Dressed in luxurious silks and adorned with gold ,Laxmi is the resplendent goddess of wealth. Seated on a full bloomed lotus flower she showers wealth and glory on her devotees. A cascade of gold coins flows from one hand while the other is raised in blessing. Her four hands signify the four goals of human life: dharma or Truth, Arth or wealth, Kama or desire and Moksha or liberation.
Laxmi’s name is derived from the Sanskrit word “lakshmye” which means ‘goal’ or ‘purpose’. Laxmi is the giver of not just material wealth but spiritual wealth, glory, virtue, greatness and joy. All the goals sought by human beings.
The desire to seek these things drives Creation and keeps the wheel turning. Hence, while Vishnu is the source of all creation, Laxmi his wife is the driving force behind it. The Creation comes from Vishnu but Laxmi his wife represents its abundance. She represents the ‘wealth’ of Nature.
This is how they met and were married…
During the Samudra Manthan, when the asuras and devas were churning the Milky Ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, many treasures rose from its foaming waves. One of them was Laxmi, borne on a full bloomed lotus flower, wearing red and gold clothing, holding in one hand a jar of gold and in the other a lotus bud.
The devas and the asuras watched, mesmerized, as this divine beauty rose from the waters. Her radiance it is said, dazzled heaven and earth and all living beings.
With a smile on her lips, Laxmi stepped gracefully on to the shore, her anklets tinkling. Like a golden creeper swaying gently in the breeze she made her way through the crowds that had now gathered to see her. As she walked past everyone sought her attention but Laxmi was looking for someone else, someone more worthy of her. Then she spotted Vishnu, bright as a thousand suns and she knew him at once to be Narayan, he who grants salvation. In him all things came to rest. His virtues were eternal. He was beyond the failings of mere mortals and even the gods.
So she walked up to him and placed a garland of lotus buds around his neck. In the Vedic times it was the women who chose their husbands by placing a garland around their necks. It was called Swayamwara.
Having chosen her groom she stood by his side, bashful and poised and became Vishnu’s ardhangani, his other half. Now they were complete as Laxmi-Narayan.
Laxmi is worshipped daily in Hindu homes and offices but particularly during the festivals of Diwali, Navratri and Kojagiri purnima.
As Ashtalaxmi she is worshipped in eight forms:
Adi Laxmi- Primeval goddess
Dhana Laxmi- goddess of material wealth
Dhaanya Laxmi- goddess of food grains
Santana Laxmi- goddess of children
Gaja Laxmi-goddess of elephants ( fame and glory)
Veera Laxmi- goddess of courage
Vijaya Laxmi- goddess of victory
Vidya Laxmi- goddess of knowledge
Laxmi is also a form of the Mother Goddess, the Devi or Shakti, which I will talk about in another post dedicated to the Devi.