Annapurna


Annapurna
   Literally “She who is abundant [purna] with food [anna],” the goddess Annapurna is considered a form of DURGA or sometimes of PARVATI, both being wives of SHIVA. In her iconography she is light colored and stands on a lotus or sits on a throne. She has only two hands; in one she holds a bowl of rice and in the other a spoon that is used to stir rice while cooking it. Sometimes Shiva, as a mendicant, is receiving alms from her. For many Hindus she is a protecting deity; those who wor-ship her are said never to want for food.
   The most elaborate festival to Annapurna takes place in BENARES (Varanasi) in the fall, when she is celebrated as the sustainer of life. She is also celebrated there in the springtime during the annakuta or “food-pile” festival, in which a pile of food fills her temple in worship to her. In the spring, she is worshipped in association with the new sprouts of rice in the fields; at that time her temple is decorated with rice sprouts.
   In the Linga Purana there is a story about Annapurna that purports to tell how Shiva took the form of ARDHANARISHVARA, or “half-man, half-woman.” Once when Shiva was unable to do his usual begging to support his family as a result of marijuana intoxication, there was nothing in the house to eat. Shiva thereupon went out to beg, while Durga, his wife, in anger, started out for her father’s house. On the way she and her chil-dren ran into the famous sage NARADA. Narada told her that in her aspect as Annapurna she should make it impossible for Shiva to get food by begging. She did this and went home, still in her aspect as Annapurna. When Shiva returned home she offered him food. He was so pleased that he merged his being with her, creating Ard-hanarishvara.
   The name of this goddess is given to one of the highest peaks in the HIMALAYAS.
   Further reading: John Stratton Hawley and Donna Wulff, eds., The Divine Consort Radha and the Goddesses of India (Berkeley, Calif.: Berkeley Religious Studies Series, 1982); David Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradi-tion (Berkeley: University of California, 1986); W. J. Wilkins, Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic (Calcutta: Rupa, 1973).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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