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Annam Brahma
By Hemamalini Raghunathan

“Harir Daatha Harir Bhoktha, Harir Annam Prajaapatih
Harir Vipra Shareerastu, Bhoonkte Bhojayathe Harih”

Oh, Lord Hari! You are the food, you are the enjoyer of the food, you are the giver of food. Therefore, I offer all that I consume unto you!
In ancient Indian scriptures, food has been compared with the God, as it is the main factor sustaining and nourishing life.

All civilizations and all religions through all ages have associated food with God or a supernatural power, Crops and food are adored as reflection of the divine goodness. Offering of food to God (Naivedya), before partaking it, has been recommended since time immemorial. Food so partaken becomes ‘Prasad’, a kind of gift from God. Food blessed by God is cleansed of its (hidden) impurities.

Food, the sacred gift of life
Food plays a vital role in the maintenance of good health, and in the prevention and cure of diseases. Food not only influences the physical activities, but also psychological activities. As per Ayurveda, food affects the mind also, by causing an increase or decrease in the three qualities of mind i.e. Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasik.

God is the digestive force
Ayurveda says that there is a fire in the stomach, which digests all food sent there. The digestive fire requires food to maintain its constant activity. This fire signifies the Supreme Being. Since God is helping the digestion of all kinds of food stuff, the living entity is heavily dependent on Him in the eating process. God produces and digests the foodstuff i.e. sustains the bodies of all living beings.

The just-born infant’s first human experience is a ‘gift’ of milk in response to its sucking instinct i.e. gratification of hunger, which has an impact on the infant’s psyche on its deeper level. Lord Krishna declares in Bhagavad Gita (Ch15, Verse 14):
“Based in the body of living beings, I manifest as the digestive Fire, Vaisvanara; in combination with the vital energies known as Prana and Apana, I digest the four kinds of food consumed by them”.

God is the digestive force

There are four kinds of food stuff…some are swallowed, some are chewed, some are licked up and some are sucked. God is the digestive force for all of them.
Vedic mantras from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (5.9.1) also speak similar thoughts as the above:

God is the digestive force

“This fire that is within a man and digests the food that is eaten, is Vaisvanara. It emits this sound that one hears by stopping (closing) the ears. When a man is about to leave the body, he no more hears this sound”.

Brahma Sutra
Brahma Sutra (1.2.24-26) also says that Vaisvanara is Brahman. The Lord is situated within sound, within the body, within the air and within the stomach as the digestive force.

In the beginning of the second chapter Brahmavalli, it says that from Brahman (Atma) comes the creation consisting of five elements, plants, food and human beings in that order. All beings, which are based on the Earth, are indeed born out of food and they live by means of food alone. Finally, they merge into this food alone. Food is indeed the first among the beings. Therefore, it is said to be the medicine for all.

Rig mantra says that food is eaten by the beings and food eats the beings. Therefore it is said to be ‘annam’. Those who meditate on food as Brahman (‘Annam Brahma’ Ch 2.2) certainly attain all food.

Third Chapter Bhrguvalli provides a few guidelines regarding food:

‘annam na nindyat’ – One should not reject or criticize food.
‘annam bahu kurvita’ – One should procure plenty of food.

‘na kanchana vasatau pratyaachakshita…’ One should not turn away anyone seeking shelter. If food is prepared and served in the best manner by one, then food is served back to him in the best manner. One, who knows this and distributes food in this manner, attains Punya.

Vedic scriptures refer to the physical body (sthoola sarira) as ‘Annamaya Kosa’ or ‘food body’, because it is produced and sustained by food. When a person dies, he leaves this gross body behind.


From Brahman, the heavenly region which is illuminated by the Sun, Moon, the showers of rain, all vegetation on Earth do proceed. Earth is the essence of food. Food produces energy, and from energy all beings are produced. Procreation is done among human beings thus. Male energy combines with that of the female.

From Brahman are born various gods, celestial beings, human beings, animals, birds, prana, apana, paddy, barley, austerity, faith, truthfulness, brahmacharya and duty’ (Ch.2.1.7) It insists that the entire universe of things and beings is Brahman’s manifestation only, including food. Verse 2.1.9 indicates that from Brahman are born all plants as well as their sap, because of which alone does this subtle body remain with the physical elements. Plants and the various tastes connected with food — all form the different parts of this Cosmic Body, in which resides the Universal Self or the Virat-Purusha.

Bhagavad Gita
In Chapter 3, 14th verse refers to food as the origin of creature i.e. reproductive power is sustained by food.

Here, Lord Krishna also gives a few guidelines:

“Those persons who eat what is left after sacrifice (yajna), are released from all sin. But those who cook food for the self alone, without sharing it with others, such degraded men eat sin”. (3.13)

Vedic texts speaks of three kinds of food in terms of the qualities (sattvic, rajasic, tamasic) each promotes. Purity of food also has been very much insisted upon, as the body and the mind, being formed out of the food eaten, are very much influenced by it.

The three Gunas namely Sattva (purity), Rajas (activity, passion), and Tamas (darkness, inertia) encompass all existence, all actions. In all the people, one of the three Gunas has superior strength and is reflected in all they do and think.

In the 17th Chapter, verses 8, 9 and 10 speak of persons of different nature, having liking for specific types of food etc.

Bhagavad Gita

Persons, who are Sattvika by nature, like foods that promote longevity, vitality, energy, health and happiness, as also those that are juicy, soft, nourishing and agreeable.

Bhagavad Gita

Persons, who are Rajasa by nature, like foods that are bitter, sour, salty, excessively hot, pungent and thirst-producing as also what bring on uneasiness, depression and disease.

Bhagavad Gita

Persons, who are Tamasa by nature, like food that are stale, tasteless, putrid, decayed and unclean, and constitute the leavings of others.

Vedic practices involving food
Food is offered to the deceased, in the rites done after the death. During obsequies, food is reverently offered to the Pitrus (ancestors). In holy waters (Tirtha), Pinda is offered to the manes.

In temples and households, food is offered to the deities daily. Free distribution of food to the poor being undertaken in the temples and many households, as charity. Food is also served to the animals and birds.

There is always insistence to share the food. Food is the sacred gift of life from God. We are not able to skip the food for a day or two. Similarly, we are also not able to consume the food together for a day or two at a time. Food has to be consumed at regular intervals for healthy living. Food is the very basis of life.

“Annapurne sadaapurne shankara praana vallabhe
Janma Vairaagya siddhyartham bhikshaam dehi cha Paarvati”

Oh! Goddess of food, Annapurne! You are a symbol of plentitude, and the dear consort of Lord Shiva. May you give food for the purposes of gaining dispassion and knowledge!!
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