In Hindu dharma, the goddess Annapurna is regarded as the goddess of food. In Sanskrit, ‘Anna’ means ‘food’ and ‘Purna’ means ‘abundance or filled.’ Goddess Annapurna promises all those who come to her something that only the mother can give: to nourish them and to give without thinking about yourself, to be unselfish!
She is the incarnation of the goddess Parvati and one of the many forms of Mother Shakti. In this incarnation, she nourishes all living beings; therefore, the Hindus consider “Anna” (food) to be holy, which is why they offer prayers before eating it.
The appearance of the Goddess
Goddess Annapurna is easy to recognize because she always holds a pot or a jeweled bowl of food in one hand and a spoon in the other to distribute food to her devotees. The cup full of grain shows the abundance of food she offers to all her children.
This is a very kind and generous form of the Mother Goddess; she is always ready to feed the believers, to bestow what they want. Those who worship her will never go hungry. Annapurna patronizes farmers and people involved in the creation of food.
The goddess has a full moon-like face, three eyes, and two (sometimes four) arms. She is depicted in beautiful clothes and gold jewelry and sits on a throne. In some images, the god Shiva is depicted standing next to her with a begging bowl in his hands and asking Annapurna for food that gives him energy (Shakti) to achieve knowledge and enlightenment.
Manifestation of Mother Annapurna
There are two legends regarding the manifestation of the goddess Annapurna.
One day Lord Shiva told his wife, the goddess Parvati, that the world is an illusion and that food is part of this illusion, called Maya. Parvati, who was nature itself (Prakriti), got angry. She disappeared from the world with all the food to prove that living things cannot survive without it.
The disappearance of Parvati caused havoc and confusion. The seasons stopped changing; the land became barren, and a terrible drought came. It was impossible to find food in any of the three worlds (Heaven/ Swarga Loka, Earth/ Bhu Loka, and Underworld/ Patal Loka). Everyone experienced hunger. Then they prayed to the Divine Mother, and she again manifested in Varanasi (Kashi) and established a kitchen for the world’s benefit, where she fed all those who turned.
Shiva himself came to his Divine wife and handed her his bowl. Lord Shiva soon realized he was incomplete without his Shakti and recognized that achieving moksha (liberation) was impossible without food for the body, where the Atma or Soul resides. Devi Parvati smiled and fed Lord Shiva with her palms.
According to the second legend, one day, the three deities (Trimurti Dev: Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahadev or Shiva) had a heated argument over who among them was the greatest. After hearing their arguments, Mahadevi decided to show them her importance in the world and disappeared, thus causing a severe famine.
As a result, Yagyas (ritual of sacrifice to gods) could not be performed, and the Devas or gods, beginning to weaken, turned to the Trimurti for help. Lord Vishnu then requested Lord Shiva to ask goddess Shakti to return. He told Shiva about a woman in Kashi who started donating food to people.
Lord Shiva immediately realized that this woman was none other than Jagadamba (Mother of the Universe) and went to Kashi as a beggar to ask for food from Devi for the Devas. Goddess Parvati was glad that the need for her and her nature became recognized by everyone; she offered Shiva food as alms and told Mahadev that she would reside in Kashi in the form of Annapurna.
Goddess Annapurna in Nepal
Hindus in Nepal consider Mother Annapurna as a symbol of Mahakali, Mahalaxmi, and Mahasaraswati (Tridevi). She is also revered and worshipped as Ashtalakshmi Swaroop, Dhanya Lakshmi, Dhana Lakshmi, Dhairya Lakshmi, Vidya Lakshmi, Jai Lakshmi, Virya Lakshmi, Gaja Lakshmi, and Saubhagya Lakshmi. Buddhist Newars, on the other hand, appraise Annapurna as Basundhara, Yogamvar, Gyaneshwari, Mahalakshmi, Azima Pith, and Mahamayuri.
The famous Annapurna temple is located in Asan of Kathmandu, a pagoda-style three-storied brass temple. Here the goddess is portrayed with eight arms: every four right arms hold a sword, bajra, varad mudra, and a bowl, while every four left arms hold a Bindu mudra, a rosary, a bell, and an urn.
Festival in Nepal
Every year from Ashwin Shukla Navami to Dwadashi, the Kathmandu residents, especially the Newar community, celebrate the Annapurna Jatra (festival).
The dangerous yet magnificent eight thousand mountain range Annapurna is named after the goddess.
Annapurna Goddess in India
According to Kashi Khand of Skanda Purana, God Vishweshwar is a householder, and goddess Parvati runs his household. Therefore, the burden of the welfare of the people of Kashi lies on them. According to Kashi-Rahasya of ‘Brahma Vaivarta Purana,’ goddess Parvati is Annapurna.
The main temple of Annapurna goddess in India is located a few meters from the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple, where the Jyotirlingam of Shiva is located. Annapurna is recognized as the ruler of Kashi, while her husband, God Shiva, is the lord. Every day at noon, food is distributed in the temple on behalf of Mother Annapurna. And during the celebration of the Navratri festival, the amount of food distributed increases tenfold.
Festival in India
After the Diwali festival, Varanasi also hosts Annakut, a celebration dedicated to Annapurna. On this day, all believers who come to worship the goddess are given special coins blessed by goddess Annapurna. These coins are believed to bring prosperity and wealth to the devotees.
In addition, every year, Indians celebrate Annapurna Jayanti. This holiday falls in December, Purnima Tithi (full moon) of Mangsir. Women who want to please the goddess and receive her divine blessing keep a strict fast, which continues throughout the day until nightfall.
The devotees in Kashi believe that Kashi is the home of Goddess Annapurna, so no one ever sleeps hungry in this city. Worshipping the Annapurna goddess destroys all sins. She protects her devotee from all calamities.
Mother Annapurna also provides her devotee all worldly pleasures and in the end, with salvation. She takes care of everyone without discrimination, and whoever worships Goddess Annapurna with complete devotion, she resides in their home in her subtle form.(Last Updated On: July 19, 2022)