The Origins and Myths of Goddess Annapurna

Annapurna, or Annapurneshwari, is the goddess of food and nourishment. Her name “Anna” means food, and “Purna” means complete or full. So, she is one who is filled with food. In some books, she is considered a goddess of spiritual perfection and the opener of the doors of moksha.

Annapurna is the manifestation of the goddess Parvati. She is known by other names such as Visalakshi (one who has large eyes), Bhuvanesvari (goddess of earth), Annada (donor of food), or Renu (goddess of the atom).

She is also considered as a source of knowledge, similar to the goddess Saraswati. Annapurna, a dangerous and magnificent mountain range in Nepal, is named after the goddess.

Annapurna Origins

The goddess is said to be one of the daughters of King Himavat (the king of the Himalayas). In this sense too, she is known as the manifestation of the goddess Parvati.

Annapurna origin
Suraj Belbase, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

According to another legend, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati once had a disagreement. They were arguing about the material world. Lord Shiva was saying that everything in the world was materialistic, including food. On the contrary, goddess Parvati was arguing that materialistic things have their importance too.

But Lord Shiva kept saying that everything is an illusion. Infuriated Parvati did a miracle, and the world was out of food. After this, Parvati disappeared. There was famine all around. Even the gods and goddesses were out of food.

Lord Shiva, too, was unable to provide food for his children. So, he went out begging for food and reached the city of Varanasi. There he reached a kitchen, from which the goddess Parvati emerged as Annapurna. She offered food to Lord Shiva. Finally, Lord Shiva and others realized their error that without Shakti, they are nothing. He called Varanasi the “Kitchen of the Earth.” Then to honor her, Lord Shiva built a temple in Varanasi, which is today known as Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Even today, food is provided free of cost to the poor, the elderly, and the differently abled in this holy city.

Representation

Annapurna is depicted as a youthful goddess. As a result, her face is shown round, with high breasts and has a red complexion. She has three eyes and four hands. Her lower left hand contains a vessel full of porridge. The right hand has a golden ladle adorned with jewelry. 

The other two hands are shown in the mudras abhaya (fearless) and varada (boon distribution). She is portrayed seated on a throne with a crescent moon on her head. In some of the paintings, Lord Shiva is shown standing to her right with a begging bowl.

Legends of Annapurna

There is an alternative story regarding the disappearance of the goddess Parvati and the emergence of the goddess Annapurna. According to this story, the Trimurti were arguing over who among them was the greatest. After hearing their arguments, the goddess Parvati decided to show them her importance.

So, she disappeared, taking all the food with her. As a result, rituals stopped being performed, as food is essential for the ritual. Moreover, the gods begin to wane as a result of all this. They went to Trimurti for help. Trimurti in turn turned to Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu told Lord Shiva that there is a woman who is donating food in Kashi, the old name for Varanasi.

Lord Shiva immediately went to Kashi as a beggar to ask for food for the world. Goddess Parvati was glad that they realized the importance of her and the nature that she symbolized. She offered Lord Shiva food and told him that she would reside in Kashi in the form of Annapurna.

Another legend has it that Lord Shiva was cursed for removing one of Lord Brahma’s five heads. He was told that his curse could be cured only after getting food from the hands of Devis (Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati). When Devis offered him food, the face stuck to the hands of Lord Shiva, and he was cured. Hence, Tridevis are also together known as Annapurna Devis.

Sage Vyasa was once under a curse. And he was directed to Varanasi to cure his curse. There, the goddess Annapurna showed up as a housewife and gave him food. After getting this boon, his curse was lifted.

Manifestations 

In Hindu mythology, the goddess Annapurna is known to have 108 names. When devotees chant prayers in her honor, they recite these names. Her other names are:

  1. Visalakshi: one who has large eyes.
  2. Visvashakti: the world power
  3. Vishvamata: Mother of the world
  4. Srstihetukavaradani: one who bestows blessings for the sake of the world.
  5. Bhuvaneshwari: goddess of the earth
  6. Renu: goddess of the atom
  7. Annada: donor of food.

Devotion

In Hinduism, giving or offering food is highly praised. As the goddess literally represents the fulfillment of food, she is highly worshiped in every household. In India, a daughter-in-law is often called Annapurna out of respect. It is believed that if food is cooked in the spirit of holiness, it becomes sacred with the blessing of the goddess.

There are several temples dedicated to her, but the most important one is Annapurna Devi Mandir in Varanasi. Her birthday is considered an auspicious day, and people buy gold. They offer her rice and grains along with prayers.

She is considered Visvashakti (world power) and Vishvamata (mother of the world) by her devotees. According to her devotees, the goddess doesn’t only provide nourishment to the body but also to the soul. She gives the energy to attain knowledge and, hence, enlightenment, which brings moksha closer. So, she gives blessings for nourishment, wisdom, and renunciation.

Colors

Light blue: The goddess Annapurna is often associated with the light blue color, as it is considered warm.

Plants

Annapurna is the goddess of all food and nourishment present in the world. But she is often offered rice and grains during her worship.

Perfumes/Scents

As a manifestation of goddess Parvati, she is often associated with scents of vanilla, amber, and sandalwood.

FAQs about Annapurna

What is the Annapurna goddess of?

Annapurna is the goddess of food and nourishment.

Who is the goddess Annapurna’s consort?

As goddess is the manifestation of goddess Parvati, she is the consort of Lord Shiva.

Goddess Annapurna is the manifestation of which goddess?

Annapurna is the manifestation of the goddess Parvati.

Where is the most famous temple of the goddess Annapurna?

Annapurna Devi Mandir in Varanasi is the most famous temple which is made in her honor.

Other Goddesses

If you enjoyed this post we are sure you will enjoy getting to know some of the other goddesses we also write about. You can find the complete list of goddesses sorted across regions and religions here.

Featured Image Credit: Ravi Varma Press, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons