- From the very first, it was a part of the ancient Indian’s philosophy that they appreciated the importance of generating finest possible food products besides helping people to grow also. Moreover, apart from sustainably intensifying food production, they also believed in contributing in the best ways possible, leaving no issue of landfills and thus supporting communities and saving all the resources utilized to produce that food from going to waste. This is because, in the Hindu mindset, providing access to healthy and sustainable food for others was a part of their Karma and Dharma. Thus, they paved the way to protect and feed people and animals and sustain the Mother Earth. Keeping the above benefits in mind, let us see in the following content what the Shiva Purana talks about the glory of feeding people and other forms of charities.
Vyasa said, “O Lord, the sinful people go to the place of Yama with great difficulty. You better speak out the means by which their journey could become comfortable.”
Sanatkumara said, “For all the good or the bad deeds performed by a person, he shall have to reap the fruits of the same. Now I shall spell out the auspicious rites which yield good reward.
Those who perform the noble deeds in this world, have auspicious hearts besides being compassionate, they traverse the path of the place of Yama with comfort. The one who donates on pair of shoes or a pair of sandals to a Brahmana, he goes to the place of Yama, mounted over a white horse. The one who gives an umbrella. One who gives a palanquin goes in palanquin sitting comfortably in it. Those who give a seat or an asana or a bed, move resting in between, quite comfortably. Those who set up orchards or a provide shade or plant trees on the roads, proceed on to Yama’s abode without the sun or any other trouble. Those who set up a garden, move on boarding the Puspaka plane. Those who build the temples of the gods enjoy all the sports in the home itself. Those who build the hermitages for the ascetics or the homes for the destitutes, enjoy all the sports in the home. Those who adore the goes, fire, preceptor, Brahmanas and the parents, move on to the place of Yama of their own accord, with respect. Those who donate the lamps, illuminating all the ten directions move on to the place of Yama. Those who provide shelter remain healthy and move on comfortably. Those who serve the preceptors move on to Yama’s abode resting on the way. Those who give away charities to the destitute Brahmanas, enjoy the homely comforts. Those who donate cow, move by the way which fulfills all the desires. Whatever food and drinks they daily consume; they get the same on way to the abode of Yama. Those who give water to the Brahmanas for washing their feet, they move by the water ways. The one who rubs oil over the feet of a Brahmana, he covers the journey mounted over a horse.
O Vyasa, a person, who provides water for washing feet, or paste for the body, lamp, food and shelter, the messengers of Yama never visit him. By donating gold and gems, a person getting free from all the troubles, moves on to Yama loka. By donating silver, or bull, be reaches the abode of Yama, quite comfortably. By giving away such charities, a person reaches the place of Yama with comfort and enjoys several types of comforts in the heaven. The donating of the food is considered to be the best of all the charities, because the food provides comforts instantaneously. It is pleasing besides enhancing the strength and wisdom.
O Excellent sage, there is no charity comparable with the giving away of the good the food makes a person to remain alive and die in the absence of it. The food produces blood, flesh, fat and semen. The semen is the cause of the production of the human race. Therefore, the universe has its own importance of food. The hungry never feel satisfied even after getting gold, gems, elephants, horses, women, garland sandalwood. The child in the womb, or a newly born child, young, old, gods, Danavas, Raksas, all have the requirement of food. Of all the ailments, hunger is the biggest disease, which is removed with the medicine like the food. There is no trouble worse than the hunger. There is no comfort better than remaining healthy and there is no enemy worse than the hunger. Similarly, there is no other merit better than the giving away of the food, because all the living beings die getting scorched of the fire of hunger. The donor of food is called the giver of life, and when he gives the life he gives everything. Therefore, one achieves reward of all the merits by donating the food. When a man performs the holy rites of the having been fed with the food gifted by someone, the merit of the sacred rites is shared half and half by the giver as well as the performer of the rites. There is no doubt about it. All the gems like the worldly pleasures, women, vehicles and other are received by the giver of the food in charity to such a person in this as well as in the future world.
Dharma, artha, kama and Moksa are the best means of the body. Therefore, one should protect the human body by food and the drinks. They praise food only, because it happens to be the base of all. There has never been a donation comparable with the food, nor shall it be there in future. O sage, the entire universe is based on the food. The food provides strength and the life is maintained by food alone. The one who desires of the welfare of his family, putting himself in trouble, should always give food to the Brahmana as well as the Bhiksu. One who gives food to the Brahmana, a beggar or someone who is in distress, he donates the best of riches for the next world. A householder desirous of the welfare of his family should adore the Brahmana who arrives at the time of taking food or the one who arrives after long journey. O Vyasa, getting free from jealousy, if a noble person, shedding away the anger, adores the guest, he enjoys enormous comforts on earth as well as in the heave. One should not rebuke a person who arrives (to take shelter), nor should he be challenged, because the food served to a dog or even a Candala does not go waste. When on gives food to an unknown and tried traveler, without causing any pain to him, he always achieves enough of riches and the food grains. O Great sage, a person, who citifies the goes, manes, Brahmana and the guests, by serving food to them, he earns the enormous merit. The giving of food in charity is quite important for the Brahmana as well as the – Sudra. One should not enquire about the country, gotra, pravara, education or other details. Whosoever gives the food to the Brahmana on his asking for it, he resides in the heaven up to the time of dissolution. The garden of the giver of a food achieves the fruits of the cherished desire as the Brahmanas do in the highest heaven. O Sage, you listen to the names of the heavens which have been built for the sake of the givers of food.
The abodes of such great personalities are of different shade and are furnished with things of several types of comforts. In the courtyards of those abodes the wish fulfilling trees are found planted. They provide all the comforts. There are the step wells of gold besides beautiful wells and the step-wells. The spotless water flows issuing pleasing sound, the eatable things, the costumes and the ornaments are stocked in mountain like heaps. The milk flows in the streams. There are mountains of ghee, the palaces are white in which the golden beds have been made available. The givers of the food go to those lokas. Those who are interested in their welfare in this as well as the future world, should give away food in charity. These Lokas full of lustre can be achieved by the noble souls who have given food in charity. Therefore, the people should particularly give away food in charity. The food has Infact the form of Brahma, Visnu and Siva, there is no other charity comparable with the giving of food, nor shall it be in future. A person who after committing a grave sin, gives away food in charity, he getting relieved of all the sins, goes to the heaven. In the Preta loka, eight types of charities have been described to be of immense importance which include the food, the water, horse, cow, umbrella and the seat. By giving away such types of special charities, a man reached the abode of Yama by means of a plane. Therefore, we should give food in charity. Because of the glory of donating of the food, its mahatmya is quite auspicious. Whosoever reads it or narrates it he flourishes in all respects. O Great sage, whoever will listen to this episode or shall repeat it to the Brahmanas, his manes will enjoy the never ending gift of food.”
Shiva Purana, Uma Samhita, edited by Professor J.L. Shastri, Chapter 11
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