Mata Annapurneshwari Temple, located near Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Vishwanath Gali area is one of the oldest temples of Kashi. This sacred temple is dedicated to Annapurna Devi also known as Bhavani Devi by the locals and is revered as the Goddess who bestows annam (food) or alms which in reality represents knowledge and dispassion.
Maa Annapurna is also deemed to be the presiding deity or Queen of Kashi (Káshipuradhèshvarè). This temple has been described in detail in the Kashi Khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Legend has it that Lord Shiva, the epitome of knowledge, compassion and tapas (penance and austerities) held out a skull and begged Maa Annapurna for alms. Devi served a portion of annam (food) from a pot using a ladle. Lord Shiva at that moment realized that knowledge was the supreme food.
One can have darshan of this divine scene for four days only in the year from the auspicious occasion of Dhanteras to Annakoot–Govardhan Pujan. During this grand darbar, the golden idol of Mata Annapurneshwari holding a golden pot and ladle is seated in the middle with Goddess Lakshmi on the right and Goddess Bhudevi on the left. One can offer prayers to Lord Bholenath as he receives alms from Divine Mother.
It is believed that Mata Annapurneshwari distributes food and money to all those who come to offer prayers to her on Dhanteras. It is a common custom to distribute coins (known as khazana) and rice grains as prasad to all the devotees.
A brass idol of Divine Mother is placed in the sanctum sanctorum. There are idols of Lord Narasimha, Maa Kali, Shiva and Parvati and others within the temple. The present structure was constructed by Shrimant Peshwa Baji Rao I in 1729.
Thousands of devotees come from far-flung places to have darshan of Annapurna Devi and seek her blessings for moksha. An ancient idol of Devi Annapurna that was stolen from the temple in 1913 is now making its way back to the temple from Canada.
Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya who composed the famous Shree Annapurna Stotram in this temple penned down the quintessence of Mata Annapurneshwari in these few lines:
अन्नपूर्णे सदापूर्णे शङ्करप्राणवल्लभे ।
ज्ञानवैराग्यसिद्ध्यर्थं भिक्षां देहि च पार्वति ॥ ११॥
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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