Lakṣmī | Lakshmi


1. Lakṣmī

Lakṣmī (Sanskrit: लक्ष्मी) is the Goddess who leads to one's goal (Lakṣya in Sanskrit), hence Her name is Lakṣmī. For mankind, 8 types of Goals are necessary –

1. Spiritual Enlightenment, 2. food, 3. knowledge,
4. resources, 5. progeny, 6. abundance, 7. patience and 8. success,

hence there are 8 or Aṣṭa Lakṣmīs

1. Ādi Lakṣmī, 2. Dhānya Lakṣmī, 3. Vidyā Lakṣmī,
4. Dhana Lakṣmī, 5. Santāna Lakṣmī, 6. Gāja Lakṣmī,
7. Dhairya Lakṣmī and 8. Vijaya Lakṣmī.

Lakṣmī were first mentioned in the Śrī Sūkta of the Ṛg Veda:

Śrī, a honorific term for Lakṣmī, represents the material world of the earthly realm as the Mother Goddess, referred to as Pṛthvī Mātā, and known by her twin identities as Bhū Devi, and Śrī Devi (She is having another form along with these 2 called as Nīla Devi).

She is the wife of Viṣṇu, one of the principal deities of Hinduism and the Supreme Being in the Śrī Vaiṣṇavism Tradition.

With Pārvatī and Sarasvatī, she forms Tridevī, the holy trinity.

Lakṣmī is also an important deity in Jainism and found in Jain temples.

Lakṣmī has also been a Goddess of abundance and fortune for Buddhists, and was represented on the oldest surviving stūpas and cave temples of Buddhism.

In Buddhist sects of Tibet, Nepal and Southeast Asia, Goddess Vasudharā mirrors the characteristics and attributes of the Hindu Goddess Lakṣmī with minor iconographic differences.

Lakṣmī is also called Śrī or Thirumagal because she is endowed with 6 auspicious and divine qualities, or Guṇas, and is the divine energy/Śakti of Viṣṇu.

In Hindu religion, she was pleased and churned out from the churning of the Primordial Ocean (Samudra Manthan) and she chose Viṣṇu as her eternal consort.

As mentioned in Viṣṇu Purāṇa, when Viṣṇu descended on the Earth as the avatārs Rāma and Kṛṣṇa, Lakṣmī descended as his respective consort as Sītā and Rādhā.

In the ancient scriptures of India, all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakṣmī.

The marriage and relationship between Lakṣmī and Viṣṇu as wife and husband is the paradigm for rituals and ceremonies for the bride and groom in Hindu weddings.

Lakṣmī is considered another aspect of the same Supreme Goddess principle in the Śaktism tradition of Hinduism.

Lakṣmī is depicted in Indian art as an elegantly dressed, prosperity-showering golden-coloured woman with an owl as her vehicle, signifying the importance of economic activity in maintenance of life, her ability to move, work and prevail in confusing darkness.

She typically stands or sits like a yoginī on a lotus pedestal and holds a lotus in her hand, symbolizing fortune, self-knowledge and spiritual liberation.

Her iconography shows her with 4 hands, which represent the 4 goals of human life considered important to the Hindu way of life: Dharma, Kāma, Artha and Mokṣa.

She is often depicted as part of the trinity (Tridevī) consisting of Sarasvatī, Lakṣmī and Pārvatī. She is also considered as the daughter of Durgā in Bengali Hindu culture.

Archaeological discoveries and ancient coins suggest the recognition and reverence for Lakṣmī by the 1st millennium BCE.

Lakṣmī's iconography and statues have also been found in Hindu temples throughout Southeast Asia, estimated to be from the second half of the 1st millennium CE.

The festivals of Diwali and Śarad Pūrṇimā (Kojāgarī Pūrṇimā) are celebrated in her honour.

2. Etymology

Lakṣmī is one of many Hindu deities whose meaning and significance evolved in ancient Sanskrit texts.

