Happy Diwali to All!

 

Sri Lakshmi

 

By Kanaka Ramakrishna

“Yaa devi Sarvabhuteshu Lakshmibhutena Samsthita,

Namastasyai, Namastasyasyai, Namasthasyai  Namonamaha.”

“Sri” or “Lakshmi”, as depicted in the Vedas, is the Goddess of wealth and fortune, power and beauty.  In the pre-Vedic period, ‘Sri’ was worshipped associated with fertility, water and agriculture. Though during the Vedic period ‘Lakshmi’ was worshipped by the Aryans as a deity whose description was so identical with ‘Sri’ there was no difference between Sri and Lakshmi and they became one and the same deity.

The word Lakshmi is derived from the Sanskrit word, ‘Lakshme’ meaning ‘goal’. Lakshmi therefore is always worshipped with a desire to reach the goal of life which includes both material prosperity and spiritual awakening. She is represented as the power of multiplicity and the goddess of fortune, both of which are necessary in the process of preservation.  She is believed to protect her devotees from all kinds of miseries, both secular and spiritual.

Lakshmi is the power and consort of Vishnu, the preserver and protector of the universe. As such, She is the highest presiding deity of the whole universe, both chetana (conscious Self) and achetana (matter). Vishnu is endowed with all power and auspicious qualities and is eternal. Lakshmi is His creative energy, co-eternal.

Whenever Vishnu incarnated on the earth in human form, Lakshmi is also born as His consort. When Vishnu appeared as Vamana, Parusurama, Rama and Krishna, She appeared as Padma (Kamala), Dharini, Sita and Rukmini.  She is as inseparable from Vishnu as speech from its meaning or heat from fire. Vishnu represents all that is masculine and Lakshmi represents all that is feminine.

In her first incarnation, according to the Puranas, she was the daughter of the sage Bhrugu and his wife Khyati and hence is called Bhargavi. Later, She was born out of the ocean of milk at the time of its churning by Devas and Asuras. During the samudra manthana, in her main manifestation, she made Her appearance as Lakshmi.

Lakshmi is described as enchantingly beautiful and standing on a lotus and holding lotuses in each of her two hands.  She is also adorned with lotus garland.  Very often elephants are shown on either side of Lakshmi, spraying water from pitchers presented by celestial maidens.  Her colour is variously described as dark, pink, golden, yellow or white.  While in the company of Vishnu, She is shown with two hands only.  In Lakshmi temples, she is shown seated on a lotus throne, with four hands holding padma, sankha, amrita kalasa, (pot of ambrosia) and bilva or citron fruit. When shown with eight hands, bow and arrow, mace and discus, She is actually the Durga aspect of Mahalakshmi.

The highly symbolical picture has some explanation behind it. If Lakshmi is pictured in dark complexion, it is to show her Kali aspect, if golden yellow, that shows her as the source of all wealth. If white, she represents the purest form of prakriti (nature) from which the universe has evolved. The pinkish complexion, which is more common, reflects her compassion for all, since she is the Mother of all living beings.

Usually Lakshmi is depicted with four hands wearing red saree with golden border. The red colour symbolises activity and prosperity.  The lotus she is standing on, grows in water but is not wetted by it.  It signifies that while living in this world, one should enjoy its pleasures but should not become attached to it. The four hands signify her power to grant the four purusharthas (goals of human life) – dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (enjoyment of worldly pleasures) and moksha (beatitude).

The two front hands also represent the physical activities in the world and the two hands in the back indicate spiritual activities that lead to spiritual perfection. The right hand at the front shows her bestowing Her blessings to her devotees.  The fruit stands for the fruit of our actions.  However much we may toil and work hard, unless mother is gracious enough to grant the fruits of our labour, nothing will be of any avail. Amritakalasa signifies that She can give us the bliss of immortality.  The two elephants represent worldly wealth and also power.  It also signifies that the wealth should be earned but should be shared with others to bring happiness.

