Wednesday, 26 January, 2022
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Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and wellbeing

Goddess Lakshmi or Mahalakshmi is the consort of Mahavishnu, the Preserver. She is the resplendent goddess of wealth and prosperity who provides the beings with all kinds of material abundance. She is a protector as well as bestower. She bestows upon deserving people according to their past karma and degrees of devotion. She also protects from ill health and adversity.

Hence, in Hinduism, worship of Lakshmi is considered a suitable remedy for the alleviation of suffering. Her regular worship, chanting of her names, remembering her believed to bring good and luck and prosperity to people. Wealth plays an important role in the preservation of life upon earth. Hence, as the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi rightfully fulfills her duties as the nourisher, preserver and provider.

Associated mythology

Mahalakshmi is a form of Mother Goddess or Shakti. She is popularly known as Sri or Lakshmi. According to some both were probably different deities and at some time were identified as one. She is depicted in the Vedas as the goddess of various forms of wealth.

As per the Puranas, she incarnated several times. In her first incarnation she was born as the daughter of Bhrigu and his wife Khyati. Next she was born from the waters of milky ocean when the gods and demons churned it in search of the elixir of life (amritam) and gifted to Vishnu as a companion and supporter of His Dharma.

Incarnations of Lakshmi

Whenever Mahavishnu incarnates on earth in a human form, Lakshmi incarnates along with Him and plays her part in restoring Dharma. She incarnated as Padma When Vishnu incarnated upon earth as Vamana, as Dharani when he incarnated as Parasurama, as Sita when he incarnated as Rama and as Rukmini when he incarnated as Krishna.

Etymology

Lakshmi means fortune, prosperity, wealth, good luck, success, accomplishment, beauty, grace, charm, loveliness, splendor, luster, royalty, sovereign power, auspiciousness and so on. Goddess Lakshmi represents all these qualities. Her other popular name Sri denotes wealth (siri), which in the ancient times was represented by the wealth of food grains. The English words cereal was probably derived from Cere or Siri.

According to another legend, Lakshmi appeared at the time of creation, floating over the waters, sitting on the expanded petals of a lotus flower. She is also variously described as the wife of Sūrya, Prajāpati, Dattatreya and Dharma, as the mother of Kāma, sister or mother of Dhātr and Vidhātr, as one of the nine Śhaktis of Vishnu, as a manifestation of Prakrti. She is also identified as Dākshāyanī in the Bharataśrama, and as Sītā, the wife of Rāma, besides as many other legendary women of great purity and virtue.

Appearance and iconography

She is generally depicted in the images and statues as seated on an open eight petaled lotus flower holding lotus flowers in her two hands and holding the other two in abhaya (assurance) and varada (giving) mudras (gestures) respectively. Her complexion in the images varies from dark to pink to golden yellow or white. In the images and her descriptions he is usually associated with water, denoting her association with water. Two elephants stand on either side of her emptying pitchers of water through their raised trunks. Some times she is shown in the company of Maha Vishnu and sometimes alone, showering gold coins upon her devotees. In the company of Vishnu she is depicted with two hands and when alone, she is depicted with four hands, holding lotus, conch, a pot of nectar and fruit respective in each. In some images, as an aspect of Durga, she is also depicted with four additional hands, each carrying a bow, an arrow, a mace and a discuss. When she is depicted with two hands, she is known as Samanya Lakshmi. When she is depicted with two lotuses in two hands and the other two in Abhaya and Varada gestures (mudras), she is known as Varalakshmi.

She is also depicted in some images along with Ganapathi as deities of good fortune and auspiciousness. Her vehicle is the legendary owl, which is usually considered inauspicious if it is seen in open or in the houses. We have already explained the symbolism of owl as the vehicle of goddess Lakshmi in the section on symbolism in Hinduism. Symbolically, the owl represent wisdom or intelligence on the one hand and ill omen or bad luck on the other. It leads an unusual and solitary life which stand for loneliness and fear. These two are the common experiences of people who possess wealth and abundance.

Aspects of Lakshmi

The goddess symbolizes not only material wealth but also the wealth of all kinds from food to fame and the richness of life. Hence, she has many aspects representing various forms of wealth, richness, abundance, perfection, fulness and enjoyment. Hindu tradition recognizes eight forms of Lakshmi., which are collectively known as Ashtalakshmis (eight Lakshmis), each representing a particular type of wealth. Their names and associated aspect are, Adilakshmi (first), Dhanyalakshmi (crops), Dhairyalakshmi (courage), Gajalakshmi (elephants), Santanalakshmi (children), Vijayalakshmi (victory), Vidyalakshmi (education), and Dhanalakshmi (riches).

Of them Gajalakshmi is the most popular. It may be because  in ancient times elephants played an important role in wars and clearing forests to facilitate cultivation. They constituted an important part of the royal army, just as battle tanks today, and denoted the might of a king and his chances of victory in a battle. Chance and luck also favored those who possessed them in abundance,. Hence, Goddess Lakshmi, as the source of the wealth of elephants became popular as Gaja Lakshmi. Because of that, she also became an associated deity of Lord Ganesha, the god  who possesses an elephant head.

There are many names associated with her. Dhyana Lakshmi, Saubhagya Lakshmi, Griha Lakshmi, Indra Lakshmi, Padmavathi, Padmaja, Kamala, Sri Devi, Neeraja, Narayani, Vaishnavi, Khshira Samudra Raja Tanaya, Padmini, are some of her other popular names.

Worship

Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped in millions of households, temples and commercial establishments by people seeking peace and prosperity.

She is worshipped both ritually and spiritually according to the Vedic and Tantric traditions. People worship her by offering her prayers and food, chanting her various names, or meditating upon her images. Worship of eight Lakshmis (ashta-lakshmis) is also very common.

In all forms of worship, utmost emphasis is laid upon personal purity. Worshippers are expected to maintain a strict code of conduct and maintain utmost purity to earn her grace.

During such worship it is customary for people to pray to her image or statute or symbols and make their offerings. They recite special prayers specially meant for her (Lakshmi stuti), or chant her names a hundred or thousand times, and seek blessings. In the tantric worship, she is worshipped with mantras. and yantras (mystic diagrams).

Some of the important prayers addressed to Lakshmi during worship are: Sri Mahalakshmi Ashtakam, Sri Lakshmi Sahasaranama Sthothra Sri Stuti, Sri Lakshmi Stuti Sri Kanakadhara Sthothra by Sri Chatussloki Sri Lakshmi Sloka and Sri Sukta which is contained in the Vedas. Agastya Lakshmi Stotra.

Lakshmi is especially worshipped during Diwali festival by most Hindus with a lot of fanfare. Traditionally Indian businessmen, merchants and traders, open their annual account books after worshipping her in their offices and business establishments on this occasion.

 

Courtesy: hinduwebsite.com