Lakshmi by Raja Ravi Varma
Devanagari लक्ष्मी Sanskrit Transliteration lakṣmī Affiliation Devi (Tridevi), Shakti Consort Vishnu Mount Elephant, owlPractices
Lakshmi (Sanskrit: लक्ष्मी lakṣmī, Hindi pronunciation: [ˈləkʃmi], Gujarati: લક્ષ્મી, Tamil: லட்சுமி latchumi, Telugu: లక్ష్మి, Lakshmi) or Lakumi (Kannada: ಲಕುಮಿ) is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity (both material and spiritual), light, wisdom, fortune, fertility, generosity and courage; and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm. Representations of Lakshmi are also found in Jain monuments. Also called Mahalakshmi, she is said to bring good luck, and is believed to protect her devotees from all kinds of misery and money-related sorrows.
Lakshmi in Sanskrit is derived from its elemental form lakS, meaning "to perceive or observe". This is synonymous with lakṣya, meaning "aim" or "objective". The Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas call Mahalakshmi as Lakshyayidhi Lakshmihi which means she is the one who has the object and aim of uplifting mankind.
Mahalakshmi is called Shri or Thirumagal (திருமகள் in Tamil; శ్రీ మహా లక్ష్మి in Telugu) because she is endowed with six auspicious and divine qualities, or Gunas, and also because she is the source of strength even to Lord Narayana. She is the consort of Vishnu and married Rama (in her incarnation as Sita) and Krishna (as Radha and later Rukmini). All the wives of Krishna were forms of Lakshmi.
Evolution and legends
In Hinduism, Devas (gods) and asuras (demons) were both mortal at one time. Amrit, the divine nectar that would grant immortality, could be obtained only by churning the Kshirsagar (Ocean of Milk). The devas and asuras both sought immortality and decided to churn the Kshirsagar. With the devas on one side and the asuras on the other, the samudra manthan commenced. Vishnu incarnated as Kurma, the tortoise, on whom was placed a mountain as a churning pole; 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, was the goddess Lakshmi, the daughter of the king of the milky ocean. The last to come up was the amrita. With this, the avatar of Kurma, the tortoise, ended. Vishnu then took up the form of a beautiful maiden to distract the asuras and gave immortality to the devas.
Mahalakshmi has always existed. Her appearance from samudra manthan is her main manifestation only. Mahalakshmi was also born to the great sage Bhrigu, and she is therefore also called Bhargavi. Mahalakshmi is also the sister of the great guru Sukracharya as well as the great planet Chandra. Each time Vishnu descends on earth as an avatar, He is accompanied by an avatar of Lakshmi.
The moon (chandra) also appeared from the ocean during the churning, 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 given in Monier Williams' Sanskrit–English Dictionary compiled in the 19th century in British India.
- laksmIka meaning a mark, sign, or token is in Rik Veda x, 71, 2 and Nirukta iv, 10.
- laksmi ( with or without pAp'I ) is a bad sign or an impending misfortune referred to Atharva Veda and Apasthambha Shrauta Suutra.
- In older Sanskrit, it is usually used with "p'uNyA" meaning a good sign, good fortune, prosperity, success, or happiness in Atharva Veda.
- Laksmi personifies wealth, riches, beauty, loveliness, grace, charm, splendour, and lustre in Mahabharata.
- Laksmi as a noun is a goddess of fortune and beauty (frequently in the later mythology identified with Śrī and regarded as the wife of Viṣṇu or Nārāyaṇa).
- 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 Amṛta. She appeared with a lotus in her hand, whence she is also called Padmā.
- According to another legend, she appeared at the creation floating over the water on the expanded petals of a lotus flower; she is also variously regarded as wife of Sūrya, as wife of Prajā-pati, as wife of Dharma and mother of Kāma, as sister or mother of Dhātṛ and Vidhātṛ, as wife of Datt^atreya, as one of the nine Śaktis of Viṣṇu, as a manifestation of Prakṛti, as identified with Dākshāyaṇī in Bharat^aśrama, and with Sītā, wife of Rāma, and with other women.
