Prasadam

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A young boy shares prasadam during the Rath Yatra Festival in Kolkata, India. Once the food is blessed by a deity, it becomes holy and may be shared with the faithful. AFP/Getty Images.

Prasadam

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In the Hindu tradition, prasadam (literally, “the grace or mercy of God”) is food blessed by a deity and then shared with devotees and others as a temple or shrine. During various forms of worship, Hindu believers may offer items of food to the deity (or deities) who have been enshrined. As other acts of worship proceed (chanting, kirtans, etc.) the food is offered and it is believed that the deity partakes of the essential aspect of the food. The food is thus considered blessed. The officiating priest(s) may then take a portion of the offered food, the rest being returned to those who offered it. It will subsequently be shared with others and consumed. The sharing of prasadam is a popular act at any Hindu celebration, as well as regular gatherings at temples for festivals and holidays. It is especially appropriate at PILGRIMAGE sites.

In the modern West, prasadam has become widely known in non-Hindu circles from theactivity of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (the Hare Krishna movement). This devotional association makes the production of prasadam part of its daily activity and oversees the sharing of prasadam as part of devotional and evangelical activities. The blessing of Krishna on the food carries to those who partake in it and facilitates their return to the godhead. Members of the Society are urged to offer all the food they prepare to Krishna and to eat only food that has been so offered.

The belief in prasadam underlies the Krishna Food for Life program, which is centered on the preparation and distribution of prasadam (defined as “sanctified vegetarian food”). The movement’s founder, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (1896–1977), left his followers with the admonition that no one within ten miles of a Hare Krishna facility should go hungry.

Sources:

Mahatma Dasa. Krishna Consciousness at Home: A Practical Guide. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, n.d.
Rajan, Nalini. Prasadam: Food of the Hindu Gods. Mumbai, Vakils, Feffer & Simons, 2003.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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