Attired in a crimson red sari and adorned with gold jewelry, seated on a lotus with a pot in hand, and white elephants on either side, Goddess Lakshmi’s image can be seen in many Hindu homes and shops. She is the Hindu goddess of wealth, good fortune, luxury, power, beauty, auspiciousness, and fertility. She grants both material and spiritual fulfilment. She is also worshipped by Jains and Buddhists. Her sacred name, Shri, is usually seen written on top of many documents and is a respectful prefix for gods, teachers, holy men, and any venerable person. It signifies authority, grace, and auspiciousness. Married people, both men and women, are called Shriman and Shrimati because they are blessed by Lakshmi to gain and use the world’s wealth to provide for their family and society. Lakshmi personifies earth’s beauty and bounty. Such personifications can be found in many ancient cultures like the Greeks’ Demeter, Egyptians’ Isis, Persians’ Anahita, Vikings’ Freia, and the Babylonians’ Ishtar.
The first hymn dedicated to her is the Shri Suktam, which became part of the Rig Veda, the oldest and most sacred among Hindu scriptures, sometime between 1000 and 500 BC. Some verse fragments in the Shatapatha Brahmana (penned not long after the Vedas) describe Lakshmi being born from Prajapati’s mouth to provide food, clothes, shelter, and everything that the inhabitants of the cosmos needed for a comfortable life. But she also had more wonderful things to offer – beauty, strength, good fortune, splendor, and sovereignty.
The first stories of Lakshmi appeared in the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata (written between 300 BC and 300 AD). In these, she emerged from the Milky Ocean when it was being churned by the gods and the asuras for Amrit, the divine elixir. It was in the Puranas, compiled between 500 and 1500 AD, that Lakshmi, along with Saraswati and Durga, was projected as one of the 3 primary forms of the supreme Mother goddess. Lakshmi is also the consort of Lord Vishnu, one of the Trimurtis of the Hindu pantheon.
In India, there are many beautiful temples for the worship of Goddess Lakshmi. Here is a list of nine such temples.
Sripuram Golden Temple, Vellore
Sripuram Golden Temple is one among the biggest temples in India. It is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Lakshmi and is situated on a hill called Malaikodi, It is found in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, around 100 km from Tirupati. It is covered with 1500 kg of pure gold foil in fifteen layers. This is double the quantity used for gilding the dome of the Amritsar Golden Temple, Punjab. This temple was inaugurated in 2007. The temple complex is lit in such a way that it glitters even at night. The main attraction is a star-shaped pathway (modeled on Lord Vishnu’s Sudarshan Chakra) sprawling over an area of 1.8 km. The main shrine of Goddess Lakshmi Narayani is found at the center of this path. The presiding deity is worshipped as Sri Swarna Lakshmi.
Lakshmi Narayan Temple (Birla Mandir), Delhi
Birla Mandir in New Delhi is dedicated to Lakshmi and Vishnu. It was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. Hordes of devotees visit the Lakshmi Narayan temple during festive occasions like Diwali.
Mahalakshmi Temple, Mumbai
This is an ancient temple for Goddess Lakshmi, and it is situated in Mumbai. There is an interesting story behind it. After the wall of Hornby Vellard collapsed on two occasions, the engineer had a dream about the goddess of wealth. Amazingly, a statue of Lakshmi was found in this location. Later, a temple was built here.
Lakshmi Devi Temple, Hassan
This Lakshmi temple is in Doddagaddavalli and was built during the Hoysala period in Karnataka. It is one of the earliest temples with Hoysala-style architecture.
Ashtalakshmi Temple, Chennai
The Ashtalakshmi Temple in Chennai is renowned for the shrines of goddess Lakshmi which depict all the 8 forms of Goddess Lakshmi, called Ashtalakshmi. The temple is found near Elliot’s beach, Chennai. Ashtalakshmi is said to give success, wealth, knowledge, prosperity, food, and courage. The shrine was built to fulfill the wishes of Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati Swamigal of Kanchi Mutt. The architecture is inspired by Sundhararaja Perumal Temple in Uthiramerur. The 8 forms of Goddess Lakshmi are installed in different sanctums at four levels. One special feature of this temple is that it is built in the shape of Om, the first Vedic mantra.
Kaila Devi Temple, Karauli, Rajasthan
Kaila Devi is considered to be an incarnation of Mahalakshmi or the Wealth Goddess. This temple is in Karauli district, Rajasthan.
Goravanahalli Mahalakshmi Temple
Goravanahalli Mahalakshmi Temple is a very popular Mahalakshmi temple in Tumkur District, Karnataka. The idol of Mahalakshmi here is believed to have originated on its own.
Mahalakshmi Temple, Kolhapur
The Mahalakshmi temple in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, is well known. This Shakti peetha is also a famous pilgrim site. It is said that Lord Vishnu likes this region very much, as it is the place of his consort, Lakshmi. The locals believe that both Vishnu and Lakshmi stay here and bless this place. The temple was built by the Chalukyas of Karnataka.
Ashtalakshmi Temple, outskirts of Hyderabad
This magnificent temple is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and is found on the outskirts of Hyderabad city in Andhra Pradesh. The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, has a special place in her devotees’ hearts as she bestows happiness and prosperity on them as well as Moksha or salvation.