Annapoorna


 

One of the most benevolent forms of the Devi is represented in Annapoorna, literally the deity of grain. She is the guardian deity of farmers and of their produce and those who worship her shall never go hungry.

As the Goddess of Plenty, she holds an overflowing pot of rice in one hand and a vessel brimming with milk in the other. She is a fair woman, sitting on a lotus or a throne, sometimes holding a large ladle resting on her knees.

There are several shrines dedicated to her in central and western India, where she is worshipped along with Shiva and Parvati.

But it is in Benaras that the most famous shrine is found. Since she is an incarnation of Shiva's.

consort, she is said to have followed Shiva to Benaras when he retired there to expiate his sin of killing a Brahmin. She is said to have stayed there to provide food to Shiva as he wandered about seeking alms as a mendicant.

As Annapoorna, she so pleased Shiva by offering him food when he was hungry, that he is supposed to have embraced her so hard and with such force that they merged into one to become the Ardhanarishluara - the half-man half-woman form of Shiva.

Annakoot, the festival of Annapoorna in Benaras, literally stands for 'mountain of food'. This is the day when she is offered the 55 preparations of food, the pachpan bhog, which are then distributed as prasad (sanctified food) to the worshippers who throng her temple.


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