Pongal Rice or Laddoo Prasadam - What's Better?

16th Jun 2021
Day 1

Hey, are you here for the first time..? He asked me

Well, my blank expression and sparkling eyes to see the big, beautiful, white temple was a clear hint that I was there for the first time.

After entering through the beautifully crafted white gate, the lavish green garden with countless trees and a plethora of known and unknown flowers made me stop right there.

WOOOOOW….. What a beauty!

‘Oh, lady! Are you here for the first time…?’ – This time he asked me with a big smile

Oh, Oh yeah.. First time.. he he 😃

'I could sense that,' he said and laughed.. Come.. Sit here.. He pointed towards an empty space in front of the Krishna idol..  Do you know about the history of this place?

No, I don’t…. He didn’t let me finish my sentence and started telling me the ‘history’

I sat there, started admiring the place, the idols.. I had never seen this beauty before..

I was at Purva Tirupati Shri Balaji Temple, Guwahati (the year 2018).. And trust me, I am not exaggerating.. The vibe of the place was totally different than every other temple. The structural design, shades of the walls, doors, windows, garden, flowers, the smell of incense, lights, and everything was mesmerizing. The temple made up of pure white stone has shrines of Balaji, Laxmi and Durga. The sprawling campus with trees and flowering plants were all around. Lighting around the campus and the stone scripture made in the template in awe-inspiring. The pure white structure of the complex allured me the most. Literally, everything got my eyes and heart and soul.. The visuals were aesthetically pleasing. I mean, not less than bliss.

 ‘aap se baat karke aaccha laga’ – he said again.

He was still talking..

Oh I forgot to tell you.. He is Satyarthi Ji. One of the staff members of Balaji Temple.. It is better to say that he is employed there to take care of the whole premise. For no reason, he started telling me the history of Balaji Temple and his olden days. IDK why.. I think he does that with everyone!

But wait! He told me ‘aap se baat karke aaccha laga’, but when did I talk to him? He only started and finished the story.. and I just listened.. ( I mean I didn’t)

But anyways, ab agar baat karke accha lag hi gaya he to…… let’s ask him about the Prasad. (because my life revolves around food)

Sir, I have heard a lot about Balaji Temple’s Prasad, the famous laddoo you offer to lord Balaji.. Where can I get that?

Oh you want Prasad? Sure! Just wait..

What really? 😋He will give me that famous laddoo Prasad.. What day is it today? What is happening to me? I am just so excited.. I mean seriously, I have waited so long to have one bite of that “ghee ka laddoo” – There were so many things in my mind.

One of my relatives once told me that Laddu is the most popular of all different prasad types, given to devotees at the hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara. Since the introduction of the Tirupati Temple laddu on August 2, 1715, it has been 300 years. There are some interesting facts about the Tirupati Temple laddu to share with you on the occasion of its 302nd anniversary. No pilgrimage to the Tirupati Balaji Temple is completed without the laddu prasad. It is the most sought after prasad type at the richest Hindu temple in the world. Pilgrims buy tokens for the prasad and collect it after prayers to Lord Tirumala. And I am here getting it free.. Kismat acchi hai..

Hey, take it and he gave me a bowl full of Prasad..

One bowl full of laddoo? Wow

Laddoo? Sorry! No laddoo.. Fruits and some sweets.. That’s what we offer to lords. You get the authentic laddoo Prasad only if you visit Shri Venkateswara Swamy Tirupati Balaji Temple, the original one in South India. This temple is basically a replica of that.

What? I am not gonna get laddoos here? I mean u just don’t offer Laddoo Prasad to lord Balaji only?.. But I thought.. Well.. 😟

My dreams got shattered. My heart broke into pieces.. I so wanted to taste that.. I really got upset rather sad.. Mm.. I mean…. I so wanted that.. And they just don’t offer it here.. No! It's heartbreaking.. But obviously.. Why did I even expect? Sigh! It’s all my luck (bad luck).. 😯

Okay! Thanks.. Bye.. I started walking towards the garden..

But, don't you like fruits? He asked?

Uhh.. First of all he made me sit there and kept telling me stories, secondly, he fooled me with the Prasad and now he wants to know whether I like fruits or not? Really? Hunhh.. 😦

No no sir.. I mean, I really wanted to taste the laddoo Prasad and not this one.. So… No problem.. Thank you! Bye..

Wait wait… he stopped me again

I mean seriously, I have never seen itna frank aadmi in my life.. Now what? What does he want? 

He he, yes sir? I turned

We offer the rice Prasad to all our devotees at 11 am.. You can have that if you want.. U just need to collect the token from the office.. and by the way it’s free.

Sure! (free ka rice) okay okay.. Thank you! 😣

It was 10:30 am, and I still had half n hour.. So, I started doing my job.. Click Click..

Though, I could not get a chance to taste laddoos, but I really had great time over there.. I know I am saying it like fourth or fifth time, but what should I do? That beauty enthralled me..

This shrine is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara mainly but they also worship lord ganesha, krishna, and rani padmavati as well. In the adjoining portions to the main temple there are several other temples that are built in dedication of other deities like Goddess Padmavathi and Garuda who is the vahana of Lord Balaji. There is a beautiful park attached to the temple where I sat and relaxed. The serenity and pleasant ambience of the place makes one forget all the worries and tensions of life.

It was 10:55 am, mom called me and we joined the queue to have rice (free ka rice, lol)

After waiting for long 15 minutes, I got a chance to have a plate full of rice. It smells perfect.

Mustard, curry leaves, cumin, ghee and love.. Yes, I could smell the love..  I had no idea about the person who made it, but I am sure he or she was a magician. I know you won’t get that because it is unexplainable. Until you are having it, you will not believe. I ate a plate full of rice and wanted more.. But that’s not allowed, though! A person cannot take the Prasad twice (it’s the rule). 

The rice was true delicacy and having had my first taste of South Indian style rice as Tirupati Prasad, I was kind of spoiled by that. The color, taste, and texture were absolutely perfect.  The taste of Pongal Prasadam (that’s what they call it) was simply unmatchable, and till date I feel so nostalgic remembering the temple and eating the prasadam.

Source - https://i2.wp.com/theindianclaypot.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/VEN-PONGAL.jpg?fit=1620%2C1080 

Now the rice we get in temple is always so treasured because it has a unique flavor that sets it apart from the rice every South Indian family makes at home. Actually I got to know this from a local uncle, who is originally from South India. I had a long chat with him to understand what makes this Prasad so delicious.

He only told me that this Prasad is like an authentic South Indian recipe called Pongal Rice, which is prepared using ingredients like moong dal, rice, curry leaves, cashews, ghee and some spices. You know what, a few locals said that it tastes even better than the laddoo Prasad.. So, I really enjoyed that..

Finally, after witnessing the beautiful, pure white architectural structures with images of deities carved out in the walls, wooden doors, garden park, durga temple, padmini temple, and experiencing the scenic beauty, we had to say Good Bye to Balaji Temple and left for another famous – Kamakhya Temple..

Oh, by the way, actually no one told me that rice Prasad tastes even better than laddoo Prasad.. It is just me consoling myself. But until I am going to the original Tirupati balaji temple in South India, I would love to believe that – Pongal Rice tastes way better than Tirupati Laddoo Prasad..

Photo of Assam by Sucharita Das
Photo of Assam by Sucharita Das