Annabishekam and Kanchi Sr.Paramacharya's initiative

In the past three decades at a number of Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu, India, Annabishekam - the yearly ritual of bathing the Shiva linga with cooked  food is done in the month of November. Rice is the staple food in this part of India where there are vast paddy fields in the interior places. So, cooked rice is the main prasad at both Shiva and Vaishnavite temples. 

Prior to 1986,  the ritual of Annabishekam at Shiva temples was unheard of. It is likely that it was done on a low key level before 1986.  It is done not only to propitiate the god, but also reverentially pray to him for copious rain fall to benefit the farms 
in the coming season, plenty of food for all people and overall welfare of the  people. People owe a lot to the late H.H. Senior Sankaracharyar of  Kanchi  Mutt (Periyava) who was instrumental in introducing the annual Annabishekam  ritual  at the Shiva temples. Community participation, distribution of food among the poor are the salient features of this ritual.

H.H.late Sr. Sankaracharya of kanchi Mutt, Kanchipuram. Pinterest
In the year1986  two ardent devotees of Kanchi Periyavar, on their pilgrimage to Haridhwar,  collected a  truck load of  copper pots of  reasonable size filled with pure holy  Ganga water, hoping that  senior Kanchi seer could  use it  for his daily puja rituals. On their return to Kanchipuram,  they approached the seer and expressed their desire about the holy water brought recently from  Haridhwar. Not amused, Swamiji  gently denied it and immediately thought about  use of  the holy water for better purpose. He told them that  the great Chola king Rajendra  (1012–1044 A.D), son of the Great Rajaraja-I (builder of Thanjavur big temple), about 1000 years ago consecrated the Bragadeshwara linga at  Gangaikonda Cholapuram by using Ganga water  brought from the north. It would be nice if they  could take the holy water to that temple and perform Abishekam on the Shiva linga as king Rajendra did centuries ago, then only he would use the holy water for his Nithya pujas.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram  Shiva temple, Tamil Nau flicker com
The  famous Shiva temple was built in 1020 by king Rajendra Chola. The Chola rulers of Tamil Nadu were  passionate followers of Lord Shiva. The one at Gangaikonda Cholapuram is just a replica of the big temple  built by his father at Thanjavur. The temple was built  to commemorate his victories  in the  battles against the northern rulers, thus gaining  direct access to the Ganges river. Hence, he got the title Gangai Kondan.- in local language it means   one who won the land of Ganga. 

On Kanchi seer's orders,  two devotees performed abishekam with  the Ganga water. A few months later Kanchi Mahaswamikal again asked them to perform Annabisekham to Bragadeswara lingam at the same temple so that there would be copious rain for that region that had become parched because of lack of rain for sometime. On Paramacharya's advice in 1986, for the first time, annabishekam was performed in this historical temple under Mattur Swamikal and Kuvalaigal Swamikal (the two devotees who brought the holy water from Haridhwar). It was attended by lots of people from the surrounding areas. According to Perur Puranam written by sage Kashyapa  that  a darshan of Sivalinga  swathed with cooked rice on the full moon day in the month of Tula (Tamil month Aippasi; October-November) bestows immense benefits on the devotees. 
Annabhisekam being performed for Sri Brahadeeswarar, Thanjavur.The Hindu

Thus this ritual that had a small beginning at the initiative of Kanchi seer in 1986, over a period of time, gained popularity and religious significance and is now being celebrated every year at numerous Shiva temples in the month of November. After a few years,  the responsibility of conducting this ritual at the temple in Gangaikonda Cholapuram was given to  Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam Annabishekam Committee that that not only takes care of this annual ritual by providing large quantity of rice, etc.,  but also makes available necessary materials for Nithya puja. 

Since this temple ritual first began  here, it has continued with unparalleled religious fervor and devotion at Gangaikonda Cholapuram.  The two day event begins with Mahabisekam to  the main deity and cleaning and bathing of other deities in the temple in accordance with temple Agama Sastras. At the end of the  first day's ritual, the Shiva linga is decorated with lots of flowers. When different kinds of  abishekam  are being done on the deity, lots of  Vada Patasala students chant Rudra mantra. On the second day, students continuously chant Rudra mantra  till 5 pm when Sivacharyas, with the help of innumerable volunteers, do annabishekam on the idol that is tied with steel mesh all around to hold the rice. The idol is bathed with cooked rice. Roughly 75 to 100 bags of rice (each weighing roughly 75 to 100 kg is cooked on a large scale for this event. Mantra Om Namashivaya rents the air.  Maha Deepa Aarti is performed upon completion of the ritual and later, food is offered to the devotees as prasadam. People in thousands attend this function amidst tight police security. All the expenses for this grand  annual ritual are borne by the public through donations.

It was Paramacharya's wish that the practice should continue  and now it  is fulfilled by the devotees and the Sankara Math in Kanchipuram, Kumbakonam and Chennai.


Annabhishekam is performed everyday at Chidambaram  Sri. Nataraja temple  to Sri Chandramouleeswara, the Lingam kept near Sri Nataraja. Vegetables  such as  brinjal, okra, pumpkin, cucumber, banana, etc., are  also offered  to the deity  as part of Annabhishekam for better farm yields.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011