Charnamrit: The Nectar of the Gods

Also known as Panchamrit, this heavenly tasting prasad, offered at every Hindu puja, is a mixture of five ingredients.

It is the common practice in most Hindu temples and households to conclude prayers with the customary offering and drinking of charanamrit; received on the right palm supported by the left. Charnamrit as it is known in the northern parts of India, is also known as Panchamrut or Panchamrit and Panchamrutham in the other parts of the country. Derived from the Sanskrit word for five, the ‘panch’ refers to the five ingredients—curd, honey, water from the Ganges, holy basil or tulsi, milk and ghee—that forms the core of the prasad.

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Religious Significance
In the North, charnamrit is an offering to the gods that holds immense significance and finds its origins in several Hindu sacred texts. The Padma Purana pronounces that even if one does not partake any pious activities, if they drink charanamrit, they can then enter Vaikuntha, the celestial home of the Hindu god, Vishnu. The Ramayana, on the other hand, in the parable where the boatman washed Lord Rama’s feet and accepted the water as charanamrit, states the consuming the liquid can offer salvation for one, but also for one’s forefathers. This is the reason why a little charnamrit is spooned into the mouth of a dying person followed by the recital of mantras to prevent untimely death or to ensure moksha in the case of a timely death, Christopher Justice states in his book, Dying the Good Death: The Pilgrimage to Die in India's Holy City. He goes on to write that the power of the charnamrit is such that “some people recover when nothing before could help them.” Besides, the spiritual, religious and health benefits of the charnamrit can also be found in the Ranvir Bhaktiratanakara Brahma and Ranvir Bhaktisagar.

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What is Charnamrit?
Simply put, Charanamrit can be broken down into two words, ‘charan’ and ‘amrita’, where the former translates to feet—god’s feet in this case—and latter means nectar that’s responsible for making one immortal. Together, the words mean ‘nectar from the feet of god’.

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The water that’s used to bathe deities in temples or at the altars of people’s homes, glides down and passes through their feet. This water is then collected and sometimes mixed with other ingredients such as yoghurt and sugar, and then distributed amongst the faithful. It is believed that since the water has touched the body of an idol, it now holds spiritual significance. This charanamrit is typically stored in a copper vessel; since the metal is known to have a number of therapeutic properties, supported by Ayurveda and homoeopathy.

How is Charnamrit Made?
The purest and most traditional charanamrit is made with ghee or clarified butter, water, preferably water from the Ganges, curd, honey and tulsi leaves. Each of these ingredients have their own significance:Ghee stands for victory, water for purity, curd for prosperity and progeny, honey for sweetness in our nature and tulsi for immunity, explains Ruchi Shrivastava a food researcher and also the founder of Greed Goddess Media. This being said, there are also other variations of the charnamrit that may include the addition of milk, which stands for purity and piousness, sugar for happiness and phool makhana or lotus seeds.

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Scientific Significance
“Apart from the sacred importance and divine nature, charanamrit is also known to have certain health benefits,” adds Shrivastava. According to science, it is believed that drinking water stored in a copper vessel can significantly help improve one’s intellectual capacity and memory. The same benefits are transferred to charanamrit too. There are also health antiseptic and anti-inflammatory advantages of charanamrit that are derived from the use of tulsi or holy basil leaves. These leaves hold immense importance in Ayurveda, also the reason why it’s been used since ancient times. Ghee, a healthier alternative to butter, promotes digestion, reduces inflammation, aids weight loss and can also help in the strengthening of the bones. While curd acts a coolant and digestive agent, sugar gives a burst of energy to tackle the day. 

Featured image conceptualisation: Jaydev Waghela


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