Annapurna: Goddess of Nourishment

Annapurna: Goddess of Nourishment

The Annapurna Circuit is now known widely among travellers as a great trekking destination, offering beautiful mountain vistas and a chance to experience the local cultures, eat the food and talk to the people. The meaning of the name, though, is often lost amid these associations, with few knowing that ‘Annapurna’ is no arbitrary noun or obscure historical figure.

“Full of Food”

Annapurna (sometimes transliterated as Annapoorna) is the Hindu Goddess of Nourishment, with ‘Anna’ meaning ‘food’ or ‘grains’, and ‘purna’ meaning ‘full’ or ‘complete’. This means that the Annapurna Circuit translates as the ‘Full of Food Circuit’, an appropriate name given the array of delicious food available along its length. Annapurna herself has many other names or epithets – one thousand according to the Annapurna Sahasranam – which include ‘She who is the grantor of knowledge’, ‘She who is the supreme welfare’ and ‘She who gives nourishment’.

The Story of Annapurna

The Goddess is an incarnation of the Goddess Parvati, consort of Shiva. The story – which could be shared among fellow trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit – goes as follows:

One day, early in the history of the world, Shiva told Parvati that all the world is an illusion and that food is part of this illusion. This angered Parvati, for she is worshipped as a manifestation of all material things, becoming food. To show Shiva that what she represents is vital, she disappeared, bringing time to a standstill and turning the world barren. Hunger wracked the world. But seeing this suffering, Parvati was overwhelmed with compassion and reappeared in Kasi, establishing a kitchen and feeding everyone who arrived. Hearing of this, Shiva journeyed to the kitchen and presented his empty bowl, a human skull, saying, “I realise now that the material world cannot be dismissed as an illusion.” Smiling, Parvati fed him with her own hands, and has ever since been additionally worshipped as Annapurna, the Goddess of Nourishment.

On her Trail

Trekkers following her trail along the Annapurna Circuit will find representations of her in countless tea houses, depicted in beautiful paintings on kitchen and restaurant walls. Scenes may include Shiva reaching out to her with his begging bowl, or may simply show Annapurna surrounded by bountiful food. One of her talents, after all, is to provide an infinite amount of food – which some trekkers may attribute to the tea house owners, whose talents with delicious meals are an important highlight of walking the Annapurna Circuit.

Author: Jude Limburn Turner – is the Marketing Manager for Mountain Kingdoms, an adventure tour company that specializes in the Annapurna Circuit and trekking holidays in various destinations including North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Central and South East Asia.

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