Annapurna is a combination of two words ‘Anna’ meaning food and ‘purna’ meaning ‘filled completely’. Annapurna is the goddess of food and kitchen. She is an avatar of Goddess Parvati who is the wife of Lord Shiva. She is the goddess of nourishment and never lets her devotees stay without food. She is also considered to be the goddess of Kashi in Uttar Pradesh. Kashi or Varanasi is called the city of light as the goddess does not only provide nourishment to the body, it provides nourishment to the soul in the form of enlightenment. She gives us the energy to attain knowledge.
Goddess Annapurna Story
Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati used to play the game of dice. Once they were playing and the game became very interesting. They started betting. Parvati kept her jewels and Shiva kept his trident. Shiva lost the game and he lost his trident. So in the next game he bet his snake to get back the trident. He lost in this game too. He played more and bet more and kept on losing. Eventually he lost everything including his begging bowl.
Shiva felt very humiliated and went to Deodar forest to meet Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu approached Shiva who told him everything about what had happened. Lord Vishnu then told Shiva to play the game again. He told him that he will win back everything he had lost in the next game. Shiva took Lord Vishnu’s advice and went back to play the game again.
Goddess Parvati became suspicious of Shiva’s sudden turn of fortunes that led him to win back everything. She called him a cheat. This led to an argument between the two of them. Finally, Lord Vishnu appeared as he could not take the fight anymore. He told them that the dice in the game had moved according to his wish and they were only under an illusion that they had been playing.
Goddess Annapurna Story, the Hindu God of FoodTo this Shiva added that everything materialistic was just an illusion or Maya. Everything that we possessed was an illusion. Even the food we ate was Maya. This made Goddess Parvati angry. She did not agree that food was an illusion. She said that calling food an illusion was equivalent to calling her an illusion. So in order to show Lord Shiva and the world her importance she disappeared saying that she wanted to see how the world would survive without food.
Her disappearance meant that Nature came to a standstill. There were no changes in seasons. Everything became barren. The lands became infertile. Nothing grew anymore. This led to severe drought and a huge shortage of food.
The Gods, humans and demons all kept praying for food. Goddess Parvati heard the prayers and she could not see her children perishing out of hunger. So she appeared in Kashi (Varanasi) and started distributing food.
Shiva realized his mistake and the fact that he was incomplete without Shakti. So he appeared before Goddess Parvati in Kashi with a begging bowl in his hands. He said her that he had realized his mistake that food could not be dismissed as an illusion and it was required to nourish the body as well as the inner soul. Since then Goddess Parvati is worshipped as the Goddess of food – Annapurna Devi. It is believed that if the food is cooked with a spirit of holiness it becomes sacred as Annapurna blesses it.
Goddess Annapurna Iconography
Goddess Annapurna Temples, the Hindu God of Food
Goddess Annapurna is depicted with a golden ladle in one hand and a jeweled bowl full of rice in another. The bowl full of grain depicts the bountiful of food she offers all of her children. She is shown as sitting on a throne. Often she is shown with her husband Lord Shiva sitting beside her with a skull in his hand which depicts his begging bowl.
Goddess Annapurna Names
Goddess Annapurna is known by a thousand names that are mentioned in the Annapurna Sahashranam. While worshipping her, her devotees call her by the 108 names mentioned in the Annapurna Sahashranam Stotram which is a hymn dedicated to her. The names depict her as a goddess that is complete and perfect with food, strength of Shiva and a giver of nourishment and strength. She is shown as a deity who is beyond Maya (illusion) and is the supreme goddess of the universe. She is the one who takes away all fear and provides welfare and protection.
In order to attain nourishment as well as knowledge, the devotees should recite her names with full devotion and faith. Also before meals, we should recite a prayer to Goddess Annapurna and thank her for providing nourishment and not letting us sleep with an empty stomach.
Goddess Annapurna Temples
The most famous temple of Annapurna devi is located in the city of Varanasi. It is situated in Visheshwarganj, 15 meters North-West of the famous Kashi Vishwanath Mandir, 350 meters West of Manikarnika Ghat, 5 kilometres South-East of Varanasi Junction railway station and 4.5 kilometres North-East of Banaras Hindu University. This temple was the place she appeared and offered food to the hungry people. It was constructed in the 18th century by Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao. Annapurna Devi Mandir is constructed in Nagara architecture and has sanctum with large pillared porch which houses the picture of the image of Goddess Annapurna Devi. The temple houses two idols of Goddess Annapurna Devi- one made of gold and other of brass. The brass idol is Bola Deposit Pulsa for the daily darshana whereas the darshana of the golden idol can only be done once a year i.e. the day before Diwali.