I grew up in a family where we fed the crows early in the morning the first morsel of food, after offering it to Mother Goddess Annapurna (Anna in Sanskrit means food), the one in charge of food grains, fertility and abundance department, with a small Sanskrit shloka (prayer). In deed, She is an avatar/another form of Mother Goddess Shakthi or Parvathi. As She is our benevolent Mother who feeds us in our hunger, we offer Her food everyday. The vigraha (idol) is placed in a copper or silver bowl of raw rice in our Puja (altar) at home.
There is no Hindu festival or worship without offering food to God first. It could be kheer or sweetened rice or fruits or whatever or it could even be meat as in some tribal and rural communities. Whatever, we each offer our Gods, what we can afford. This is whether we have an Annapurna deity installed in our Puja or not. Some may not have the Annapurna.
After the Aarthi is performed, we assume that the Gods and Goddesses have consumed our offering. Later we offer a portion of the offering to the crows who we consider our ‘pitrus’ (deceased parents and grandparents and in-laws in the family). It is only after such a ritual is complete, we can touch our food to eat.
Even today through length and breadth of India, this custom is strictly observed – atleast on auspicious days if not possible on working days. Observing the custom is a must especially during such days as Amavasya (new moon) etc., and during religious ceremonies. in south India, even today this is practised religiously literally.
Even so, the Christians and Muslims in India (even if they are converts) have the habit of mocking this tradition that has been in our practice for thousands of years observed from the times of our ancestors.
My friend quoted the Sringeri Mutt seer and gave me this explanation on the Hindu custom of offering food to our Gods, often ridiculed by muslims and christians who ask us whether any God can eat our food really. (Never mind their gods call for bloody sacrifice by way of brutal killing of hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep and turkeys to feed the gluttons that they are).
The seer answered the question to a muslim man who was asking him the rationale behind the offering of food to Hindu Gods.
The seer said, ‘when you read a book, you imbibe its substance. But do the letters in the book disappear and get into your system? Does the subject in the book by way of printed matter vanish once you have it by heart? Yet you know, the essence of the book is in you now. But the book still stays printed and has not gone blank. You have taken matter from the book, the book has given you something, yet the book has not become empty or blank.
Similarly, when we Hindus offer food to our Gods, the food is eaten by the Gods with love and blessings, but the food still remains for us bhakths (devotees) to later consume. Like the substance of the book you read that is ingested by you, our Lord and His Missus savour and relish our food. Yet the food remains in the banana leaf (normally we offer food for Gods in banana leaf at least in the south. we may also offer food to Gods in silverware or goldware (if you can afford even if the God may not ask for it!)) physically for the whole world to see. But in his/her heart a Hindu knows, believes and acknowledges with gratitude that the Gods have accepted the offering.
The muslim man was shaken by the explanation, I believe.
Every Hindu custom and belief is strongly rooted in logic and reasoning and immense faith. Do not let others get away with their ignorance and rude comments. Hinduism does not promote or encourage terrorism or nepotism or subjugation of women to inferior position like others do. Only Sanathana Dharma lists the order of priority thus: Matha, Pitha, Guru and Deivam (mother, father, teacher and god). Which faith will consign itself to lowest level of priority as ours does. Which is why I am a Hindu. No other fake or imported belief system in the world can come out with such a profound truth and insight as this.
Be proudly a Hindu!