Thursday, 6 December 2012

The oldest and the best fruitmix -a story of the divine panchamrita

There is a popular saying that Old is Gold. Nowhere is this more appropriate than the Palani Temple in Tamil Nadu.
The temple is noted for the deity of  Murugan or Karthikeya. But it has become world famous for its culinary aspect-the magical Panchamrita.
The Panchamrita of Palani is among the oldest preparation of its kind in the world and it is still the best. This prasada leaves you with a lingering taste for more and it is as famous as the Tirupathi laddus.
One of the best prasada which I have tasted apart from laddus of Tirupathi is the panchamrita of Palani. The Panchamitra is the staple Prasad of almost all Hindu temples. It is given to devotees in all Rayaru mathas and all other temples. On Thursdays, which is so dear to our Rayaru, the mathas give Panchamrita.
The aradhane of Rayaru is also the time when Panchamrita is give. But the best Panchamrita that I have ever tasted is the one given at Palani.
The Murugan or Karthekeyatemple in Palani is one of the most visited temple in Tamil Nadu. The panchamrita given here is as famous as the Tirupathi laddu. It has its own unique taste and flavour which cannot be replicated anywhere else.
As the Tirupathi laddus, the Panchamrita of Palani is much sougt for by the devotees and it yields crores of rupees to the temple. In 2008-09 alone the temple earned Rs. 14. 48 crores from the sale of  Panchamrita and this accounted for almost 20 per cent of the temple’s revenue. The temple sold 2.8 million kilograms of panchamrita during 2008-09.
The Jawadu vibhuti and panchamrita of Palani go hand and hand and there are several stress leading to the hill temple of Palani that sell them. You can also get them in the temple counters.
The panchamrita can be used for several days and it is neatly packed in tins. I can personally vouch for its taste and it is better than any jam or fruit mixture available in the market. Unfortunately, the Panchamrita is available only in half kg laminated tins and pet jars. The tin, when I bought it, was priced at Rs. 25 and the jars at Rs. 30. The prices have gone up now but they are a lot cheaper and taste better then jams.
The temple produces more than 10,000 kgs of panchamrita and the preparation is completely mechanised. The shelf life of these jars and tins are six months.
This is generic product and what gives the Panchamrita its unique flavour is the Viruppachi plantains. These plantains are grown in and around Palani and they are mixed with Kandasari sugar from Kangeyam. Dates, honey, sugar candy, cardamom and ghee are added for the mouth watering Panchamrita.
The Viruppachchi plantains grow exclusively in the Palani Hills and they have obtained Geographical Indication (GI) status. What is more the temple authorities of Palani have entered into an agreement with growers for supply of these plantains. Viruppachchi is also the name of a small village on the foothills of the Palani hill.
This plantain is small sized (very much like the Yelakki variety which is widely available in Bangalore) and it has lesser water content than other species. It, therefore, lasts longer and is more suitable for making or preparing the Panchamrita.
The Panchamrita is believed to cure several ills and it has medicinal properties. The idol too has medicinal properties  and it is made of nine medicinal herbs.
There are four ways to climb the hill for a darshan of Murugan. The first is to take the steps. There are 689 of them. This is the longest of the four routes. The second is the elephant path. As the name itself suggests, this was used by elephants and there is a natural spring on the way which has medicinal properties. The third manner to reach the hill top is by winch and the fourth is the ropeway. The third and fourth option just takes minutes to take you to the top.    
Palani is in Dindigul district and it is 60 kms away from Dindigul. Coimbatore is the nearest airport and it is 105 kms away.
The origin of Panchamrita in India can be traced to our Shastras and other religious texts where it was called the nectar of immortality. The Devas and other Gods attained immortality by drinking Panchamrita.
The first regular mention of Panchamrita is in the Mahabharata. It is linked to the story of the churning of the ocean between the Devas and the Asuras.

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