Anna Dharmam

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Description:
Anna Dharmam is a term used for an Ayyavazhi ritual that involves sharing food without inter-dining. Inter-dining refers to the act of dining within ones own caste, and excluding others. The practice of Anna Dharmam may have emerged in association with inter-dining.

Origin

Inter-dining was an important activity that originated in the gatherings of Ayyavazhi. People of different castes would travel bringing with them food materials for cooking their meals when they came to meet Ayya Vaikundar. Food, with its ritual significance, was distributed to the needy and to all those gathered around Ayya Vaikundar. They cooked and ate in the presence of Ayya Vaikundar. This common place action evolved into a significant practice of inter-dining between persons of different groups, cutting across the boundaries of caste restrictions. This practice, being performed in a religious setting with certain measure of earnestness and respect, seems to have acquired the character of a ritual too.

Unpan Annam

Today, the food being served as Anna Dharmam is known as Unpan Annam, literally meaning "the food to be eaten," and it has its own specific method of preparation. Rice, vegetables, and spices are cooked and mixed together for the purpose. Then it is served ceremoniously. When it is served, the partakers wait until everyone is served. Then a question is posed customarily by the partakers: "Ayya annam kutikkalama ?" (Ayya, may we eat the meal?) and when it is answered...
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