The Hindu religion has the most number of gods and goddesses, with a whopping 36 crore of them! Apart from the major gods and goddesses, there are also many minor deities who are worshipped by Hindus. Many people even have their personal preferences when it comes to the deities. For instance, some are ardent Vishnu devotees while others prefer Shiva. Yet others may feel a special connect with Muruga or Ganesha. Krishna, though an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, has his own band of followers. Rama, too, falls in this category. Then, there is Hanuman who has a niche crowd of followers. While women tend to worship both gods and goddesses, there are many who are great devotees of goddesses like Lakshmi and Durga. Durga worship is very prevalent in Bengal.
Hindus do not treat their gods like remote and rarefied beings watching their actions from above and dispensing rewards and punishments with a stern demeanor. Poets of the Bhakti cult in fact, used to scold and harangue the gods for acts of omission and commission, such was their intense emotional involvement with the gods they worshipped. It is also a fact that Hindu gods are often portrayed as having human failings like vanity, pride, egoism, etc. Like us, they even love to eat certain foods. So Hindus tend to pamper their deities with food and sweetmeats like laddoos, barfis, and pedas which are offered to them during poojas. But if mythology is to be believed, different deities like different types of food which corresponds with their nature and temperament.
The food that is offered to God is called naivedhya or bhog. The entire food is not offered to God; only a portion is offered. After the pooja, this portion is mixed with the rest. It is regarded as a blessing from God and is shown great respect.
If you would like to find out what kind of food your favourite God likes to eat, read on.
Shiva is a deity who is satisfied with minimal offerings. Milk and milk-based sweets are his favorites. Supposedly, bhang is the most famous prasad that devotees offer Shiva. Panchamrit, a mixture of curd, milk, ghee, sugar, and honey, is also offered. They are mixed in equal proportions. Lord Shiva also loves kand-mool dhatura, milk, and thandai.
Vishnu is said to love yellow-colored foods. Yellow lentils mixed with jaggery pleases him. Yellow laddoo is a common offering to Vishnu. Krishna, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, likes butter, so white butter mixed with some sugar is offered to Krishna. Laddoo made using coconut is another favorite of Krishna.
On Krishna Jayanti or Janmashtami, Krishna’s birthday, many mouth-watering delicacies are prepared. Srikhand and Gopalkala are made in the north of India, while savories like seedai, murukku, and tattai are prepared in south India. On the day after Diwali, Chhappan Bhog, a special spread including 56 cooked and uncooked food items, is offered to Krishna. The day is called Govardhan Pooja or Annakut Utsav, and it celebrates the incident when he lifted the Govardhan hill to protect his villagers from the anger of Indra.
Ganesha looks every inch a true foodie with his potbelly. Modaks and Laddoos may be counted as his favorites. Modaks are rice dumplings filled with coconut and jaggery. There are many variations, including chocolate modaks. Legend says that a special modak was given to Shiva and Parvati by the demi-gods, who said that the one who ate it would become proficient in the scriptures, writing, and art. Parvati wanted both her sons to eat it, but they didn’t want to share it. So it was agreed that the one who could travel around the world three times first would get to eat it. Instantly, Karthikeya got on his peacock and set off. But Lord Ganesha wisely mounted his mouse and went around his parents, who he felt were his world, and won the special modak. This is how the modak became Ganesha’s favorite sweet.
Lord Shani is the only planet that has been awarded the status of a god. .People fear him as he can cause many problems for them. But if he is pleased, he will sweep away all obstacles that hinder our happiness and progress. As his favorite color is black, his favorite foods include black sesame laddus prepared with jaggery, and khichdi made using black lentils. Supposedly, Shani’s mother, Chhaya, performed rigorous penance when she was pregnant with him. She took no food or water for days and practiced extreme austerity in the blazing sun. Due to this, the baby in the womb became dark but also obtained great powers due to his mother’s penance. This is the reason why Shani likes dark colors.
Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge and intelligence. She is said to love fresh fruits, especially mishrikand and ber. Dishes like flattened rice or poha, khichdi, and curd are also offered to her. Boondi and sev are offered to her during Saraswati Pooja.
The Vaishnavas and Shaivas believe that Goddess Durga is a vegetarian, but the Shaktas regard her as a non-vegetarian. People still offer animal sacrifice or ‘bali’ in some parts of the country. Other offerings include moong dal khichdi, dal, chawal and kheer, especially during Durga Pooja.
Lakshmi, Goddess of fortune, is one of the most popular goddesses. Rice-based items are much loved by her, so rice kheer and rice pancakes are some of the offerings made to her. Assorted mithais are made during festival times. These include gulab jamuns, laddoos, pedas, etc. some also offer malpua, amla, and chillies. Fruits also have a place in the thali for Lakshmi pooja, as they symbolize wealth and abundance.
Kali is seen as another form of Goddess Durga. Rice, kheer, sweets, and vegetables are believed to please her. Blood sacrifices of birds, goats, and buffaloes, are not uncommon for goddesses or devis. The earth goddess, Bhudevi, is believed to be a cow whose milk nurtures everyone. As Gauri, she gives milk, and as Kali, she drinks blood. This represents the cycle of life and conveys the idea that every time we eat, we kill something or sacrificed someone, or in other words, offered ‘bali’.
It is said that Lord Hanuman once smeared sindoor (vermilion) all over his body, believing that Rama loved Sita because she applied sindoor! Hanuman loves the color red, so items like red lentils (masoor dal), jaggery, pomegranate, and moti choor laddoos are offered to him.
Kubera is the treasurer of the gods and the god of wealth. Obviously, he has a huge number of devotees who ply him with his favorite foods to appease him. To please Kubera, laddoos, yellow custard, and kheer are good choices, for he loves the color yellow. Yellow, by the way, is also the color of gold.