An offering of Bhoja
There is a general understanding that the food offered to a Deity during puja orarchana is called prasada. This is incorrect. Prasada is what comes back to the worshipper after offering something to the Deity. In fact, prasada is not necessarily food at all. The word prasada means “mercy” or “blessings.” The counterpart of prasada is bhoga, and again most people commonly misunderstand this word thinking that bhoga is food. In fact, the word bhoga means enjoyment, and so anything enjoyable is a bhoga. In the Kama Shastra, Hindu books on sensual enjoyment, love and sex are called bhoga, enjoyment. In ordinary language, food is called bhoga because it is enjoyable! During puja the devotee offers bhoga, enjoyable things, to the Deity and receives prasada, mercy, back.Bhoga, therefore, is anything pleasing including, fresh fruits and flowers, fragrant incense, lamps of ghee and camphor, beautiful cloth, devotional prayers and tasty food, and the prasada is what is returned back to the devotee as mercy or blessings. The scent of the offered incense or flowers is a prasada. The light of the lamps that is “touched” by the hands and then “bathed” over the eyes and head is a prasada. The sound of the devotional prayers are a prasada and, of course, the offered food coming back is a prasada. Indeed, the whole point of a puja, archana, yajna or havan is the creation of prasada, blessings to the devotees. Puja, therefore, is an exchange of love between the devotee and the Deity. The devotee offers various bhogas to the Deity, which, in effect, convey the love of the devotee to the Deity, and the Deity reciprocates by sending His or Her love back to the devotee in the form of blessings, prasada.