When Sri Sankaran Bhagavatpada visited the shrine of Sri Annapoorna, during his stay in the holy city of Kaasi, he composed a hymn in praise of the Devi in eight verses, known as Annapoornaashtakam. This hymn is recited with great reverence throughout India. Each one of these verses ends with the refrain,

Bikshaam dehi kripaavalambanakaree maataannapoornesvaree.

One of the verses describes the Divine Mother as Aadikshaanta samasta varnanakaree. The fiftyone letters of the alphabet from a ksha, go by the name of varna. Varna also means the four castes. Another meaning of varna is colour. The Divine Mother is is soul of the varna or alphabet. The sastras which are based on sabda (sound) are the sound forms of paradevata. Sabda gives rise to forms visible shapes. It is observed that when particular musical notes are played near a pond, the resultant vibrations induce particles of light dust, floating on the water, to arrange themselves into specific shapes. Thus sabda and roopa, sound and form, have close affinity. This also accounts for the sanctity of mantras, which are words and letters combined and arranged in specific forms. The repetition of a mantra, with devotion, earns for us the grace of the particular manifestation of God for whom that mantra is dedicated. The Divine Mother is the soul of all mantras.

The conception of Divinity as the Mother is unique and inspiring. In human relationship the affection of a mother for her child is unsurpassed. Similarly, the depth of the Divine Mothers love for her devotees is unfathomable. The grace that flows from Her is spontaneous and irresisble. That is why Sri Annapoorna is depicted as carrying a vessel containing ksheeraannam (rice mixed with milk) in one hand and a ladle in the other. She is ready to distribute this food to those who pray for it. In the abundance of Her mercy, She gives us not only food that sustains our body, but also jnana that nourishes the soul. When Sri Adi Sankara prayed to Mother Annapoorna to give him alms, he prayed not only for himself but for all mankind. We are all members of one family., being the children of the Divine Parents, Paravati and Paramesvara. It is our duty to love, help, and serve one another.

There is a temple dedicated to Sri Annapoorneswari at Cherukunnam in Kerala. Every devotee who worships at that temple is served with food. The tradition is that in the night, after every one is fed, a packet of food is left tied to the branch of a tree, the idea being that even the thief who prowls about in the night should not go without food.

Let us reverentially pray to Mother Annapoorna by reciting the immortal Annapoornaashtakam of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada and earn Her grace for the welfare of the entire world.

May 16, 1958