Who is Lakshmi?
Lakshmi was the daughter of the sage Bhrigu and took refuge in the ocean of milk when the gods were sent into exile. Lakshmi was reborn during the Churning of the Milky Ocean.
As soon as the gods saw Lakshmi, they all fell in love with her beauty. Shiva claimed Lakshmi as his wife, but since he had already taken the Moon, her hand was given to Vishnu, whom Lakshmi herself preferred. Lakshmi was reborn as his consort each time when Vishnu incarnated. For example, Lakshmi was Sita to Rama, Radha and later Rukmini to Krishna.
Lakshmi is the goddess of light, beauty, good fortune, wealth and abundance. Being the consort of Vishnu, the preserving principle, Lakshmi also signifies love and grace. Lakshmi often expresses her devotion to Vishnu by massaging his feet as he lies on the coils of the snake Shesha. While Lakshmi is generally worshipped to achieve success, she does not reside long with anyone who is lazy or desires her only as wealth.
What does Lakshmi look like?
Lakshmi is depicted as a beautiful woman of golden complexion, with four hands, sitting or standing on a full-bloomed lotus and holding a lotus bud, which stands for beauty, purity and fertility. Her four hands represent the four ends of human life: dharma or righteousness, “kama” or desires, “artha” or wealth, and “moksha” or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Cascades of gold coins are seen flowing from her hands, signifying her power to bestow abundance. She always wears gold embroidered red clothes. Red symbolizes activity and the golden lining indicates prosperity.
Two elephants are often shown standing next to the goddess and spraying water. This denotes that ceaseless effort, in accordance with one’s dharma and governed by wisdom and purity, leads to both material and spiritual prosperity.
Hindus believe that anybody who worships Lakshmi sincerely, and not in greed, will be blessed with fortune and success. It is said that Lakshmi resides in places of hard work, virtue and bravery, but leaves whenever these qualities are not apparent any more.
Worship of a mother goddess has been a part of Indian tradition since its earliest times. Lakshmi is one of the mother goddesses and is addressed as “mata” (mother) instead of just “devi” (goddess). Mata Lakshmi is also called ‘Shri’, the female energy of the Supreme Being.
Lakshmi is particularly worshipped during the festival of Diwali. This festival commemorates the epic story, Ramayana.
After worshipping Lakshmi on Diwali, many Hindus gamble and spend profusely, believing that Lakshmi has bestowed good fortune upon them.
In addition to this, two days before Diwali, a festival called Dhantares is celebrated to seek more blessings from her. During this time Hindus buy gold and silver and start new business ventures.
Hindus worship Lakshmi at home as well as in the temple. Friday is believed to be the most auspicious day for her worship.