Lakshmi by Raja Ravi Varma
|Affiliation||Devi (Tridevi), Shakti|
Lakshmi (Sanskrit: लक्ष्मी lakṣmī, Hindi pronunciation: [ˈləkʂ.miː]) is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity (both material and spiritual), light, wisdom, fortune, fertility, generosity and courage; and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm. Representations of Lakshmi are also found in Jain monuments. Mahalakshmi brings good luck to her devotees. She is believed to protect her devotees from all kinds of misery and money-related sorrows.
Lakshmi in Sanskrit is derived from its elemental form lakS, meaning "to perceive or observe". This is synonymous with lakṣya, meaning "aim" or "objective". The Hindu Sacred Texts Vedas call Mahalakshmi as Lakshyayidhi Lakshmihi which means she is the one who has the object and aim of uplifting mankind.
Goddess Mahalakshmi is called as Shri because she is endowed with six auspicious and divine qualities or Gunas and also because she is the source of strength even to Lord Narayana. She is the consort of Vishnu and married Rama (in her incarnation as Sita) and Krishna (as Radha and later Rukmini).
Devas (gods) and asuras (demons) were both mortal at one time. Amrit, the divine nectar that would give immortality could only be obtained by churning the Kshirsagar (Ocean of Milk). The devas and asuras both sought immortality and decided to churn the Kshirsagar. With the devas on one side and the asuras on the other, the samudra manthan commenced. Vishnu incarnated as Kurma, the tortoise, on whom was placed a mountain as a churning pole, and Vasuki, the great venom-spewing serpent, was wrapped around it and used to churn the ocean. A host of divine celestial objects came up during the churning. Among these, importantly, was Goddess Lakshmi, the daughter of the king of the milky ocean. The last to come up was the Amrit. With this, the avatar of Kurma, the tortoise, ended. Vishnu then took up the form of a beautiful maiden to distract the asuras and gave immortality to the devas.
Goddess Mahalakshmi has ever been in existence. Her appearance from samudra manthan is one of her main manifestation only. Goddess Mahalakshmi was also born to the great Sage Bhrigu and she is therefore also called as Bhargavi. Goddess Mahalkshmi is also the sister of the great Guru Sukracharya as well as the great planet Chandra. Each time Vishnu descends on earth as an avatar, He is accompanied by an avatar of Lakshmi.
The moon (chandra) also appeared from the ocean during the churning, making it her brother. Alakshmi, the goddess of misfortune, is Lakshmi's elder sister. According to the Vishnu Purana, Lakshmi is the daughter of Bhrigu and Khyaati and resided in Swarga, but, due to the curse of Durvasa, she left Swarga and made Ksheersagara her home.
The etymology and meanings of the word lakshmi is given in Monier Williams' Sanskrit–English Dictionary compiled in the 19th century in British India.
Mahalakshmi is the presiding Goddess of the Middle episode of Devi Mahatmya. Here, she is depicted as Devi in her universal form as Shakti. The manifestation of the Devi to kill Mahishasura is formed by the effulgences of all the gods. The Goddess is described as eighteen-armed, bearing a string of beads, battle axe, maze, arrow, thunderbolt, lotus, bow, water pot, cudgel, lance, sword, shield, conch, bell, wine cup, trident, noose and the discus sudarsana. She has a complexion of coral and is seated on a lotus. She is known as Ashta Dasa Bhuja Mahalakshmi.
She is seen in two forms, Bhudevi and Sridevi, both either side of Sri Venkateshwara or Vishnu. Bhudevi is the representation and totality of the material world or energy, called the aparam Prakriti, in which She is called Mother Earth. Sridevi is the spiritual world or energy, called the Param Prakriti. Most people are mistaken that they are separate beings although they are one, Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the power of Lord Vishnu.