Lakṣmī is mentioned once in Ṛg Veda, where it means kindred mark or sign of auspicious fortune.

bhadraiṣāṁ Lakṣmīrnihitādhi vāci
"an auspicious fortune is attached to their words"

— Rig Veda, x.71.2

In Atharvaveda, transcribed about 1000 BCE, Lakṣmī evolves into a complex concept with plural manifestations:

Book 7, Chapter 115 of Atharva Veda describes the plurality, asserting that a hundred Lakṣmīs are born with the body of a mortal at birth, some good, Puṇya (virtuous) and auspicious, while others bad, Pāpī (evil) and unfortunate:

The good are welcomed, while the bad urged to leave.

The concept and spirit of Lakṣmī and 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 Puṇya Lakṣmī.

In some chapters of Atharva Veda, Lakṣmī connotes the good, an auspicious sign, good luck, good fortune, prosperity, success and happiness.

Later, Lakṣmī is referred to as the goddess of fortune, identified with Śrī and regarded as wife of Viṣṇu (Nārāyaṇa).

For example, in Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, variously estimated to be composed between 800 BCE and 300 BCE, Śrī (Lakṣmī) is part of one of many theories, in ancient India, about the creation of universe:

In Book 9 of Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, Śrī emerges from Prajāpati, after his intense meditation on creation of life and nature of universe.

Śrī is described as a 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 Lakṣmī, deity Agṇi gets food, Soma gets kingly authority, Varuṇa gets imperial authority, Mitra acquires martial energy,

Indra gets force, Bṛhaspati gets priestly authority, Savitṛi acquires dominion, Pūṣan gets splendour, Sarasvatī takes nourishment and Tvaṣṭṛ gets forms.

The hymns of Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa 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 Dharma, mother of Kāma, sister or mother of Dhātṛ and Vidhātṛ, wife of Dattātreya, one of the 9 Śaktis of Viṣṇu, a manifestation of Prakṛti as identified with Dākṣāyaṇī in Bharatāśrama and as Sītā, wife of Rāma.

In the Epics of Hinduism, such as in Mahābhārata, Lakṣmī personifies wealth, riches, happiness, loveliness, grace, charm and splendour.

In another Hindu legend, about the creation of universe as described in Rāmāyaṇa,

Lakṣmī springs with other precious things from the foam of the Ocean of Milk when it is churned by the gods and demons for the recovery of Amṛta. She appeared with a lotus in her hand and so she is also called Padmā.

3. Root of the word

Lakṣmī 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 Lakṣmī the symbolism: know and understand your goal.

A related term is lakṣaṇa, which means sign, target, aim, symbol, attribute, quality, lucky mark, auspicious opportunity.

4. Symbolism and iconography

Lakṣmī is a member of the Tridevī, the triad of great Goddesses. She represents the Rajas Guṇa, and the Icchā-Śakti.

The image, icons, and sculptures of Lakṣmī are represented with symbolism:

Her name is derived from Sanskrit root words for knowing the goal and understanding the objective.

Her 4 arms are symbolic of the 4 goals of humanity that are considered good in Hinduism – dharma (pursuit of ethical, moral life), artha (pursuit of wealth, means of life), kāma (pursuit of love, emotional fulfilment) and moksha (pursuit of self-knowledge, liberation).

In Lakṣmī's iconography, she is either sitting or standing on a lotus and typically carrying a lotus in one or two hands.

The lotus carries symbolic meanings in Hinduism and other Indian traditions:

It symbolises knowledge, self-realisation, and liberation in Vedic context, and represents reality, consciousness and karma (work, deed) in the Tantra (Sahasrāra) context.

The lotus, a flower that blossoms in clean or dirty water, also symbolises purity regardless of the good or bad circumstances in which it grows. It is a reminder that good and prosperity can bloom and not be affected by evil in one's surrounding.

Below, behind or on the sides, Lakṣmī is very often shown with 1-2 elephants, known as Gaja Lakṣmī, and occasionally with an owl:

Elephants symbolise work, activity and strength, as well as water, rain and fertility for abundant prosperity.

The owl signifies the patient striving to observe, see and discover knowledge particularly when surrounded by darkness.

