(Last Updated on : 17/01/2011)
Goddess Lakshmi symbolizes good luck and fortune to Hindus and Jains. The word `Lakshmi` originates from the Sanskrit word Lakshya, meaning aim or goal. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity in both material and spiritual ways. Lakshmi is worshipped as the household goddess in most Hindu families. She is the favorite goddess among the women. Lakshmi Puja can be done daily but the month of October is specially meant for her and in this month, on the full moon night of `Kojagari Purnima` Lakshmi Puja is celebrated.
Goddess Lakshmi is depicted as a beautiful woman having golden complexion and four hands, sitting or standing on a full-blossomed lotus and holding a lotus bud in hand. The lotus symbolizes beauty, purity and fertility while her four arms represents four ends of human life namely `Dharma` or righteousness, `Kama` or desires, `Artha` or wealth and `Moksha` or liberation from the cycle of birth and death. In some idols of Lakshmi, she is ascribed wearing gold embroidered red clothes. Red symbolizes sacred activity while golden stands for prosperity. Cascades of gold coins flow from her hands, indicating that those who worship her gain wealth. Lakshmi is the consort of Vishnu and in some forms she appears as Lakshmi-Narayan i.e. Lakshmi accompanying Vishnu. The deity is also accompanied by two elephants, which are shown standing next to her and spraying water on her. This symbolizes ceaseless effort governed by wisdom and purity leading to both material and spiritual prosperity.
Lakshmi is also the mother Goddess as she is often called as `Mata` (mother) instead of just `Devi`. As a female counterpart of Lord Vishnu, Lakshmi is also called `Shri`,which denotes female energy of the supreme being. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, generosity, prosperity and purity, also stands as insignia of beauty, charm and grace. In almost every household Lakshmi is worshipped as the domestic deity for the well-being and prosperity of the family. On the next full moon day after Dussera, Lakshmi is worshipped ceremoniously. It is believed that on that special occasion of Kojagari Lakshmi Puja, Laksmi herself visits the home of her devotees and replenishes them with wealth and prosperity. Also, a special Lakshmi Puja takes place during the auspicious diwali night.
Vishnu is the Lord of Lakshmi. So Lakshmi accompanies him in his every incarnation like Sita with Rama, Rukmini with Krishna, also Radha with Krishna. In some other deities Lakshmi appear as two forms, Bhudevi and Sridevi, standing on either sides of Vishnu. These two goddesses are not separate beings but two forms of same power. Bhudevi is the fertility form in which she is the mother earth while Sridevi is the goddess of wealth and knowledge.
The appearance of Goddess Lakshmi is connected to an ancient legend. Durvasa was a short-tempered sage who once presented a sacred garland of flowers to Indra, which would never wilt. Indra gave this garland to his elephant Airavata who trampled it. Seeing this Durvasa was very angry and he cursed Indra for showing disrespect to him that he and other gods would lose their power. As a result of the curse, the demons defeated gods and expelled them out of heaven.
The thwarted gods then went to seek refuge to the creator lord Brahma. Brahma then advised the gods to churn the ocean of milk or Ksheersagar to obtain Amrita (the nectar of immortality). The gods then asked the help of Lord Vishnu to assist them. Vishnu took the form of the Avatar Kurma ,which supported the Mandara Mountain that acted as the churning stick.
It is said that Lakshmi appeared from the churning of ocean. All gods were charmed by her beauty and wanted to marry her. But Lakshmi chose Sri Vishnu as her spouse. As Lakshmi came out of the sea, she is also called daughter of the sea. Since moon also emerged from the churning of ocean, he is called Lakshmi`s brother. Alakshmi, the goddess of misfortune, is Lakshmi`s elder sister and said to have also arisen from the sea of milk.
According to legends of Vishnu Purana, Lakshmi is the daughter of Bhrigu and Khyaati and lived in Swarga. Due to the curse of Durvasa, Lakshmi had to leave Swarga and made Kheerasagara her home. Lakshmi is the power and `Maya` of Lord Vishnu.