Goddess Lakshmi in the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses is personified as the goddess of fortune and also as the embodiment of loveliness, grace and charm.
There is a Vedic verse by name ‘SRISUKTA’. It comprises invocation and prayer to Lakshmi. This is recited while worshipping. If we understand the meaning of a few expressions in Srisukta, we will know Lakshmi’s appearance, nature and greatness.
‘HIRANYAVARNAM’ – Lakshmi is of the color of gold
‘PADMAVARNAM’ – of the color of a lotus
‘ADITYAVARNE’ – Lakshmi is brilliant like the sun
‘PADMAVARNE’ – face is beautiful like a lotus.
‘PADMADALAYATAKSHI’ – her eyes are broad and beautiful as petals of a lotus
‘PADMAMALINEEM’ – one wearing a garland of lotus flowers
‘SARASIJANILAYE’ – one residing on a lotus flower
‘SARASIJAHASTE’ – one holding a lotus in her hand
It is evident that Lakshmi loves a lotus flower. Therefore ‘PADMAPRIYE’ (one who loves the lotus flower) is stated in Srisukta.
She is depicted seated on a lotus flower though sometimes she is also seen as standing on a lotus. In her pictures gold coins are seen dropping down from the palms of this goddess of prosperity. The story of the birth of goddess presents an interesting reading.
Her emergence in the world is connected with a famous Hindu myth called SAMUDRA MANTHAN – CHURNING OF THE OCEAN.
Lakshmi’s greatness has been well expressed in books like VISHNUPURANA. She, the wife of Vishnu, is herself representative of Vishnu’s power. Indra praised Lakshmi thus:
“We bow to you, O Mother of the Universe. You are the means for the fulfillment of all work. You purify the universe. You bestow wealth and intelligence. You are also Saraswati the embodiment of all knowledge. You are the self-education, which results in salvation. O Mahadevi, disciples acquire all – wife, children, house, friend, money and corn – by a glance from you. O Mother, you and your husband Narayana have encompassed the world. People have health of body and happiness by your kindness. You are the mother of the universe; Vishnu is the father. Bereft of your kindness people will lose strength, cleanliness, virtue and the good characteristics. All these are obtained by your grace. Mother,never abandon us.”
Then Lakshmi said: “Indra, I am pleased at your devotion. Seek any boon you desire.” Said Indra, “Goddess, if I have deserved your kindness, do not go away abandoning me. Apart from that, bless those who recite devotedly every day the prayer I just recited.” Lakshmi said, “Be it so,” and disappeared.
Lakshmi’s influence covers many branches of knowledge. Speech, morality, wisdom, satisfaction, music, religious offering, brilliance, wealth, strength, creation, river, and cattle – all these have their source in Lakshmi. The legends state that all women of the world are forms of Lakshmi. At the time of marriage, our people honor the bride and the bridegroom as having the appearance of Lakshmi-Narayana.
Born seated on the lotus flower, she is also called PADMA. She as the most faithful companion of life has always appeared as Vishnu‘s partner in every incarnation of his. She is the pinnacle of chastity. When Vishnu came on earth as Vamana (the Dwarf), Lakshmi came to earth as a Lotus (PADMA or KAMLA); when he came here as Parashurama, Lakshmi followed him as his wife DHARNI; when Vishnu appeared incarnated as Rama, she came here as Sita; and when Vishnu appeared as Krishna, Lakshmi came in two shapes, earlier as Radha and later as his wife Rukmini. According to ancient legends, she resides in the chest of Vishnu. Therefore, Vishnu is called Srinivasa. One in whom ‘Sri’ (Lakshmi) resides is Srinivasa.
Lakshmi has other names like LOKA MATA (World’s mother), CHANCHALA (the fickle fortune), JALADHI-JA (the ocean-born) and HARI PRIYA (beloved of Vishnu). Lakshmi is worshipped with the names of MAHALAKSHMI, VARAMAHALAKSHMI, DHANALAKSHMI and AMRITALAKSHMI during observance of religious rites.
In mythology she, whenever associated with some part of the body of a person signifies different gifts. When she is staying at the feet, she bestows the gift of a house; when on the thigh, she gives wealth; when in the bosom, she gives a lucky child; when in the genitals, a very lucky wife; when on the heart, she gifts the fulfillment of wishes; when around the neck, the result is meeting with loved ones or with some lost relatives; and when in the face, the goddess bestows beauty and grace.
This goddess is sometimes represented with four arms but more often only with two. She has no temple exclusively set apart for her but always appears only as a consort of Vishnu. Still she is regularly worshipped in every shop and home specially on the day of Diwali festival she is worshipped along with Ganesha in almost all Hindu business houses. Many people indulge in gambling too on that night, apparently to find out how their fortunes shall work in the coming year.
In some pictures goddess Lakshmi is also shown seated with Vishnu on the divine eagle, named Garuda holding a snake in its claws. Whatever the representation, this goddess is invoked to bless the devotee with good things of life and if somebody suffers any loss in business, it is said that the goddess Lakshmi has left his house. Her figure is sometimes depicted on the doors of homes to bring good luck and to drive away evil influences. Interestingly enough bad luck is personified as ALAKSHMI, the sister of Lakshmi.
When this goddess is shown as being one with Vishnu, they are known as LAKSHMINARAYANA. This conjoined deity denotes that in his supreme state Vishnu is one with his consort, who represents his power and energy.