Annapurna means “Anna”, which means food, and “purna”, which means “completely filled”. Annapurna Devi is the goddess of food and kitchen. She is an avatar of the goddess Parvati consort of Lord Shiva. She is the goddess of food and never lets her devotees run out of food. She is also considered the goddess of Kashi in Uttar Pradesh. Kashi or Varanasi is the city of light, because the goddess not only nourishes the body, but also nourishes the soul in the form of enlightenment. It gives us the energy to attain knowledge.
Sri Annapoorna Devi History:
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.
To 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 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 Annapoorna 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 List:
The most famous temple of Annapoorna 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 available for the daily darshana whereas the darshana of the golden idol can only be done once a year i.e. the day before Diwali.
Everyone who visits the Annapurna temple is provided with a three course vegetarian meal (excluding a dessert made from Dhal or Lentils) irrespective of their religion, language, caste, or creed. Male visitors to the temple have to remove their shirts and preferably cover their shoulders with a towel or a shawl as a symbol of respect and humility in front of god. A person who visits the temple and worships the goddess with complete faith and devotion, feels a sense of fulfilment and gets the blessings of the goddess, so he would never feel a scarcity of food ever in his life.
Other Important Annapurneshwari Temple:
Horanadu Annapoorneshwari Temple in Karnataka:
The Annapoorneshwari Temple is located at Horanadu 100 km from Chikmagalur in the thick forests and valleys of the Western Ghats of Karnataka. Also called “Sri Kshethra Horanadu”, it is situated on the banks of river Bhadra in a remote corner of Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka, surrounded by the natural vegetation, forest, green lands, and natural beauty of the Western Ghats. The Goddess Annapoorneshwari is shown as standing on a peeta with Shanku, Chakra, Sri Chakra and Devi Gayathri in her four hands. Every devotee who visits the temple is provided with free food and shelter. They are given breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as shelter in the temple premises.
Cherukunnu Annapurneshwari Temple:
Annapurneshwari Temple is a famous Parvati temple situated in Kannur, Kerala. The deity is worshipped as Annapurneshwari- the mother who makes all hunger disappear.
At this temple, Goddess Shri Annapurneswari is shown along with Shri Krishna. It is believed that Shri Annapurneswari has visited the shrine which was under the sea, centuries ago.
The temple was originally a shrine of Krishan. Later on, Avittam thirunal Raja Raja Verma of Chirakkal Kovilakam installed the shrine for Goddess Annapurneshwari. The local folklore says Annapurneshwari Devi came from Kashi with two other Devi’s- Sree Chamundeswari Amma (Kalarivathukkal Bhagavathy) and Tiruvarkadu Bhagavathy and a boatman in a golden ship. She got down at Azhi Theeram which is now known as Aazhiteeramthangi. She asked the boat man to stay back, so that he could take her back to Kashi when she wanted, due to which the boat man stayed back and built a mosque which is now famous as the Olliangera Juma Masjid.
Goddess Annapurna Mantra:
Sri Annapurna Ashtakam which has been composed by Shankaracharya is chanted by several Hindus around the world as a prayer for nourishment, wisdom, and renunciation. Before partaking of any food, Hindus chant the following prayer:
‘Oh Annapurna, who is always full, complete, and perfect. Beloved energy of Lord Shiva, for the attainment of perfection in wisdom and renunciation, give me alms, Parvati.
My mother is Goddess Parvati, my father is the Supreme Lord Maheswara (Shiva). My relatives are the devotees of Lord Shiva, and the three worlds are my Motherland.’
Annapurneshwari Mata Mantras:
‘Om Annapurnayai Namaha’
‘Om Sadapurnayai Namaha’
‘Om Hrim Namo Bhagavati Maheswari Annapurne Swaha’
‘Om Hreem Shreem Kleem Namo Bhagwatye Maheshwari Annapurne Swaha’
Annapurna Gayatri Mantra:
‘Om Bhagwatye Vidmahe
Tanna Annapurna Prachodayat’.