Importance of Annadhanam
Charitable distribution of food(annadhanam) is the most meritorious of all charity.The reason why there is something special about Annadhanam is that it is only by this that one can be fully satisfied.If money,clothes,jewels,land,house,etc.,are gifted the person who receives it will not say nothing more.It is only when one is given food,however much that person may take,there is a limit beyond which he just cannot take.He says ‘Thrupthosmi’ (enough,I am satisfied).If it exceeds the limit,he begs ‘please do not serve more’.It is only when full satisfaction is expressed like this,the giver also will reap the full reward.
In `sanskrit the word “Annam” means food and “Daanam” means to donate. Thus “Annadanam” means feeding the hungry and needy
Annadanam is Mahadanam or the greatest donation in Hindu religion and is an essential part of Sanatana Dharma tradition. The food donation is not limited to feeding a human being but it encompasses all living beings. There are numerous stories in Hindu scriptures that extol the glory of Annadanam – prominent being Goddess Parvati appears as Goddess Annapurnaeshwari and feeding Shiva. Another instant is that karma taking rebirth as he had performed all types of donation except food donations.
Annadanam is a unique scheme among all donations. Nothing predominates, it. By donating to Annadanam Scheme people get Moksha. ‘Annam Para Brahma Swarupam’. Food only can support the body to attain Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. The person, who participates 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 things as donation, accordingly they are blessed. Annadanam is a sacred activity. It is said that the sacred works done by the people with the energy acquired from food bestows half of its effect to the donor of food and the rest are to that person. Many positive results like this can acquire from the Annadanam.
The importance of food is stressed in ancient scriptures, including the Vedas, Upanisads, Dharma Sastras, Dhamma Pads and others. Taittiriya Upanishad declares, ‘All life force comes from food.’ (Annam via pranah) and “Let food be produced in plenty” (Annam bahu curved). In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna declares, “From food all beings are evolved” (annad bhavanti Bhutani). Manu Dharma Sastra declares, “regard the quest as a deity” (‘entity devo bhava’) plainly expresses this worldwide tradition among ancient societies that deities may move upon the earth in human guise, and that one should therefore regard them with the utmost courtesy and respect and hospitality–including the offering of food items. Annadanams are conducted with this very principle in mind, for among the hungry crowd there may also be the anonymous genuine devotee, saint or even a dive or deity. Indeed, each and every poor person is regarded in this way, as expressed in the Sanskrit saying daridra Narayana (“God dwells in the poor person”).
Serving food to the hungry is equal in effect, of performing ritual Yagna. Human beings can only be satisfied with food, but not with gold, dress and other things, as they desire to have them more and more. But in case of food a man wholeheartedly says that the food is ‘enough’ for him. It is said that glory, strength and fame will be acquired in Trilokas by Annadanam. The donor of Anandanam will get first entry in the heaven.