As a bird reputedly blinded by daylight, the owl also serves as a symbolic reminder to refrain from blindness and greed after knowledge and wealth has been acquired.

In some representations, wealth either symbolically pours out from one of her hands or she simply holds a jar of money. This symbolism has a dual meaning: wealth manifested through Lakṣmī means both materials as well as spiritual wealth.

Her face and open hands are in a mudra that signifies compassion, giving or Dāna (charity).

Lakṣmī typically wears a red dress embroidered with golden threads, symbolizes fortune and wealth.

She, goddess of wealth and prosperity, is often represented with her husband Viṣṇu, the God who maintains human life filled with justice and peace. This symbolism implies wealth and prosperity is coupled with maintenance of life, justice, and peace.

In Japan, where Lakṣmī is known as Kisshōten, she is commonly depicted with the Nyoihōju gem in her hand.

5. Names

Lakṣmī has numerous names and numerous ancient Stotram and Sutras of Hinduism recite her various names:

Padmā: She of the lotus (she who is mounted upon or dwelling in a lotus)
Kamalā: She of the lotus
Padmapriyā: Lotus-lover
Padmamālādhāra Devī: Goddess bearing a garland of lotuses
Padmamukhī: Lotus-faced (she whose face is as like as a lotus)
Padmākṣī: Lotus-eyed (she whose eyes are as beautiful as a lotus)
Padmahasta: Lotus-hand (she whose hand is holding (a) lotus(es))
Padmasundarī: She who is as beautiful as a lotus
Śrī: Radiance, eminence, splendour, wealth
Viṣṇupriyā: Lover of Viṣṇu (she who is the beloved of Viṣṇu)
Ulūkavāhinī: Owl-mounted (she who is riding an owl)
Nandika: The one who gives pleasure, vessel made up of clay and Viṣṇupriyā (she who is the beloved of Viṣṇu)

Her other names include:

Manuśrī, Cakrikā, Kamalīkā, Aiśvarya, Lālimā, Indira, Kalyāṇī, Nandika, Nandinī, Vaiṣṇavī, Samṛddhi, Bhārgavī, Śrī Devī, Bhū Devī, Nīla Devi, Cañcalā, Jalaja, Mādhavī, Sujātā, Śreya, Prācī, Haripriyā, Madhu, Paramā, Janamodinī, Ketakī, Vidyā, Vasudā, Vedavatī, Tilottamā, Śubhā, Devī, Kriyā Lakṣmī, Virūpā, Aparā, Aruṇa, Akhilā, Balā, Kuhū, Pūrṇimā, Anumatī, Anaghā, Avaśyā, Sītā, Rādhā, Satyabhāmā, Rukmiṇī, Jāmbavatī, Tulasī, Rāmā, Taruṇī, Jyotsnā, Jyoti, Nimeṣikā, Atibhā, Suvarṇa Kamalā, Smṛiti.

6. Upaniṣads

Śakti Upaniṣads are dedicated to the Trinity (Tridevī) of goddesses – Lakṣmī, Sarasvatī and Pārvatī.

Saubhāgya Lakṣmī Upaniṣad, describes the qualities, characteristics and powers of Lakṣmī;

In the second part of the Upaniṣad, the emphasis shifts to the use of yoga and transcendence from material craving in order to achieve spiritual knowledge and self-realisation, the true wealth.

Saubhāgya-Lakṣmī Upaniṣad synonymously uses Śrī to describe Lakṣmī.

7. Stotras and sūtras

Numerous ancient Stotras and Sūtras of Hinduism recite hymns dedicated to Lakṣmī. She is a major goddess in Purāṇas and Itihāsas of Hinduism.

In ancient scriptures of India, all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakṣmī.
For example:

Every woman is an embodiment of you.
You exist as little girls in their childhood,
As young women in their youth
And as elderly women in their old age.

— Śrī Kamalā Stotram

Every woman is an emanation of you.

— Śrī Daivakṛta Lakṣmī Stotram

Ancient prayers dedicated to Lakṣmī seek both material and spiritual wealth in prayers.

