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Lakshmi (Sanskrit: लक्ष्मी , ) is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, light, wisdom, fortune, fertility, generosity and courage; and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm. She is believed to protect her devotees from all kinds of misery and money-related sorrows. Representations of Lakshmi (or Shri) are found also in Jain monuments.

Lakshmi in Sanskrit is derived from its elemental form "lakS," meaning to perceive or observe. This is synonymous with lakṣya, meaning aim or objective. Lakshmi is thus goddess of the means to achieving objectives, including prosperity in the lives of humankind.

She is the consort of Vishnu and married Rama (in her incarnation as Sita) and Krishna (as Radha and later Rukmini).

Evolution and Legends

Deva and Asuras were both mortal (mrita) at one time. Seeking immortality, they churned the ocean of milk. Vishnu incarnated as "kurma" the tortoise, on which was placed a mountain, 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 "amritam", the "nectar of immortality". With this the avatar of "kurma", the tortoise ended. Vishnu, then took up form of a beautiful maiden to distract "raakshasas" and gave immortality to the "deva". Sri Lakshmi, very much later married Shri Vishnu. Shri is a honorific address that is probably derived from Lakshmi and is used until the present day for males all over India. The equivalent for married females is "Srimati".

The moon also appeared from the ocean during the churning, the 'moon' (chandra) 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 best given in Monier Williams' Sanskrit–English Dictionary compiled in the 19th century in British India.

1. laksmIka meaning a mark, sign, token is in Rik Veda x, 71, 2 and Nirukta iv, 10.

2. laksmi ( with or without pAp'I ) is a bad sign or an impending misfortune referred to Atharva Veda and Apasthambha Shrauta Suutra.

3. In older Sanskrit language it is used used usually with "p'uNyA" meaning a good sign, good fortune, prosperity, success, happiness in Atharva Veda.

4. Laksmi personifies wealth, riches, beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre in Mahabharata.

5. Laksmi as noun is goddess of fortune and beauty ( frequently in the later mythology identified with Śrī and regarded as the wife of or )

6. According to Sir Monier Williams, "Religious thought and life in India", 45 , 40-43 she sprang with other precious things from the foam of the ocean when churned by the gods and demons for the recovery of the . She appeared with a lotus in her hand , whence she is also called Padmā.

7. According to another legend she appeared at the creation floating over the water on the expanded petals of a lotusflower , she is also variously regarded as a wife of Sūrya, as a wife of Prajā-pati, as a wife of Dharma and mother of Kāma, as sister or mother of and , as wife of Datt^atreya, as one of the 9 Śaktis of , as a manifestation of &c., as identified with in Bharat^aśrama, and with Sītā, wife of Rāma, and with other women )

Explanation of Mahalakshmi

Goddess Lakshmi seated
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 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 totally 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 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.

Epithets

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:
  • Padma: lotus dweller.
  • Kamala: lotus dweller.
  • Padmapriya: One who likes lotuses
  • Padmamaladhara devi: One who wears a garland of lotuses
  • Padmamukhi: One whose face is as beautiful as a lotus
  • Padmakshi: One whose eyes are as beautiful as a lotus
  • Padmahasta: One who holds a lotus
  • Padmasundari: One who is as beautiful as a lotus
  • Vishnupriya: One who is the beloved of Vishnu
  • Ulkavahini: One who rides an owl


Her other names include: Rama, Indira, Manushri, Chakrika, Kamalika, Lalima, Nandika, Rujula, Vaishnavi, Narayani, Bhargavi, Sridevi, Chanchala, Bhumi Devi, Jalaja, and Aiswarya. She is also referred to as Jaganmaatha (mother of the universe) in Shri Mahalakshmi Ashtakam.Rama and Indira are popular.

Iconography

Sculpture of Lakshmi
Physically, goddess Lakshmi is described as a fair lady, with four arms, standing upon a lotus, dressed in fine garments and precious jewels, 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 most striking feature of the iconography of Lakshmi is her persistent association with the lotus. The meaning of the lotus in relation to Shri-Lakshmi refers to purity and spiritual power. Rooted in the mud, but blossoming above the water, completely uncontaminated by the mud, the lotus represents spiritual perfection and authority which rises above worldly contamination. Furthermore, the lotus seat is a common motif in Hindu iconography. 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.

Goddess Lakshmi's traditionally accepted vehicle, the owl (Ulooka in Sanskrit), is a bird that sleeps through the day and prowls through the night.

A 1400 years old - rare granite sculpture of Goddess Lakshmi has been recovered at the Waghama village along the Jehlummarker in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmirmarker

Ashta Lakshmi

Ashta Lakshmi (Sanskrit: अष्टलक्ष्मी, , 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.They are:
1) आदि लक्ष्मी [The First manifestation of Lakshmi]
2) धान्य लक्ष्मी [Granary wealth]
3) धैर्य लक्ष्मी [Wealth of courage]
4) गज लक्ष्मी [Elephants, symbols of wealth]
5) सन्तान लक्ष्मी [Wealth of continuity, progeny]
6) विजय लक्ष्मी [Wealth of victory]
7) विद्या लक्ष्मी [Wealth of knowledge and education]
8) धन लक्ष्मी [Monetary wealth]


Celebration in Hindu society



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 as Shri, pronounced as shree) renders as 'one who takes delight in' Sri Lakshmi, meaning wealth, wealth of any kind. Any thing that need be affluent gets the auspicious prefix or suffix 'Lakshmi', or 'Sri' like Rajya Lakshmi (Wealth of Empire), Shanti Sri (Wealth of Peace), etc. In modern Indiamarker, 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 Uttarakhandmarker, 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.

Karaveera Nivasini Mahalakshmi also known as Ambabai is the patron goddess of Kolhapurmarker city, Maharashtramarker.

Lakshmi Puja in Bengal

kojagiri Lakshmi puja
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 whom she has full control. She is also referred to as pranadayini(giver of vital life-sustaining energy) who can turn a dull thing into 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 crown with ruby studded. 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.

Lakshmi Puja in Orissa

Manabasa Gurubara

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" is done by housewives themselves. On each Thursday of the month the houses are plastered with cow-dung, 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 RitualAfter 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 LegendIn 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 which 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 couldn't 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.

GajaLakshmi Puja

Gaja Lakshmi Puja is celebrated in the Sharad Purnima, full-moon day in the Oriya month of Aswina(September- October). This autumn festival is one of the most popular and important festival of Orissamarker.The goddess of wealth is worshipped for one day and in some places it is celebrated for 7 to10 days. and the festival is religiously celebrated by the business community in Orissa. In all over Orissa richly decorated and beautiful 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 fullmoon - Purnima. Girls and Boys wear new clothes and generally have a good time with family and friends.

Main RitualIn the early morning the girls after their purificatory bath 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 special nature. They also play a kind of game known as 'Puchi'. They also indulge in other varieties of country-games

Worship

Two of the most famous prayers for worshipping Ma Lakshmi are: Sri Lakshmi Stuti By Indra and Sri Sukta. 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, Vithal Rukmini.Another lesser known form of Lakshmi is worshipped in Karnatka as Attilakamma which is a furious form of Lakshmi and also her sisters Jalgeramma and Doddamma. Here people offer blood to these goddesses and all the desires are fulfilled.

Temples



See also



References



Further reading

  • Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions (ISBN 81-208-0379-5) by David Kinsley
  • Lakshmi Puja and Thousand Names (ISBN 1-887472-84-3) by Swami Satyananda Saraswati



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