Maa Annapurna (Incarnation of Parvati): The god of Food
Maa Annapurna whose name, means one who gives away rice, is the Goddess of Food. She is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, who is the wife of Lord Shiva. In Hinduism, food is praised as a God. Feeding someone is considered a great act.
Maa Annapurna is called by many names such as Sadapurna, Shankare, Vishalakshi, Shivay, Bhuvaneshwari, Vishwashakti, etc.
Mata Annapurna is a lord of nourishment. She does not carry weapons, unlike the other lords. On her left hand, there is a vessel full of tasty porridge, and on the right hand, you can see a golden ladle, which is adorned with various kinds of gems. The remaining two hands are in Vrata and Abhaya pose. Annapurna wears wristlet and golden jewellery all her body. She has a crest of the moon on her head and is seated on a throne.
Maa Annapurna is a beautiful woman, who is youthful and young. She is red complexioned and has a full moon shaped face along with three eyes, four hands and high breasts.
Annapurna is believed to be born on the auspicious day of Akshaya Trithiya. This is why people buy gold on the day believing it will flourish and double in the future.
Mount Annapurna in the Himalayas is named after the Goddess as she is the daughter of Himavanth king, the ruler of Himalayas.
Shiva once tells his wife Parvati that the entire world is an illusion called Maya, and the food is also a part of this illusion. Hearing this, Parvati becomes furious as she is worshipped as a goddess of all material things such as food. To prove him wrong, Parvathi vanishes from the world. The entire universe comes to a standstill and earth becomes barren. People struggle to find food, so do animals. Parvati cannot see people suffering and hence reappears in the city of Kashi to set up a kitchen. Shiva runs to her and begs for alms with his bowl. He says that he has realized his mistake and material world cannot be dismissed as an illusion. Parvati then feeds him with her own hands.
Even though Annapurna is a very popular goddess in the country, there are very few temples dedicated to her. Annapurna Devi Mandir in the Kashi Vishwanatha Temple is dedicated to her. Horanadu in Karnataka is one famous temple where Annapurna is worshipped, and food is given freely to all the devotees.
Maa Annapurna is glorified in many sacred religious literatures dating back even to the Vedic period. Some of the texts include Rudrayamala, Sivarahasya, Maha Tripurasiddhanta, Annapurna Kavacha, Annapurnamantratsava, Annapurnahavamti, Bhairvahyantantra, and Annapurnamalininaksatramalika.
Food is considered sacred in our country. Annapurna is prayed because she represents food. She is worshipped by reciting her thousand names and the one hundred and eight names that she has. The Sri Annapurna Ashtakam was written by Shankaracharya, the great Indian philosopher. It is chanted by Hindus around the world even today as a prayer for nourishment. They, usually, chant this before taking food.