Thursday 4 August 2011

Lakshmi, Goddess With Lotus In Hand

All existence is the manifestation of Shakti,the primal energy, which shoots forth from it as rays from the sun. The endless play of the divine, characterised by the acts of creation, preservation and dissolution of the universe, is accomplished through his triune forms – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – which have a feminine aspect to them. The realisation that energy and being are one and the same is the summum bonum of supreme knowledge.
Just as Mahasaraswati is the creative power of Brahma and Mahakali that of Rudra, so is Lakshmi, the energising aspect of the Lord Vishnu.
Lakshmi, the goddess with lotuses in her hands, the material world in her cosmic womb and, the kinetic power in her being is worshipped on Diwali, the festival symbolising the triumph of light over darkness, of knowledge over nescience and of truth over falsehood.
The Rigveda alludes to the existence of Lakshmi through such expressions as “Darshan Shri”, “Shriye”, and “Sushriyam”.  Though these words denote beauty and prosperity, they also seem to suggest the existence of a deity. Shri is the oldest and the most popular name of Lakshmi. The “Shri Sukta” of the Rigveda, forming as it were, an appendage to the 5th Mandal of the Shakal Samhita, seems to refer to her existence by giving her as many as 70 names.
In the Yajurveda  Lakshmi is mentioned as Aditi, and in the Atharvaveda as the embodiment of women, both fortunate and unfortunate. While the Rigveda dilates upon the nature and qualities of Shri, the Atharvaveda lists her among the “bhavanatmaka devatas” like Saraswati and Kama.
In the epic literature, Lakshmi appears in all her regalia to fascinate her devotees. Maharishi Valmiki in the Ramayana describes her as a young women having four hands and curly hair adorning precious jewels and scintillating costume and wearing a crown.
In the Mahabharata, Lakshmi appears both as the spouse of Lord Vishnu (Vishnu-priya), and as the glory of monarchs (Rajyalakshmi). In her former form, she remains glued to the left side of the Lord, and in the latter, she imparts strength and glory to the valiant. As Vishnu-priya, she is the supreme embodiment of chastity and righteousness but as Rajyalakshmi she is capricious and leaves a person when he trespasses the laws of dharma.
Lakshmi is as dear to Lord Vishnu as Uma is to Lord Shiva. Says the Vishnu Purana: “As Vishnu is omnipresent, so is she. If he is the meaning, she is the voice; if he is justice, she is prudence; if he is enlightenment, she is intellect;  if he is the creator, she is the creation; if he is a yajna, she is the offering; if he is the lamp, she is the light.”
So intense is Lakshmi’s love for her Lord that she followed him in all his incarnations on the earth, sometimes as the lotus, sometime as Radha or as Rukmini and sometime as Sita.
Lotus is the Goddess Lakshmi’s earthly representation; hence her names, Vasudha and Vasundhara. Just as the bilva tree is sacred to Lord Shiva, Tulsi to Lord Vishnu, mango blossoms to Kama and marigold to Ganesha,  so is lotus to Lakshmi. Lotus is the emblem of the human heart, a symbol of detachment and a perfect example of beauty and symmetry. Lakshmi, is an auspicious deity.
In the “Shri Sukta”, Lakshmi is  seated on a lotus leaf or encamped on a number of lotuses. She has her origin from a lotus and has a great fascination for the plant. Her face is as radiant as that of a lotus flower. Her eyes are broad like a fully-blossomed lotus. She is lotus-thighed like a yogi in meditation and wears lotus flowers.
In the Shatpatha Brahmana, she emerges from the very being of Prajapati,  as a charming and powerful woman. It was from her that Agni got his food, Soma, Varuna and Mitra, their kingdom; Indra his power; Brihaspati, his divine glory; Pusha his prosperity and Tvashta; her bewitching figure.
The Vishnu Purana, describes Lakshmi as the daughter of  sage Bhrigu and Khyati. In the Ramayana, she springs from Lord Indra’s paradise; Radha and Saurabha Lakshmis from Goloka, the cow’s world, Rajyalakshmi from the earth and nether regions; Griha Lakshmi from home; Dakshina Lakshmi from a yajna and, Chandra Lakshmi from the orb of the moon.
Lakshmi is believed to give prosperity, protect the granary and bless the barren women in matters of progeny. She is called Vriddhi because she helps in growth; and matrirupa because she cares for her devotees like a mother.
But she also has a fierce aspect to her. At times, she rides a horse or even a lion and carries a trishula, shankha and chakra to overawe the enemies of virtue. According to a legend, she exterminated the demon, Kolasura.
Lakshmi has been portrayed through images in stone, wood, metal, paper and clay. One may  identify Shri Ma Devata at Bharhut or the Goddess Kamalaya at Sanehi with Lakshmi.
Excavations at some ancient sites have yielded terracotta seals which bear her figure. She appears on the coins issued by the Kausambhi, Ujjaiyani and Gupta rulers, and in all the three inscriptions of 10th century king, Vakpati Munja of Malwa.
The Gajalakshmi figure of the goddess is quite common. Her most popular form is where she is depicted with two elephants pouring water over her head with raised trunks.
In one of the Gahadavala inscriptions beginning with an invocation to Shri, one comes across a brief dialogue between Lakshmi and Vishnu which alludes to her increasing importance.
Even as early as 529 CE,  king Samkshobha constructed a shrine in honour of Goddess Pishtapuri who is said to have incarnated from Lakshmi.
The geometrical form of Lakshmi is the Shri Yantra believed to be a chart of ‘the evolution of the cosmic scheme.’ It symbolises the macrocosm, the microcosm and the Divine reality behind them.
It has nine enclosures: the outermost, called bhupura has a square form and it stands for the earth element; the next two are circular containing sixteen and eight lotus-petals respectively representing the water element; the next four enclosures are stellate figures made up of interlacing triangles and stand for the fire element; the eighth one forms a single triangle representing the air element. The dot in the centre of them all represents Akasha or the space. Here reside both the masculine and the feminine aspects of divinity in eternal union.
Each triangle in the Shri Yantra represents an aspect of Shakti which is first invoked by concentrating on the great seed-point in the middle and then turned into an instrument of psychic power.
Its Bijakshra, first syllable of mantra, is ‘Shrim’, and its repetition along with related sacred utterances, is fruitful for spiritual progress and material gain.n
Article by : Dr. Satish K. Kapoor
Source: Bhavan's Journal 15 November 2009
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