In the present study I have tried to present a picture of Laksmi as the appears in Sanskrit texts. In the first Chapter I have shown the original of the concepts like Sri and Laksmi and their gradual development into two divinities in the Vedic literature. The distinct features of these two divinities are made clear in the Sri-Sukta which is appended to the Rg Veda as a Khila; so a separate chapter has been devoted for this. The Puranapancalaksana texts texts which constitute the urkern of the Puranas was formed even before the epic stories were finalised. So I have tried to show the development of the goddess as depicted in the Puranapanclaksana texts in the third Chapter. In the chapter dealing with materials from the epics and the Puranas, an attempt has been made to describe the development of the divinity in a systematic manner with the help of different Puranic legends, due to the merger of Laksmi with Sri, the inauspicious aspect of Laksmi formed a separate divinity namely Alaksmi; so the origin and the development of Alaksmi has been discussed in Chapter five when the Goddess became popular, various religious observances were formed in her honour; the sixth Chapter: deals with the festivities in honour of the divinity. Lastly, the growing Importance of Laksmi in the Pancaratra sect has been mentioned in a general way.
Sri U. N. Dhal had his M. A. (Sanskrit & Oriya) B. Ed and Ph. D. from the Utkal University, Bhubaneswar and teaches in the P. G. Department of Sanskrit, Utkal University on Epics and the Puranas, Indian Culture and religion. The topic of his research was "Goddess Laksmi: Origin and Development" and "Mahisasura in Art and Thought"
Apart from being associated with learned Organisation like All India Oriental Conference, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute etc. he uses to attend various conferences, Seminars Symposium of both national and international and contributes papers for discussions. Thus he has got a large number of papers published in various journals of the country and different prestigious volumes etc. as well. His published works include Goddess Laksmi; Origin and Development, the Glory that was Virajaksetra Ekamra Purana Besides he has certain other unpublished works which await publication. Presently he is working on the Studies in the Ekamra Purana.
The benevolent and beautiful goddess Laksmi has for three millenniums been among the most popular of Indian divinities. The spouse or sakti of the high god Visnu, she has not generally received the same devotion as that accorded to her Saivite counterpart, Parvati or Durga, and few temple have been established in her honour. Yet she remains an important element in the religious life of Hinduism, and her images and pictures are to be found in many Hindu homes; for she is the bringer of good fortune in all practical enterprises, the bestower of health and security on her worshippers. Though in the past, like Durga, she was sometimes worshipped in terrible forms, she is now-a-days looked on as altogether benevolent, a mother goddess without the awsome power of Durga, but with no terrifying aspects, a goddess to be loved rather than feared.
Dr. U. N. Dhal has asked me to write a few words of introduction to his monograph on the origin of this beautiful and lovable divinity, and I am very glad to do so, not only because the cult of Laksmi is an important feature of Hindu religious life which has not been given as much attention as it deserves, but also because the work is one of much merit.
What impresses me strongly about this study is the way in which, in quite a small monograph, the author has succeeded in compressing an enormous amount of knowledge and information drawn from sources ranging from the Vedas to reports on contemporary or near contemporary popular Hindi rituals. In its admirable conciseness this book contrast strongly with many similar ones, which consume much ink and paper and a great deal of the reader's time on unnecessary detail or peripheral matters which are scarcely relevant. In Dr. Dhal's study every sentence is important. This scholarly monograph forms an important contribution to the elucidation of Indian religious history, and it should be read by all students of the subject.
In the later half of the nineteenth century Hindu religion was studied by some western scholars with a view to prove their erroneousness. The religious bigotry and racial prejudice of these scholars led them to present a distorted picture of Hindu religion and Hindu divinities. Scholars and Indologists like H. H. Wilson and M. Monier-Williams who were pioneers in the field of historical study of Hindu cults were not free from such blemishes. Unlike Wilson and Monier-Williams, in 1882 A. Barth in his The Religions of India tried to given a faithful and realistic picture of Hindu religion in which he has not only traced in detail the growth and development of religious cults of India but has discussed them in a masterly way. After Barth's treatise The Religions of India by E. W. Hopkins appeared in 1894 in which the author has explained the religions of India in an orderly succession. He has made a study of Hindu religion "with the purpose to known the manner in which the religious and theistic ideas arose and developed among the people and the light these shed on the origin and development of such ideas elsewhere". The same unbiased and objective approach to the study of Hindu religion was found in F. Max Muller who undertook the translation and edition of the Sacred Books of the East with the aim of helping philosophers and historians in evaluating correctly the real development of the early religious thought. In these volumes he has tried to study the religions "on a more real and sound, on a more truly historical basis in 1897 A. A. Macdonell brought out his pioneering work Vedic Mythology where he has made an exhaustive study of the different Vedic deities and the myths connected with them. The comparative and critical approach of Macdonell is evident in his introduction to Lecturers on Comparative Religion where he says that the purpose of his study was to remove the prejudice and like a judge he wanted to take into consideration the merits and demerits of the religions without being biased by them.
