December 12, 2012

Lakshmi: The Goddess of Wealth & Beauty

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , at 1:06 am by Babs

Goddess Lakshmi means “Good Luck” to Hindus.  The word ‘Lakshmi’ is derived from the Sanskrit word Laksya, meaning ‘aim’ or ‘goal’, and she is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual.

Lakshmi is the household goddess of most Hindu families, and a favorite of women.  Although she is worshipped daily, the festive month of October is Lakshmi’s special month.  Lakshmi Puja is celebrate on the full moon night of Kojagari Purnima.

The Lakshmi form 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, suggesting that those who worship her gain wealth.  She always wears gold-embroidered red clothes.  Red symbolizes activity and the golden lining indicates prosperity.  Lakshmi is the active energy of Vishnu, and also appears as Lakshmi-Narayan – Lakshmi accompanying Vishnu.

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.

A Mother Goddess

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).

As a female counterpart of Lord Vishnu, Mata Lakshmi is also called ‘Shri’, the female energy of the Supreme Being.  She is the goddess of prosperity, wealth, purity, generosity, and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm.

A Domestic Deity

The importance attached to the presence of Lakshmi in every household makes her an essentially domestic deity.  Householders worship Lakshmi for the well-being and prosperity of the family.  Businessmen and women also regard her equally and offer her daily prayers.

On the full moon night following Durga Puja, Hindus worship Lakshmi ceremonially at home, pray for her blessings, and invite neighbors to attend the puja.  It is believed that on this full moon night the goddess herself visits the homes and replenishs the inhabitants with wealth.  A special worship is also offered to Lakshmi on the auspicious Diwali night.

While the great goddess as a cosmic force may be a deity of compelling dynamism and fearsome power, it is in the guise of the gentle and beneficent giver of the devotees’ desires, that the female divinities of India first appeared.  This role of the goddess as one who fulfills wishes has remained one of enduring strength and consequence.  In the ancient collection of sacred humans known as the Veda, this aspect of the goddess already becomes manifest.  The two most shining examples in this context are The Great Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati.

Goddess Lakshmi, also known as Shri, is personified not only as the goddess of fortune and wealth but also as an embodiment of loveliness, grace and charm.  She is worshipped as a goddess who grants both worldly prosperity as well as liberation from the cycle of life and death.

Lore has it that Lakshmi arose out of the sea of milk, the primordial cosmic ocean, bearing a red lotus in her hand.  Each member of the divine triad – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (creator, preserver and destroyer respectively) – wanted to have her for himself.  Shiva’s claim was refused for he had already claimed the Moon, Brahma had Saraswati, so Vishnu claimed her and she was born and reborn as his consort during all of his ten incarnations.

Though retained by Vishnu as his consort, Lakshmi remained an avid devotee of Lord Shiva.  an interesting legend surrounds her devotion to this god:

Every day Lakshmi had a thousand flowers plucked by her handmaidens and she offered them to the idol of Shiva in the evening.  One day, counting the flowers as she offered them, she found that there were two less than a thousand.  It was too late to pluck any more for evening had come and the lotuses had closed their petals for then night.

Lakshmi thought it inauspicious to offer less than a thousand.  Suddenly she remembered that Vishnu had once described her breasts as blooming lotuses.  She decided to offer them as the two missing flowers.  Lakshmi cut off one breast and placed it with the flowers on the altar.  Before she could cut off the other, Shiva, who was extremely moved by her devotion, appeared before her and asked her to stop.  He then turned her cut breast into round, sacred Bael fruit (Aegle marmelos) and sent it to Earth with his blessings to flourish near his temples.

A few texts say that Lakshmi is the wife of Dharma.  She and several other goddesses, all of whom are personifications of certain auspicious qualities, are said to have been given to Dharma in marriage.  This association seems primarily to represent a thinly disguised “wedding” of Dharma (virtuous conduct) with Lakshmi (prosperity and well-being).  The pint of the association seems to be to teach that by performing Dharma one obtains prosperity.

