The Anna Dāna is a Dāna that spans many religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. It refers to the practice of giving away food.
Anna Dāna is considered extremely pious and fulfilling because it is the only Dāna in which the recipient says "enough" or "not any more." The person receiving this Dāna also blesses the donor, saying "Anna Dāta Sukeebhava," or, "May the person who donated food remain happy forever."
According to the Hindu Dharmaśāstras, Annam Para Brahma Swarupam, food needs to be revered and not wasted.
The verse Annadānam Samam Dānam Trilokeshu Na Vidhathe from the Vedas means that Anna Dāna is supreme and incomparable to any other charity. Food is the basic requirement for all living beings, including humans. In this universe, creation and its survival depend on food. Hence, according to Hindu doctrine, giving food to the devotees is more than attaining heaven.
Gaja turaga Sahasram Gokulam koti danam Kanaka Rajatha patram Methini sagarantham Upaya kula vishuttam Koti kanya pradanam Nahi nahi bahu danam Annadanam samanam
- The text above translates to: "Annadānam, the feeding of hungry, is far superior to donating 1000 elephants and horses, donating 10 million cows, donating any number of vessels of silver and gold, donating the entire land till sea, offering the entire services of the clan or even helping in the marriage of 10 million women."
In ancient times, Kings used to make the food available to their subjects, particularly artisans and their families, who worked on royal projects. This way, the skilled could concentrate on their assigned tasks without being preoccupied with things like preparing food.
Annapurne sadapurne SankaraPranavallabhe gyanavairagya siddhyartham bhiksham dehi ca Parvati Annapurna Devi, Goddess of Plenty, you are Lord Shiva’s eternal Consort, give us alms together with wisdom.
Forms of Anna Dāna
As times have changed, there have been many forms of doing Anna Dāna. Examples include donating land, donating for building construction, as well as donating for other infrastructures such as kitchen equipment, utensils, and serving material such as plates, tumblers, tables, and chairs. The traditional form is also practiced, and many donate bags of rice, wheat, lentils, pickles and other material for food preparation.
Traditional Anna Dāna Events
Anna Dāna is done on occasions such as Birth Anniversaries, Marriage Anniversaries and Death Anniversaries. In Christianity, the most prominent occasions for Anna Dāna are Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Apart from these, many community feedings occur in orphanages, hospitals, and emergency shelter, cutting across typical caste, religious, and nationality barriers.
Anna Dāna Locations
Food donation is done at places of worship such as temples, as well as hospitals, orphanages, and old age homes. Food is made available in Satrams to pilgrims near prominent places of worship. Examples include prasāds like the Golden Temple of Amritsar, Sikh Gurdwara, and Hindu temples.