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Raja Ravi Varma's Lakshmi
|Abode||Vaikuntha, Ksheera Sagara|
|Mantra||Om Hrim Shri Lakshmibhyo Namaha|
Raja Ravi Varma's Lakshmi
|Abode||Vaikuntha, Ksheera Sagara|
|Mantra||Om Hrim Shri Lakshmibhyo Namaha|
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Lakshmi (Sanskrit: लक्ष्मी lakṣmī, Hindi pronunciation: [ˈləkʃmi]) is the Hindu goddess of wealth, love, prosperity (both material and spiritual), fortune, and the embodiment of beauty. She is the wife and active energy of Vishnu. Her four hands represent the four goals of human life considered proper in Hindu way of life – dharma, kama, artha, and moksha. Representations of Lakshmi are also found in Jain monuments. In Buddhist sects of Tibet, Nepal and southeast Asia, goddess Vasudhara mirrors the characteristics and attributes of Hindu goddess Lakshmi, with minor iconographic differences.
Lakshmi is also called Sri or Thirumagal because she is endowed with six auspicious and divine qualities, or Gunas, and also because she is the source of strength even to Vishnu. When Vishnu incarnated on the Earth as the avatars Rama and Krishna, Lakshmi took incarnation as his consort. Sita (Rama's wife), Radha (Krishna's lover), Rukmini and Satyabama are considered forms of Lakshmi. In ancient scriptures of India, all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakshmi. The marriage and relationship between Lakshmi and Vishnu as wife and husband, states Patricia Monaghan, is "the paradigm for rituals and ceremonies for the bride and groom in Hindu weddings".
Archeological discoveries and ancient coins suggest the recognition and reverence for goddess Lakshmi, in Scytho-Parthian kingdom and throughout India, by 1st millennium BC. Lakshmi's iconography and statues have also been found in Hindu temples of southeast Asia, estimated to be from second half of 1st millennium AD.
In modern times, Lakshmi is worshipped as the goddess of wealth. She is also worshipped as the consort of Vishnu in many temples. The festivals of Diwali and Sharad Purnima (Kojagiri Purnima) are celebrated in her honour.
Lakshmi (Lakṣmī) is one of many Hindu deities whose meaning and significance evolved in ancient Sanskrit texts.
भद्रैषां लक्ष्मीर्निहिताधि वाचि
"an auspicious fortune is attached to their words"
In Atharva Veda, composed about 1000 BC, Lakshmi evolves into a complex concept with plural manifestations. Book 7, Chapter 115 of Atherva Veda describes the plurality, asserts that a hundred Lakshmis are born with the body of a mortal at birth, some good, punya (virtuous) and auspicious, while others bad, paapi (evil) and unfortunate. The good are welcomed, while the bad urged to leave. The concept and spirit of Lakshmi, her association with fortune and the good, is significant enough that Atharva Veda mentions it in multiple books, for example in Book 12, Chapter 5 as punya Lakshmi. In chapters of Atharva Veda, Lakshmi connotes the good, an auspicious sign, good luck, good fortune, prosperity, success and happiness.
|Lakshmi is one of the trinity of Hindu goddesses. Her iconography is found in ancient and modern Hindu temples.|
In later mythology, Lakshmi is referred to as the goddess of fortune and beauty, identified with Śrī and regarded as the wife of Viṣṇu (Nārāyaṇa). For example, in Shatapatha Brahmana, variously estimated to be composed between 800 BC and 300 BC, Śrī (Lakshmi) is part of one of many theories, in ancient India, during the creation of universe. In Book 9 of Shatapatha Brahmana, Śrī emerges from Prajāpati, after his intense meditation on creation of life and nature of universe. Śrī is described as the beautiful, resplendent and trembling woman at her birth with immense energy and powers. The gods were bewitched, desire her and immediately become covetous of her. The gods approach Prajāpati and request permission to kill her and then take her powers, talents and gifts. Prajāpati refuses, tells the gods that males should not kill females, and that they can seek her gifts without violence. The gods then approach Lakshmi, deity Agni gets food, Soma gets kingly authority, Varuna gets imperial authority, Mitra acquires martial energy, Indra gets force, Brihaspati gets priestly authority, Savitri acquires dominion, Pushan gets splendor, Sarasvati takes nourishment and Tvashtri gets forms. The hymns of Shatapatha Brahmana thus describe Śrī as a goddess born with and personifying a diverse range of talents and powers.
