Abishekam (hydration ceremony) is the process of bathing the deity. “Annam” means rice and Anna Abishekam signifies bathing the deity with cooked rice. This divine ritual is performed on the Full Moon day in the month of Aippasi (7th month of the Tamil Calendar), which falls during October––November. Although there are a variety of Abishekams prevailing in India, this particular Abishekam is performed on Lord Shiva in the form of Shiva Lingam, in all Shiva temples in South India. Performing this ritual annually, can help you get rid of all the problems in your life. The ceremony is also known as Shiva Abishekam or Maha Anna Abishekam, conducted in many Shiva temples throughout South India, particularly in Tamil Nadu.
Significance of Anna Abishekam
According to sacred texts, rice symbolizes life, richness and prosperity. Lord Shiva is a great lover of Abishekams and hence, is usually bathed with 11 sacred items including holy water, cow’s milk, ghee (clarified butter), coconut water, sugarcane juice, sandalwood paste, Vibhuti (sacred ash), curd, panchamirtam (mixture of 5 items), mango powder, rice and turmeric powder. Of these, rice is considered to be his most special and favorite item in the hydration ceremony. There is a belief that one’s mind is a resemblance of the food he takes. To signify the importance and divinity of rice in one’s life, Anna Abishekam is performed annually.
Anna Abishekam is paid as a token of gratitude to Lord Shiva, who is the sole protector of the five elements of nature and all forms of life on Earth. Furthermore, rice is an outcome of the unison of the five elements of nature. The seed is sown in the land, which is nourished by water from the sky, fire (energy) from the Sun and transforms into paddy with the help of wind. This is processed into rice and is fed to all living entities. This is the significance of Anna Abishekam.
Rituals of Anna Abishekam
Anna Abishekam is a unique ritual that invokes the power of Lord Shiva. On this day, Shiva Lingam, the symbol of Lord Shiva’s energy is bathed with the traditional Abishekam items such as holy water, turmeric powder, sandalwood paste, milk, orange juice, honey, coconut water, curd and sacred ash. On completion, the idol is entirely covered with cooked rice, with an assortment of vegetables decorating the top of the Lingam. At the end of the ritual, Aarti (light offering) is presented to Lord Shiva and the covered rice is distributed as prasad to everyone, not letting a single grain go waste.
The ritual is fervidly performed on the massive Shiva Lingam at the Big Temple at Tanjore, Tamil Nadu. Lord Brihadeeshwarar, the presiding deity of the temple is covered entirely with cooked rice and boiled vegetables form the garland. “Sri Rudram” is chanted continuously throughout the ceremony, which vibrates among the sea of devotees. This ceremony is widely performed in all Shiva temples in Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts.
Benefits of Performing Anna Abishekam
- Get rid of karmic problems and attain inner peace
- Solves issues related to business and gain prosperity
- Prosperity in agriculture and ensure security of grains
- Consuming the Abishekam Prasad (offering) is believed to instill memory power in children
- Blessing of progeny
- Be replete with food source at home