Explanation of Mahalakshmi
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 a string of beads, battle axe, mace, 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 totality 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, called Kundalini, within us and the universe. 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.
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:
Prakruti - Mahalakshmi is the very personification of nature, the centre of all, the manifested and the unmanifested.
Vikruti - Mahalakshmi is the multi-faceted Nature, who assumes many forms, known by numerous names, yet is attributeless.
Vidya - Mahalakshmi is the very personification of Wisdom.
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: Manushri, Chakrika, Kamalika, Lalima, Kalyani, Nandika, Rujula, Vaishnavi, Narayani, Bhargavi, Sridevi, Chanchala, Bhumi Devi, Jalaja, Madhavi, Sujata, Shreya and Aiswarya. She is also referred to as Jaganmaatha ("Mother of the Universe") in Shri Mahalakshmi Ashtakam. Rama and Indira are popular.
Lakshmi is described as 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 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 worshipped 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.
Ashta Lakshmi (Sanskrit: अष्टलक्ष्मी,Aṣṭalakṣmī, lit. "eight Lakshmis") are a group of eight secondary manifestations of Lakshmi, who preside over eight sources of wealth and thus represent the powers of Shri-Lakshmi. Actually, Mahalakshmi presides over eighteen forms of wealth, ten of which are the eight great siddhis called AshtaSiddhis, the spiritual knowledge or Gnana, and teaching or imparting the spiritual knowledge to the entire world without any class difference.
Mahalakshmi is also known to preside over 16 forms of worldly wealth excluding Ashta siddhis, gnana and imparting gnana. They are as follows: (1) Fame; (2) Knowledge; (3) Courage and Strength; (4) Victory; (5) Good Children; (6) Valor; (7) Gold, Gems and Other Valuables; (8) Grains in abundance; (9) Happiness; (10) Bliss; (11) Intelligence; (12) Beauty; (13) Higher Aim, High Thinking and Higher Meditation; (14) Morality and Ethics; (15) Good Health; (16) Long Life.
Ashta Lakshmi आदि लक्ष्मी (ఆది లక్ష్మి) Ādi Lakṣmī The First manifestation of Lakshmi धान्य लक्ष्मी (ధాన్య లక్ష్మి) Dhānya Lakṣmī Granary wealth धैर्य लक्ष्मी (ధైర్య లక్ష్మి) Dhairya Lakṣmī Wealth of courage गज लक्ष्मी (గజ లక్ష్మి) Gaja Lakṣmī Elephants, symbols of wealth सन्तान लक्ष्मी (సంతాన లక్ష్మి) Santāna Lakṣmī Wealth of continuity, progeny विजय लक्ष्मी (విజయ లక్ష్మి) Vijaya Lakṣmī Wealth of victory विद्या लक्ष्मी (విద్యా లక్ష్మి) Vidyā Lakṣmī Wealth of knowledge and education धन लक्ष्मी (ధన లక్ష్మి) Dhana Lakṣmī Monetary wealth
It must be kept in mind that the type of Ashta Lakshmis differ with every yuga and thus one would not find uniformity in the names of Ashta lakshmis in Hindu sacred texts. There are more than crores manifestations of Mahalakshmi; without her nothing in this world would survive as she forms the basis of the entire gamut of creation. Without her grace there will be nothing to eat, no air to breathe, no progeny in continuation etc. At a minor level, one cannot survive without monetary wealth in this wide world, if one has not developed spiritualism. Even if one were to beg, one would not get even a dime without the grace of Mahalskhmi. It is only through the grace of Mahalakshmi that even the King of Gods, Devandra, gained wealth, when He was cursed by the famous sage Dhurvasa for disrespecting the garland offered to Him.
