Each god and Goddess has a profound significance in Hindu Dharma. Mainly the feminine power (aspects of Adi Shakti) holds great importance. They represent the supreme power of the universe and play a central role in the creation, protection, and destruction of the universe. Among them, Devi Lakshmi is the most popular Hindu goddess known as the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
She is the divine consort of Lord Vishnu, the protector of the universe. The word Lakshmi is derived from the Sanskrit word Laksya, meaning aim, goal, objectives, etc. It means knowing one’s own goal and understanding life’s objective towards attaining both material prosperity and spiritual Enlightenment. When pleased with the purity and devotion of her worshippers, Goddess Lakshmi imparts upon them both material and spiritual prosperity.
Birth of Lakshmi
Goddess Lakshmi first appeared in the Churning of the Ocean, Samudra Manthan. She chooses to become a divine consort of Lord Vishnu. Samudra Manthan is one of the most celebrated events in Hindu History. The event started when Rishi Durvasa meets Lord Indra, king of heaven.
Indra was given the responsibility of protecting the world against the Asura. He had protected it successfully for many years, and the goddess, Lakshmi’s presence, had made him sure of success. As per Indra Purana, sage Durvasa had offered a garland of sacred flowers to Lord Indra. He, in turn, dishonored the present and threw the flowers to the floor. Soon, the rishi cursed Indra and all the gods of his heaven. Goddess Lakshmi left Indra’s abode and entered the Milky Ocean. As a result, the asuras defeated gods. Indra then asked Vishnu what should be done. He advised churning the milk of the sea with the help of the Asura.
Following the advice of Lord Vishnu, all the Devas and asuras began the churning using Mandaraachal hill as soon as the hill began to sink. Soon, Lord Vishnu took the incarnation of the turtle and supported the mountain in his back. Soon, the churning created heavier tractions and released several valuables such as precious gemstones that the gods, including Lord Vishnu, accepted. Then the deadliest poison, Halahala, emerged out and drank by Lord Shiva.
Devtas and Asuras once again resumed the churning process. Then, after churning for a while, Cow, Flower, Horses, Elephants emerged. Beautiful Apsaras and Goddesses also emerged, holding a lotus in their hands that allures the gods and the Asuras. One of the goddesses was Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
According to Vishnu Purana, Goddess Lakshmi took the first birth in this material world as the daughter of Bhrigu by Khyáti. For in like manner, as Lord Vishnu descends amongst mankind, so does his divine consort, Devi Lakshmi. Thus when Vishnu was born as a dwarf, the son of Aditi, Lakshmi appeared from a lotus – Padma, or Kamala; when he was born as Parshurama, she was Dharani; when he was Lord Rama, she was Goddess Sita; and when he was Lord Krishna, she became Goddess Rukmini.
Appearance and symbolism
The pictorial depiction of the Goddess Lakshmi is commonly portrayed as a beautiful woman with four hands, standing on a full-bloomed lotus flower and flanked by the elephant. One of her hands holds a lotus bud which signifies beauty, knowledge, self-realization, and fertility. The lotus, a flower that blooms in clean or dirty water, also symbolizes purity regardless of the good or bad situations in which it grows. It means that good and prosperity can bloom and not be affected by evil in one’s surroundings. Her four hands mean the four goals of human life: Dharma, Karma, Artha, and Moksha.
Goddess Lakshmi is very often seen with one or two elephants and occasionally with an owl. Elephants symbolize work, activity, and strength. While owl signifies the patient striving to observe, see, and discover knowledge, particularly when surrounded by darkness.
Lakshmi usually wears a red dress sewed with golden threads. Her husband, Vishnu, often represents her. It implies wealth and prosperity are coupled with the maintenance of life, justice, and peace.
Owl – Vehicle of Goddess Lakshmi
An owl is the vehicle of Goddess Lakshmi. The owl remains awake all night and can see only in darkness. This partial blindness is symbolic of the darkness of ignorance. Hence, it teaches us not to get blinded by wealth.
An owl is known as Stithi Prajna, i.e., unwavering in its decision. Its big round eyes are focused and do not move. Hence, it represents humor, intelligence, and wisdom. The Owl also represents Alakshmi, the polar opposite of Goddess Lakshmi. Goddess Alakshmi represents poverty, strife, quarrels, struggle, bad luck, etc.
Ashta Lakshmi – 8 forms of Lakshmi
Lakshmi is featured in many Hindu stories with a variety of names, forms, and attributes. Just as the Mother Goddess Durga has nine names, Devi Lakshmi also reveals in eight manifestations known as Ashta Lakshmi. She presides over eight sources of wealth: prosperity, fertility, good fortune, good luck, good health, knowledge, strength, progeny, and power.
- Aadi-Lakshmi – the first manifestation of Lakshmi
- Dhana-Lakshmi -Goddess of wealth
- Dhanya-Lakshmi – Goddess of agricultural wealth.
- Gaja-Lakshmi – Giver of animal wealth
- Santana-Lakshmi – Goddess of bestowing offspring.
- Veera-Lakshmi – Goddess who courage plus strength for overcoming difficulties in life.
- Vidya-Lakshmi – Goddess of knowledge of arts and sciences
- Vijaya-Lakshmi – Goddess and the giver of victory,
Devi Lakshmi is the popular goddess of wealth, abundance, and fertility. She is worshiped on the occasion of Deepawali by offering puja and chanting Lakshmi Mantras. It is believed that Lakshmi will choose the cleanest and most beautiful house on the night of the festival. Thus, devotees clean and decorate their houses with lights and garlands of flowers during the festival.