The Legend of Annapurna: The Food Goddess of India
Trimurti, the combination of three deities Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Brahma, who creates, protect, and transform the universe. Lord Shiva is ‘The Destroyer’, also known as Devo ke Dev Mahadev! For Shaivisties, Lord Shiva is the god. And in order to maintain the rage of Mahadev, he is married to his equal complementary partner Goddess Parvati. She is the goddess of fertility, love, beauty, harmony, marriage, children, and devotion and in her form of Shakti, she also bears divine power and strength.
Goddess Parvati is the reincarnation of Sati, Shiva’s first wife. She and Shiva are the parents of other Hindu gods- Ganesha and Kartikeya. She is also the sister to Goddess Ganga. Parvati has many forms such as Ambika (mother), Shakti (power), Durga (invincible), Bharavi (ferocious), Shivaradni (queen of Shiva), and many more. Among all such avatars, Parvati is also worshiped as Annapurna, the food goddess.
The Legend of Annapurna
Shiva and Parvati together maintained the equilibrium of the universe. In the absence of any two, the world would become static- as their union maintains the well-being of the universe. The celestial union between the two is known as Adhanarishwar. It is depicted as half male and half female. This sacred connection is very important for the stability of earth that brings fertility and life to earth. This union is widely celebrated as Maha Shivratri.
While Parvati maintained her duty with love and care, Shiva started to belittle her value. He thought that Brahma has created all the materialistic things on earth solely for his own fancy hence Shiva thought the human need for food is a mere cosmic illusion ‘Maya’. Thus, in order to let Shiva understand this powerful connection, Parvati broke the equilibrium of the cosmic energy that binds the earth and went away. This banished all sorts of food and nourishment on earth. While Parvati was not there, the world began to see droughts, hunger, and all sorts of human terrors. Upon witnessing the sorrows of the world, Shiva soon realized the importance of Parvati. He also realized that the need of materialistic needs cannot be discarded.
Parvati then took the form of Annapurna, the goddess of food, and first visited the sacred city of Kashi. Water and food showered and earth bloomed miraculously. Her new avatar carried a golden bowl of rice in one hand and a ladle in the other hand. The people of Kashi came together to thank and worship Parvati in the Kitchen of Kashi, where she provided a feast to everyone. Not only mortals but Lord Shiva too took the disguise of the old beggar, came to the kitchen, and asked Parvati for food and forgiveness. The compassionate goddess forgives Shiva and the duo went back to their celestial abode. Goddess Parvati proves that materialistic needs are not just illusions but a cycle of life that must be fulfilled in order to sustain life.
The Annakut Festival
At the kitchen of Annapurna, now resides her temple with the golden idol of Annapurna Devi. Worshippers are exposed to the idol once a year, on the occasion of Annakut, the next day to Diwali. Goddess Annapurna is also referred to as the goddess of prosperity (Mahalakshmi), thus Mahalakshmi puja is held every year on the auspicious occasion of Diwali. Each year, during the Annakut Festival, the temple of Annapurna distributes coins that are to be worshiped for attaining blessings of the goddess to the seekers. Locals believe that the queen of Kashi, Annapurna Devi ensures that nobody in her city goes bed unfed. They also donate food to the temple to maintain the temple’s kitchen. The temple accommodates a big dining hall where food is served from 9 AM to 3 PM.
The goddess Annapurna symbolizes the glory of feminine eminence for the world. Goddess Parvati holds significant importance in the Indian nature cult and is worshipped individually in her own right. The legend of Annapurna reminds us that Parvati is nowhere but everywhere, an omnipresent mother watching over her children!