Mahalkshmi is also said to exist in several other forms. The most famous amonsgt them are Sridevi, Bhoodevi, and Neeladevi. The famous Vaishnavite saint Aandaal, who was born in Srivilliputhur about 5050 years ago, is an incarnation of Mahalakshmi herself. Sridevi represents moveable assets, called Chanchala in Sanskrit. Bhoodevi represents immoveable assets (Achanchala). It is because of this that mountains in India are prefixed with Achanachala, for example, Arunachala, Himachala etc. The term chanchala also denotes fickleness, which is why people are not always wealthy. Everything in this world operates only with the grace of Mahalakshmi.
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 in hopes Lakshmi will come to bless them.
The prefix Sri (also spelled Shri, pronounced as shree) translates as "one who takes delight in". Therefore, Sri Lakshmi, means wealth of any kind. Any thing that need be affluent gets the auspicious prefix or suffix Lakshmi, or Sri, such as Rajya Lakshmi (Wealth of Empire), Shanti Sri (Wealth of Peace), etc. In modern India, 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 Uttarakhand, 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.
In Bengal, Lakshmi is worshiped during divali 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. Her vahana owl represents royalties, penetrating sight and intelligence. It serves as her mount over which she has full control. Lakshmi is also referred to as pranadayini("giver of vital life-sustaining energy") who can turn a dull thing full of life.
Lakshmi 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 ruby-studded crown. Her hair is long, dark and wavy. Her complexion is golden, representing a 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.
She is related to the chakras of the solar plexus and the heart.
In the Sri Vaishnava philosophy, Sri (Lakshmi) is honored as the Iswarigm sarva bhootanam, i.e., the supreme goddess and not just the goddess of wealth.
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 Lakshmi. So, the whole month of Mrigashīrsha (December–January) is spent in worshipping the goddess. All the rituals connected with the festival Manabasa Gurubara or Lakshmi Puja are done by housewives. On each Thursday of the month, the houses are plastered with cow dung, and the floors are decorated with beautiful floral designs drawn with rice powder mixed with water, called jhoti. Footprints 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 festoons woven out of paddy stalks.
Main ritual After a purification bath in the morning, the housewives worship the goddess, not through an image, but significantly through paddy measures. Different varieties of rice cakes and Khiri (rice soup prepared with milk and sugar) are prepared in every household and are offered to the deity and then eaten by all.
The legend In the evening, the Laxmi Puran, in which an interesting story is told, is read or recited. Once Shreeya, an untouchable woman, worshipped Lakshmi by observing this festival. Being moved by her devotion, Lakshmi left her permanent abode, the temple that 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, Sagara.
When Lakshmi went out of the temple, all wealth in the temple started vanishing. Later, Balabhadra and Jagannatha could not 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 Lakshmi. Balabhadra apologised for the mistake, and all of them returned to the temple.
The Purana ultimately teaches all to pay extreme regards to 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, for misuse of wealth is sure to make a person suffer.
Gaja Lakshmi Puja is celebrated in the Sharad Purnima, the full-moon day in the Oriya month of Aswina(September–October). This autumn festival is one of the most popular and important festivals of Orissa. The goddess of wealth is worshiped for one day, and, in some places, it is celebrated for seven to ten days, and the festival is religiously celebrated by the business community in Orissa. All over Orissa, richly decorated and beautifully made images of 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 full moon - Purnima. Girls and boys wear new clothes and generally have a good time with family and friends.
In the early morning, the girls, after their purification baths, 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 eat 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 a special nature. They also play a kind of game known as Puchi. They also indulge in other varieties of country games.
There are innumerable slokas in praise of Mahalakshmi. Some of the most famous prayers for worshipping her are: Sri Mahalakshmi Ashtakam, Sri Lakshmi Sahasaranama Sthothra by Sanathkumara, Sri Stuti By Sri Vedantha Desikar, Sri Lakshmi Stuti By Indra, Sri Kanakadhara Sthothra by Sri Aadhi Shankaracharya, Sri Chatussloki by Sri Yamunacharya, Sri Lakshmi Sloka by Bhagavan Sri Hari Swamiji and Sri Sukta which is contained in the Vedas. The famous Lakshmi Gayathri Sloka " Om Mahalakshmichae Vidmahe sri Vishnupathinichae Dhi-Mahi Thanno Lakshmi Prachodayat" is a powerful prayer contained in the Vedic Sri Sukta, which when chanted everyday 108 times is known to grace the chanter with immediate grace of the Goddess within 90 days.