Mahalakshmi's presence is also found on Lord Sri Venkateswara (at Tirumala) or Vishnu's chest, at the heart. Lakshmi is the embodiment of love, from which devotion to God or Bhakti flows from. It is through Love/Bhakti or Lakshmi that the atma or soul is able to reach God or Vishnu. Lakshmi plays a special role as the mediator between her husband Lord Vishnu and his worldly devotees. While Vishnu is often conceived of as a stern, easily-perturbed patriarch, Lakshmi represents a more soothing, warm and approachable mother figure who willingly intervenes in the lives of devotees on his behalf. Often, it is Lakshmi who acts as the advocate for the request of a given mortal. When asking Vishnu for grace or the forgiveness of sins, Hindus often approach him through the intermediary presence of Lakshmi. She is also the personification of the spiritual energy within us and the universe, called Kundalini. Also, she embodies the spiritual world, also known as Vaikunta, the abode of Lakshmi-Narayana or Vishnu, or what would be considered Heaven in Vaishnavism. She is also the divine qualities of God and the soul. Lakshmi is the embodiment of God's superior spiritual feminine energy, or the Param Prakriti, which purifies, empowers and uplifts the individual. Hence, she is called the Goddess of Fortune. Due to her motherly feelings and being the consort of Narayan (Supreme Being), she is believed as the Mother of the Universe.
Lakshmi has many names. She is known to be very closely associated with the lotus, and her many epithets are connected to the flower, such as:
Prakruti - Goddess Mahalakshmi is the very personification of nature, the centre of all, the manifested and the unmanifested.
Vikruti - Goddess Mahalakshmi is the Multi-Faceted Nature, who assumes many forms, known by numerous names, yet is attributeless.
Vidya - Goddess Mahalakshmi is the very personification of Wisdom.
Padma: lotus dweller
Her other names include: Rama, Indira, Manushri, Chakrika, Kamalika, Lalima, Nandika, Rujula, Vaishnavi, Narayani, Bhargavi, Sridevi, Chanchala, Bhumi Devi, Jalaja, Madhavi and Aiswarya. She is also referred to as Jaganmaatha (mother of the universe) in Shri Mahalakshmi Ashtakam. Rama and Indira are popular.
Lakshmi is described as bestowing coins of prosperity and flanked by elephants signifying her royal power. However, in some texts, she has an owl as her vahana. Her expression is always calm and loving. The lotus also symbolizes the fertile growth of organic life, as the world is continually reborn on a lotus growing out of Vishnu's navel.
Lakshmi is worshiped daily, but special focus is given in the month of October. Her worship ceremonies include people offering food and sweets, chanting her 108 names, prayers repeated, and devotional songs being sung.
Ashta Lakshmi (Sanskrit: अष्टलक्ष्मी,Aṣṭalakṣmī, lit. "eight Lakshmis") are a group of eight secondary manifestations of the goddess Lakshmi, who preside over eight sources of wealth and thus represent the powers of Shri-Lakshmi. Actually Goddess Mahalakshmi presides over eighteen forms of wealth, but the most popular are the following eight forms of wealth only, which are governed by Ashta Lakshmis as they are most sought after by humans in the mundane and material world. The other ten forms of wealth includes, the eight great siddhis called as AshtaSiddhis, the spiritual knowledge or Gnana and teaching or imparting the spiritual knowledge to the entire world without any class difference. Goddess Mahalakshmi is also known to preside over 16 forms of wordly wealth excluding Ashta siddhis, gnana and imparting gnana. They are as follows: (1) Fame; (2) Knowledge; (3) Courage and Strength; (4) Victory; (5) Good Children; (6) Valor; (7) Gold, Gems and Other Valuables; (8) Grains in abundance; (9) Happiness; (10) Bliss; (11) Intelligence; (12) Beauty; (13) Higher Aim, High Thinking and Higher Meditation; (14) Morality and Ethics; (15) Good Health; (16) Long Life.
|आदि लक्ष्मी||Ādi Lakṣmī||The First manifestation of Lakshmi|
|धान्य लक्ष्मी||Dhānya Lakṣmī||Granary wealth|
|धैर्य लक्ष्मी||Dhairya Lakṣmī||Wealth of courage|
|गज लक्ष्मी||Gaja Lakṣmī||Elephants, symbols of wealth|
|सन्तान लक्ष्मी||Santāna Lakṣmī||Wealth of continuity, progeny|
|विजय लक्ष्मी||Vijaya Lakṣmī||Wealth of victory|
|विद्या लक्ष्मी||Vidyā Lakṣmī||Wealth of knowledge and education|
|धन लक्ष्मी||Dhana Lakṣmī||Monetary wealth|
It must be kept in mind that the type of Ashta Lakshmis differ with every yuga and thus one would not find uniformity in the names of Ashta lakshmis in Hindu sacred texts. Actually speaking there are more than crores of manifestations of Mahalakshmi and without Goddess Mahalakshmi nothing in this world would survive as She forms the basis of the entire gamut of creation. Without her grace there will be nothing to eat, no air to breath, no progeny in continuation etc. At a minor level, one cannot survive without monetary wealth in this wide world, if one has not developed spiritualism. Even if one were to beg, one would not get even a dime without the grace of Goddess Mahalskhmi. It is only through the grace of Goddess Mahalakshmi that even King of Gods Devandra, gained wealth, when he was cursed by the famous Sage Dhurvasa for disrespecting the garland offered to him.
