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 food grains shows the divinity 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 Annapurna Devi. In both manifestations, the birth date of Annapurna Devi is at Akshaya Tritiya.
First Story: When Pravati Devi disappeared
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 prayed to the Divine Mother, and she again manifested in Varanasi (Kashi) and established a kitchen on earth 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.
Second story: Argument between Trimurti and Mahadevi
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 severe famine and scarcity of food.
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.
The place where Shiva went was the only kitchen on Earth that was located on Kashi. Kashi is a place regarded as the region where the causal body manifests the highest level of peace.
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 temple of Devi Annapurna is 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. Besides, there are numerous family temples where Annapoorna Mata is worshipped by local Pundits.
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 Annapoorneshwari Temple 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 the 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.
Sri Annapurna Ashtakam
Sri Annapurna Ashtakam is the prayer for nourishment and forsaking.
नित्यानन्दकरी वराभयकरी सौन्दर्यरत्नाकरी
निर्धूताखिलघोरपावनकरी प्रत्यक्षमाहेश्वरी ।
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥ १॥
Oh! Mother Annapurna! renderer of the support of compassion, the bestower of eternal happiness, the donor of gifts and protection, the ocean of beauty, the destroyer of all sins and purifier, the great goddess, the purifier of the family of Himavan, and the great deity of Kasi, (thou) grant us alms.
मुक्ताहारविलम्बमान विलसत् वक्षोजकुम्भान्तरी ।
काश्मीरागरुवासिता रुचिकरी काशीपुराधीश्वरी
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥ २॥
Oh! Mother Annapurna! the renderer of the support of compassion, one who is adorned with ornaments made up of different kinds of gems, wearer of golden-laced dress, the space, in between whose breasts shines with the pendant garland of pearls, the beautiful-bodied, rendered and the presiding deity of Kasi, (thou) grant us alms.
योगानन्दकरी रिपुक्षयकरी धर्मार्थनिष्ठाकरी
चन्द्रार्कानलभासमानलहरी त्रैलोक्यरक्षाकरी ।
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥ ३॥
Oh! Mother Annapurna! the renderer of the support of compassion, the giver of happiness obtainable through yoga, the destroyer of the enemies, the cause of (men) getting deep-rooted in righteousness, the possessor of the waves of splendor of the three worlds, the donors of all riches, the bestower of the fruits of penance, and the presiding deity of Kasi, (thou) grant us alms.
कैलासाचलकन्दरालयकरी गौरी उमा शङ्करी
कौमारी निगमार्थगोचरकरी ओङ्कारबीजाक्षरी ।
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥ ४॥
Oh! Mother Annapurna! the renderer of the support of compassion, the resident of the caves of the Kailasa mountains, golden-complexioned, Oh! Uma! the consort of Sankara, endowed always with maidenhood, the cause of our comprehension of the purport of the Vedas, whose basic syllable is the syllable `Om’, the opener of the doors of emancipation and the presiding deity of Kasi, (thou) grant us alms.
दृश्यादृश्य विभूतिवाहनकरी ब्रह्माण्डभाण्डोदरी
लीलानाटकसूत्रभेदनकरी विज्ञानदीपाङ्कुरी ।
श्रीविश्वेशमनः प्रसादनकरी काशीपुराधीश्वरी
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥ ५॥
Oh! Mother Annapurna! the renderer of the support of compassion, the conveyor of the visible and invisible prosperity, the container of the primordial egg, the directress of the sportive drama (of the world), the flame of the lamp of true knowledge, the source of the mental happiness of Sri Visvanatha, and the presiding deity of Kasi, (thou) grant us alms.
काश्मीरा त्रिजलेश्वरी त्रिलहरी नित्याङ्कुरा शर्वरी ।
कामाकाङ्क्षकरी जनोदयकरी काशीपुराधीश्वरी
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥ ७॥
Oh! Mother Annapurna! the renderer of the support of compassion, the maker of the letters, the cause of the three acts of Sambhu, namely, the creation, protection, and destruction, the wearer of saffron, the consort of the destroyer of the three cities, the consort of the three-eyed lord, the governess of the universe, the form of the goddess of night, the opener of the gates of heavens, and the presiding deity of Kasi, (thou) grant us alms.
उर्वी सर्वजनेश्वरी भगवती माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी
वेणीनीलसमानकुन्तलधरी नित्यान्नदानेश्वरी ।
सर्वानन्दकरी सदाशुभकरी काशीपुराधीश्वरी
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥ ६॥
Oh! Mother Annapurna! the renderer of the support of compassion, the form of the earth, the governess of all men, the cause of victory, the mother, the ocean of compassion, the possessor of a beautiful and dark braid of Hari resembling the flower of the indigo plant, the giver of food daily, the direct bestower of emancipation and eternal welfare, and the presiding deity of Kasi, (thou) grant us alms.
देवी सर्वविचित्ररत्नरचिता दाक्षायणी सुन्दरी
वामे स्वादुपयोधरा प्रियकरी सौभाग्य माहेश्वरी ।
भक्ताभीष्टकरी सदाशुभकरी काशीपुराधीश्वरी
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥ ८॥
Oh! Mother Annapurna! the renderer of the support of compassion, Oh! Goddess! adorned with different kinds of gems, the daughter of Daksha, the most beautiful, bearer of benign breasts, doer of good to all, endowed with good fortune, fulfiller of the desires of the devotees, doer of auspicious acts, and the presiding deity of Kasi, (thou) grant us alms.
चन्द्रार्काग्निसमानकुण्डलधरी चन्द्रार्कवर्णेश्वरी ।
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥ ९॥
Oh! Mother Annapurna! the renderer of the support of compassion, one who resembles crores and crores of suns, moons, and fires, endowed with lips resembling the red pearl and the Bimba fruit, bearer of ear-ornament resembling the moon, sun, and fire (in radiance), having a complexion of the goad, and the presiding deity of Kasi, (thou) grant us alms.
क्षत्रत्राणकरी महाऽभयकरी माता कृपासागरी
साक्षान्मोक्षकरी सदा शिवकरी विश्वेश्वरी श्रीधरी ।
दक्षाक्रन्दकरी निरामयकरी काशीपुराधीश्वरी
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी माताऽन्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥ १०॥
Oh! Mother Annapurna! the renderer of the support of compassion, the protector of the dominion remover of great fear, the mother, the ocean of compassion, the cause of the happiness of all, the eternal doer of good, the consort of Visvesvara, the form of Lakshmi, the destroyer of the sacrifice of Daksha, one who makes us free from diseases, and the presiding deity of Kasi, (thou) grant us alms.
भिक्षां देहि च पार्वति ॥ ११॥
Oh! Parvati! Annapurna! always full, the dear consort of Sankara, grant us alms for the sake of securing knowledge and detachment.
माता च पार्वती देवी
पिता देवो महेश्वरः ।
स्वदेशो भुवनत्रयम् ॥ १२॥
Goddess Parvati is my Mother, Lord Mahesvara is my Father, the devotees of Lord Siva are my relatives; and the three worlds are my own country.
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, salvation. She takes care of everyone without discrimination, and whoever worships Goddess Annapurna with complete devotion, resides in their home in her subtle form.