|| Goddess Lakshmi ||
Goddess Lakshmi is a symbolic representation of Wealth, Peace and Happiness. As wealth, both material and spiritual is essentially required for protection and maintenance of worldly objects; Goddess Lakshmi is shown as the consort of Lord Vishnu who symbolizes the power of maintenance and protection of the Universe. Her four hands indicate that she provides ‘artha’ ‘dharma’ ‘kama’ and ‘moksha’ popularly known as ‘Purushartha Chatushtaya’, She sits on a Lotus flower, a symbol of Purity and Truth. She is supposed to have emerged during the churning of the oceans, symbolizing development of values of life when one’s mind is churned by the process of reflection and contemplation upon one’s Higher Self. She is worshiped all over the world particularly during Diwali. According to Hindu mythology, Lakshmi appears in one of the most compelling stories, that of the “Churning of the Milky Ocean”. In this story, the Hindu Gods are at war against various demons (the Asuras) in order to gain their immortality. One day a wise sage offered Indra, the Hindu Warrior God, a garland of sacred flowers, however, in his arrogance, Indra throws the flowers to the floor. This display of arrogance upsets Lakshmi, who leaves the realm of the Gods and enters into the Milky Ocean. Without her, the Gods were no longer blessed with success or fortune, and as the world becomes darker, the people on earth become greedy and no longer make offerings to the Gods. As the Gods begin to lose their power and the Asuras take control, Indra is instructed that Gods need to churn the Milky Ocean to regain Lakshmi and Her blessings, which include the elixir of life, a potion bestowing immortality, which would enable them to defeat the demons. This churning takes a thousand years before anything rises to the surface. However, among the treasures that did rise, was a beautiful woman standing on a lotus flower. This was Lakshmi, returning to the world.
Lakshmi is often depicted as being fair skinned, and having four arms. She is usually very finely dressed, and is surrounded with precious jewels, coins and other symbols of wealth and prosperity, which she offers to Her followers. To signify Her royal status, she is often flanked by elephants as well as Her “Vanaha” (sacred animal), which is a great white owl.
It is said that during the Autumn Full Moon (believed to be the brightest of the year), Lakshmi descends to Earth to take away the darkness of poverty, stagnation, and anger. Her owl guides Her into the darker area of people’s lives so that they can be enlightened.
In Bengal, northern India, one of the most holy festivals (or puja) of Hindu calendar, that of Diwali, is specifically sacred to Lakshmi. Taking place on the New Moon, which usually occurs towards either the end of October or beginning of November, lamps are filled with coconut oil and are lit to signify victory of good over the evil within an individual. It is also during this time that Lakshmi is believed to bring peace and prosperity. Being a festival of wealth, special gold coins and utensils are purchased, as well as new clothing and jewellery. For businessmen, this time of the year is also very auspicious for opening up new accounts.
Creating an altar for Lakshmi can be as simple as filling a vase with some brightly coloured flowers. Her colors are said to be pink, red, gold and orange, and Her favorite scents are sandalwood and jasmine.