Goddess Mahalkshmi is also said to exist in several other forms. The most famous amonsgt them are 1. Sridevi, 2. Bhoodevi, and 3. Neeladevi. The famous Vaishnavite Saint Aandaal who was born in Srivilliputhur about 5050 years ago is an incarnation of Goddess Mahalakshmi Herself. Goddess Sridevi represents moveable assets, while Goddess Bhoodevi represents immoveable assets. Actually moveable assets in Sanskrit is called Chanchala, while immoveable is called Achanchala. It is only because of this mountains are prefixed with Achanachala in India, eg, Arunachala, Himachala etc. The term Chanchala also denotes fickleness and that is why we do not find people always wealthy. Everything in this world operates only with the grace of Goddess Mahalakshmi.
Hindus worship Lakshmi the most on Diwali, the festival of lights. According to tradition, people would put small oil lamps outside their homes on Diwali and hope Lakshmi will come to bless them.
The prefix Sri (also spelled Shri, pronounced as shree) renders as "one who takes delight in" Sri Lakshmi, meaning wealth of any kind. Any thing that need be affluent gets the auspicious prefix or suffix Lakshmi, or Sri, such as Rajya Lakshmi (Wealth of Empire), Shanti Sri (Wealth of Peace), etc. In modern India, common titles standing in for the English Mr. and Mrs. are Shri (also Sri or Shree) and Shrimati (also Srimati or Shreemati), as in Sri desai or Srimati shanti.
In Uttarakhand, after the worship of the goddess on Diwali night, the shankha, or conch, is not blown. This is because the shankha is also from the ocean like the goddess herself, so it is given a day of rest.
In Bengal, Lakshmi is worshiped during a night in autumn when the moon is full, the brightest night of the year. It is believed that she showers wealth on this night. She, along with her mount, the great white owl, descends to Earth and takes away the darkness of poverty, stagnation, anger, and laziness from our lives. The significance of her vahana owl is that it represents the royalties and riches, which always serve at her feet and over which she has full control. She is also referred to as pranadayini("giver of vital life-sustaining energy") who can turn a dull thing full of life.
She is depicted in a red costume, which represents continuous activity, or in a golden costume representing fulfillment. She wears ornaments full of gold and a golden ruby-studded crown. Her hair is long, dark and wavy. Her complexion is golden, representing boon-giver. She shows the abhaya mudra or the gyan mudra with her right hand and holds a potful of gold in her left arm and paddy sheaf in her left hand.
In the Sri Vaishnava philosophy, however, Sri (Lakshmi) is honored as the Iswarigm sarva bhootanam, i.e., the supreme goddess and not just the goddess of wealth.
With the harvest brought home, the farmers feel greatly satisfied with the yield. After six months of toil in the field, they fill the granaries with the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi. So, the whole month of Margashira(December-January) is spent in worshipping the goddess. All the rituals connected with the festival Manabasa Gurubara or Lakshmi Puja are done by housewives themselves. On each Thursday of the month, the houses are plastered with cow dung, and the floors are decorated with beautiful floral designs drawn with rice powder mixed with water. This is called Jhoti. Footmarks are painted from the doorstep to the place of worship, as if Goddess Lakshmi has entered the house. The roofs are decorated with flower garlands and festoon woven out of paddy stalks.
Main ritual After a purificatory bath in the morning, the housewives worship the goddess, not through an image, but significantly through paddy measures. Different varieties of rice cakes and Kshiri (rice soup prepared with milk and sugar) are prepared in every household and are offered to the deity and then taken by all.
