Sometimes we forget that our relationship with God is a two-way street. We often leave out the ritual of daanam from our daily prayers. We often pray to God for tangible material things, without realizing that we are not offering God the same courtesy. In order for our daily prayers to work, one key component is making an offering to God. Let us look at a story from Braham Purana to understand the importance of this ritual of giving.
There was once a sage named Maugdaliya. He was a simple yet wise man. His repute was of such great worth that his prayers were accepted by Lord Vishnu himself. He never asked the Lord for anything material, but he conducted poojas daily. One day, Maugdaliya’s wife Jabali, asked him why they were so poor if his prayers had such worth. Maugdaliya then posed this question to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu told him that he could not give Maugdaliya material wealth because Maugdaliya never gave him any daan. To this, Maugdaliya responded saying that he had nothing worth offering. Lord Vishnu told him that the few corns of barley that he had would suffice and so Maugdaliya gave them to the Lord as offering. Seeing the sage’s dedication, Lord Vishnu blessed him with worldly riches. The katha of Krishna Sudama is also famously known. Krishna knew that Sudama would not make an offering to him so he forcefully took two morsels of rice from his hand. The next day he bestowed Sudama with immense wealth.
From these kathas it can be understood that the objective of daanam is not to give away your riches. The objective of daanam is to show your devotion to God by being willing to offer him whatever you have. Daanam can be divided into three categories for daily puja:
1. Guru daanam
This is the daanam offered to the Guru who is acting as a conduit for your prayer and conversation with God.
2. Gau graas daanam
This refers to the daanam offered to the sacred animal, cow. Grazing the cow and giving him his first morsel is considered to be an act of devotion to God.
3. Dev daanam
The final stage, is the offering that you make directly to God. These offerings are made to Ishta Devta so that your prayers for material wealth can be met.