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Notable Temples of Varansi

Annapurna Bhavani Temple

Rana P.B. Singh

The temple dedicated to Annapurna (“goddess of plenitude of food”), built in 1729 by Balaji Bajirao Peshwa, exists in the Vishvanath lane, close to the main temple of Vishvanatha. She is known as the female force of Bhava, “Being”, one of the names of Shiva. The deity is worshipped as one of the many forms of Goddess Durga (Mahagauri Durga) and is worshipped on the 8th day of Navratri (September-October). She is called the “Mother of the Three Worlds”, and she promises to those who come to her what only a mother can give, naturally and freely: food. According to folktale, once the goddess Parvati closed all three eyes of her husband Shiva. Due to this, the entire world was filled with darkness. Parvati stole her fair complexion (Gauri form). She asked Shiva for his help to reacquire her Gauri form. Shiva asked her to donate anna (food) in Varanasi. Hence, she took the form of Annapurna (the goddess of food) with a golden pot and ladle, and donated food in Varanasi. The temple possesses a tower, and also a dome, carved and ornamented in Hindu style.

The temple possesses a tower, and also a dome, carved and ornamented in Hindu style. Standing in the court of the temple compound itself, there is a small sanctum with a large pillared porch in Nagara architecture. The temple also houses two icons of the goddess; one made of gold and other of brass. The brass icon is available for daily darshana (auspicious glimpse). The gold icon can be only seen once a year—on Annakuta day, falling after Dipavali ‘festival of light’, attracting a large number of devout Hindus; devotees have to wait for one year if they missed their chance.   On this pious occasion, mountain of fruits and sweets and cereals are laid out before the Annapurna and later on the fruits and sweets were distributed in devotees as Prasada. Brass idol is accessible to devotees daily. It has been said that devotees of goddess never suffer starvation.

In the temple yard there a small sanctum with a large pillared porch housing an image of Goddess Annapurna. The idol of Annapurna is fame of adi-shakti (primordial feminine divine), who made in a solid gold and carries a cooking pot. Devotees believe her ‘the mother of all the three worlds, heaven, earth and hell’. Annapurna Goddess sit in the middle and her left is Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) and on her right side Bhudevi (’mother Earth’). There is also an image of Shani (Saturn) god in the courtyard, who is known for his destructive power and is propitiated to prevent any ill befalling of devote. Inside the temple compound there are images of Mahagauri (Great White Goddess), Ganesha, Gauri Shankara, Kubera, Surya, Vishnu and Hanuman. Food is served to all the devotees as Prasad (annadana) of Annapurna Devi daily. The present image of Annapurna within the sanctum is a new one, established and consecrated in January 1977 in a series of prana-pratishta (“breath-transfer”) rites conducted by the Shankaracharya of Shringeri. The temple belongs to Dashnami Shaiva Paramhans Sannyasis and comes under Annapurna math.


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