Let us revisit a small tale from the Mahabharata to get a better understanding of the term “Akshaya Patra”.
This goes back to the time when the Pandavas and queen Draupadi were living in exile. In those days, a lot of their acquaintances used to visit them in the forest which formed their temporary residence. The Pandavas were very welcoming of their guests and were always happy to have them. However, they were also afraid that these regular visits might empty their kitchen soon. Their customs made it mandatory to make an offering to their guests. And since they were living in an impoverished state themselves, they did not have much food left.
Draupadi prayed to Lord Krishna for a solution to this problem. In answer to her prayers, Krishna blessed her with “Akshaya Patra,” which literally translates into “an inexhaustible vessel”. This container never ran out of food, no matter how many people Draupadi served food to. This brought the Pandavas the much needed respite, and they never ran out of food again.
This story has been a major inspiration behind the Akshaya Patra Foundation.
Akshaya Patra Foundation’s interpretation of the “inexhaustible vessel story”
The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a non-profit organization invested in converting to reality this ancient concept of the inexhaustible vessel. They work towards eradicating malnutrition and other health issues which arise because of food shortage. The organisation provides mid-day meals to poor children studying in government schools, in collaboration with the various state governments.
Why is child starvation such a big issue in India
According to the 2018 UN report on poverty, over 270 million citizens of India have moved out of poverty since 2005-06. This leads us to the happy inference that the poverty rate in India has reduced to half in the past decade. However, a lot remains to be done in this field. Poverty directly impacts the health of our children as it blocks their path to proper nutrition.
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 Report states that about 15
Easiest Target for Malnutrition – The Poor Children
The worst affected are the children belonging to the financially weaker section of the society. There are a lot of children in our country who live out on the streets, with nobody to look after them. All they have for food is leftovers they find in the garbage, or whatever they get through begging. The children of daily wagers who survive on a meagre pay aren’t in a good condition either.
A parent who struggles to put food into their children’s bellies, can definitely not afford to give them a good education. Yes, the government schools do provide education free of cost, but a poverty-stricken parent would rather send their child to work to make an extra penny. Going to school would mean that the child would be spending a certain number of hours studying. This will generate no immediate money and hence, no food.
Increasing Attendance in Schools through Mid-Day Meals
To address this problem, the Indian government came up with the mid-day meal scheme for all students studying in government schools across the country. Upon the introduction of this scheme, the number of students attending schools shot up considerably. It also positively impacted the number of enrolments into schools, and the rate of dropouts from schools decreased too. Knowing that their children will be well-fed, the parents dropped their apprehensions and readily agreed to send them to school.
How can you help Akshaya Patra Foundation in providing nutritious meals to children?
The pressure on a nation’s economy grows in direct proportion to the rise in its population. India’s population explosion is proposing a huge challenge to the nation’s financial health, and this has directly impacts the poverty level of the country.
If poverty grows, so will malnutrition, and eventually, starvation. However, if we as responsible citizens of this nation, start practicing small acts of giving, we can easily wipe out the current food crisis. Akshaya Patra Foundation, being a non-profit organisation, carries on with its good work with the help of donations from people who strongly feel for the cause. If you too feel the same way and want to show your support to this organisation providing food to millions, kindly click here to donate.
Your contribution will bring a smile of satisfaction on a child’s sweet face.
Aprajita is a writer and editor who loves to play with animals. She hopes to publish her first novel sometime soon.