The Goddess of wealth, fortune, beauty, fertility, prosperity, and auspiciousness, Lakshmi is a popular deity in Hinduism. Her picture or idol adorns many Hindu homes and business establishments. She has the power to grant material fulfillment. She is also the Mother Goddess who nurtures all living creatures. Lakshmi is venerated not just by Hindus but also Jains and Buddhists. In Tantrism, she is Goddess Maha-Lakshmi, who is more like Durga. She is the Supreme Mother Goddess, an independent deity, and also a warrior goddess who rides a lion.
Lakshmi is also called Lokamata, meaning 'mother of the world', and Lola, which means fickle, hinting at the seemingly random way in which she dispenses good fortune. She is the consort of Vishnu, and both are worshipped together as Lakshmi-Narayana. When Vishnu takes his many avatars to restore Dharma on earth, she too assumes different forms, like Sita, Rukmini, Dharani, Padma, etc.
Shri Sukta was the first hymn on Lakshmi, and it became part of the Rig Veda somewhere between 1000 and 500 BC. Rig Veda is the oldest and holiest Hindu scripture. It is possible that people worshipped her as the Mother Goddess even before the Vedic age.
Birth Story of Lakshmi
As per the Mahabharata, Lakshmi was born during the churning of the primeval milky ocean by the Devas and Asura. This was for the purpose of obtaining Amrit, the divine elixir of immortality. Many wondrous things emerged from the ocean during the process, and Lakshmi was but one of them. She appeared from the ocean wearing white garments and radiating youth and beauty. This is why she has the name, Ksirabdhitanaya, 'daughter of the sea of milk', at times. Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her protector. Hence, she is believed to reside on Vishnu's chest. Another name for Vishnu is Shrinivas, which means ‘the dwelling place of Sri'. Sri (Shri) denotes prosperity and is also one of Lakshmi's names. The Harivamsa says that Lakshmi is the mother of Kama, who is the God of love.
In other Hindu texts like the Garuda Purana, Linga Purana, and Padma Purana, Lakshmi is the daughter of Sage Bhrigu and his wife, Khyati. So she is also known as Bhargavi.
In ancient Pancharatra texts, she is the source of all creation. When God wanted to create the cosmos, he did not have the necessary resources. Then, his energy, or Shakti, came forth as Maha-Lakshmi as a bright light. Placing the seed of divine desire in her palm, she unleashed the forces that created the 3 worlds and all life forms.
The Shatapatha Brahmana, which appeared soon after the Vedas, mentions that Lakshmi was born from Prajapati’s mouth. It was she who provided food, clothing, shelter, etc., to the denizens of the entire cosmos.
Lakshmi in Art
Lakshmi is often depicted with 4 arms, standing or sitting on a large lotus flower and holding a lotus flower and a water pot in two of her hands. The lotus is either blue or pink. Her other two hands display a gesture of blessing and shower coins. The Goddess wears a red sari with a gold border. Symbols of good luck, like elephants decorated with garlands of flowers, spraying water from their trunks, accompany her. In temple sculptures, she appears with Vishnu, massaging his feet with lotus flowers or sitting on his mount, Garuda.
Significance of Lakshmi
Goddess Lakshmi is a symbol of auspiciousness and prosperity, which is both material and spiritual. The Shatapatha Brahmana says that the auspicious energy of Vishnu, Shri, is the original form of Lakshmi. It is from her that the Gods get their powers which help them preserve the cosmos. The very purpose of human life is defined by Lakshmi or Sri.
As per the Shri Kamala Strotram, all women on earth represent the Goddess. Little girls, young maidens, and elderly women are all embodiments of Lakshmi. Hence, the belief is that Lakshmi will never grace a house where the women are unhappy or disrespected.
Lakshmi is worshipped as Gaja Lakshmi on Sharad Purnima, the full-moon day in the Hindu month of Ashwin. It is also called Kojaagari Purnima or Kumar Purnima. Gaja Lakshmi is one of the Ashtalakshmis or 8 forms of Lakshmi.
She is closely associated with the lotus flower. Devotees offer lotus flowers to her during Pooja. Many of her names or epithets are related to the lotus flower, like Kamala, Padma, Padmapriya, Padmamukhi, Padmamaladhara, Padmakshi, Padmasundari, and Padmahasta.
Lakshmi rules the planet Venus or Shukra, which is the karaka of wealth, beauty, luxuries, etc., in astrology. Fridays are the best days for her worship. While Vishnu represents the highest level of self-realization, Lakshmi helps us to achieve it by granting our desires.
During our lifetime, we need to realize 8 facets of our nature. These facets are represented by the 8 forms of Lakshmi or Ashtalakshmi.
Dhana Lakshmi stands for wealth and prosperity.
Dhanya Lakshmi stands for the wealth of agriculture which gives us well-being and sustenance.
Santhana Lakshmi represents progeny.
Gaja Lakshmi represents animal wealth.
Vijaya Lakshmi stands for creativity and success.
Dhairya Lakshmi stands for the strength and courage needed to face problems.
Vidya Lakshmi represents knowledge of arts and sciences.
Adi Lakshmi represents spiritual wealth.
Goddess Lakshmi as a Symbol
Goddess Lakshmi is shown wearing a red saree, and adorned with gold jewels. She sits on a lotus flower, surrounded by many elephants. Her four hands represent the goals of human life – Dharma or righteousness, Kama or desires, Artha or wealth, and Moksha or liberation from the birth-death cycle. She has a lotus in one hand, which symbolizes beauty and purity. Another hand showers gold coins, indicating the flow of material wealth.
Goddess Lakshmi’s seat is a lotus that grows in mud. The mud is the material world, but the lotus is untouched by it. Similarly, we must not become mired in the material world, for the ultimate purpose of our lives is to unite with the divine.
What Does Lakshmi Teach Us?
Material wealth is good, but it can distract us from finding the true meaning of life. It can corrupt us, so we should not become too focused on it. Lakshmi’s blessings are not only about money and luxuries. They also include spiritual treasures. She does not bless us with wealth so that we can feather our own nests. She wants us to share our wealth with others and uplift the less fortunate too. She teaches us to give freely and wholeheartedly. And the more we give, the more she blesses us.
As the Divine Mother, she gives us what we need and, along with it, the wisdom to use it wisely. She does not care for greed and selfishness. Those who are honest and generous will be blessed by her. Lakshmi resides among those who toil hard and display courage, compassion, and virtue. If we want Goddess Lakshmi to dwell in our home, we should not have fights and arguments at home or hurt others. We should act nobly always. Also, we must keep the home clean and free of clutter, for the Goddess hates untidy and dirty homes.