According to another legend, she emerges during the creation of universe, floating over the water on the expanded petals of a lotus flower; she is also variously regarded as wife of Sūrya, as wife of Prajāpati, as wife of Dharma and mother of Kāma, as sister or mother of Dhātṛ and Vidhātṛ, as wife of Dattatreya, as one of the nine Śaktis of Viṣṇu, as a manifestation of Prakṛti, as identified with Dākshāyaṇī in Bharataśrama, and with Sītā, wife of Rāma, and with other women.
In the Epics of Hinduism, such as in the Mahabharata, Laksmi personifies wealth, riches, beauty, happiness, loveliness, grace, charm and splendour. In another Hindu legend about the creation of universe, described in the Ramayana, Lakshmi springs with other precious things from the foam of the ocean of milk when churned by the gods and demons for the recovery of the Amṛta. She appeared with a lotus in her hand, whence she is also called Padmā.
Lakshmi in Sanskrit is derived from the root word lakṣ (लक्ष्) and lakṣa (लक्ष), meaning "to perceive, observe, know, understand" and "goal, aim, objective" respectively. These roots give Lakshmi the symbolism – know and understand your goal. A related term is lakṣaṇa, which means "sign, target, aim, symbol, attribute, quality, lucky mark, auspicious opportunity".
The image, icons and sculpture of Lakshmi is represented with symbolism. Her name is derived from Sanskrit root words for know the goal and understand the objective. Her four arms are symbolic of the four goals of human being that are considered good in Hinduism - dharma (pursuit of ethical, moral life), artha (pursuit of wealth, means of life), kama (pursuit of love, emotional fulfillment), and moksha (pursuit of self knowledge, liberation).
In Lakshmi's iconography, she is either sitting or standing on lotus, and typically also carries lotus in one or two hands. Lotus carries symbolic meanings in Hinduism and other Indian traditions. It symbolically represents reality, consciousness and karma (work, deed) in Sahasrara context, and knowledge and self realization in other contexts. Lotus, a flower that blossoms in clean or dirty water, also symbolizes purity and beauty regardless of the good or bad circumstances in which its grows. It is a reminder that good and prosperity can bloom and not be affected by evil in one's surrounding. Below, behind or on the sides, Lakshmi is sometimes shown with one or two elephants, and occasionally with an owl. Elephants symbolize work, activity and strength, as well as water, rain and fertility for abundant prosperity. The owl, called Pechaka in eastern regions of India, signifies the patient striving to observe, see and discover knowledge particularly when surrounded by darkness. Owl, a bird that becomes blind in daylight, is also a symbolic reminder to refrain from blindness and greed after knowledge and wealth has been acquired.
Wealth symbolically pours out from one of her hands in some representations, or she simply holds a jar of wealth in some representations. This symbolism has multiple meanings. Wealth manifested through Lakshmi means both material as well as spiritual wealth. Her face and open hands are in a mudra that signify compassion, giving or daana (charity).
Lakshmi typically wears a red dress embroidered with golden threads, symbolism for beauty and wealth. She, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, is often represented with her husband Vishnu, the god who maintains human life filled with justice and peace. This symbolism implies wealth and prosperity is coupled with maintenance of life, justice and peace.
Lakshmi has numerous names, and numerous ancient Stotram and Sutras of Hinduism recite her various names. She is very closely associated with the lotus, and her many epithets are connected to the flower, such as:
Her other names include:
Her other names include: Ambika, Manushri, Mohini, Chakrika, Kamalika, Aishwarya, Lalima, Indira, Kalyani, Nandika, Nandini, Rujula, Vaishnavi, Samruddhi, Narayani, Bhargavi, Sridevi, Chanchala, Jalaja, Madhavi, Sujata, Shreya, Maheshwari, Madhu, Madhavi, Paramaa, Janamodini, Tripura, Tulasi, Ketaki, Malati, Vidhya, Trilochana, Tilottama, Subha, Chandika, Devi, Kriyalakshmi, Viroopa, Vani, Gayatri, Savitri, Apara or Aparajita, Aparna, Aruna, Akhila, Bala, Tara, Kuhu, Poornima, Aditi, Anumati, Avashyaa, Sita, Taruni, Jyotsna, Jyoti, Nimeshika, Atibha, Ishaani, Kalyani, Smriti and Sri. She is also referred to as Jaganmaatha ("Mother of the Universe") in Shri Mahalakshmi Ashtakam.