The legend In the evening, the Laxmi Purana is read or recited, in which an interesting story is told. Once Shreeya, an untouchable woman, worshipped Goddess Lakshmi by observing this festival. Being moved by her devotion, Lakshmi left her permanent abode, the temple that is situated inside the campus of the temple of Lord Jagannatha, and visited Shreeya's house. When Lord Balabhadra, the elder brother of Lord Jagannatha, came to know about this, she was declared defiled and was not allowed to come back into the temple. Lakshmi was deeply hurt and went to her father, Sahara.
When Lakshmi went out of the temple, all wealth in the temple started vanishing. Later, the Gods Balabhadra and Jagannatha could not find food to sustain themselves. They came out of the temple in the attire of Brahmin beggars in search of food. Ultimately, they landed at the door of the Goddess Lakshmi. Balabhadra apologised for the mistake, and all of them returned to the temple.
The Purana ultimately teaches all to pay extreme regard to Goddess Lakshmi, and the person who disregards her is sure to fall on evil days. This means that wealth should be well protected and properly used, and misutilisation of wealth is sure to make a person suffer.
Gaja Lakshmi Puja is celebrated in the Sharad Purnima, the full-moon day in the Oriya month of Aswina(September- October). This autumn festival is one of the most popular and important festivals of Orissa. The goddess of wealth is worshipped for one day, and, in some places, it is celebrated for seven to ten days, and the festival is religiously celebrated by the business community in Orissa. All over Orissa, richly decorated and beautifully made images of Goddess Gaja Lakshmi are installed, and the festival instills a spirit of holiness and sanctity into the whole community so much so that people of other faiths participate in it with abundant warmth and sincerity. In Orissa, this festival also known as Kumar Purnima falls on the full moon - Purnima. Girls and boys wear new clothes and generally have a good time with family and friends.
In the early morning, the girls, after their purificatory baths, wear new garments and make food offerings to the sun. They observe fasting for the day. In the evening, when the moon rises, they again make food offerings of a special variety and take it after the rituals are over.
It is a festival of rejoicing for the girls. All of them sing and dance. The songs are of a special nature. They also play a kind of game known as Puchi. They also indulge in other varieties of country games.
There are innumerable Slokas in praise of Goddess Mahalakshmi. Some of the most famous prayers for worshipping Goddess Mahalakshmi are: Sri Lakshmi Sahasaranama Sthothra by Sanathkumara, Sri Stuti By Sri Vedantha Desikar, Sri Lakshmi Stuti By Indra, Sri Kanakadhara Sthothra by Sri Aadhi Shankaracharya, Sri Chatussloki by Sri Yamunacharya, Sri Lakshmi Sloka by Bhagavan Sri Hari Swamiji and Sri Sukta which is contained in the Vedas. The famous Lakshmi Gayathri Sloka " Om Mahalakshmichae Vidmahe sri Vishnupathinichae Dhi-Mahi Thanno Lakshmi Prachodayat" is a powerful prayer contained in the Vedic Sri Sukta, which when chanted everyday 108 times is known to grace the chanter with immediate grace of the Goddess within 90 days.
There is another famous prayer pronounced by the great sage Agastua: Agastya Lakshmi Stotra. Although Mother Lakshmi is worshipped as the goddess of fortune, when she is worshipped with Narayana, the worshipper is blessed with not only wealth but also peace and prosperity. They can be worshipped in various forms, such as Lakshmi Narayana, Lakshmi Narasimha, Sita Rama, Radha Krishna, or Vithal Rukmini. Another, lesser known, form of Lakshmi is worshiped in Karnataka as Hattilakamma, which is a furious form of Lakshmi and also two sisters Doddamma and Chikamma which are a form of Durga. Here people offer blood to these goddesses, and smear the same on wall with hands. Its believed that by doing so all the desires are fulfilled within three days.
Sanskrit Mantra :
ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं त्रिभुवन महालक्ष्म्यै अस्मांक दारिद्र्य नाशय प्रचुर धन देहि देहि क्लीं ह्रीं श्रीं ॐ ।
English Mantra :
Om Shring Hring Kling Tribhuvan Mahalakshmyai Asmaakam Daaridray Naashay Prachur Dhan Dehi Dehi Kling Hring Shring Om ।
This Laksmi Mantra is to be recited 1.25 lacs times within 72 days, with Havan done after this. During this recitation, one worships Goddess Laksmi with Shodashopachar vidhi. The prayers are normally answered without negative karma being incurred, only if there is no excessive greed or craving in the heart of the person requesting the gods for any favour.