Bhikshaam Dehi Kripaavalambanakari Mata Annapoorneshwari !
Food is a great leveller indeed. Irrespective of the food consumed, the level satisfaction for everyone is the same. While other daanams like bhoodhaan, gho dhaan can be performed only by wealthy people, Annadhaanam is within the reach of everyone.
Hunger is a very debilitating experience. It’s the most challenging task for anyone to maintain their dignity and remain focused while they experience pangs of hunger. Life slips away when one remains without food for several days. Annadaanam then becomes a life line indeed.
Hunger was described as disease by our forefathers. Generally diseases puts a human body into distress. But Hunger puts a Soul itself into distress. So the hunger pangs were described as “pini” and people who help to cure it where aptly named as “pasippini maruthuvar” by our elders.
The wise old lady from our puranas , Avvayar as aptly described as ” pasi vandhaal patthum parandhu pogum”. Those ten things are: maanam, kulam, kalvi, vanmai, arivudaimai, daanam, uyarchi, thaalaanmai, icchai and thavam.
Mahatma Gandhiji and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has clearly shunned the idea of preaching Bhagavad Gita philosophy and Religious beliefs to a hungry man.
Swami Vivekananda was pretty categorical in giving importance to feeding hungry Indians. He said that everything else can wait.
Being loving and compassionate towards all living beings is the best form of Tapas -says Vallalaar.
Thirumoolar in thirumanthiram has candidly said “Aarkum Idumin avar ivar ennanmin”.
Seethalai saathanaar verses about annadhaanam are very heart warming :
“Paaragam enganum pasippini aruga ena aadirai ittanal aaruyir marundhu”
“Undi koduthor uyir koduthore” He says, food is verily the medicine and people who give food , gives life indeed.
Feed the hungry has to be done regardless of nationality, caste, creed, religion, gender, community, theists/atheists as the God resides in every living being. This is the order proposed by Vallalaar to his followers.
Thirumoolar in his thirumandiram says the following about why one should protect humans by providing food:
“Udambinai munnam izhukkendru irunden
udambinukkulle uru porul kanden
udambudane utthaman kovil kondaan endru
udambinai yaan irundhu oambugindrene!”
Initially I thought that the bodily existence is a disease. Since the lord resides in the human body, I started to respect my body and provide food to it to live in the body.
According to Shastras,
Best form of dharmam in kaliyugam is dhaanam. For kruta yuga, its tapas; For treta uga its knowledge; and For dvapara yuga its yagnam.
Food is verily the Brahma. All living things originate from food. After the birth, the life continues with the help of food and after the demise, life goes back to the food again. This is the description given by Taittareya Upanishad about food and life.
The Tamil Poet Thiruvalluvar says::
“Atraar Azhipasi theerthal adhu oruvan
petraan porul vaippuzhi”
There is no meaning to the wealth gained by a person who does not spend it for feeding the poor and deserving.
Moreover Thirumoolar has deciphered the truth that fever , cough and such diseases attacks only those who do not give an alms/dharma.
“Irumalum sogaiyum eelazhaiyum veppum
dharumam seyyadavar tampaalaagum.”
In many matams and in some institutions, food is distributed to the devotees only after doing some bhajans/prayers. They term it as Maheswara Pooja. Such feeding activity to the poor and needy is termed as Maheswara pooja as Maheswaraa verily resides in every person.
All Siddhas, Gnanis, Rshis, Yogis who have exercised control over their senses have highly recommended people to do annadhaanam and have told that it’s as good worshipping the divine.
It raises everyone who offers food to the status that of a mother who feeds the child right from the breast feeding day. “Annadhaatha Sukhi Bhava” is the statement told by everyone who asks for food. It’s a wonderful opportunity to avail the privilege of becoming a mother by feeding the hungry.
A human body is called the Annamayakosha – the food body. So when one provides food to a person, he/she provides a body to the person. The one who gives, is placed above from the receiver and a person serves gets an opportunity to serve the receiver with great devotion. Such a person will then get the status of a life giver.
Scriptures give another wonderful dimension to the act of consuming food. That is fire in the belly, is considered as the yagna and food as the oblation. This perception elicits even greater merit to the food offered as oblation to the yagna that is taking place in some one’s belly.
“Annam Vai Praanah, Annam Bahu Kurveet” says Taitareeya upanishad. Which means ” All life force commences from food. Let food be produced in plenty.”
Annadaanam improves strength, sharpness of brain and divinity to both the donor and receiver. Food gives life, longevity, light and energy. Even Gods appreciate the act of giving annadaaanam.
“Gaja turaga Sahasram Gokulam koti dhaanam
Kanaka Rajatha patram Methini sagarantham
Upaya kula vishuttam Koti kanya pradaanam
Nahi nahi bahu danam Annadhaanam samaanam.”
No dhaanam is equal to annadhaanam- feeding of the poor and the needy. Even ,donating 1000 elephants & horses, donating 10 million cows, donating any number of vessels of silver and gold, donating the entire land till sea, offering the entire services of the clan, helping in the marriage of 10 million women cannot be matched to annadhaanam.
Let us all participate in this noble act of annadhaanam which is literally annaprasaadam and with the satisfaction having been a life provider, let us all meet the Divine(who resides in everyone) through this very act of annadhaanam.