Shakta Upanishads are dedicated to the trinity of goddesses - Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati. Saubhagya Lakshmi Upanishad, estimated to be composed before 300 BC, describes the qualities, characteristics and powers of Lakshmi. In second part of the Upanishad, the emphasis shifts to the use of yoga and transcendence from material craving in order to achieve spiritual knowledge and self realization, the true wealth. Saubhagya-Lakshmi Upanishad synonymously uses Sri to describe Lakshmi. Some excerpts from the Saubhagya-Lakshmi Upanishad describing goddess Lakshmi, true wealth and her pursuit as a form of yoga:
हरिः ॐ ॥ अथ भगवन्तं देवा ऊचुर्हे भगवन्नः कथय सौभाग्यलक्ष्मीविद्याम् ।
|Then the Gods said to the Lord: Lord! Expound for us the knowledge of auspicious Lakshmi.|
The Lord, the primeval Narayana, replied: Be it so. With intent minds, all of you Gods, listen!
Numerous ancient Stotram and Sutras of Hinduism recite hymns dedicated to Lakshmi. She is a major goddess in the Puranas and Itihasa of Hinduism. In ancient scriptures of India, all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakshmi. For example,
Every woman is an embodiment of you.
You exist as little girls in their childhood,
As young women in their youth,
And as elderly women in their old age.—Sri Kamala Stotram
Every woman is an emanation of you.—Sri Daivakrta Laksmi Stotram
Ancient prayers dedicated to Lakshmi seek both material and spiritual wealth in prayers dedicated to her. For example,
A person can become disconnected,
From his higher self,
Wandering about from place to place,
Bereft of clear thought,
Lost in destructive behavior,
It matters not how much truth,
May shine forth in the world,
Illuminating the entire creation,
For one cannot acquire wisdom,
Unless it is experienced,
Through the opening on the heart.
A person immersed in the depths of your wisdom,
Enjoys the fullness of a happy life,
Blessed with a spouse, home, family, good friends,
And the banishment of debilitating sorrow.—The song for the Lotus Goddess, Sri Kamala Stotram, Translated by Constantina Rhodes
Lakshmi features prominently in the Puranas of Hinduism. Vishnu Purana, in particular, dedicates many sections to her and also refers to her as Śrī. J. A. B. van Buitenen translates passages describing Lakshmi in Vishnu Purana as, "Śrī, loyal to Vishnu, is the mother of the world. Vishnu is the meaning, Śrī is the speech. She is the conduct, he the behavior. Vishnu is knowledge, she the insight. He is dharma, she the virtuous action. She is the earth, he earth's upholder. She is contentment, he the satisfaction. She is wish, he is the desire. Śrī is the sky, Vishnu the Self of everything. He is the moon, she the beauty of moon. He is the ocean, she is the shore". This unified, complementing and integrated image of Lakshmi and Vishnu as wife and husband, notes Patricia Monaghan, is "the paradigm for rituals and ceremonies for the bride and groom in Hindu weddings".
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In eastern India, Lakshmi is expressed as Devi, the Supreme power, and called Durga or Shakti. Her abstract power is manifested as Durga Shakti. Both Lakshmi and Saraswati are regionally believed to be forms of Durga or Shakti or Tridevi the eternal consort power of Parabrahman the Trimurti. Lakshmi is seen in two forms, Bhudevi and Sridevi, both either side of Sri Venkateshwara or Vishnu. Bhudevi is the representation and totality of the material world or energy, called the aparam Prakriti, in which she is called Mother Earth. Sridevi is the spiritual world or energy, called the Prakriti. Lakshmi is the power of Vishnu.
In certain parts of India, Lakshmi plays a special role as the mediator between her husband Vishnu and his worldly devotees. When asking Vishnu for grace or forgiveness, the devotees often approach Him through the intermediary presence of Lakshmi. She is also the personification of the spiritual fulfillment. Lakshmi embodies the spiritual world, also known as Vaikunta, the abode of Lakshmi-Narayana or Vishnu, or what would be considered heaven in Vaishnavism. Lakshmi is the embodiment of God's superior spiritual feminine energy, Param Prakriti, which purifies, empowers and uplifts the individual.
Ashta Lakshmi (Sanskrit: अष्टलक्ष्मी,Aṣṭalakṣmī, lit. "eight Lakshmis") are a group of eight secondary manifestations of Lakshmi, who preside over eight sources of wealth and thus represent the powers of Shri-Lakshmi. Actually, Mahalakshmi presides over eighteen forms of wealth, ten of which are the eight great siddhis called AshtaSiddhis, the spiritual knowledge or Gnana, and teaching or imparting the spiritual knowledge to the entire world without any class difference.
