Compilation by Aparna Chatterjee
Shiva and Parvati often played Dice in their conjugal abode on Mount Kailasa . Once to make the game more exciting and interesting, Shiva asked Parvati to bet her Jewels and he betted his trident. If he won, he would get Parvati's jewels. If Parvati won, she would get Shiva's trident. But Parvati won the game and Shiva lost his trident to her. Not to give up so easily, Shiva now betted his serpent in the next game. That also he lost to Parvati.
Then in a bid
to win the consequent games that followed, he kept wagering all his possessions
- his skull bowl, his rudraksha beads, his ash, his drum, his smoking pipe and
even his loin cloth - he lost them all to Parvati in the Game of Dice.
Humiliated by his defeat, Shiva went off in seclusion to the Deodar Forest . Seeing his plight, Lord Vishnu offered to help and asked him to play again with Parvati assuring him that this time he would definitely win all the games of Dice, thus regaining back his possessions from Parvati.
So Shiva went back to Parvati and enticed her for another round of games. He won all of them but Parvati felt suspicious of Shiva's sudden success, calling him a Cheat. Shiva outraged by the accusation, demanded an apology. It led to heated debates and hurling of insults and abuses between the couple.
Seeing their Commotion, Vishnu came to pacify them. He revealed to Parvati the secret of Shiva's victories. He said that his spirit had entered the dice and that the dice didn't work according to their moves but as per his wish. So neither Shiva had really won nor had Parvati actually lost. The game was an illusion and their quarrel was a product of their delusion.
On hearing Vishnu, Shiva and Parvati realised that life was like their game of dice - very unpredictable and beyond control.
Shiva told Parvati that the world is an illusion. Nature is an illusion. Matter is just a mirage, here one moment, gone the next. Even Food is just Maya.
Parvati, mother of all material things including food, lost her temper. "If I am just an illusion, let's see how you and the rest of the world get along without me," she said and disappeared from the world.
Her disappearance caused havoc in the cosmos. Time stood still, seasons did not change, the earth became barren and there was a terrible drought. There was no food to be found in the three worlds of Akaash, Pataal and Dharti. Gods, demons and humans kept suffering from the pangs of hunger. "Salvation makes no sense to an empty stomach", cried the sages.
Seeing all the suffering, Parvati's heart melted and she appeared at Kashi and set up a Kitchen. Hearing about her return, Shiva ran to her with all other hungry mendicants and presented his bowl in alms saying, "Now I realise that the material world, like the spirit, cannot be dismissed as an illusion."
Parvati smiled and fed Shiva with her own hands.
Since then Parvati is worshipped as Annapoorna Devi - the Goddess of Food.
The image of Parvati serving food to her hermit-husband, Shiva adorns one of the temples at Kashi, Varanasi (U.P. India) where devotees offer prayers.
It is said that she does not eat a morsel unless all her devotees have been fed the Bhog-Prashad in her temple.
The idol of Annapoorna always has a small vessel / ladle containing Annam (food) signifying that the worshipper is assured of food throughout his / her life time.
There is another temple dedicated to Annapoorna Devi at Cherukunnam in Kerala. Every devotee who worships at that temple is served food. The tradition is that in the night, after every one is fed, a packet of food is left tied to the branch of a tree, the idea being that even the thief who prowls about in the night should not go without food.
She is also worshipped in Unja ( Gujarat ) where she is known as Umiya Maata.
Annapoorna symbolises the divinity of nourishing care. When food is cooked with a spirit of holiness, it becomes alchemy. Images of Annapoorna Devi are also adorned in kitchens, dining areas and restaurants of India .
The Annapoorneshwari Temple is located at Horanadu, 100 km from Chikmagalur, amidst the thick forests and valleys of the Western Ghats of Karnataka. All who visit this temple are provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner and a place to sleep on the temple premises.
Annapurna or Annapoorna is the Hindu Goddess of nourishment. Anna means food and grains. Purna means full, complete and perfect. Annapurna is the respected Supreme Goddess who is full, complete and perfect in food and grains. She is the symbol for the One who grants nourishment on every level.
She is called the Supreme Goddess of the city of Kasi (now known as Varanasi, U.P., India ). Kasi is the City of Light . Ka means the cause, a means the manifestation of consciousness, sa means peace and I is the causal body. Kasi is also the place which causes consciousness to manifest the highest peace of the causal body. And She is the Supreme Goddess of the City of Kasi .
Once Shiva told his consort Parvati that the world is an illusion and that even food is just part of this illusion (Maya).
The Divine Mother who is worshipped as the manifestation of all material things, including food, became angry. To demonstrate the importance of her manifestation of all that is material she disappeared from the world.
Her disappearance brought time to a standstill and the earth became barren. There was no food to be found anywhere and all the beings suffered from the pangs of hunger.
Seeing all the suffering, Mother Parvati was filled with compassion and reappeared in Kasi and set up a Kitchen.
Hearing about her return, Shiva ran to her and presented his bowl in alms saying, "Now I realise that the material world, like the spirit, cannot be dismissed as an illusion." Parvati smiled and fed Shiva with her own hands.
Since then Parvati is worshipped as Annapurna , the Goddess of Nourishment.
Annapurna has many names. The Annapurna Sahasranam presents her one thousand names and the Annapurna Shatanama Stotram contains 108 of her names. She is variously described as:
Physically, Goddess Annapurna is described as holding a golden ladle adorned with various kinds of jewels in her right hand and a vessel full of delicious porridge in her left. She is seated on a throne and in some depictions Lord Shiva is shown standing to her right with a begging bowl begging her for alms
It is said that she does not eat a morsel unless all her devotees have been fed in her temple.
She is worshipped through the recitation of her thousand names and her one hundred and eight names. The Sri Annapurna Ashtakam composed by Shankaracharya is chanted by several devout 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. My relatives are the devotees of Lord Shiva, and the three worlds are my Motherland.”
The Annapurna Vrat Katha containing stories of her devotees are also recited by her devotees.
The most well-known temple dedicated to Goddess Annapurna is in Varanasi, U.P., India . Adjacent to the Sanctum of the Goddess is the Kasi Viswanath temple. The two are separated only by a few yards. Annapurna is regarded as the queen of Varanasi alongside her husband Vishweshwar (Shiva), the King of Varanasi.
In the temple, at noon time, food offerings to the Goddess are distributed to the elderly and disabled daily. During the Autumn Navaratri food is distributed on a larger scale.
The other famous temple is situated at Horanadu in the pristine western ghats of Karnataka,a short drive from Kudremukh and Sringeri, where evening prayers are held after the devotees are fed.