Vrindavan, 2019-11-01 (VT): Shri Rangji Temple Vrindavan, dedicated to Bhagwan Shri Goda-Rangamannar, observed a grand ‘annakoot mahostav’ today. A wide range of delicacies (‘Chappan bhog’ and more), made from hundreds of kilos of ingredients were offered in valuable dishes to the presiding deity, Shri Goda Rangamannar.
Devotees flocked to the temple in large numbers to get ‘darshan’ of the Lord’s grand feast and partake of the divine ‘prasad’. ‘Annakoot Mahotsav’ begins in Braj after Diwali. While most temples celebrate it along with Govardhan Pooja (the day after Diwali), it is observed on different days until Kartik Poornima in accordance with the diverse temple traditions.
Annakoot, literally meaning a mountain of Anna (grains), is an ancient tradition followed in Braj. Describing the ‘mountain of rice (Anna/Bhaat) huge enough to cover Shri Giriraj Govardhan’ in their Brajbhasha Kavyas, the Ashtachaap Kavis write,
‘Bhayo Bhaat Ko Kot, Oat Giriraj Dhakaano’
Scriptures say that Shri Krishna lifted the Govardhan Hill on his little finger for seven days to shelter Brajwasis from the violent downpour of rain sent by Indra, thereby quelling the rain god’s false pride. On the eighth day, the village folk that had been starving all these days arranged a grand feast comprising 56 delicacies (chappan bhog) to honour and thank their beloved Krishna. The tradition of ‘annakoot’ is said to have been followed since then.
While the Annakoot offered in Braj temples has mostly been prepared in a traditional manner, recent times have also witnessed the incorporation of modern recipes and cooking styles. So, along with the time-honoured ‘Laddu’, ‘Churma’, ‘Gunja’, ‘Malpua’ and ‘Dahi-bada’ etc, one can also find the more conventional ‘Chidiya Samosa’, ‘Mini Kachoris’ ‘GulabJamun’ and ‘Doda barfi’ on a contemporary ‘Annakoot menu’.
As with other traditions, Annakoot is also inextricably linked with the literature (oral and written) and arts of Braj. Beautiful verses describing the custom are profusely scattered in the works of Ashtachaap Kavis and that of prominent Vaishnava sampradyas of Braj.
Many temples, independent scholars, and cultural institutions such as Braj Culture Research Institute and Vrindavan Research Institute are painstakingly documenting this tradition and the valuable heritage associated with it.