Holding a pot full of porridge in one hand and a ladle in another, Goddess Annapura, the provider of food and nourishment sits on a dais in this Tanjore painting. In front of her is an abundance of anaj (cereal crops) and fruits. All kinds of food are sacred and it is her who fulfills the basic human need of filling our bellies. It is custom in Maharashtra to give an idol of Annapurna to a woman who is getting married so she can worship them and pray for a contented life. She is the giver of life itself, in essence.
Annapurna was borne out of an argument between Shiva and Parvati about the nature of food being materialistic. Parvati was infuriated by what he said and disappeared, intending to show him that the world could not survive without food. A famine occurred and Shiva’s followers and even the rest of the gods begged him for food. They searched and searched but could not find any food except in one place—the city of Varanasi. A kitchen ran there, offering food to people. Shiva went there, only to find Parvati in the form of Annapurna handing out food to the needy. That day, even the celestial forces had to agree that food was essential to life form.
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