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Table of Content

  • Introduction

  • Lakshmi as the Divine Mother

  • The Worship of Lakshmi

  • Shaktism and Lakshmi

  • How does Shaktism portray this goddess of abundance?

  • Vaishnavism and Lakshmi

  • Description of Lakshmi

  • The Birth of Lakshmi

  • What Lakshmi Teaches Us?

Lakshmi is known as the Mother Goddess. Maa Lakshmi is the master and commander of fortune, wealth, beauty, prosperity, abundance, and Maya (or illusion, the force that keeps incarnated beings from seeing the true nature of reality).

The goddess (or Devi) is one of the most frequently depicted and worshiped of all the Hindu deities. The colorful stories of her deeds and the exquisite art reflecting her image are a phantasmagoria of endless pleasure. Her influence has spread to religions across the continent, beginning in Hinduism and entering Jainism and Buddhism. But it is the Hindu version of Lakshmi that has made the most lasting and important impression on the spiritual development of humanity.

To understand Lakshmi in all her infinite variety, we must take a tour through many of the most powerful strains of Hindu thought. And we must come to appreciate and recognize what is, perhaps, the founding archetype of all human spirituality. When we take the time to do this, Lakshmi acts as a portal to riches both material and immaterial, gold of the earth and of the soul.

Goddess Lakshmi | Brass Goddess Lakshmi

Lakshmi as the Divine Mother

Before we can grasp the full meaning of Lakshmi, we must get to the source of her meaning. The Divine Mother acts as the perfect entry point to read the symbolism and attributes of the goddess, and it helps to generalize the idea of Lakshmi as a force in the world that goes beyond anything that could be given a single name.

Across the known mythologies and religious faiths — both alive and long-abandoned — the image of the Divine Mother recurs in nearly all. She is the feminine force that gives birth to existence. This spiritual impulse to worship the female who goes through the labor of childbirth to produce all of creation has compelling psychological roots, as we are all made and nurtured by a Mother.

But beyond psychology, it also has resonance with our experience of the divine. The comfort, order, and serenity that mystical events create in us feel as if all things come together as a Mother to us, but such breakthroughs also give us the insight and bravery to mother the world ourselves. In such ultimate care and love, we find it in our own hearts to provide care and love. That is the essence of the Divine Mother.

Sometimes referred to as Mother Earth, this archetype serves as a powerful reservoir of spiritual insight and comfort. The goddess acts as an infinite source of tenderness, pleasure, and all the fecundity of the natural world. Just as she creates, however, she can (and sometimes will) take it away. It is here that she becomes the Devouring Mother — alas, to be an image of the infinite, you must contain all.

The primordial creative spark and maker of existence, Lakshmi is often referred to as the Divine Mother, sometimes explicitly. This framing helps us understand the many realms that she is said to control across all the different versions of her that appear in the various denominations of Hinduism and religions beyond. But they all connect to this view of Lakshmi as a Divine Mother.

The Divine Glamour Of Devi Lakshmi

The Worship of Lakshmi

In the history of Hinduism, many sects have held a place of reverence for Lakshmi in their pantheon, sometimes placing her as the ultimate embodiment of god herself. Across three millennia, the traditions and practices have no doubt changed, but today we have the result of hundreds upon hundreds of generations. Their devotion to Lakshmi continues to influence and guide us today.

Lakshmi is most commonly worshiped on Diwali — a five-day festival of lights. The reasoning is clear. Diwali is a joyful, ecstatic celebration heralding the victory of light over dark. Held in autumn, it comes just before the Winter Solstice when the days finally begin to grow lighter and lighter. But it is not only about physical lightness and darkness, nor only the literal length of the day. It goes much deeper — light as a symbol of understanding, knowing, and being. Light is, across virtually all cultures, a metaphor for spiritual wisdom and truth. And this universal connection between the literal and figurative light lends Diwali its special importance on the Hindu calendar.

Lakshmi, as a goddess of both material abundance and wisdom, serves both purposes of Diwali. As the days lengthen, the crops grow and there is plenty. But as spiritual light grows, we pull ourselves deeper into the truths of Lakshmi. Puja (or prayers) during Diwali are mostly made directly to Lakshmi, and celebrants often get in the spirit through shopping — tasting some of that prosperity that Lakshmi rules over.

Lakshmi is also worshiped during the harvest festival of Gaja Lakshmi Puja, which comes at the end of the monsoon season. As the divine mother, the goddess is seen as the ultimate source for the harvest itself. And again, many Hindus worship Lakshmi during the first week of the new year. For year-round worship, many great temples have been erected with idols of Lakshmi inside. Here, devotees may come into direct contact with the goddess and make offerings. Because she is such an ancient deity, there is no shortage of hymns, songs, and prayers to exalt the great and powerful Lakshmi once inside her temple.

Beyond these general celebrations, there are major denominations of Hinduism that place special significance on Lakshmi. Though countless sects have their own variations on the goddess, perhaps the most important to understand are Shaktism and Vaishnavism.

Shri Mahalakshmi Kubera Yantra (Yantra For Good Luck, Money, Wealth, Prosperity and Good Fortune)

Shaktism and Lakshmi

Shaktism is a form of Hinduism that depicts the higher, metaphysical reality of a woman. Shakti is the godhead — the all-powerful feminine force that pervades all levels of existence. In this venerable religious tradition, entire hosts of goddesses are used to describe different aspects of the one Shakti. And so for believers, Lakshmi is an all-important element of the Mother goddess.

