Abhishekam is the ancient sacred Hindu custom of bathing a deity in water, milk, honey, ghee, fruit juice and other liquids. This resulting mixture is intended to be served asprasadam to the devotees who offer their prayers. The pouring of these liquids symbolizes the pouring of a devotee’s purest love for God.  Performing this ceremony, with a pure mind, faith and conviction, results in washing away of sins, and purification of the devotee’s own heart and mind.  Generation after generation, millions of Hindus continue to perform abhishekam to this very day.

Many may question the utility of this ritual.  Why is necessary?  Aren’t we just wasting food? Sudha Aditya in The Inner Journey compares this act to a mother caring for her child:

Take a mother and her child, for example. The mother loves her child dearly and she spares no effort to please it. She cooks the child’s favourite dishes, dresses it in fine clothes and does everything in her power to make the child happy and feel loved and cared for.  The mother never thinks that her is wasting her money, time or effort.

Similarly, the abhishekam is an offering to God and should not be viewed as a waste of materials, effort or time.  In fact, Sudha Aditya goes on to say:

…what we are offering Him by way of abhishekam is actually an infinitesimal part of what He gives us. We are merely giving Him what already belongs to Him.

While this makes sense in philosophical terms, the world has changed over the millennia and abhishekam prasadam does cause suffering for a number of different reasons.

These days, in most temples, abhishekam prasadam is not consumed by devotees.  Instead, in many cases, it is directly sent to the same drainage systems where it is mixed with our toilet waste including fecal matter and urine. Particularly in India, where there is widespread hunger, and poverty, I find this an utter waste.  The offering of abhishekam is not wasteful, but discarding the prasadam is.

Is this how we should honor God? By mixing his pure and holy gift to us, with the most impure and vile substances?

In the present age, kali yuga, we are faced with limited resources, and widespread poverty and hunger.  Yet to this day, while 2,500 children die every single day from malnutrition in India alone, we continue to perform abhishekam literally throwing away millions of gallons of precious milk down the drain. In fact, many temples have installed special sewage pipes that directly funnel abhishekam to drainage systems. Are we washing away our sins, or are we instead sinning by wasting so much ourselves?

Furthermore, the milk for abhishekam comes from cows, the most sacred of creatures for Hindus.  In many temples, the milk is first reserved for abhishekam – some temples use as much as 50 liters of milk everyday for this.  What little, if any, milk is remaining is fed to malnourished calves.  With one hand perform puja of the sacred cow as our mothers, yet with the other hand we starve the young innocent calves – is this how we should treat our divine mothers?

Abishekam names and it's effect
PANCHAGAVYAM Removes all sins of mankind
GHEE Gives Moksha state
MILK  Gives long life
CURD  Gives Good Children
HONEY  Melodious voice
RICE POWDER Frees from debts
SUGAR CANE JUICE Gives good health and removes enmity
LIME JUICE Removes fear of death
TENDER COCONUT JUICE Gives enjoyment and full satisfaction in life
COOCKED RICE (ANNAM) Gives Majestic life
SANDAL PASTE Gives Lakshmi's Grace
SUGAR  Removes enmity