Tradition also associates Lakshmi with Kubera, the ugly lord of the Yakshas.  The Yakshas were a race of supernatural creatures who lived outside the pale of civilization.  Their connection with Lakshmi perhaps springs from the fact that they were notable for a propensity for collecting, guarding and distributing wealth.  Association with Kubera deepens the aura of mystery and underworld connections that attached itself to Lakshmi.  Yakshas are also symbolic of fertility.  The Yakshinis (female Yakshas) depicted often in temple sculpture are full-breasted and big-hipped women with wide generous mouths, leaning seductively against trees.  The identification of Shri, the goddess who embodies the potent power of growth, with the Yakshas is natural.  She, like them, involves, and reveals herself in the irrepressible fecundity of plant life, as exemplified in the legend of Shiva and the Bael fruit narrated above, and also in her association with the lotus, to be described later.

An interesting and fully developed association is between Lakshmi and the god Indra.  Indra is traditionally known as the king of the gods, the foremost of the gods, and he is typically described as a heavenly king.  It is therefore appropriate for Shri-Lakshmi to be associated with him as his wife or consort.  In these myths she appears as the embodiment of royal authority, as a being whose presence is essential for the effective wielding of royal power and the creation of royal prosperity.

Several myths of this genre describe Shri-Lakshmi as leaving one ruler for another.  she is said, for example, to dwell even with a demon named Bali.  The concerned legend makes clear the union between Lakshmi and victorious kings.  According to this legend Bali defeats Indra.  Lakshmi is attracted to Bali’s winning ways and bravery and joins him along with her attendant auspicious virtues.  In association with the propitious goddess, Bali rules the three worlds (earth, heavens and the nether worlds) with virtue, and under his rule there is prosperity all around.  Only when the dethroned gods manage to trick Bali into surrendering does Shri-Lakshmi depart from Bali, leaving him lusterless and powerless.  along with Lakshmi, the following qualities depart from Bali: good conduct, virtuous behavior, truth, activity and strength.

Lakshmi’s association with so many different male deities and with the notorious fleetness of good fortune earned her a reputation for fickleness and inconstancy.  In one text she is said to be so unsteady that even in a picture she moves and that if she sticks with Vishnu it is only because she is attracted to his many different forms (avatars)!  She is thus also known as “Chanchala” or the restless one.

Her notorious fickleness has convinced her devotees that she may desert them at the slightest pretext.  They have thus devised numerous ingenious strategies to retain Lakshmi, and thus prosperity in their establishments.  One such sect is known to offer only the worst net-like fabric as vastra (clothing) to Lakshmi; for they say, ‘It is much easier for Goddess Lakshmi to abandon our houses clad in ample folds of cloth rather than scantily dressed in the minimum fabric we offer to her as garment’!

In a mythological sense her fickleness and adventurous nature slowly begin to change once she is identified totally with Vishnu, and finally becomes still.  She then becomes the steadfast, obedient and loyal wife who vows to reunite with her husband in all his next lives.  As the cook at the Jagannatha temple in Puri, she prepares food for her lord and his devotees.  In the famous paintings on the walls of the Badami caves in central India, she sits on the ground near where her lord reclines upon a throne, leaning on him; a model of social decorum and correctness.

Physically Goddess Lakshmi is described as a fair lady, with four arms, seated on a lotus, dressed in fine garments and precious jewels.  She has a benign countenance, is in her full youth and yet has a motherly appearance.

The most striking feature of the iconography of Lakshmi is her persistent association with the lotus.  The meaning of the lotus in relation to Shri-Lakshmi refers to purity and spiritual power.  Rooted in the mud but blossoming above the water, completely uncontaminated by the mud, the lotus represents spiritual perfection and authority.  Further more, the lotus seat is a common motif in Hindu and Buddhist iconography.  the gods and goddesses, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, typically sit or stand upon a lotus, which suggests their spiritual authority.  To be seated upon or to be otherwise associated with the lotus suggests that the being in question: God, Buddha, or human being has transcended the limitations of the finite world (the mud of existence, as it were) and floats freely in a sphere of purity and spirituality.  Shri-Lakshmi thus suggests more than the fertilizing powers of moist soil and the mysterious powers of growth.  She suggests a perfection or state of refinement that transcends the material world.  She is associated not only with the royal authority but with also spiritual authority, and she combines royal and priestly powers in her presence.  The lotus, and the goddess Lakshmi by association, represents the fully developed blossoming of organic life.