In the early part of the twentieth century scholars came to the field who took up the study of some particular aspects of Hindu religion or some particular Hindu divinity. R. G. Bhandarkar's monograph Vaisnavism, Saivism and Minor Religious systems published in 1913 is an outstanding work of this type. Bhandarkar has tried to study the deities of Vaisnavism, Saivism and other religious sects in a general way. Like Hopkins and Macdonell he did not confine his attention to a particular period but traced the development of the Vedic Religion or a divinity from the Vedic times onwards ending in Purana literature.
Since then much has been written in general on Hindu religion and on particular Hindu divinities. In 1957 Tarapada Battacharyya brought out a monograph entitled The cult of Brahma. Materials for the Study of the Early History of the Vaisnava Sect written by H. C. Raychaudhury in 1920 describes the historical development of the Vaisnava Sect. In 1954 J. Gonda published Aspects of Early Visnuism where he has shed new light on Visnu, the God of fertility and his relation with Indra.
The saiva sect and the divinity Siva also attracted the attention of scholars. Mention may be made of the works like The Saiva School of Hinduism (1934) by S. Shivapada Sundaram, Origin and Early History of Saivism in South India (1936) by C. V. N. Ayyar, and Saivamata by Yaduvamsi.
Besides these three principal divinities of the Hindu religion, considerable work has also been done on Ganesa. Alice Getty's monograph Ganesa (1927) and Haridas Mitra's book Ganapati throw much light on this important Hindu deity. The book The Cult of Skanda-Karttikeya in Ancient India by Asim Kumar Chatterjee is a study on the same line.
A number of works has also come out on Mother Goddess in general. R. Brifault's The Mothers in three-volume sis an outstanding work in this field. Mother Goddess by S. K. Dikshit and Indian Mother Goddess by N. N. Bhattacharya are the other important works on the subject. For the first time A. K. Coomaraswamy made a detailed study of the mother goddess Laksmi in his paper Early Indian Iconography II, Sri-Laksmi in 1929. After him it was Gerda Hartmann who wrote a treatise on Laksmi entitled Beitrage zur Geschichte der Gottin Laksmi. The authoress has discussed in her work the origin of the aivinity, different Puranic myths relate to her and her relation with Mother Goddess Durga; but the book written far back in 1933 lacks a systematic treatment of the subject. The other treatise Pracina Bharat me Laksmi pratima (Laksmi Images in Ancient India) limits itself to the discussion of images.
There are various aspects from which a study can be made on Laksmi the most popular divinity of the Hindu pantheon. There is a large number of images of Laksmi spread over both North and South India. An interesting study of the Goddess can be made from iconographical standpoint. The importance of Laksmi in pancaratra sect is another subject of research where one can trace the rise of Laksmi to supreme importance under the influence of the principle of Sakti. In the past, during the days of India's cultural hegemony the worship of Laksmi had spread to other parts of the East like Java, Bali, Borneo, Indonesia etc., popularly known as the countries of Greater India. a number of hymns in honour of Laksmi find place in Sylvain Levi's Sanskrit Texts from Bali. A study on the subject will be both fascinating and rewarding. This deity is no less popular in Jainism and Mahayana Buddhism. A study of her role in these two religions will be no less interesting.
In the present study I have tried to present a picture of Laksmi as she appears in Sanskrit texts. In the first Chapter I have shown the origin of the concepts like Sri and Laksmi and their gradual development into two divinities in the Vedic literature. The distinct features of these two divinities are made clear in the Sri-Sukta which is appended to the RgVeda as a Khila; so a separate chapter has been devoted for this. The Puranapancalaksana texts which constitute the urkern of the Puranas was formed even before the epic stories were finalised. So I have tried to show the development of the goddess as depicted in the Puranapancalaksana texts in the third Chapter. In the chapter dealing with materials from the epics and the Puranas, and attempt has been made to describe the development of the divinity in a systematic manner with the help of different Puranic legends. Due to the merger of Laksmi with Sri, the inauspicious aspect of Laksmi formed a separate divinity namely Alaksmi; so the origin and the development of Alaksmi has been discussed in Chapter five. When the Goddess became popular, various religious observances were formed in her honour; the sixth Chapter deals with the festivities in honour of the divinity. Lastly, the growing importance of Laksmi in the Pancaratra sect has been mentioned in a general way.
I am deeply indebted to Dr. A. C. Swain, Professor and Head of the Department of Sanskrit, Utkal University Bhubaneswar, for his scholarly advice and encouragement in completing this work. There are many others to whom I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness. Dr. K. Brurn, Professor of Indology, Freie University, Berlin and Dr. J. Gonda, Professor of Oriental Languages, University of Utrecht, Netherlands were kind prompt enough in sending some rare reference materials to me on request. Dr. R. N. Dandekar, the former Director, Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit, University of Poona has ungrudgingly helped me with his valuable advice and suggestions whenever I had had the occasion to approach him. My thanks are due to them all.
I had the occasion to meet the eminent scholar and Indologist Professor A. L. Basham, Department of Asian Civilizations, Australian National University, Canberra, when he came to India last year on a lecture-tour. I am thankful to him or going through the book and writing the foreword.
My thanks are also due to Shri Inderjeet Sharma of Messrs. Oriental Publishers and Distributors, New-Delhi, for taking all possible care in printing and publishing this treatise.
Children’s Books (80)
Brahma Sutras (85)
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend