temple's history can be traced to around the 5th century AD, with significant contributions from various dynasties, including the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, and Vijayanagara Empire.

The Tirupati Laddoo is renowned for its distinctive taste, quality, and size. It is made from a mixture of besan, sugar, ghee, cashew nuts, raisins, cardamom, and several other ingredients. The process of making these laddoos is meticulous, ensuring that each piece maintains a consistent taste and texture. The laddoos are prepared in the temple kitchen, known as the ‘Potu’, which is equipped to handle large-scale production.

While there isn't precise documentation on when exactly the laddoo became a standard offering, historical records suggest that the tradition could have been institutionalized during the Vijayanagara period, reflecting the era's focus on elaborate temple rituals and offerings.

The history of the Tirupati laddoo

The recipe and the preparation process are closely guarded secrets, managed by a dedicated team of temple cooks. Historical data suggests the prasad’s inception dates back to 300 years ago. The first holy offering of the sweet was documented on August 2, 1715. 

In case you didn’t know the prasad that is offered at Tirupati today acquired its recipe under the Madras Government circa 1940 after undergoing almost 6 iterations. According to ancient inscriptions, the existence of the laddu was well documented in 1480, and was labelled as “manoharam”. Records also suggest that the mind who created the famous Tirupati laddus is Kalyanam Iyengar; the people who prepared laddus in the kitchen were called Gamekar Mirasidars and used to get a share from the batch till 2001.

Modern Developments and Challenges

About 620 people are employed for cooking the laddus. The laddoo is distributed to millions of pilgrims who visit the temple. There are 3 different types of laddus that are cooked - Asthanam, Kalyanotsavam and Proktham laddus. Asthanam laddus are made with saffron flowers, cashews and almonds. These laddus are created only on special occasions. Kalyanotsavam laddus are comparatively bigger in size, while Proktham laddus are the ones which are made to be shared with pilgrims. 

To prevent this unique recipe from being recreated elsewhere, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams offered a Geographical indication tag for Tirupati laddus in 2008. The temple administration, managed by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), has had to further innovate to meet the increasing demand.

One significant development was the introduction of mechanization in the laddoo preparation process. While the core aspects of the recipe and the sanctity of the process are maintained, mechanization helps in scaling up production without compromising quality. This ensures that every devotee can receive the laddoo prasadam despite the large crowds.