Kashi-Canada-Kashi: The Story Of Devi Annapurna’s Return To Her Abode After Over A Century

by Swarajya Staff - Nov 12, 2021 11:40 AM
Kashi-Canada-Kashi: The Story Of Devi Annapurna’s Return To Her Abode After Over A CenturySenior BJP leaders offering worship to Devi Annapurna in Delhi (Twitter)
  • The Uttar Pradesh government has even organised a four-day Mata Annapurna Devi Yatra, marking the journey of the idol from Delhi to Varanasi.

    On 15 November, the idol will be ritually established at the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

An 18th-century idol of Devi Annapurna, which was stolen from Varanasi, India, more than a hundred years ago and then smuggled to Canada, has been brought back and is to be installed at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi on 15 November. The efforts to bring the idol back had been going on for about two years.

The idol was received by the Government of India on Thursday in New Delhi. Union Minister for Culture and Tourism G Kishan Reddy, who received the idol, presented it to Suresh Rana, minister in the Yogi Adityanath government. Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani and Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi in the union cabinet were also present at the event.

A close-up of the Devi Annapurna vigraha (Twitter)
A close-up of the Devi Annapurna vigraha (Twitter)

The story of Devi Annapurna

It is believed that Goddess Parvati resides in the form of Devi Annapurna in Lord Shiva's city of Kashi (Varanasi), where she herself gave alms to Lord Shiva when he sought her blessings for the well-being of the people of Kashi. Since then, it is believed that no person can ever sleep hungry in Kashi, as the goddess herself feeds the city. This centuries-old belief of the people of Kashi will once again be consolidated as Devi Annapurna returns to her humble abode after a long wait of over a hundred years.

Four-day Mata Annapurna Devi Yatra from Delhi to Varanasi

The Uttar Pradesh government has organised a four-day Mata Annapurna Devi Yatra, marking the journey of the idol from Delhi to Varanasi. The yatra began yesterday, Thursday (11 November). After the handing-over ceremony, the grand procession (shobhayatra) carrying the idol of Goddess Annapurna started, with stopovers at Mohan Mandir in Ghaziabad and at Dadrinagar Shiv Mandir in Noida.

After that, it proceeded to Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Hathras and then Kasganj, where it had an overnight stay.

On Friday (November 12), the shobhayatra will have stopovers in Eta, Mainpuri, Kannauj and Kanpur. It will stay at Kanpur for the night. On Saturday, (November 13), the yatra will reach Unnao, Lucknow, Barabanki and Ayodhya.

Finally, it will reach Varanasi on November 14 via Sultanpur, Pratapgarh and Jaunpur. The idol will be installed at the Kashi Vishwanath temple amid chanting of Vedic hymns at a formal ceremony on the occasion of Devotthan Ekadashi on November 15.

The rare idol of Devi Annapurna will be installed in the ishan kona (north-east) of the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The ishan kon is to the east side of the entrance, located next to the Nandi.

Under the guidance of Kashi Vidvat Parishad, the rituals for the Pran Pratishthan ceremony will be completed in the Kashi Vishwanath Dham. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually participate in the event. The idol will be consecrated by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

How did India get the idol back?

It was during his Mann ki Baat radio address last year on 29 November, that PM Modi announced that Canada will be returning a very ancient and rare idol of Devi Annapurna which was stolen from Varanasi about a hundred years ago.

The idol was discovered by Indian Artist Divya Mehra, who was invited to stage an exhibition at the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Canada. As Divya spotted the Devi Annapurna’s idol, which is 17 cm in height, 9 cm in breadth and 4 cm in thickness, she researched the collection of the University of Regina, and found that this idol was thought to be Lord Vishnu. To Divya, it was pretty much evident that the sculpture is a feminine structure holding a bowl of rice, and certainly not Lord Vishnu.

Her research further revealed that the idol was stolen from a temple in Varanasi in the year 1913. The idol was acquired by Canadian art patron Norman Mackenzie, bequeathed in 1936, who then donated it to Regina College (later university), where it was displayed as part of the collection in the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery. Divya Mehra’s observations were later confirmed by Siddhartha V Shah, Curator of Indian and South Asian Art at Peabody Essex Museum, US, who cleared that sculpture is indeed of Goddess Annapurna, and she has a bowl of kheer on one hand and a spoon in the other hand, items associated with the Goddess of Food, i.e. Devi Annapurna.

Once the identity of the idol was confirmed, Mehra requested the officials of the Mackenzie Art Gallery for its repatriation to India. As the news of the discovery came out, the Indian High Commission in Ottawa and the Department of Canadian Heritage also came forward and offered to assist with the repatriation.

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