8. Purāṇas

Lakṣmī features prominently in Purāṇas of Hinduism.
Viṣṇu Purāṇa, in particular, dedicates many sections to her and also refers to her as Śrī:

"Śrī, loyal to Viṣṇu, is the mother of the world. Viṣṇu is the meaning, Śrī is the speech. She is the conduct, he the behaviour. Viṣṇu is knowledge, she the insight.

He is dharma, she the virtuous action. She is the earth, he earth's upholder. She is contentment, he the satisfaction. She wishes, he is the desire.

Śrī is the sky, Viṣṇu the Self of everything. He is the moon, she the light of moon. He is the ocean, she is the shore".

9. Subhāṣita, gnomic and didactic literature

Lakṣmī, along with Pārvatī and Sarasvatī, is a subject of extensive Subhāṣita, genomic and didactic literature of India:

Composed in the 1st millennium BC through the 16th century AD, they are short poems, proverbs, couplets, or aphorisms in Sanskrit written in a precise meter.

They sometimes take the form of dialogue between Lakṣmī and Viṣṇu or highlight the spiritual message in Vedas and ethical maxims from Hindu Epics through Lakṣmī.

An example Subhāṣita is Pūrṇārtha Saṁgraha, compiled by Vekataraya in South India,

where Lakṣmī and Viṣṇu discuss Nīti (right, moral conduct) and rājanīti (statesmanship, right governance) – covering in 30 chapters and ethical and moral questions about personal, social and political life.

10. Manifestations and aspects

Devi Lakṣmī is worshipped as Ambabai in the Kolhapur Śakti Pīṭh, and as Kanaka Mahālakṣmī in Visakhapatnam.

In Eastern India, Lakṣmī is seen as a Devi.

Lakṣmī, Sarasvatī, and Pārvatī are typically conceptualised as distinct in most of India, but in states such as West Bengal and Odisha, they are regionally believed to be forms of Durgā.

Lakṣmī is seen in 2 forms, Bhū Devī and Śrī Devī, both at the sides of Śrī Veṅkaṭeśvara or Viṣṇu.

Bhū Devī is the representation and totality of the material world or energy, called the Aparam Prakṛti, in which she is called Mother Earth.

Śrī Devī is the spiritual world or energy called the Prakṛti.

Lakṣmī is the power of Viṣṇu.
Inside temples, Lakṣmī is often shown together with Kṛṣṇa.

In certain parts of India, Lakṣmī plays a special role as the Mediator between her husband Viṣṇu and his worldly devotees: When asking Viṣṇu for grace or forgiveness, the devotees often approach Him through the intermediary presence of Lakṣmī.

She is also the personification of spiritual fulfilment:

Lakṣmī embodies the spiritual world, also known as Vaikuṇṭha, the abode of Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa or what would be considered Heaven in Vaiṣṇavism.

Lakṣmī is the embodiment of the Creative Energy of Viṣṇu, and primordial Prakṛti who creates the universe.

In South India, she is also worshipped as Āṇḍāḷ, an incarnation of Lakṣmī.

11. Secondary manifestations

Aṣṭa Lakṣmī (Sanskrit: अष्टलक्ष्मी, lit. 8 Lakṣmīs) is a group of 8 secondary manifestations of Lakṣmī. The Aṣṭa Lakṣmī preside over 8 sources of wealth and thus represent the 8 powers of Śrī Lakṣmī.

Temples dedicated to Aṣṭa Lakṣmī are found in Tamil Nadu, such as Aṣṭalakṣmī Kovil near Chennai and in many other states of India.

The Aṣṭa Lakṣmīs are as follows:

Ādi Lakṣmī => The First manifestation of Lakṣmī
Dhānya Lakṣmī => Granary Wealth
Vīra Lakṣmī => Wealth of Courage
Gaja Lakṣmī => Elephants spraying water, wealth of fertility, rains and food.
Santana Lakṣmī => Wealth of Continuity, Progeny
Vidyā Lakṣmī => Wealth of Knowledge and Wisdom
Vijaya Lakṣmī => Wealth of Victory
Dhana / Aiśvarya Lakṣmī => Wealth of prosperity and fortune

Other secondary representations of the goddess include Lakṣmī manifesting in 3 forms:

a) Śrī Devi,
b) Bhū Devī and
c) Nīla Devi.