There is another famous prayer pronounced by the great sage Agastya: 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, or Vithal Rukmini. Another, lesser known, form of Lakshmi is worshiped in Karnataka as Hattilakamma, which is a furious form of Lakshmi and also two younger sisters Doddamma and Chikamma called Jalgeramma which are a form of Durga. Here people offer blood to these bloodthirsty goddesses, and use their hands to smear the blood on walls. It is believed that by doing so all the desires are fulfilled with in time span as they desired
Sanskrit Mantra :
ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं त्रिभुवन महालक्ष्म्यै अस्माकम् दारिद्र्य नाशय प्रचुर धन देहि देहि क्लीं ह्रीं श्रीं ॐ ।
English Mantra :
oṃ śrīṃ hrīṃ klīṃ tribhuvana mahālakṣmyai asmākam dāridrya nāśaya pracura dhana dehi dehi klīṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ oṃ ।
Respect for money
In many areas of India it is customary that, out of respect, when a person's foot accidentally touches money (which is considered as a manifestation of Lakshmi) or another person's leg, it will be followed by an apology in the form of a single hand gesture (Pranāma) with the right hand, where the offending person first touches the object with the finger tips and then the forehead and/or chest. This also counts for books and any written material, which are considered as a manifestation of the goddess of knowledge Saraswati.
- Mahalakshmi Temple Dahanu
- Ashtalakshmi Kovil, Chennai
- Ashtalakshmi Temple, Hyderabad
- Mahalakshmi Temple, Kolhapur
- Mahalakshmi Temple, Mumbai
- Sri Mahalakshmi Temple, Goravanahalli near Bangalore
- Mahalakshmi temple, Brazil
- ^ Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary.
- ^ Bhagavata Purana:8.8.23-24
- ^ Encyclopaedia of Hindu gods and goddesses By Suresh Chandra http://books.google.co.in/books?id=mfTE6kpz6XEC&pg=PA199&dq=goddess+lakshmi
- ^ http://www.festivalsinindia.net/goddesses/radha.html
- ^ Radha in Hinduism, the favourite mistress of the god Krishna, and an incarnation of Lakshmi. In devotional religion she represents the longing of the human soul for God: The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable | 2006 | ELIZABETH KNOWLES |
- ^ Essential Hinduism By Steven Rosen|2006|p=136
- ^ Kinsley, David (1988). Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-06339-2. p. 95.
- ^ Sankaranarayanan, S., Glory of the Divine Mother (Devī Māhātmyam), Nesma Books, India, 2001. (ISBN 81-87936-00-2), P 148.
- ^ Pages 31 and 32 in Kinsley, David. Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. ISBN 978-0-520-06339-6 http://books.google.co.in/books?id=hgTOZEyrVtIC&pg=PA17&dq=Hindu+Goddesses:+Vision+of+the+Divine+Feminine+in+the+Hindu+Religious+Traditions.&client=firefox-a#PPA31,M1
- ^ Lot of information on this site. Contains her many names.http://www.vishvarupa.com/print-information-about-lakshmi.html
- ^ http://www.lakshmisgarden.com/p_aboutlaks.shtml
- ^ http://www.yogalife.net/gods-n-goddesses.html http://www.glossary.com/encyclopedia.php?q=Lakshmi
- ^ http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090413/j&k.htm#20
- ^ http://www.vedicrishi.in/mantra/index/act/lakshmi-mantra
- ^ DeBruyn, Pippa; Bain, Keith; Venkatraman, Niloufer (2010). Frommer's India. pp. 76.
- Venkatadhvari, , (1904). Sri Lakshmi Sahasram. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Depot, Benares. http://www.archive.org/stream/shrlakshmsahsram01venkuoft#page/n1/mode/2up.
- 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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