Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lakshmi: Hindu Goddess of Wealth & Beauty

Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of wealth, love, prosperity (both material and spiritual), fortune, and the embodiment of beauty. She is the wife of Vishnu. Also known as Mahalakshmi, she is said to bring good luck and is believed to protect her devotees from all kinds of misery and money-related sorrows. Representations of Lakshmi are also found in Jain monuments.

Lakshmi is called Shree 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 and Satyabama are considered forms of Lakshmi.

Lakshmi is worshipped daily in Hindu homes and commercial establishments as the goddess of wealth. She is also worshipped as the consort of Vishnu in many temples. The festivals of Diwali and Kojagiri Purnima are celebrated in her honour.

As per Devi, the Supreme power, is called Durga or Shakti. The abstract power has been imagined by the Hindus as Durga Shakti. Both Lakshmi and Saraswati are forms of Durga or Shakti or Tridevi the eternal consort power of Parabrahman the Trimurti. By the help of the Supreme soul (Adi Purusha) to create the Supreme Power (Adi-shakti), three other shapes have been created from the Supreme Power.

She is seen in two forms, Bhudevi and Sridevi, both either side of Sri Venkateshwara or Vishnu. Bhudevi is the representation and totality of the material world or energy, called the aparam Prakriti, in which she is called Mother Earth. Sridevi is the spiritual world or energy, called the Prakriti. Most people are mistaken that they are separate beings although they are one, that is, Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the power of Vishnu.[citation needed]

Mahalakshmi's presence is also found on Sri Venkateswara (at Tirumala) or Vishnu's chest, at the heart. Lakshmi is the embodiment of love, from which devotion to God or Bhakti flows. It is through Love/Bhakti or Lakshmi that the atma or soul is able to reach God or Vishnu. Lakshmi plays a special role as the mediator between her husband Vishnu and his worldly devotees. Lakshmi represents a more soothing, kind, warm and approachable mother figure who willingly intervenes in the lives of devotees. When asking Vishnu for grace or the forgiveness, the devotees often approach Him through the intermediary presence of Lakshmi. She is also the personification of the spiritual Fulfillment. Also, she embodies the spiritual world, also known as Vaikunta, the abode of Lakshmi-Narayana or Vishnu, or what would be considered Heaven in Vaishnavism. She is also the divine qualities of God and the soul. Lakshmi is the embodiment of God's superior spiritual feminine energy, Param Prakriti, which purifies, empowers and uplifts the individual. Hence, she is called the Goddess of Fortune. She is believed to be the mother of the universe.

Devas (gods) and asuras (demons) were both mortal at one time, in Hinduism. Amrit, the divine nectar that grants immortality, could only be obtained by churning the Kshirsagar (Ocean of Milk). The devas and asuras both sought immortality and decided to churn the Kshirsagar. The samudra manthan commenced with the devas on one side and the asuras on the other. Vishnu incarnated as Kurma, the tortoise, and a mountain was placed on the tortoise as a churning pole. Vasuki, the great venom-spewing serpent, was wrapped around the mountain and used to churn the ocean. A host of divine celestial objects came up during the churning. Along with them emerged the goddess Lakshmi. In some versions she is said to be the daughter of Varuna, the sea god since she emerged from the sea.

In the Vishnu Purana, Garuda Purana, Linga Purana and Padma Purana she is said to have been born as the daughter of the divine sage Bhrigu. In the Vishnu Purana, she was born to Bhrigu and his wife Khyaati and was named "Bhargavi". According to the Vishnu Purana, once when the sage Durvasa was once traversing the earth he saw a celestial garland in the hands of a celestial maid and requested her to give it to him. The nymph agreed and gave the garland to Durvasa who placing it on his head yielded to its influence and wandered about inebriated. While wandering he met Indra who was accompanied by the Devas and gave the garland to him. Indra then placed the garland on his elephant Airavata where it shined brightly and blinded Airavata who seized the garland with his trunk and threw it to the ground. Durvasa on seeing this becomes infuriated and curses the whole universe to be devoid of "Shri". The Devas unable to bear this told about the matter to Brahma and he instructed them to request Vishnu to help them solve this situation. Vishnu agreed and instructed them to seek the help of the Asuras and churn the Ksheera Sagara in order for the effect of Durvasa's curse to be removed. The Devas and the Asuras together churned the cosmic ocean. First to come out of the ocean was the divine cow Kamadhenu, then Varuni, then the tree Parijat, then the Apsaras, then Chandra (the moon), then Dhanvantari with Amrita (nectar of immortality) in his hand. Then Lakshmi appeared seated on a lotus and placed herself on the chest of Vishnu.

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