Goddess Annapurna is the incarnation of Goddess Parvati. The literal meaning of her name is Anna – Food and Purna are Full or Filled. She is the Goddess who blesses people with good food and makes sure that none of the people who worships her with a true heart goes to sleep hungry. She teaches us to respect food and never waste it.
Kids in Hindu culture are taught a shloka (recitation) of Devi Annapurna which is to be said without fail before every meal. Food is considered sacred and the importance of respecting food is immense. It is very important to thank her for the food on your plate and pray to her to keep putting food on your and others plates. Kids are taught to be humble and accept what is served to them instead of bickering about what they like or do not like.
Let us understand the story of how Goddess Parvati took the form of Goddess Annapurna. Lord Shiva and Parvati got into a fight regarding materialism in the world. Shiva mentioned that everything in the world is materialistic and seems like an illusion. Parvati who looks after the materialistic aspects were bothered and furious by this statement. She disappeared to make everyone realise her importance.
People started to get deprived of food and famine hit the planet. Every person was being starved to death and Lord Shiva noticed this havoc. Even the gods were helpless and had to beg for food. Shiva found a kitchen, the only one on earth who was still serving food. This kitchen was located in Kashi (Varanasi).
Shiva visited the kitchen to beg for good and found his wife Parvati in the form of Goddess Annapurna, running the kitchen. She was seated on a throne, wore radiant purple and brown clothes and was lightly adorned with beautiful ornaments. She distributed food to the gods and the followers from the earth. Annapurna offered food to Shiva and gave him the lesson that as Brahman, he may have outgrown hunger but his followers were still fragile humans who needed food every day to survive. We can say that this gave birth to the tradition of giving food to needy, hungry and people who cannot afford food. To please the Goddess Annapurna and to make sure that your plate is never empty, people should also remember to feed as many people as they can.
Goddess Annapurna carries a pot in one hand and a ladle in another. She is known by many names which describe various features of her beautiful self. She is known as the “Hindu God of Cooking” by the world following western culture. Vishwa Shakti, Visalakshi, Bhuvaneshvari, Renu, Annada, Vishvamata are some of her popular names. Being an incarnation of Parvati, she is often affiliated with Devi, Durga, Adi Parashakti and Parvati.
Plenty of old scriptures and texts speak about Annapurna Devi one of them being Kumara Sambhavam (an epic poem by Kalidas which is considered as his finest work). This poem mentions Kashi and the goddess. The goddess here is also described as a crucial source of knowledge. Upanishad mentions that Annapurna Upanishad (minor part of the 108 Upanishad texts) is the source of knowledge that helped sage Ribhu attain and get knowledge.