This myth is in continuation to the game of dice being played by Shiva and Parvati. After Shiva was upset for losing everything to Parvati in betting during the game of dice, he was upset and left for the forests. Lord Vishnu intervened and made him agree to play the game again, wherein he won all that he had lost. Parvati got angry and accused him of cheating, which led to a verbal altercation. Lord Vishnu then appeared and reasoned out with both, that it was his wish that came out once the dice were thrown. It was all an illusion created by him which led to the delusion! We will take the myth from here.
The altercation between Shiva and Parvati, soon became a philosophical debate. At one point, Shiva reacted that everything in the world was maya, illusion, there was nothing in real. What you see exists like a mirage, not a reality. He goes on to say that everything including food is an illusion. Parvati is Mother Nature herself and the mother of all, felt insulted. She did not agree with this aspect of Shiva’s philosophy and to prove her point decided to leave and left in anger.
Parvati’s leaving created a chaos in the world. Life came to a standstill and there was no growth and generation. Man, animals all started perishing for want of food. Even the sages felt that salvation could not be achieved, if the body was not nourished. Seeing so much of sadness and anguish, Parvati was moved to tears. She could not see her children suffering. So she appeared in Kashi, Benaras (present day Varanasi), and opened a kitchen from where she started serving food to one and all.
On hearing this, Shiva ran to Parvati with his begging bowl and told her that he was wrong. Food was not an illusion and it was the only reality, if there was one. Parvati smiled and fed Shiva with her own hands. This form of Parvati came to be worshipped as Annapurna (anna means grains and food, purna meaning completeness) Devi.
In one of temples in Varanasi, it is said that the offerings is first fed to the devotees and the goddess is offered bhog or prasad only after all the devotees have been fed – this is in continuation with the underlying message that the goddess Annapurna feeds her children first.
In Gujarat, she is worshipped in Unjha as Umiya Mata. In one of the temples of Annapurna Devi in Cherukunnam, Kerala, every devotee is served food in the temple. As part of the practice, a small food packet is hung in one of the branches of a tree. This is to cater to the thieves who move around at night, even they should not go without food, after all, they too are children of the Goddess, slightly wayward, though! Close to Chikmagalur, Karnataka, in the temple of Annapurneshwari Devi (as she is known locally), all the devotees visiting the temple are provided breakfast, lunch and dinner and even shelter at night. In Bengal, Annapurna Devi has been eulogized in the poem Ananda Mangal, written by Bharatchandra Ray.
Annapurna Devi is worshipped across India. Food is critical to survive and without food, no amount of philosophy or debate or higher thinking can mean much, if the body does not receive nourishment. This myth elucidates this very basic aspect of life. Probably that is why in our religion, we do not observe a complete fast. Even during fasts, some nourishment is provided to the body in the form of milk, milk products, fruits, etc. to sustain and carry on with your faith and belief system. The body cannot and should not be deprived of the basic nourishment that it needs. The simple myth carries a very important message.