ANNAPURNA is the Goddess of Kashi

  • By Dr (Major) Nalini Janardhanan
  • November 14, 2023
  • Know about the importance of Maa Annapurna and temples dedicated to her in Kashi, Hornadu (Karnataka) and Kerala. And her worship in Nepal.

Goddess Annapurna is the Goddess of food and nourishment. As per Kashi Rahasya of Brahma Vaivarta Purana, she is the incarnation of Goddess Parvati who is the mother of the Universe (Jagadamba). She never lets her devotees stay hungry.


Goddess Annapurna is the Goddess of Kashi (Kashipradheeswari) and there is a story behind it. Once Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were playing the game of dice. The game became so interesting that they started betting. Parvati kept her jewels and Shiva, the trident. Shiva lost the game. Then he bet his serpent, skull bow, rudraksha beads, drum (damru), smoking pipe and ash. But again he lost everything. Shiva felt humiliated and left for Deodar forest where he met Lord Vishnu. Vishnu told him to play the game again. Shiva did so and won all that he had lost. Parvati grew suspicious and called Shiva a cheat, leading to a verbal fight between them. Vishnu intervened and revealed that this time the dice moved as per his wish and they were playing under the illusion that it was a game.


This article was first published in the Bhavan’s Journal.


Symbolically, life is like a game of dice, unpredictable and beyond control. Then Shiva said that everything is Maya (illusion), including the food we eat. Parvati disagreed and said, “If food is an illusion, then I am also an illusion. Let us see how you and the world survive without me.” She disappeared and Nature came to a standstill. The Earth became barren and there was a severe drought. There was no food in all the three worlds (Aakash, Pataal and Dharti).


Shiva realised that he is incomplete without Shakti (Parvati). All the Gods, demons and human beings kept on praying for food. Parvati could not see her children suffering in hunger. She appeared in Kashi, set up a kitchen and started distributing food. Shiva appeared before her with a begging bowl. He agreed that food cannot be dismissed as a mere illusion. Food is required to nourish the body in which resides the Atma. Parvati smiled and fed him with her own hands. She told him that she would stay in the form of Annapurna in Kashi.

Devotees get free meals at Kashi temple round the year.

Once there was a huge famine in Kashi. The people of Kashi worshipped Shiva and he asked for help from Annapurna. She gave him rice to distribute all over Kashi. She also promised that henceforth famine will never hit Kashi.

There are various temples all over India dedicated to Goddess Annapurna.

Kashi Temple.

1. Shri Annapurna Mandir is in Varanasi at Vishwanath Galli near Kashi Vishwanath Temple. This was the place where she appeared and offered food to hungry people. The temple was constructed in the 18th century by the Maratha King Peshwa Baji Rao.


There is a large pillared porch with the picture of the Goddess. This temple is constructed in Nagara architecture. There are two idols of the Goddess; one is made of brass which is for daily darshan and the second one is a golden idol that is meant for darshan only once a year (on Dhanteras before Diwali). Devotees are offered a three[1]course vegetarian meal in this temple.

Hornadu Temple, Karnataka.

Devotees having prasad at Hornadu Temple.  

2. In Horanadu, Karnataka, there is a temple called Shri Kshetra Horanadu established by Sage Agastya on the banks of River Bhadra in Chikamangaluru district. Here the Goddess is shown as standing on a peetha with a shankh (conchshell), chakra (discus), Sri Chakra and the scripture Gayatri in her four hands. She is also refered to as the Goddess of Harvest. This temple is also known as Sri Adhishakhyathmaka Annapoorneshwari temple.


See album of Hornadu Temple


3. In Cherukunnu, Kannur, Kerala, there is the Annapurneshwari temple (Cherukunnilamma temple) which dates back to 1,500 years. This was originally a temple of Krishna. Later, Avittam Thirunaal Raja Raja Verma of Chirakkal Kovilakam installed a shrine for the Goddess. As per the local folklore, the shrine was under the sea centuries ago.


Annapurna Devi came from Kashi, along with two other Devis (Shri Chamundeshwari Amma, also known as Kalarivathukkal Bhagavathy, and Madayi Kavil Amma). They were accompanied with a boatman in a golden ship. They got down at ‘Azhi Theeram’, now known as ‘Ayiram Thengu’ (Aazhiteeram Thangi). She asked the boatman to stay back. At the place where he stayed back, a mosque was later built, which is now famous as the Olliangera Juma Masjid in Kannur.


Goddess Annapurna in Nepal 

In Nepal, people consider Annapurna as a symbol of Mahakali, Mahalaxmi and Mahasaraswati (Tridevi). She is also worshipped as Ashtalakshmi swaroop. Buddhist Newars worship Annapurna as Basundhara, Yogamvar, Gyaneshwari, Mahalakshmi, Azima Pith and Mahamayuri. The famous Annapurna temple in Ason of Kathmandu is a Pagoda-style, three[1]storey brass temple. Here, the Goddess is in her Purna Kalash form.


People of the Newar community call the temple ‘Asavalu Ajima’. The main statue of the Goddess is built in a symbolic form as Silver Kalash (pot). The Goddess is portrayed with eight arms. The four right arms hold a sword, vajra, Varad mudra and a bowl. The four left arms hold a Bindu mudra, a rosary, a bell and an urn. 


Every year from Ashwin Shukla Navami to Dwadashi, the residents of Kathmandu, especially the Newar community, celebrate the ‘Annapurna Jatra’ festival. 


The dangerous and magnificent mountain range in Himalayas situated in Gandaki province of north- central Nepal is named after the Goddess as ‘Mount Annapurna’. 


Ancient Idol of Kashi

We are proud that the ancient idol of Maa Annapurna was brought back from Canada to India in 2021. This idol was stolen from a temple of Kashi and smuggled out of India around 100 years ago, somewhere in 1913. This 18th century idol, carved in the Banaras style, was part of a collection at the Mackenzie’s Art Gallery, a part of the University of Regina, Canada. 


The Goddess idol holds a bowl of kheer in one hand and a spoon in the other. She is the Queen of the city of Kashi. Prime Minister Narendra Modiji said “Mata Annapurna has a very special bond with Kashi and the return of the idol is very pleasant for all of us.” 


‘Annapurna’ is a combination of two words—Anna means ‘food’ and poorna means ‘filled completely’. She is described as the Goddess, complete and perfect with food, and strength of Lord Shiva. She is the giver of food, nourishment and strength. She also gives us energy to attain knowledge. Goddess Annapurna is depicted with a golden ladle in one hand and a jewelled bowl full of rice in the other hand which depicts the bounty of food she offers to all her children. She is shown as sitting on a throne and also with Lord Shiva standing near her with his skull bowl.


Before meals, we should pray to Goddess Annapurna and thank her for providing us nourishment and not letting us sleep on an empty stomach. She is worshipped through recitation of her 1,000 names (Sahasra namam) and her 108 namas (Shata namam). ‘Sri Annapurna Ashtakam’ composed by Sri Sankaracharya is chanted as a prayer for nourishment, wisdom and renunciation. It is believed that chanting this prayer will bestow the devotees with health, wealth and prosperity. 


Annapurneshwari Mata Mantras

 ‘Om Bhagwatye Vidmahe Maheshwarye Dheemahi Tanno Annapurna Prachodayat’ Akshayatritiya is considered the birth date of Goddess Annapurna and it is an auspicious day for buying gold and jewellery. 


Every year Annapurna Jayanti is celebrated in December, Purnima Tithi (full moon) of Margashirsha month. Women fast on this day. After Diwali, Kashi hosts ‘Annakoot puja’, a celebration dedicated to Goddess Annapurna.


It is also called Govardhan puja, which falls on the fourth day of Diwali festival. On this day, in Kashi, all the devotees who visit the temple, are given special coins blessed by Goddess Annapurna. Those coins are believed to bring prosperity and wealth to the devotees.


During festivals like Navratri, food is distributed on a large scale. Annadanam (donation of food) is regarded very high.


The devotees in Kashi believe that Kashi is the home of Goddess Annapurna. So no one ever sleeps hungry in this city. Worshipping Devi Annapurna destroys all sins and protects devotees from calamities. She provides salvation. She takes care of everyone without discrimination.


The wisdom Goddess Annapurna gives us, is the understanding that ‘Giving’ is true spirituality and renunciation, which will allow us to remain in composure, especially in difficult situations and circumstances of life. A deity beyond Maya (illusion) and the supreme Goddess of the Universe, Devi Annapurna takes away all fears and provides us welfare, happiness and protection.


This article was first published in the Bhavan’s Journal, 1 November 2023  issue. This article is courtesy and copyright Bhavan’s Journal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai-400007. eSamskriti has obtained permission from Bhavan’s Journal to share. Do subscribe to the Bhavan’s Journal – it is very good.


Also read

1. Why do devotees visit Kashi

2. Varanasi – A passage to Immortality

3. Kashi, Ayodhya, Prayag Yatra

4. Album Dev Deepavali Kashi

5. Album Ghats of Kashi

6. Album Temples of Kashi

7. Album how locals celebrate Dev Deepavali

8. Kashi, Ayodhya, Prayag Yatra

9. Album Ramnagar Fort

10. Maa Annapurna Mandir

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