Maa Lakshmi – The Goddess of Wealth
Maa Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth, fortune, beauty, Maya, and prosperity. She is symbolic of purity and sattvic attributes. Since everyone seeks good luck, fortune, and prosperity, she is perhaps the most worshipped goddess.
Lakshmi is said to have emerged when the gods and the asuras churned the ocean during the Samudra-Manthan. Since she came from the sea, she is known as the daughter of the sea. On emergence from the ocean, she immediately chose Vishnu as her consort. Only Vishnu has the capability of control Maya or illusion and accepted her readily. Since the moon also emerged from the sea, he is referred to as her brother.
The word “Lakshmi” is derived from the Sanskrit elemental form “lakS,” meaning to observe or perceive. This is also synonymous with “lakSya,” meaning aim, goal, or objective. Hence Lakshmi represents the goal or objective of one’s life, which includes worldly as well as spiritual prosperity.
The Symbolism of Goddess Lakshmi
Lakshmi is described as an attractive lady with a golden complexion. She is well dressed and bedecked with precious gems and jewels. The red saree she wears represents activity and positive energy. The golden embroidery indicates plenty. She wears a garland of lotus flowers around the neck. She is motherly yet youthful. Her expression is calm and peaceful. She is often shown sitting or standing on a lotus for which she has great love. Her four arms hold lotus flowers, the bilva fruit, conch shell, and kalashor the vessel that contains the celestial nectar. She reflects a royal temperament yet has a spiritual outlook. Very often two elephants are shown on either side pouring water from vessels belonging to heavenly maidens.
The four hands represent the four ends of human life: dharma (righteousness), kama (genuine desires), artha (wealth), and moksha (liberation from birth and death). The front hands represent the activity in the physical world and the backhands indicate the spiritual activities that lead to spiritual perfection.
The things that Lakshmi holds in her hand are symbolic of different things. the lotus is symbolic of detachment and purity. The Kalash containing the celestial nectar symbolizes her ability to bless one with immorality. The bilva fruit signifies the fruit of action. Her good clothes and jewels signify prosperity. She loves everyone just as a mother would love her children. Her four hands offer the devotee an opportunity to attain the four ends of life – dharm or righteousness, arthor material wealth, kaamor the pleasures of life, and moksha or salvation.
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Lakshmi has a special affinity for lotus. Because of her love for the flower, many of her names are linked with it. Besides her many names, she is linked with the flower through names like Padmasundari or Padmamukhim, meaning one who is as beautiful as the lotus, Padmapriya, or one who likes lotus, and Padmahastam or one who holds a lotus.
The golden coins falling on the ground from the front left hand illustrates she provides wealth and prosperity while bestowing blessings upon her devotees. Dropping of coins represents does not only represent money but symbolizes prosperity at all levels.
Since Lord Vishnu is responsible for the sustenance of the universe, Lakshmi is accepted as the mother of the universe. With Vishnu as Narayan, she is called Narayani, both are inseparable. where ever Vishnu goes, she follows him. She was Padma or Kamla as Vaman’s consort, dharani as Parasuram’s consort, Sita as Sri Ram’s consort, and Rukmini as Sri Krishna’s consort. She is also Alamelu as Venkateshwara’s consort. Lakshmi is seen always beside Lord Vishnu.
It is the Hindu tradition to evoke the Lord of Obstacles, Ganesha, to clear the path to success. Ganesha removes obstacles so Lakshmi can deliver fortune into your life. She is also popularly worshipped with Ganesh during Diwali seeking wealth and prosperity. It is believed that Lakshmi visits all homes at this time and as symbolic gesture people paint her feet entering their homes. Since Kuber is acknowledged as the god of wealth some people pray to Lakshmi and Kuber during Diwali.
Sometimes Lakshmi is shown with eight hands holding weapons like bow and arrow, mace, discus, or something similar. This is her form as Mahalakshmi, as Shakti of Vishnu, an aggressive form depicted along with Durga to end unrighteousness.
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Everyone desires prosperity and all Hindus are devoted to her and seek blessings. Every Hindu home and business premises will have a picture or idol of Lakshmi. Lakshmi is also a goddess of purity and divinity. Since she provides divine knowledge (Brahma-vidya), she is also known by the name: Vidya, meaning knowledge. People from all walks of life seek her blessings.
Lakshmi is said to be unsteady and transient. She does not stay in one place for long. Since everyone desires that she must stay within the home permanently in the form of prosperity, devotees offer prayers to Lakshmi every day. Lakshmi Mantras that please her are chanted. It is believed that the art to attract Lakshmi through devotion is secret and difficult to achieve.
When Lakshmi is with Vishnu she travels on the Garud, which is a Vishnu vehicle. however, when she is alone she uses an owl as her vehicle. An owl is known to sleep in the day and move only at night. That is why it is said that Lakshmi comes in darkness, and also leaves in darkness. Only when Vishnu is with her they come together in broad daylight. This is symbolic that prosperity with righteousness and spirituality stays, by itself prosperity is temporary.
Suggested Read: 108 Names of Goddess Lakshmi