I felt the divine in every breath, and in those few seconds, I was transported to a state of absolute bliss. A few seconds later, I was back amid all the worshippers. We then saw the sacred theertham and tulsi leaves being offered.
Despite the hordes of people who had gathered, the entire experience was seamless and pleasant, thanks to the able, sincere and hard-working police of Tirupati.
The day before the darshan, I had met with the SP A Mohanthy, and his young team who maintain law and order along with giving full support to the common man. Neither security nor the devotees’ comforts is compromised. The athletic Mr Thimmaya was kind enough to escort us, showing us all the facilities, infrastructure, arrangements, and the most interesting of them all, huge modern kitchens where food is cooked on a large scale for annadanam everyday. About 40,000 people eat here everyday. The food consists a mixed kooru sambar, chaaru (rasam), kooralu (a vegetable curry) and annam , papads pickles and sometimes neru mojjige (buttermilk). Three huge and clean dining halls are available and very well-trained staff manage the whole process.
We next met Dr AV Ramana Dikshitulu, Pradhana Archaka and Agama Advisor, TT Devasthanams. A head priest is the right person to guide you on what really takes place. The biggest myth, he said, was that the favourite pras adam of the lord, was the world famous laddu. But, in reality, it was the jaggery appam. This is cooked every early morning, as part of the neivediyam. The various kings who ruled the place, at different periods in history, all inscribed their own perceptions and stories of the lord on stone walls, which still exist. Inscribing was a way of worshipping, and prasadams were offered too.
The laddu established here, almost 300 years back, as prasa dam, became very popula. More than appam, laddu was easier to make in bulk and its shelf life was a week. The laddu is also called tiruppongam. Three types of laddus offered were asthanam laddu, kalyanosthavam laddu and proktham laddu. The first kind is offered to the lord, while the second for the devotees offering kalayana utsavam, and the third for the regular devotee. Today, I share with you the special recipe of the lord’s favourite prasadam, jaggery appam. I will share the recipes for puliodherai and urad dal pepper vada next week.
— The writer is a chef and author of Festive Offerings to the Gods
Prep Time : 5 mins | Cook Time : 15 mins | Yields: 14 sweet appams | Calories: 280 per appam
Rice flour: 1/2 cup
Semolina/rava: 1/4 cup
Dark brown jaggery: 3/4 cup
Grated fresh coconut: ¼ cup
Powdered cashewnuts: 1/4 cup
Baking soda: 1/2 tablespoon (not used in the temple recipe)
Coconut bits: 1/3 cup
Cardamom powder: 2 pods
Saffron: 1/4 tablespoon, dissolved in half tablespoon of milk
Ghee made fresh from butter: 2 and 1/2 cups
Heat 1/4 cup of water and add jaggery to it. Keep stirring on medium heat for the jaggery to dissolve. Switch off the heat, filter it and set aside to cool.
Heat a teaspoon of ghee and fry the coconut bits/grated coconuts until they change colour to light brown. Keep it aside.
In the same pan, add another 1/2 teaspoon of ghee and fry the semolina on low heat until it changes colour slightly.
In a bowl, mix together, semolina (ravai), rice flour, soaked saffron, cashewnut powder, coconut bits, fried coconut, cardamom powder, baking soda (optional) and filtered jaggery water.
Mix well and let it sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add needed warm water to get a dosa batter consistency.
Take a deep appam kadai. Pour 1 and 1/2 cups of ghee. When hot, take a rounded big serving spoon of batter and pour it in the shape of a nice circle as big as your palm.
When fried on both sides, remove and place on paper towels, to soak extra ghee. Make sure once ghee is very hot, the frying is done on low fire.
Poke the centre with a thin stainless steel spoon. If it has cooked well, it will not stick. Else, it needs some more time in the oil.
Remove and serve hot or cold. It is very tasty either way.