Rama Krishna Sangem
We cannot imagine Lord Venkateswara Swamy atop Tirumala Hils without two things – One, the mellifluous Annamacharya Keerthanas and second, the world famous Ladds. There cannot be any change in the perfection of the first, but the second is prone to doubts – as Laddus are prepared by various ingredients in the hands of Potu staff over the years. Potu is the place where all Prasadms are prepared. But, all such doubts are unfounded.
Thanks to the controversy triggered by Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF), focus once again shifted to the world famous Laddu of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD). KMF had supplied ghee for TDDP for Laddu making for about 20 years, till 2021. But, after that it couldn’t supply ghee due to various reasons – its refusal to participate in open tender process or otherwise (because, there are two versions to it – from TTD and KMF).
I spoke to several people with the knowledge about TTD and Laddus particularly and they all felt that there won’t be any change in the taste of the sweet prasadam, that stood the test of time over centuries. The reason for this is TTD’s practice of using a laboratory of its own (for the last few years) and following standard preparation procedures, meticulously. Tirumala temple started offering Laddu as prasadam to devotees from August 2, 1715.
Before that only loose ‘boondi’ used to be given as prasadam. After that, the boondi is hand pressed into laddus. Sometime ago, machines were used to press laddus, but TTD again switched back to land making, as devotees prefer them that way. Due to stringent quality standards, TTD’s laddu’s shelf life is close to two weeks, while those of other temple laddus will be much less.
World Famous Laddu
TTD’s Laddu got GI (geological indications) tag in 2009 with copyright. So, no one can imitate its preparation process or its brand name. Everyday, TTD distributes around 2.80 lakh to 3 lakh laddus, mostly to the devotees who come to Tirumala for Darshan or through its counters across the country. Gram flour, cashew nuts, cardamom, ghee, sugar, sugar candy, and raisins are used as ingredients for laddu making. Some say, camphor too is used.
Though the ingredients are not a secret, at what proportions we mix and what temperatures we heat them is not open for all. Around 300 staff who work Potu too are prohibited from revealing the recipe of laddu to outsiders. Nor they are supposed to work for others. That’s understandable. In fact, in the initial days, some eateries in Tirupati had tried to imitate TTD laddus, but now they all back off, because of the God fearing.
Before first ghat road to Tirumala was laid from April 10, 1944, the number devotees to Tirumala hills was very limited as they trekked it by foot or by Dholys (men carrying). The number rose phenomenally after second ghat road was built between 1969-73. “Till recently, Cherupu anna prasadams were offered to devotees, but later, they were discontinued due to heavy rush of devotees,” said senior journalist from Tirumala Sahadev Kethari.
Cherupu prasadams include pulihora, daddojanam, chakkara pongali and a few others. Now they are not distributed to all. Even in laddus, there are two types – one Proktham Laddu, of 175 grams distributed to all devotees and sold at counters, second is Kalyanam Laddu of 750 grams, offered to those who perform ‘sevas”. “Whatever ghee TTD may use, the quality of taste of laddus will not change and this is proved over the years,” said Sahadev.