Is Lakshmi Goddess of Wealth Alone?

Even as there is a mad scramble for riches, where does one really find the grace of Lakshmi?

In popular parlance Goddess Lakshmi is associated with money, gold, silver, diamonds, house land and property and it is widely believed that a person possessing all these riches is bestowed with Lakshmi Kadaksham (grace of Lakshmi). Hence, people worship Maha Lakshmi for acquiring such wealth. Currency notes and coins are placed on gold or silver plates and worshipped in the belief that the wealth would multiply manifold.

Are such concepts of Mahalakshmi true? Are these rituals referred to in Sastras, Puranas or dharmic codes as Lakshmi puja? Is Lakshmi the goddess of material wealth alone?

Origin of Mahalakshmi

It is mentioned in the ninth kanda of Devi Bhagavatam that once Adi Parasakti split herself into two enchanting female figures, with same feature, splendour, age, majesty, adornment, and love. The figure from the left half was Rama Devi and the other Radha Devi Rama means the most beautiful. Rama Devi was addressed by Adi Parasakti as Mahalakshmi. Mahalakshmi joined Mahavishnu as his consort.

In Devi Bhagavatam there is no mention at this juncture that Mahalakshmi manifested herself as the Goddess of wealth. She is only referred to as the embodiment of love, who likes to be at the feel of Lord Vishnu and serve him.

Devi Bhagavatam and Srimad Bhagavatam have another reference to the manifestation of Lakshmi from Ocean of milk.

Churning of Ocean

Once, because of the curse of Durvasa Maharshi, the Devas, including Devendra, lost all their charm, wealth and glory. Svargalakshmi, the Goddess presiding over the glory of the Devas, also left them and merged with Mahalakshmi. The desperate Devas came to Vaikuntha and prayed to Lord Vishnu to restore their youth, longevity, prosperity and glory.

Vishnu, the protector of all, who had great kindness for the Devas, asked Lakshmi to reincarnate from the Ocean of milk, by churning which the Devas could get amirtham (nector). By Lakshmi’s blessing, it would restore for the Devas all their lost attributes.

But the churning of the ocean was not an easy task. It required a churn-stick as big as a mountain and a rope as strong and long as a mighty serpent. So it was dedicated to use the Manthara mountain as the churnstick and as nothing else would suit the purpose, the mighty serpent Vasuki as the churning rope.

Still the problem was not solved. The Devas were not strong enough to perform the formidable task of churning the ocean. They had to seek the help to the mightier asuras. This entailed giving them a share in the produce-the nectar that would be churned out of the ocean. Left with no other choice, the Devas agreed.

The arduous process of churning began. The mountain trembled and the snake, because of the strain, puffed furiously. Those who were holding it fainted. Instead of nectar, the terrible poison, halahala, emerged. It was so powerful that everybody around fainted. None but the great Siva could save them. Siva saved them by drinking the poison.

Lakshmi’s Emergence

Precious things emerge only out of purity. The Ocean of Milk became pure after the poison was removed. Now it was time for the nectar to emerge. But surprisingly, Mahalakshmi came out of the ocean with dazzling brilliance. Her majestic gait, sparkling eyes and golden hue stunned everybody, but nobody knew she was Mahalakshmi. So everybody was tempted by her unmatched charm to possess her. There was a scramble for her attention.

But Mahalakshmi said, “I will not choose anyone of you who is madly desirous of possessing me. I will choose to be possessed by one who is not interested in me.” She reached the adobe of Mahavishnu, who was in deep sleep (yoganitra). He neither noticed her, nor was he eager to possess her. “Ah, here is the God I adore,” said Mahalakshmi and sat at the feet of Vishnu to serve him.

According to the Brahma Vaivarta Puruana, Brahma explained the greatness of Mahalakshmi to the Devas. He said she presented two aspects of grace. She is the embodiment of chastity, and virtuosity. She adorns places where there is virtue, purity and charity. He advised the Devas to take a pledge that they would fill their minds with these virtues, so that Mahalakshmi would re-enter their kingdom, make it prosperous and restore to them their lost glory. The other virtue of Mahalakshmi is to shower contentment, peace and prosperity. If one worships her only with a view to acquiring material wealth, one will be disappointed.

The Devas understood the glory of Mahalakshmi and worshipped her with deep devotion. Then Svargalakshmi emerged out of Mahalakshmi and adorned the kingdom of the Devas, bestowing them with all prosperity.

Kubera, Guardian of Wealth

Kubera is one of the guardian deities of the eight directions. He guards the northern direction. Once all the Devas entrustred him with the responsibility of protecting the nava nidhi (nine kinds of material wealth) which includes all products from the five elements earth, water, fire, air and space. Kubera is a great Siva Bhakta and is eternally blessed by Siva to be the custodian of universal wealth.

If one is blessed by Goddess Lakshmi, Kubera, grants one wealth and happiness and peace. The avarious and unrighteous people also sometimes get wealth, but their lives are packed with agony and distress.

Eight Forms of Lakshmi

The manifestation of Lakshmi in eight difference forms establishes the truth that she is not the Goddess of material wealth alone. Her difference benefits: They are:

Adilakshmi: She is called Ramana, one who grants happiness.

Dhanyalakshmi: The survival of human beings as also all other living beings, depends on food, which is a basic need for all-rich or poor. Dhan-yalakshmi is the protector of agriculture wealth.

Dhanalakshmi: Next to food, man needs clothes and shelter. Dhanam is the source required to buy these basic needs.

Santanalakshmi: A good family and children are the greatest wealth of anybody. Other forms of riches give no satisfaction if one does not have a good family and children. Lakshmi, in the form of Santanalakshmi, bestows this blessing.

Gajalakshmi: She is a waste without true knowledge and wisdom. Any amount of riches will not suffice without the wisdom to put it to good use. We pray to Vidyalakshmi to give us the wisdom.

Vijayalakshmi: For success in any venture we need the grace of Lakshmi. We pray to her in the form of Vijayalakshmi. She gives us the power to work hard and righteously and win against perils.

Dhairyalakshmi: Infinite courage and confidence are needed to fight injustice and evil and to establish dharma. Dhairyalakshmi grants this strength.

Once a rich man met with bad days. One by one all forms of Lakshmi left him. Dhanyalakshmi left first, then Dhanalakshmi and so on. His children left him. But he was not deterred as he was confident they would come back to him if he made proper effects. But when Dhairyalakshmi was about to depart, he was flabbergasted. What could he do without courage? He pleaded with her not to desert him, for without her not grace he could not get back anything else. If she stayed back with him the other Lakshmis also would come back to him, he added.

Giver of Virtues

As such, Lakshmi is not the giver of mere material wealth. She is the giver of righteous behaviour, purity of mind, conviction in virtues, confidence, courage and commitment, good character, generosity, charity, simplicity, love and affection.

If was Mahalakshmi who manifested as Sita during the Ramavatar. She demonstrated the greatness of a life of purity, chastity and simplicity without any desire for material wealth.

During Krishnavatara, she manifested as Rukmani and became a role model for values and virtues without any attachment for material wealth. Brindavan Gita refers to Radha Devi as a manifestation of Lakshmi. She was an embodiment of divine love (prema).

In this vast world, a majority of the people are not rich and only a small proportion owns material wealth. Does it mean that only the latter are got their wealth by righteous means? Are they all contented and happy?

Does it also mean that the poor are not blessed by Mahalakshmi?

A man with all the riches need not be happy and contented. At the same time, a poor man need not be unhappy or discontented. For, he may have Lakshmi’s grace in other forms.

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