The tradition of Shaktism in India helped to develop the esoteric, occult practices and doctrines of Tantra — one of the most profound spiritual disciplines ever created on earth. That legacy has enshrined Lakshmi as a central deity for many Tantric practitioners. Due to the historic importance of the denomination, and its continued popularity around the world, Lakshmi’s prominent role in Shaktism is critical for understanding how this goddess rose to such auspicious heights in Hinduism.

How does Shaktism portray this goddess of abundance?

For many in the denomination and beyond, there is the central idea of the Tridevi — a feminine form of the Trimurti. While the Trimurti is made up of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver), and Shiva (Destroyer), the Tridevi gives each role to a goddess. Here, the duties are taken up by Saraswati (creator), Lakshmi (preserver), and Parvati (Destroyer).

In many other denominations, this Tiidevi is seen as a kind of “lower” reflection of the Trimurti that provides assistance, as it is made up of the wives of the three gods. But for Shaktism, the Tridevi is the central force of creation.

Here we can see the infinite variation inside Hinduism. There is no “one” set of beliefs, there is instead a vast kaleidoscope of perspectives, everyone adding to the whole and helping us see, with our mortal eyes, how endlessly magnificent reality is.

19" Goddess Lakshmi Statue Seated on Kirtimukha throne

Vaishnavism and Lakshmi

Yet another major Hindu tradition upholds Lakshmi as a vital element of all creation. Vaishnavism views Vishnu as the true, ultimate god of all. Lakshmi works as his consort and source of divine energy, giving her a prominent role for adherents.

In Vaishnavism, Lakshmi’s power is deeply intertwined in every aspect of Vishnu as he creates, supports, and destroys the universe across infinite cycles of becoming and undoing. This view of Lakshmi as a source of creation gives her the title Mahadevi — the divine mother, as we discussed above. Because Vaishnavism is by far the largest Hindu sect in India, its influence is unparalleled. That it upholds Lakshmi as such a dominant force in the universe attests to her importance in human spirituality.

Vishnu’s presence in almost all forms of Hinduism is always accompanied by his wife Lakshmi. So this relationship goes beyond even the enormous scope of Vaishnavism. It is interesting, then, to consider the couple as two sides of this single force. You have the feminine Lakshmi and the masculine Vishnu, working together in concert to continuously make, destroy, and remake all things, even being itself.

Goddess Gajalakshmi Tanjore Painting With Frame

Description of Lakshmi

In the iconography of Hinduism, Lakshmi is often depicted on a lotus, while also carrying a lotus in her hand. The lotus is a potent link to the nature of the goddess, as it grows out of the water, no matter if it is filthy or pristine. What a beautiful flower can be created no matter the conditions points to our own ability to liberate our souls even though we find ourselves in an all-too flawed world.

Lakshmi is robed in a red dress with gold thread, signs of the wealth that pours from her being. For animal companions, the goddess is typically shown beset by elephants, who are strong and bring abundance, and at times her familiar is the owl, who is the seeker of wisdom in the dark. She is often depicted with eighteen hands that hold several items, including:

Lotus | Discus | Noose | Trident | Wine-cup | Ball | Conch | Shield | Sword | Sakti | Rod | Pitcher | Thunderbolt | Arrow | Mace | Axe | Rosary

Her visage implies knowledge and self-realization. She is a sign of moksha or liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. In the grand Tantric tradition, Lakshmi’s is used as an image of karma, true reality, and consciousness as a force in the universe. This iconography has developed since at least the first millennium BCE, based on archaeological evidence. That makes her one of the oldest gods or goddesses still worshipped today. That long legacy of devotion has carefully crafted the image of Lakshmi that we have.

16" Brass Ashta Lakshmi Lamp with Ganesha at Center

The Birth of Lakshmi

While there is nowhere near room to describe all the tales of Lakshmi, one of the most beautiful and colourful is the story of her birth. There is, as with all ancient tales, an endless variety of accounts, but the following is fairly common.

The story of Lakshmi’s birth begins with the gods (devas) and demons (asuras). They were yet still mortal and sought Amrita, which is the nectar of immortality. To gain it, they churned the Ocean of Milk (Kshirasagar) using an enormous mountain. Vishnu helped by morphing into a tortoise so that the mountain could turn on top of his mighty shell.

As they churned, they continued to produce great and noble things. And eventually, Lakshmi emerged from the ocean of milk carrying a lotus in her hand. With her, she brought many boons, including Amrita, the nectar that the gods and demons wanted so badly.

It was at that point that all the history of the universe turned. Would she grant immortality to the gods or the demons? Lakshmi chose to give the nectar of immortality to the gods. And among them, she chose Vishnu as her husband.

Shri Maha Lakshmi Yantarm (For Worship of Lakshmi ji)

What Lakshmi Teaches Us?

There are some things in life that are truly good, such as material wealth. But abundance alone can endanger our souls. We must not become corrupted or overly tempted by acquisition. Thus, as incarnate beings, we both want this prosperity and must discipline ourselves against its negative effects.

Lakshmi grants us the keys to understanding how to do this. She is not only a route to money and fine things, she is also the bearer of spiritual treasure. This is why it is Lakshmi who brought the nectar of immortality.

As the Divine Mother, Lakshmi gives us the milk that we need to live. And she gives us the wisdom to mature into our independence. It is through this goddess that we both have and understand how to have.

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