Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura mentions in his Bhoga Arati kirtana the different varieties of bhoga that are offered to Sri Krsna. For example, shukta shak, preparations made with pumpkin and milk, different kinds of curries, lauki boiled in milk, banana flower fritters, moong dal vadi, urad dal preparations, rice flour and sesame seed preparations, different pithas, cakes and khir, and many more preparations.
Some of the offerings prepared in the festival kitchen on festival days for the pleasure of our Lords are as follows: gujia, candrakala, balushahi, rasgulla, gulab jamun, kala jamun, besan laddu, churma laddu, nariyal laddu, khoya burfi, besan milk-cake, milk-cake, mohanthal, mysoore pak and so forth. Not only sweet offerings are prepared, but also salty, like different types of dhoklas, idlis, pakodas, kachodis, samosas, different types of sabjis, rice preparations and so forth.
There are three different kitchens preparing different food offerings for the Lords. The first kitchen is used every day for all the offerings. The second kitchen is the bakery, where cakes and cookies and many more baked items are prepared for the afternoon offering. On festival days, the Lords are offered a greater quantity of cakes, cookies, muffins and other baked preparations. The third kitchen is the kitchen used exclusively on festival days and offerings in massive quantities are prepared here. Today we will talk about this Festival Kitchen.
The Festival Kitchen is a part of deity department, and in it, we prepare various preparations for the maha-bhoga offering. Cooking for festival days has taken place from the time of the temple’s inauguration, but now, by Krsna’s mercy, we have a proper kitchen dedicated especially to festival cooking. Before it wasn’t like that. Devotees were cooking in their homes and bringing the offering. Later, we started cooking in makeshift kitchens, in which facilities were very limited. It was actually quite challenging.
Now-a-days, we can purchase all we need for such cooking in Vrindavan, but before, we had to get a lot of things from Delhi. Despite all the difficulties, the devotees were still very enthusiastic about cooking for the Lords, and each and every devotee wanted to make 108 preparations.
Every morning, Srimati Radharani goes to Nanda-bhavan to cook for Krsna. She and her gopi friends prepare so many different types of preparations for the satisfaction of Krsna. Similarly, the matajis serving the Lords pray to assist Srimati Radharani in Her preparation of the big Maha Bhoga offering. Cooking starts the day before or sometimes two to three days before the main festival day. Dry preparations that will not go off are made in advance. These consist mostly of sweet items but also some salty items. And on the festival day itself, different types of vegetables preparations, parathas, different types of rice, pakodas, samosas, kachodis etc, which have to be offered fresh, are cooked.
Matajis from different parts of India and also from out of India prepare the special delicacies of their native places, including different types of juices and drinks. In this way, a vast variety of bhoga is prepared. . The matajis serving in this way learn from each other how to make different food stuffs and share their experiences.
Two or three hours before the offering, the bhoga is divided into four separate plates. One plate is for Gaura-Nitai, one for Krsna-Balarama, and one for Radhe Syamasundara, and one plate is prepared for Srila Prabhupada in his samadhi. In this way all the preparations are divided. Half an hour before offering, pujaris come and take the bhoga to the respective altars. The festival kitchen’s main service has thus come to completion, but now comes an even bigger job: cleaning the entire kitchen and all the utensils. Some devotees come to help and in this way, the kitchen is ready for next time.
In this way the festival kitchen is serving our Lords.
It is an honor to serve in the festival kitchen, because doing so makes us feel close to Rohini Maiya, Srimati Radharani and the gopis. After all, who can really cook for Krsna other than Srimati Radharani? As a result of such meditation, all the matajis feel very enlivened and spiritually surcharged to come and cook for the next festival. It is a really wonderful meditation to think how to cook better and newer preparations for the pleasure of Krsna. We pray for the inspiration to want to assist Srimati Radharani in her service to Krsna and thus prepare unparalleled bhoga offerings.
Just like the matajis already cooking in the Festival Kitchen, you can also come and join us, provided you have second initiation. Those who do not have second initiation can assist by cutting vegetables and fruit, by cleaning and in many other ways.
If it is not possible for you to come to Vrindavan at the time of a festival, you can bring bhoga like dry fruits, honey, nuts, carob and other ingredients whenever you come and that bhoga will be utilized on festival days. Or else you can buy utensils to be used to cook for the pleasure of the Lords. You can even donate toward the festival kitchen. We invite all the devotees to help and serve in a way they feel inspired and is convenient for them.
Purnima Devi Dasi
(Festival Kitchen incharge)