What is Naivedya?
Naivedya is included in the Shodashopachara worship.
The holy ritual involves two steps. The first step involves offering food to God before anyone else has eaten or tasted it. In the second step, a portion of the offering is returned to the person offering it for eating and is called Naivedya.
How should Naivedya be?
Naivedya should be of five types and pure. In Tantrasara it is mentioned as,
Nivedaniyamyaddravyam prashastam prayatam tathatad bhakshyarham panchvidham naivedyamitikathyate bhakshyam bhajyam cha lehyam cha peyamchushyam
Cha panchamam sarvatra chaitam naivedyamaradhyasyainivedayet
Naivedya should be pure and of five types, those are for swallowing, biting, tasting, drinking and licking. Naivedya should be pure and freshly cooked. It should not be half cooked or burnt.
How should Naivedya be offered?
It should be covered while bringing it in front of deities. Naivedya should be offered in the utensil of gold, silver, copper, stone, lotus leaf or of sacrificial wood. It should be kept on the right side of the deity. The one which is kept on the left side is not suggested for eating for Gods.
It should be placed on the circle drawn with water on the floor. Then by taking tulsi leaf or flower in hand one should act like feeding it to God. During this ritual one should recite following verse
Pranayaswaha apanayaswaha vyanayaswaha
Udanayaswaha samanayaswaha brahmaneswaha
Who should eat Naivedya?
Naivedya which is offered to Vishnu should be eaten by the host himself. It can be eaten by people from all four Ashramas. Naivedya offered to other deities should be given to devotee of those deities or to a Brahmin. The same is mentioned in following verse,
Pavitram vishnunaivedyam sursiddharshibhih smrutam
Anyadevasya naivedyam bhuktva chandrayam charet
Naivedya offered to Shiva should not be eaten by devotee himself. The story says,
Once, the Naivedya of Lord Shiva was offered to Vishnu alone and no one else. Hence Parvati became angry and cursed Shiva as hereafter the one who will eat Naivedya offered to Shiva will become a dog in his next birth. Hence it is prohibited from having Naivedya offered to Shiva.
Sharing of Naivedya
A person who eats Naivedya alone – without sharing it with others present in front of him –is committing a sinful act. If a person refuses to partake of the Naivedya, he is sure to get into difficulties.
There was a Brahmin who did not accept Naivedya as it was cooked by others. As a result he suffered diseases, and his family became dumb. He was freed from these calamities again when he partook of the Naivedya.