Mahalakshmi is also known to preside over 16 forms of worldly wealth excluding Ashta siddhis, gnana and imparting gnana. They are as follows: Fame; Knowledge; Courage and Strength; Victory; Good Children; Valor; Gold, Gems and Other Valuables; Grains in abundance; Happiness; Bliss; Intelligence; Beauty; Higher Aim, High Thinking and Higher Meditation; Morality and Ethics; Good Health; Long Life.
|आदि लक्ष्मी (ఆదిలక్ష్మి; ಆದಿಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಿ)||Ādi Lakṣmī||The First manifestation of Lakshmi|
|धान्य लक्ष्मी (ధాన్యలక్ష్మి; ಧಾನ್ಯಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಿ)||Dhānya Lakṣmī||Granary wealth|
|धैर्य लक्ष्मी (ధైర్యలక్ష్మి; ಧೈರ್ಯಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಿ)||Veera Lakṣmī||Wealth of courage|
|गज लक्ष्मी (గజలక్ష్మి; ಗಜಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಿ)||Gaja Lakṣmī||Elephants spraying water, wealth of fertility, rains and food.|
|सन्तान लक्ष्मी (సంతానలక్ష్మి; ಸಂತಾನಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಿ)||Santāna Lakṣmī||Wealth of continuity, progeny|
|विजय लक्ष्मी (విజయలక్ష్మి; ವಿಜಯಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಿ)||Vijaya Lakṣmī||Wealth of victory|
|विद्या लक्ष्मी (విద్యాలక్ష్మి; ವಿದ್ಯಾಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಿ)||Aishwarya Lakṣmī||Wealth of knowledge and education|
|धन लक्ष्मी (ధనలక్ష్మి; ಧನಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಿ)||Dhana Lakṣmī||Monetary wealth|
The type of Ashta Lakshmis differ with every yuga and thus one would not find uniformity in the names of Ashta lakshmis in Hindu sacred texts. Mahalakshmi is said to exist in several other forms. These include Sridevi, Bhoodevi, and Neeladevi. Sridevi represents moveable assets, called Chanchala in Sanskrit. Bhoodevi represents immoveable assets (Achanchala). It is because of this that mountains in India are suffixed with achal, for example, Arunachal and Himachal.
Devas (gods) and asuras (demons) were both mortal at one time, in Hinduism. Amrit, the divine nectar that grants immortality, could only be obtained by churning the Kshirsagar (Ocean of Milk). The devas and asuras both sought immortality and decided to churn the Kshirsagar. The samudra manthan commenced with the devas on one side and the asuras on the other. Vishnu incarnated as Kurma, the tortoise, and a mountain was placed on the tortoise as a churning pole. Vasuki, the great venom-spewing serpent, was wrapped around the mountain and used to churn the ocean. A host of divine celestial objects came up during the churning. Along with them emerged the goddess Lakshmi. In some versions she is said to be the daughter of the sea god since she emerged from the sea.
In the Garuda Purana, Linga Purana and Padma Purana she is said to have been born as the daughter of the divine sage Bhrigu and his wife Khyaati and was named "Bhargavi". According to the Vishnu Purana, the universe was created when the Devas (good) and Asuras (evil) churn the cosmic ocean of milk (Ksheera Sagara). Lakshmi came out of the ocean bearing lotus, along with the divine cow Kamadhenu, Varuni,the tree Parijat, the Apsaras, the Chandra (the moon), and Dhanvantari with Amrita (nectar of immortality). When she appeared, she had a choice to go to Devas or the Asuras. She chose Devas side; and among thirty deities, she chose to be with Vishnu. Thereafter, in all three worlds, the lotus bearing goddess was celebrated.
Hindus worship Lakshmi the most on Diwali, the festival of lights. It is celebrated in autumn every year. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair.
Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate and decorate their homes and offices. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi. After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Diwali also marks a major shopping period, since Lakshmi connotes auspiciousness, wealth and prosperity. This festival dedicated to Lakshmi is considered by Hindus as one of the most important and joyous festivals of the year.
Gaja Lakshmi Puja is another autumn festival celebrated on Sharad Purnima, in many parts of India, on the full-moon day in the month of Ashvin (September–October). The Sharad Purnima, also called Kojaagari Purnima or Kumar Purnima is a harvest festival celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu lunar month of Asvin. It marks the end of monsoon. There is a traditional celebration of the moon and is also called the 'Kaumudi celebration', Kaumudi meaning moonlight. On Sharad Purnima night, goddess Lakshmi is thanked and worshipped for the harvests.
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In Bengal, Lakshmi is worshiped on Kojagiri Purnima, in autumn when the moon is full, the brightest night of the year. She, riding on her mount-the great white owl, is believed to bless wealth and resources for content lives on this night. The owl symbolically represents penetrating sight in the darkness of night.
