Adi Sankaracharya in his stothram praising Annapurna, the personification of plentiful food, says:
Annapurne sadapurne SankaraPranavallabhe gyanavairagya siddhyartham bhiksham dehi ca Parvati
Meaning: Annapurna Devi, Goddess of Plenty, you are Lord Shiva’s eternal Consort, give us alms together with wisdom.’
The Annadaanam gained importance due to mental, physical and spiritual satisfaction of humans. Also, this daan (danam) specifies the significance of hunger and poverty.
Gaja turaga Sahasram | Gokulam koti danam |
Kanaka Rajatha patram | Methini sagarantham |
Upaya kula vishuttam | Koti kanya pradanam |
Nahi nahi bahu danam| Annadanam samanam ||
Meaning: Even if one gifts 1000 elephants, horses or gifts 10 million cows or any number of silver and gold, gifts the entire land till sea, offering the entire services of the clan, helps in the marriage of 10 million women, all this never equal to Annadaanam (Poor Feeding).
The above particular sloka looks exaggerated, why? to evoke response and prominently highlight the importance of the annadaan, it has been said like this.
The same composer in a song will say no god is there above Parvati, in the very next song he will say the same for Vishnu. We should not get confused because of these slokas and carry on with our Daanams (donations) that are helpful to the society. It doesn’t mean that other daanas are of lower karmic value. But it insists us to do annadaanam.
What is Anna Daan or Food Donation?
When decided to donate why to think about the classifications and gradations?
If our neighbour or brother came to our house and eats one day, Will it be considered as annadhana? (Certainly not; because, they do not come under the “daana” category, some day we might also go and eat in their home). Similarly, the rich people does not need our annadaan. But we know, some millionaires have eaten like beggars in temples as a “Prarthana” to revoke Ahankar in them. Also there is nothing wrong that we donate the anna to orphanages, old age homes etc. controlled by Sanatan dharmis or to native beggars outside temples or in streets.
In Tamil there is a proverb saying, “Vaai Vaazhthaavitalum Vayiru Vaazhthum”. (Even if the mouth which eats doesn’t bless you, the Stomach which digests will surely remember you) so doing annadaan, will certainly bring calm and steadiness in your mind.
The Sanskrit word Annadanam literally means the offering or sharing (danam) of food (annam). The word “Annam” means food and “Daanam” means to donate. Thus “Annadanam” means feeding the hungry and needy.
Taittiriya Upanishad declares, All life force comes from food (annam vai pranah) and let food be produced in plenty (annam bahu kurveet).
In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna declares, From food all beings are evolved (annad bhavanti bhutani).
Even in Vedas, Upanishad, Ramayana, and Mahabharata during all these Yugas feeding a hungry person was considered as the greatest service to the mankind.
ANNA DAANAM MAHAA DAANAM (offering food is the best gift in the world) is a very popular Sanskrit verse which has motivated millions of Indians to perform this divine act and in ancient India in most of the temple premises there were annadana centers.
Annam Para Brahma Swarupam. Food only can support the body to attain Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. The person, who participate in this sacred Annadanam, will be blessed by divine Gods. Creatures cannot live without food, hence the donors of Annadanam are also considered as donors of Pranadanam. Pranadanam means to offer all necessary things as donation, accordingly they are blessed. Annadanam is a sacred activity. It is said that the sacred karma done by the people with the energy acquired by food bestows half of its effect to the donor of food and the rest is to that person. Many positive results like this acquired from the Annadanam.
It is said that the sacred karma done by the people with the energy acquired by food bestows half of its effect to the donor of food and the rest is to that person.
Deserving poor is offered food without any motive. There were reports that some noble persons of Madurai and Thirunelveli are giving free food for mentally challenged persons without expecting any reward, a true Daanam to its meaning.
Types of Daan or Donations?
Some of the Daanam’s practiced and followed by are as follows:
JALA DAANAM: This form of charity involves giving water with betel nut and dakshina to a Brahmin, and it is done for wealth.
SHAYANA DAANAM: Giving bed to a needy, is done for general happiness.
VASTHRA DAANAM: Giving clothes to needy, will ensure a long life to the giver.
KUMKUM DAANAM: When a woman donates kumkum, she ensures a long life for her husband.
CHANDANA DAANAM: Donating sandalwood will prevent accidents.
NAARIKELA DAANAM: Donating coconuts will ensure that the last seven generations attain salvation.
BUTTERMILK DAANAM: Donating buttermilk will give you knowledge and enlightenment.
PADARAKSHA: Donating slippers to the need will keep the giver away from hell.
CHATRA DAANAM: Donating umbrellas on the other hand will help remove obstacles from the giver’s path.
Blood Donation is noble act, but it should be done without any reward.
Vidya Donation to an ignorant is noble provided it is done without any reward.
The Health Benefits You’ll Receive by Donating to Charity
1. Improved Self-Esteem & Self-Worth Due to Sense of Charitable Giving.
2. Positive Moods and Low Depression Rates Due to The Psychology of Generosity.
3. Longer Life Expectancy.
4. Improving the World Community.
5. Huge Respect Among Community.
Significance of Donating in a Particular Day
Importance of doing charity on Tuesdays
- Tuesdays are meant for the planet ‘ANGARAGAN’ , donations if done on Tuesdays will remove the evil effects of those who are suffering from (Chevvai) Angara Dosha.
- Tuesdays are meant for Amman and Murugan worship also. Any charity made on Tuesdays will bring happiness in the life of the donor with blessings of Amman and Murugan.
- Tuesdays are very auspicious days. Many people observe fast (vrat) and do charity by giving food and clothes to the poor.
- Any charity, if done on tuesdays, gives more benefit to the donor, than on any other days.
- Those who are born on tuesdays and do charity continuously on tuesdays will never take rebirth again in this world as per the verses of Hindu Puranas.
- Any person who is looking for a better job, and if he does any charity on tuesdays, he/she will experience immediate change in his/her life with wishes fulfilled.
- Charity done on Tuesdays brings health, wealth and better prospects in the donor’s life.
In general, doing charity on all the days in a week is important. Particularly, if a charity is done on Tuesdays, it will yield better results in donor’s life. We can also do charity on all the seven days in a week as per our financial background. If we donate on tuesdays, than on any other day in a week, we are blessed by the divine devas from the heavens.
AnnaDaan is the Shrestha Daan. Make sure you donate food to the needy people. Patrata (deserving people) is important while donating food. Do not donate food to people who can afford it. Donation given to POOR servants, maids, students and subordinates also generate positive karmic value for you but NEVER EXPECT ANYTHING in return when you provide this donation.
By R. HariShankar