Prasada – sometimes translated as “favour” or “grace” is the deities’ power and grace made material. During puja, a variety of different substances – such as ash, flowers, water, food etc., are transferred to the deity – food for example, is symbolically consumed by the deity in image form. These substances then become prasada – imbued with divine power and grace – which can then be absorbed when swallowed or placed on the devotee’s body. Food left by a Guru is often considered to be prasada as the guru is a living god. Some Indians believe that all food, if silently offered to God with the proper prayers before eating, becomes prasada.
Prasada is also sometimes used in the context of a mental condition – said to be a characteristic of Gods & sages, and denoting an attitude of spontaenous generosity and the granting of boons.
Prasada is also a general term for a temple, particularly in Northern India – possibly due to the fact that the assignment of land from a king in Medieval India was considered a grant or favour. Favour and patronage were considerably important during this period, and R.S. Sharma notes, in Early Medieval Indian Society (2003) that “The social, economic and political rise of a person was related to the favour showered on him. Everything depended on the favour of the lord and nothing on the action of the individual.”