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Praying for Prosperity – Goddess Lakshmi

Goddess Lakshmi represents wealth and prosperity and thus embodies man’s aspirations.

Behold her so beautiful! She, the Goddess of Fertility. The consort of Mahavishnu. Lakshmi the bestower of wealth. Lakshmi the synonym for prosperity.

Every woman in India idolizes Lakshmi for she personifies all that is happy. In fact Lakshmi kataksham is what is yearned for—the blessings of Lakshmi.

As with all goddesses in the Hindu pantheon, Lakshmi too has many stories about her origin. The interesting one begins with the scene where the King of Kings, Indra, is perturbed for all those in Devaloka (heaven) have lost their powers and have become old and aged. A sage named Durvasa had cursed them to be so. Now the gods went to Brahma and asked him to find them a solution. Brahma could not think of a way out of the situation. He led them to Mahavishnu. Vishnu smiled on hearing the problem of the devas. He gave them a solution. He told them to churn the mighty ocean and on drinking the amrita or elixir that would come out of it they would regain their youth and strength.

But that was easier said than done. How to churn the ocean? Using the mountain Mandara and the snake Vasuki, the devas set about the job. But the mountain Mandara needed a base to stand upon. Lord Vishnu himself agreed to come down in the form of a mighty tortoise and become the base. Now the demons heard of this and wanted to share the elixir. The devas knew they could not accomplish this heavy job without the support of the Asuras and so they agreed.

They churned and churned the ocean till their arms hurt and their minds were depressed. But Lord Vishnu urged them to keep going.

Soon, however the ocean gave forth fourteen precious gifts to mankind. Goddess Lakshmi was the last to emerge. Seated on a lotus, she looked so beautiful that everybody immediately sang her praise. The sky elephants poured refreshing waters on her. According to Indian mythology, the whole earth is held up in the four directions by four elephants called the Dik-gaj, where dik means direction and gaj, elephant. The Ocean of Milk, ksheerasagara, from which she emerged gave her a garland of imperishable flowers. Lakshmi brought with her the elixir, which revived the strength of the gods. A part of the story is also about how two demons in the guise of devas got hold of the elixir and how they were punished by Lord Vishnu for having cheated. Lord Indra, the King of Kings, sung Goddess Lakshmi’s praise and it is believed by devout Hindus that whoever sings these verses has always Lakshmi on her side. Lakshmi, on emerging from the ocean married, Lord Vishnu.

Lakshmi is said to dwell on the waters with her husband Vishnu on the bed made of serpent Sesh.

Another story goes that Vishnu created Lakshmi from his left side. Subsequently, it is believed that Lakshmi was born as Lord Rama’s wife, Sita.

Lakshmi is also Bhudevi or Mother Earth. Initially, scholars say that when all wealth was only land, Lakshmi represented land and wealth. She represented the fertility of the land too since land produce was wealth. Gradually as wealth began to take the forms of gold and crisp bank notes, Lakshmi symbolized them also. That wealth keeps moving from one person to another, is one reason why Lakshmi is also called the fickle one. One day a sage is said to have visited the Vishnu couple riding on his beautiful stallion. So enamoured was Lakshmi of the stallion that she did not even hear when her husband called her. Immediately the otherwise patient husband grew red with rage and cursed his wife. He said she would not be static but would always keep moving and so her name Ramaa. That is also why wealth never stays with one man, it keeps changing hands. And yet Lakshmi stays forever with Lord Vishnu, which means that Lakshmi will stay with good men who perform good deeds, keep their environs clean and so on.

On Diwali which is being celebrated this month Lakshmi is worshipped along with Lord Ganesha. On this day it is said that Lakshmi and Ganesha were released from captivity in which they were held by a demon. Lakshmi representing prosperity and Ganesha being the remover of obstacles, people also believe, if not hope, that there will be no obstacles to their gaining lots of wealth. Goddess Lakshmi is generally represented as having two arms, though sometimes she is also shown as having four. She is generally depicted as seated on a lotus and from her palms, gold coins are shown to shower. There is no temple exclusively for her though there are prayers and occasions when she is worshipped. All shops have a picture of Lakshmi in an ardent prayer from prosperity.

Lakshmi is generally believed to ride her husband’s vehicle, the Garuda. Her own vehicle is rather slow: the owl. People say if you worship her blindly, then you are like the ulooka or the owl, but if you have the attributes of Lord Vishnu, you will know how to keep her by your side always!

So here is wishing you a happy Diwali and all the prosperity Goddess Lakshmi can shower.