Dasoha, a tradition of offering food to devotees, is practised by various maths and temples. Though it takes place daily, it sees a new peak during Jatra mahotsavas (car festivals). One such practice is the maha dasoha conducted by Sri Gavimath in Koppal, which has become famous for its sheer scale. It has not only redefined the meaning of dasoha but also expanded its possibilities. The event takes place as part of the Gavisiddeshwara Jathra and this year, the Jatra will happen for three days from tomorrow.
The Maha Dasoha begins on the full moon day in January and concludes on the no moon day, lasting 15 days. On the first day, the firewood is lit according to rituals, indicating that the cooking has begun. It burns continuously till the last day. Food is cooked and served continuously without a pause for a fortnight. Interestingly, devotees throng the venue even at odd hours. A pandal is erected on a four-acre plot, where around 4,000 people can eat at a time. Around 500 people get involved in cooking, and around 20 lakh devotees eat here over 15 days.
Every day, loads of grains, vegetables and various condiments arrive in trucks. Also, devout farmers bring their produce on bullock carts and in tractors. About 20 lakh kg of jowar roti, 700 quintals of rice, 1,000 quintals of sweets, and 10,000 kg of pickle is prepared during the season. Nearly 600 tonnes of firewood is used.
Perhaps, no temple or restaurant in the country offers as many items as this annual fair. The menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner changes everyday. The dishes include dry and wet chutneys, palyas, salads, sambars, bisibele bath and vegetable pulav. Sweet delicacies such as kesari bath, payasa and maadli (a type of dry sweet dish prepared in North Karnataka using wheat) are also prepared. Besides mango, lemon, chilli, garlic, tomato and mixed vegetable pickles, the maha dasoha kitchen also specialises in hunase thokku (a chutney made from tamarind). Uppittu, avalakki, idli, vada and mandakki are some of the items served for breakfast.
Ramanagauda Balagauda, a school teacher who volunteers at the maha dasoha, says, "Last year, we made around three lakh mirchi bajjis in a day." There is no committee to monitor the operations. "People take up responsibilities once they reach the venue. Devotion and reverence for Gavimath unites everybody," says Sanjay Kotabal, a member of Gavisiddeshwara Vidyavardhaka Sangha.
Dr D Veerendra Heggade, Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala Temple, said
in 2010, "Of late, we find everything at the jatras except spirituality and purity. However, this event is an exception."
Former Lokayukta Justice Shivaraj Patil considers maha dasoha as an event worthy of an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. In his valedictory speech in 2016, he said, "As a student, I grew up eating at a dasoha. I've seen the dasoha in different forms at institutions across the country. The maha dasoha here is totally unique."