This threefold goddess can be found, for example, in Śrī Bhū Nīla Sahita Temple near Dvārakā Tirumāl, Andhra Pradesh, and in Ādinātha Swami Temple in Tamil Nadu.

In Nepal, Mahālakṣmī is shown with 18 hands, each holding a sacred emblem, expressing a sacred gesture, or forming a mudra:

- lotus, pot, mudra of blessing, book, rosary, bell, shield, bow, arrow, sword, trident, mudra of admonition, noose, skull cap and kettledrum.

In this representation, Mahālakṣmī manifests as a kind, compassionate, tranquil deity sitting not on a lotus, but on a lion.

12. Jain temples

Some Jain temples also depict Śrī Lakṣmī as a goddess of artha (wealth) and kāma (pleasure):

For example, she is exhibited with Viṣṇu in Pārśvanātha Jain Temple at the Khajuraho Monuments of Madhya Pradesh.

The presence of Viṣṇu-Lakṣmī iconography in a Jain temple built near the Hindu temples of Khajuraho, suggests the sharing and acceptance of Lakṣmī across a spectrum of Indian religions.

This commonality is reflected in the praise of Lakṣmī found in the Jain text Kalpa Sūtra.

13. Creation and legends

Devas (gods) and Asuras (demons) were both mortal at one time in Hinduism: Amrita, the divine nectar that grants immortality, could only be obtained by churning Kṣīra Sāgara (Ocean of Milk).

Devas and Asuras both sought immortality and decided to churn the Kṣīra Sāgara with Mount Mandāra. The Samudra Manthan commenced with Devas on one side and the Asuras on the other.

Viṣṇu incarnated as Kurma, the Tortoise and a mountain was placed on the Tortoise as a churning pole. Vāsuki, the great venom-spewing serpent-god, 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 Lakṣmī.

In some versions, she is said to be daughter of the sea god since she emerged from the sea.

In Garuda Purāṇa, Linga Purāṇa and Padma Purāṇa, Lakṣmī is said to have been born as daughter of the divine sage Bhrigu and his wife Khyati and was named Bhārgavī.

According to Viṣṇu Purāṇa, the universe was created when the Devas (god) and Asuras (evil) churn the cosmic Ocean of Milk(Kṣīra Sāgara):

Lakṣmī came out of the ocean bearing lotus, along with divine cow Kāmadhenu, Varuṇī, Pārijāta tree, Apsaras, Chandra (the moon) and Dhanvantari with Amrita(nectar of immortality).

When she appeared, she had a choice to go to Devas or Asuras. She chose Devas' side and among 30 deities, she chose to be with Viṣṇu. Thereafter, in all 3 worlds, the lotus-bearing goddess was celebrated.

14. Festivals

Many Hindus worship Lakṣmī on Diwali, the Festival of Lights. It is celebrated in autumn, typically October or November every year. The festival spiritually signifies the Victory of Light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair.

Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate and decorate their homes and offices.

On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfits, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, and participate in family pūjā (prayers) typically to Lakṣmī.

After pūjā, fireworks follow, then a family feast including Miṭhāī (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends.

Diwali also marks a major shopping period, since Lakṣmī connotes auspiciousness, wealth and prosperity. This festival dedicated to Lakṣmī is considered by Hindus to be one of the most important and joyous festivals of the year.

Gaja Lakṣmī Pūjā is another autumn festival celebrated on Śarad Pūrṇimā in many parts of India on the Full-Moon day in the month of Aśvin (October).

Śarad Pūrṇimā, also called Kojāgarī Pūrṇimā is a harvest festival marking the end of monsoon season. There is a traditional celebration of the Moon called the Kaumudī celebration, Kaumudī meaning moonlight.

On Śarad Pūrṇimā night, goddess Lakṣmī is thanked and worshipped for the harvests.