No description of Goddess Lakshmi can be complete without a mention of her traditionally accepted vehicle, the owl.  Now, the owl (Ulooka in Sanskrit), is a bird that sleeps through the day and prowls through the night.  In a humorous vein it is said that owing to its lethargic and dull nature the Goddess takes it for a ride!  She is the handmaiden of those who know how to control it; how to make best use of her resources, like the Lord Vishnu.  But those who blindly worship her are verily the owls or ‘Ulookas’.  The choice is ours: whether we wish to be Lord Vishnu or the ‘Ulooka’ in our association with Lakshmi.

This is a favorite time of year because the Lakshmi comes alive during the Hindu holiday of Deepavali (or Diwali).  Each year, around the new moon in October or November, Hindu people celebrate this Goddess of Fortune and invite Her into their homes, attempting to secure Her favors for the year to come.

Lakshmi is such a special Goddess.  She’s magical and practical.  Her mate is a God and her best friend, a guy.  She is a living Goddess, worshipped around the world.  In these times of challenge as in all times of challenge, she can be a comfort and a healer; she brings a sense of greater fortune even in the darkest moments.  She is a powerful cosmic connection; a divine female who looks like us, and offers a sense of courage, of hope, of power.  As the Hindu Goddess of Good Fortune and Beauty, she represents and is seen as the personification of abundance, prosperity, wealth, well-being and harmony.  She is actively worshipped daily by millions of Hindus, and interfaith practitioners of Goddess spirituality around the globe.  Because of her popularity she is considered a universal Goddess.  Yet Diwali is her special holiday because it is a holiday of lights, and represents a sweet, soulful and prosperous time when people dress up and celebrate in the name of the Goddess of Fortune.

On the night before Diwali children often light off firecrackers and sparklers, and in some parts of India, adults bang pots and pans to scare off Lakshmi’s dark sister, Alakshmi.  Then women line their windows and doorways with tiny lights (deepa) that are offerings to Lakshmi, to help her find her way to their abode.  On Diwali day Lakshmi is honored with worship such as Homan, Abishekam and Puja. And later that day the Sarada Puja to bless account books for they year is offered, followed by a Lakshmi-Kubera Puja, to Goddess of Fortune and the God of Wealth.  For two days, people participate in additional pujas and “Annakut Utsavam,” where people bring sweets to the temple or make offerings in their homes to Lakshmi and her beloved Vishnu.  In the temples the food is stacked and overflowing around holy icons and the priests hand out blessed sweets to children and especially needy devotees.  They are accepted gladly, in two hands, and a respectfully bow of the head.  People often kiss or pray over this blessed food, called prasad, before eating it and taking in the energies of the Goddess and her mate.

Lakshmi is a goddess who brings all good things to light and to life!  She has one of the most colorful creation myths of all the deities in the Hindu pantheon.  It is said Goddess Lakshmi was born, fully grown, on a pink lotus that rose from the milky sea.  She was immediately be-decked, be-jeweled and worshipped by the gods and sages.  they prayed that she would come to their abodes, and to their worlds, for they believed that where Lakshmi is you will also find riches and fulfillment.  Three millennia later, she remains the symbol of all things fortunate, and she is a highly sought after and beloved female deity.

Lakshmi, like many Hindu deities, is often pictured as a beautiful Indian woman with bi dark eyes and with four arms.  Clad in sari, in a form that is very feminine and full, she sits or stands on her pink lotus throne.  She usually has two lotuses in either of her back hands.  Her front arms typically offer a protective blessing, as well as blessings known as “boons,” or favors from the God/dessses.  Her ability to enhance our good fortune in life is symbolized by the gold coins seen pouring from her hands, back into the ocean of life.

Need help with finances, a job, success, happiness and love?  Lakshmi is a goddess you can turn to.  it is the Hindu tradition to evoke the Lord of Obstacles, Ganesha, to clear the path to success.  Ganesha removes obstacles so Lakshmi can deliver fortune into your life.  While there are specific chants and prayers to evoke Ganesha, some people call to him with the simple chant: “Om Ganesha, Om Ganesha, Om Ganesha.

Lakshmi and Ganesha are cohorts, who often work side by side.  This is indicated by the frequency with which you see their icons and pictures together.  Lakshmi’s mate, however, is the God Vishnu – known as the Great Preserver, who comes to earth in the form of important avatars, such as Krishna.  Lakshmi reincarnates with him in all human lifetimes and because of this is also seen as a role model for undying love.

It is believed that those who pay attention to the Goddess of Fortune every day develop a clear channel of communication with Her.  You may also want to view this as simply focusing energy on that which you are choosing to creat in your life.  Lakshmi exists in a dimension far beyond our human struggles and sadness.  From where she sits on her Sacred Lotus, she can guide us to greater fortune, deeper love relationships and more joy.  Because she is also considered a Great Mother Devi (Goddess) she can guide us from darkness, into the light.  In fact, if you allow Lakshmi to be present in your life, you jut might find she elevates you to a higher state of being and living.  And in that state you will begin to see that you can create anything!

How to Invite Lakshmi Into Your Life

Attend a Lakshmi Puja: In the culture from which Lakshmi hails, she is treated with great reverence and devotion.  In the United States, it is very easy for anyone to attend, or even sponsor (request) a Lakshmi Puja, which is a form of formal worship to the Goddess.  anyone of any faith can  have a Hindu priest perform a puja at a temple or private home.  You can also attend what is usually called a Sri MahaLaxmi or Sri MahaLakshmi (meaning Mother Lakshmi) abishekam, which is the sacred purification and washing of the Goddess with milk, yogurt, honey and more.  The 108 names of the Goddess are chanted and prayers are uttered repeatedly during a Lakshmi worship service and devotional songs are sung.  Puja sponsorship usually begins at $51 (Hindus never end a number with “0”).

Pray to Her: Since ou may not get to attend a Hindu worship service to honor the Goddess, it is important that you know Lakshmi can hear your prayers from wherever you may be.  to evoke Her energy of good fortune, light a green candle in Lakshmi’s honor.  think for  a moment about what good fortune means to you.  Perhaps you may find that good fortune begins with a sense of peace and well-being within and has little to do with material goods or money.  Or maybe you have a financial issue which, once resolved, will make you feel more fortunate.  Although you can certainly pray to win the lottery, you may find more immediate results if you pray for whatever cash is needed to meet your financial obligations and whatever support you need to make your most heartfelt dreams come alive.  Evoke Ganesha by repeating “Om Ganesha” three times.  Then ask the goddess for her help.  Petition her as you would any deity (“Dear MahaLakshmi, please help me with…) or in Her spiritual presence, make a declaration (“I am ready to find the job (mate, apartment, car, etc) that is perfect for me, now”).  In these challenging times, you can also pray to her for peace and well-being for all.  Good Fortune on all levels, spiritual and material, is her domain.

Celebrate Lakshmi’s Sacred Holidays: Dates can sometimes vary in different locations.

Navaratri: the goddess Lakshmi is celebrated in image, song, worship and prayer in October during the sacred Hindu holiday honoring The Mother, called Navaratri.  This nine-day celebration also honors the Goddesses Durga and Saraswati, and in some locals Goddesses Kali and Parvarti.

Diwali: worshippers around the world clean their homes spotless and light oil lamps to invite the Goddess to their abode on this holiday.  The celebration runs a few days.  Lakshmi is honored in all day pujas on Deepavali (Diwali) day.

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