Few homes or business establishments in India will be without an image of Goddess Lakshmi. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, is a very popular deity in Hinduism. She is Lord Vishnu’s consort. Clad in a red sari, adorned with gold jewelry, and seated on a lotus flanked by white elephants, Lakshmi is the very image of auspiciousness.
Goddess Lakshmi can bestow fortune, luxury, power, beauty, fertility, and auspiciousness. Happiness and material fulfillment are hers to give. But she is also restless and whimsical. In other words, she does not stay in one place for too long. Billionaires becoming paupers and beggars becoming billionaires overnight is probably her leela.
Lakshmi’s 4 hands represent Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha – the four goals of life in Hinduism. In the representations of the Goddess, the cascade of coins is a symbol of wealth, while the white elephants signify royal power.
One should not worship her with greed in one’s heart. Once, Lakshmi left the abode of the gods because of their arrogance and pride. They took for granted their victories against the demons even though Lakshmi’s presence and blessings were responsible for them. She was reborn during the churning of the Milky Ocean. Lakshmi is also the Goddess who gives strength to the gods. Whenever Lord Vishnu incarnated, she also incarnated with him. It reveals her love and devotion for him. When Vishnu took the form of Lord Rama, she was born as Sita. When he incarnated as Lord Krishna, she became Rukmini.
Goddess Lakshmi has several names like Sudha, Hiranmayi, Padma, Shraddha, Vidya, Vasudha, Kamala, Vasundhara, Varalakshmi, etc. The lotus she stands on signifies material wealth.
People in West Bengal and Odisha also believe that Lakshmi is a form of Goddess Durga. Her red sari represents continuous activity and positive energy. Diwali, the festival of lights, is associated with Lakshmi worship. Goddess Kali is worshipped in the form of Mahalakshmi during Diwali in Kolkata.
Friday is the ideal day to worship Lakshmi. Her favorite offerings are lotus flowers, sandalwood, fruits, betel leaves, betel nuts, and sweets made with rice, jaggery, and coconuts. The owl is believed to be her vehicle. The Ashtalakshmis are 8 forms of Lakshmi, which represent 8 kinds of wealth, including grains and progeny.
Lakshmi is part of the trinity of major Hindu goddesses, along with Parvati and Saraswati.
Legends of Lakshmi
There are many myths about the Goddess, but the most well-known is the story of her rebirth during the churning of the Milky Ocean.
As the king of the demigods, Lord Indra had the duty to protect the world from the evil Asuras or demons who were constantly causing problems in the 3 worlds. With Lakshmi’s grace and blessings, he was able to accomplish his task successfully.
One day, Sage Durvasa, who was known for his quick temper, gave him a garland of sacred flowers. Indra didn’t think much of it and threw it away with disdain and arrogance. The sage cursed Indra, saying that he would lose his power and wealth for his impertinence. Due to this, Lakshmi left heaven and began to reside in the Milky Ocean. In the absence of Lakshmi, Goddess of success, fortune, courage, enthusiasm, and radiance, the gods lost their power and strength. The demons seized their chance and attacked heaven. They defeated the gods, and Indra fled from heaven and went into hiding. The world slid into darkness, and people became greedy and ignored the gods.
Indra sought the help of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu told Indra that he and the other gods should churn the Milky Ocean to make Lakshmi rise to the surface and then try to regain her favor. The Ocean also had many other wonderful treasures, like Amrit, the elixir of immortality. They were all essential to get rid of the demons and restore balance.
For more than a thousand years, the gods and demons churned the Ocean. Finally, the Goddess arose to the surface. She stood on a lotus flower in all her beauty. All the other treasures also rose up from the Ocean. With Lakshmi’s help, the gods defeated the demons and recovered heaven.
Lakshmi and Ganesha
It is seen that Goddess Lakshmi is often accompanied by Lord Ganesha, who is Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati’s son. Ganesha is also the deity of wisdom and the remover of obstacles. He is Lakshmi’s adopted son. Lakshmi did not have any children, so she adopted Ganesha with Parvati’s consent. Parvati was unwilling initially, as she knew that Lakshmi never stayed in one place for long. She was afraid that Laskhmi would abandon Ganesha one day. But Lakshmi assured her that she would always be with Ganesha. She even shared her power with him. Lakshmi and Ganesha make a formidable combination. Because, to grow your wealth and use it properly, you need wisdom. It is Ganesha who can bestow that wisdom.