About Maa Lakshmi
Lakshmi 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, kāma, 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, Draupadi 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.
Lakshmi is mentioned once in Rig Veda, but the context suggests that the word does not mean “goddess of wealth and fortune”, rather it means “kindred mark or sign of auspicious fortune”.
भद्रैषां लक्ष्मीर्निहिताधि वाचि
bhadrauṣāṁ lakṣmīrnihitādhi vāci
“an auspicious fortune is attached to their words”
—Rig Veda, x.71.2, Translated by John Muir
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, about 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 ofDharma 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 theRamayana, 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.
Root of the word
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”.