By Swami Harshananda
Anna or food, which is responsible for sustenance, has always been looked upon with reverence. Offering of consecrated food to the sacrificial fire is a common part of some rituals. It is especially done in the śrāddha (obsequies) ceremonies. In one such śrāddha, called pārvaṇa-śrāddha, after first consecration, the cooked food meant for oblation into the fire, the rest of the food in the vessel is also purified by the recitation of the Annasukta.
The Annasukta is a series of eleven verses taken from the Rgveda Samhitā. The ṛṣi (the sage to whom it is revealed) is Agastya. The devatā (deity to which it is addressed) is Annastuti. The chandas or meter is mostly Anuṣṭubh.
According to the sage Śaunaka this sukta must be chanted daily at the time of food. Such chanting purifies the food, destroys impurities and ensures health and energy. The explanation of the verses is briefly explained below:
- The first verse is introductory.
- The second verse supplicates food for protection.
- The third requests food to be palatable.
- The fourth, fifth and sixth verses are of praise.
- The seventh verse requests food to be available in plenty when it rains.
- The next three verses urge the body to grow strong as a result of consuming food.
- The last verse is a praise to food in the form of Soma.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore