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Importance of Annadanam in Hinduism

“Annadanam” comprises two words – ‘Annam’ or food and ‘danam’, which is the act of donating. Annadanam is a ‘Mahadanam’ or the most important among all the different types of danam.

‘Bhoodanam’ (donation of land), ‘Godanam‘ (donation of cows), and ‘arthadanam’ (donation of money) are forms of charity that only the rich and well-to-do can afford. But Annadanam can be done even by an ordinary person who survives on bare necessities.

Hunger is the greatest affliction, said the wise men of ancient India. It is a disease that can affect everyone, and there is no cure for it except for food.

According to the Puranas, the stomach can be compared to an ‘Agni kund’ where fire dwells. Fire is one of the Panchabhootas or 5 elements that constitute our body. It requires food offerings regularly. If the offering is not given, life cannot be sustained. When we help provide for this ‘Agni kund,’ the act is much more meritorious than performing thousands of Yagnas.

Importance of Annadanam in Hinduism

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says, “Annad bhavanti bhootani”. It means that food sustains all creation. Satisfying a person’s hunger brings good karma in this world as well as the next.

Annadanam is not limited to humans alone. One should also feed animals and plants, as they, too, are part of creation. The three stories below reveal Annadanam’s importance.

Goddess Annapoorna

One day, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were playing a game of dice. Shiva lost everything to Parvati, including his trident, serpent, and the begging bowl. As a glum Shiva was roaming in the jungle, Lord Vishnu came before him and told him to play again. He also promised to help him win. Thus, Shiva recovered all that he had lost. Parvati realized that Vishnu’s Maya or illusion was behind the dice and the game. She was furious. To calm her, Vishnu declared that everything that could be seen, heard, tasted, smelt, and felt was due to Maya. Even food is Maya, he said. Parvati replied that if food was Maya, she too should be Maya, but it was not so. To prove this, she disappeared. All creation came to a stop. Without Parvati, there was no food.

Soon, Shiva began to feel hungry and began to look for food in all the worlds. Meanwhile, Parvati felt sad to see the world and her children suffering without food. She assumed the form of Annapoorneshwari and began to perform Annadanam in Kashi. On hearing this, Shiva rushed to her and received Annadaanam from her. As she had proved her point, she returned to her original form and returned to her heavenly abode with Shiva. Creation also returned to its former state of abundance.

Karna’s Dying Wish

Karna was lying on the Kurukshetra battlefield awaiting his death, when Lord Krishna approached him. Krishna gave him two boons and asked him what he wanted. Karna’s first wish was that his mother, Kunti, should be informed about his death so that she could reveal that Karna was her eldest son. Karna also said that he would be reborn again as he had never performed Annadanam. Without donating food, all his other dana karma was of no consequence. Therefore, his second wish was to be born into a well-to-do family, which would enable him to perform Annadanam.

Krishna agreed, and Karna died soon after.

Sudama’s Gift

Sudama and Lord Krishna were childhood friends. But Krishna became a king, and Sudama remained a poor Brahmin. One day, Sudama visited Krishna to ask him for some help. He took a small bag containing a small amount of beaten rice as a gift. It was all that he had. At Krishna’s palace, Sudama was warmly greeted and taken care of. Sudama was hesitant to ask Krishna for help. So, he decided to return without requesting anything. Krishna noticed the small bag of beaten rice and asked what it was. Sudama gave him the bag reluctantly. He felt bad that it was such a humble gift for his rich friend. But Krishna loved it. He ate two handfuls and gave the rest to Rukmini, his wife.

When Sudama returned home, he was stunned to see a big house where his old hut had stood. Also, the house overflowed with money and jewelry. It was the result of his dana of food to Krishna.

Annadanam Benefits

Annadanam brings many benefits:

  • It attracts divine blessings.
  • It helps remove past karma.
  • It gives one satisfaction.
  • The blessings of those who receive your Annadanam will bring positivity to your life.
  • It pleases your ancestors and helps them gain Moksha.
  • If you do Annadanam donation regularly, you can reap immense benefits in all aspects of life.