In some of the sculptural depictions of Lakshmi, the owl is shown as her carrier vehicle.  It may look rather odd and strange that the Goddess of fortune and beauty should have an ugly bird as Her carrier, the very sight of which is generally considered inauspicious.  If we understand the symbolical significance of it, we will understand the poor bird and its compassionate Mother, the Mother of all – good and bad, virtuous and vice, ugly and beautiful. All are equal to Her.

The Sanskrit word for the owl is uluka.  It is also one of the names of Indra, the King of Gods who personifies all the wealth, power and glory that a living person can aspire for in life.  The egoistic seeker of only worldly wealth is compared to the glory of Indra, who is represented by the owl, which is ugly, inelegant, blind to the day-light and can see in the dark night. Hence, Lakshmi rides on Uluka, the personification of ignorance, to keep it under Her control and to give spiritual wisdom to the genuine seekers. The owl also teaches a lesson to all of us that we should not be blind to the light of wisdom coming from the sun of knowledge.

Lakshmi is called, ‘Sri’ as she is endowed with six auspicious and divine qualities (shad sampatti), the six kinds of qualities required in humans also, are considered as true wealth. They are: calmness of mind, self-control, self-withdrawl, forbearance, faith and one-pointedness.  After procuring these by Her Grace, one should seek material wealth.  In the absence of right values and good qualities, all the worldly wealth would be futile and worthless. Control over the mind brings success in life as the mind will not spoil human behaviour in spite of being wealthy.

The power of Mahalakshmi is also manifested in eight forms, presiding over eight sources of wealth, called Ashta Lakshmi. Though Lakshmi means wealth of any kind, primarily eight kinds of wealth are associated with the eight forms of Lakshmi. They are – Adi Lakshmi (the main Goddess), Dhanya Lakshmi (granary wealth), Dhairya Lakshmi (wealth of courage), Gaja Lakshmi (elephant symbol of wealth), Santana Lakshmi (wealth of progeny), Vijaya Lakshmi (wealth of victory), Vidya Lakshmi (wealth of knowledge), and Dhana Lakshmi (wealth of monetary riches). There are millions of manifestations that could be attributed to Lakshmi as She forms the basis of the entire gamut of creation.

It is only through Love or Bhakti the soul is able to reach the supreme abode of Lord Vishnu. Through Lakshmi’s grace it is possible for the devotees to reach this goal easily. She is the embodiment of love, and acts like a soothing, warm, approachable and compassionate Mother, who is easily pleased.  Lakshmi is God’s energy, adi parashakti, that purifies, empowers and uplifts the individual.

There are a few Mahalakshmi Temples in India mainly built for Her. Some of the famous temples are in Mumbai, Kolhapur, Chennai, Mangalore, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and a few others.

On the auspicious day of Deeepavali, special worship is offered to Lakshmi, for wealth and prosperity by all the Hindus with religious rituals and colourful ceremonies. This falls in the month of Kartika, about twenty days after Navaratri Durga Puja. This is the festival of lights, which is the most picturesque with its contrast of light and darkness. Against the background of the dark night-sky, millions of lights shine from all houses inside and outside, on temples and shrines. It indicates the joy of light over darkness, victory over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

Once a year, invoking and worshipping Lakshmi is only symbolic and to remind us that we should worship her every day and She is not anywhere outside of us.  She is always within us, guiding and protecting us in the right-path. We only have to open our eyes and hearts and remind ourselves to welcome Her.  We do not have to seek her in temples and shrines alone. She is very close to us if we recognise Her presence and genuinely work hard, with the help of intellect and knowledge she has given to all of us under her divine grace.

The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi and the Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati and the Goddess of power, Shakti – all reside in us and are as easily reachable as if in our palms. As explained by the popular sloka, “Karagre vasate Lakshmi, karamadyai Saraswati, kara mooley sthithe Devi, prbhate kara darshanam” – look at your palms every morning before you start the day to see the Mother’s power in you and remind yourselves that you can get the Grace of the Mother in the form of Lakshmi, Saraswati and Devi, by your self-effort.

 

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Posted by on Nov 13 2012. Filed under Community, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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