The temple kitchen never sleeps

Cooks preparing sambar and other items at temple kitchen in Vijayawada.
Cooks preparing sambar and other items at temple kitchen in Vijayawada.   | Photo Credit: CH_VIJAYA BHASKAR

‘Anna prasadam’ a big hit with donors and devotees alike

Even before the Kanaka Durga temple is thrown open to devotees for darshan at 3 a.m. during the Dasara festival, activity at the temple kitchen begins.

Volunteers, cooks and their helpers get down to work at 2 a.m. as the food has to be ready by 8.30 a.m. The task is enormous: about 1,600-1,700 kg of vegetables are cut for curries, chutney and sambar and about 4,000 kg of rice is cooked to meet the demand for ‘anna prasadam.’

Sri Durga Malleswara Swamyvarla Devasthanam provided free meal to 2.39 lakh devotees during the festival last year. This year, it expected that 3.5 lakh pilgrims will avail the facility. More than 67,000 people have visited the annadanam satram located downhill of Indrakeeladri in the last four days.

Steady increase

Patronage for the annadanam scheme at the temple is enormous if the rise in donations is any indication. The scheme was launched on January 1, 1991, with a fixed deposit of ₹15 lakh.

The devasthanam used to serve free meal to as many as 60 devotees a day in the beginning and now the number has gone up to 3,000-4,000 during normal days. The rush surges to 5,000 on Sundays and Fridays. And, during festivities, it peaks to about 25,000 per day.

Many devotees believe they should have anna prasadam at the temple after darshan. The devasthanam is following the dictum that offering food without expecting anything in return in letter and spirit, says AEO B. Venkat Reddy, who is in-charge of the annadanam.

Donations to the temple have been steadily increasing since 2009-10. As a result, the total fixed deposits has gone up to ₹ 60 crore. The interest accrued on them is sufficient to provide free meal to the devotees.

The temple spends ₹25 per head to provide free meal during festival. Jaggery pongali and tamarind rice are served on Fridays and Sundays during non-festival days, the AEO says.