The people have a tradition, that, when Varanasi was first inhabited, Goddess Annapurna found that the task of feeding so many persons was too heavy for her. Filled with anxiety, she knew not what step to take. The Goddess Ganga (Mother Ganga or the Ganges) generously came to her relief, and told her that if she would bestow a handful of pulse on every applicant, she herself would contribute a lota (a brass vessel) full of water. Devi Annapurna was comforted with the suggestion which she acquiesced in and the arrangement thus made produced the most satisfactory results. In honor of Goddess Annapurna, goddess of inexhaustible source and supplier of food, a custom prevails among all classes, by which hundreds and even thousands of the poor are daily supplied with food. It is this. Those persons that can afford it put aside a quantity of pulse, and moisten it over night, and, in the morning, give it away, in handfuls, to the poor. Only one handful is given to each person; but, as he and all the members of his family can, each, procure a handful, after collecting a supply from a number of donors, they are able, by the middle of the day, to obtain, in the aggregate, a goodly quantity, which they first dry, and then cook for food.
On the ground in front of the entrance to the temple of Goddess Annapurna, beggars are seated, during most of the day. Some of them have cups / pots in their hands, into which the worshippers, as they go in and out of the temple, throw small quantities of grain or rice. Passing through the doorway into the quadrangle, a similar system of alms-giving and alms-taking displays itself. The priests of the temple, too, receive offerings for the poor, in addition to the presents appropriated to themselves. In one corner of the enclosure is a stone box, which is the common treasury for the reception of the gifts intended for this object. In it may be seen a singular medley of rice, grain, water, flowers, milk, etc. Not that the whole of this medley is eaten but the rice and grain and other edible substances are separated from the rest, and distributed among the applicants.
The temple of Annapurna was erected in 18th century by Peshwa Baji Rao of Poona (Peshwa). It possesses a shikhar and also a dome which is carved and ornamented as per Hindu mythology. The dome is sustained by pillars and between them a bell is suspended, which keps almost constantly sounding; for, as soon as one worshipper leaves it, another, having performed his devotions, takes his turn in beating it. The bells, in this and other Hindu temples, are not rung, but are beaten with the clapper or tongue depending from within. The carved portions of this temple were once partially or entirely painted and the painting in the interstices is still visible. The temple occupies a large portion of the quadrangle and stands in its centre. In one corner of this quadrangle is a small shrine dedicated to the Sun god. The idol representing the Sun is seated in a chariot drawn by seven horses, and is surrounded by a glory indicative of the rays of light which he emits from his person in all directions. In a second corner is another shrine, in which is an image of Gauri Sankar, and the stone box or receptacle before alluded to. In a third is a large figure of Lord Hanuman in bass-relief and, in a fourth, a figure of Lord Ganesh, a god with the head of an elephant and the body of a man,