Vibhāva Lakṣmī Vrata is observed on Friday for prosperity.

15. Hymns

Countless hymns, prayers, ślokas, stotras, songs and legends dedicated to Mahālakṣmī are recited during the ritual worship of Lakṣmī.

These include:

Śrī Lalitā Sahasranāmam, Śrī Mahālakṣmī Aṣṭakam, Śrī Lakṣmī Sahasranāma Stotra (by Sanatkumāra), Śrī Stuti (by Śrī Vedanta Deśika), Śrī Lakṣmī Stuti By Indra, Śrī Kanakadhāra Stotra(by Śrī Ādi Śaṅkara), Śrī Catuślokī (by Śrī Yamunacharya), Nārāyaṇī Stuti, Devi Māhātmyam Middle episode, Ārgala Stotra, Śrī Lakṣmī Śloka (by Bhagavān Śrī Hari Svāmīji) and Śrī Sūkta, which is contained in the Vedas.

Śrī Sūkta contains Lakṣmī Gāyatrī Mantra:

oṁ śrī mahālakṣmyai ca vidmahe
Viṣṇu patnyai ca dhīmahi
tanno Lakṣmī prachodayāt oṁ॥

16. Archaeology

A representation of the Goddess as Gaja Lakṣmī or Lakṣmī flanked by 2 elephants spraying her with water, is one of the most frequently found in archaeological sites:

An ancient sculpture of Gaja Lakṣmī (from Saunkh site at Mathura) dates to the pre-Kushan Empire era.

Atrañjikhera site in modern Uttar Pradesh has yielded terracotta plaque with images of Lakṣmī dating to 2nd century BCE.

Other archaeological sites with ancient Lakṣmī terracotta figurines from the 1st millennium BCE include Vaiśālī, Śrāvastī, Kauśāmbī, Caṁpā, and Candraketugadh.

The goddess Lakṣmī is frequently found in ancient coins of various Hindu kingdoms from Afghanistan to India:

Gaja Lakṣmī has been found on coins of Scytho-Parthian kings Azes II and Azilises; she also appears on Shunga Empire king Jyesthamitra era coins, both dating to 1st millennium BCE.

Coins from 1-4th century CE found in various locations in India such as Ayodhyā, Mathura, Ujjain, Sanchi, Bodh Gaya, Kanauj, all feature Lakṣmī.

Similarly, ancient Greco-Indian gems and seals with images of Lakṣmī have been found, estimated to be from 1st millennium BCE.

A 1400-year-old rare granite sculpture of Lakṣmī has been recovered at the Waghama village along Jhelum River in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Pompeii Lakṣmī, a statuette supposedly thought to be of Lakṣmī found in Pompeii, Italy, dates to before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE.

17. Japan

The Goddess, Kisshōten (吉祥天, lit. "Auspicious Heavens"), of Japan corresponds to Lakṣmī. Kisshōten is the goddess of fortune and prosperity.

Kisshōten is considered the sister of the deity Bishamon; Bishamon protects human life, fights evil, and brings good fortune.

In ancient and medieval Japan, Kisshōten was the goddess worshiped for luck and prosperity, particularly on behalf of children. Kisshōten was also the guardian goddess of Geishas.

While Bishamon and Kisshōten are found in ancient Chinese and Japanese Buddhist literature, their roots have been traced to deities in Hinduism.

18. Tibet and Nepal

In Tibetan Buddhism she is an important deity, especially in the Gelug School. She has both peaceful and wrathful forms:

Her wrathful form is known as Palden Lhamo or Śrī Devi Dudsol Dokam or Kamadhatvishvari, and is the principal Female Protector of (Gelug) Tibetan Buddhism and of Lhasa, Tibet.

Goddess Vasudharā in Tibetan and Nepalese culture is closely analogous to goddess Lakṣmī as well.

19. Bali (Indonesia)

Goddess Lakṣmī is closely linked to a goddess worshipped in Bali, i.e. Dewi Śrī, as the goddess of fertility and agriculture.