Apart from the autumnal celebration, Lakshmi, along with Alakshmi (her shadow energy), is also worshipped during Diwali night in some Bengali communities. The goddess Kali of Kalighat in Kolkata is worshipped in Mahalakshmi form during Diwali. Some people observe Lakshmi Vrata/Puja (fasting and prayer). Women sing a string of poems called 'Panchali', narrating the glories of goddess Lakshmi.
Lakshmi is the goddess thanked after autumn harvests in the month of Mrigashīrsha. Women celebrate the festival Manabasa Gurubara or Lakshmi Puja. On each Thursday of the month, the houses are cleaned and the floors are decorated with floral designs drawn with rice powder mixed with water, called jhoti. Footprints are painted from the doorstep to the place of worship, to symbolize that Lakshmi has entered the house. The roofs are decorated with flower garlands and festoons woven out of paddy stalks. After a purification bath in the morning, the women of the region symbolically offer prayers to paddy considered a bounty from Lakshmi. Different rice cakes and Khiri (rice soup prepared with milk and sugar) are prepared in households and are offered to the deity and then eaten by all.
People in Odisha also worship Gaja Lakshmi on Sharad Purnima, also known as Kumar Purnima. Children wear new clothes and families celebrate the day with feasts. It is a festival of rejoicing for the girls; all of them sing and dance. The songs are of a special nature. They play a kind of game known as puchi and other country games.
Goddess Kishijoten of Japan corresponds to Lakshmi. Kishijoten is the goddess of beauty, fortune and prosperity. Kishijoten is considered the sister of the deity Bishamon (毘沙門, also known as Tamon or Bishamon-ten); Bishamon protects human life, fights evil and brings good fortune. In ancient and medieval Japan, Kishijoten was the goddess worshipped for luck and prosperity, particularly on behalf of children. Kishijoten was also the guardian goddess of Geishas. While Bishamon and Kishijoten are found in ancient Chinese and Japanese Buddhist literature, their roots have been traced to deities in Hinduism.
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There are many slokas in praise of Mahalakshmi. Some of the most famous prayers for worshipping her are "Sri Mahalakshmi Ashtakam", "Sri Lakshmi Sahasaranama Sthothra" by Sanathkumara, "Sri Stuti" by Sri Vedantha Desikar, Sri Lakshmi Stuti By Indra, "Sri Kanakadhara Sthothra" by Sri Aadhi Shankaracharya, "Sri Chatussloki" by Sri Yamunacharya, "Sri Lakshmi Sloka" by Bhagavan Sri Hari Swamiji and Sri Sukta which is contained in the Vedas. The famous Lakshmi Gayathri Sloka, "Om Mahalakshmichae Vidmahe sri Vishnupathinichae Dhi-Mahi Thanno Lakshmi Prachodayat" is a prayer to Lakshmi contained in the Sri Sukta.
Lakshmi is considered auspicious and symbolizes beauty and prosperity. Her name gives the prefix Sri (also spelled Shri, pronounced as shree) common in cultural discourse and human relationships. Sri is considered an auspicious prefix or suffix, and used to imply or mean beauty, wealth, prosperity or auspiciousness. For example, Rajya Lakshmi means "wealth of empire", and Shanti Sri means "wealth of peace". In modern India, common honorific synonymous for the English Mr. and Mrs., are Shri (also Sri or Shree) and Shrimati (also Srimati or Shreemati) respectively.
Gaja Lakshmi, where Lakshmi is flanked by two elephants spraying water on her, is one of the most frequent representations found in archeological sites. One of the oldest sculpture of Gaja Lakshmi is from Mathura, at Sonkh site, dated to be from pre-Kushan Empire era. Similarly, the Atranjikhera site in modern Uttar Pradesh, has yielded terracotta plaque with images of Lakshmi dated to be from 2nd century BC. Other archeological sites with ancient Lakshmi terracotta figurines from 1st millennium BC include Vaisali, Sravasti, Kausambi, Campa and Candraketugadh.
Goddess Lakshmi in frequently found in ancient coins of various Hindu kingdoms from Afghanistan throughout India. Gaja Lakshmi has been found on coins of Scytho-Parthian kings Azes II and Azilises; she also appears on Sunga Empire king Jyesthamitra era coins, both dated to be from 1st millennium BC. Coins from 1st through 4th century AD, found in various locations in India, such as Ayodhaya, Mathura, Ujjain, Sanchi, Bodh Gaya, Kanauj all feature Lakshmi. Similarly, ancient Graeco-Indian gems and seals with images of Lakshmi have been found, estimated to be from the 1st millennium BC.
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