Importance and Significance of Vara Mahalakshmi ...
The word 'Lakshmi' is derived from the Sanskrit word "Lakshya", meaning 'aim' or'goal', and she is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual and by praying her she will guide to achieve this material as well as spiritual goal.
Lakshmi is the household goddess of most Hindu families and every Hindu knows about it, and especially favorite diety of women. Although she is worshipped daily, the festive month of July/August/October is Lakshmi's special month.
Lakshmi Puja is celebrated in Shukla Paksha Shukravar in Shravan Masa (month) , Navaratri in Ashwini masa and also on the full moon night of Kojagari Purnima, and also during Karthik masa in Diwali.
The Lakshmi Form:
Lakshmi is depicted as a beautiful woman of golden complexion, with four hands, sitting or standing on a full-bloomed lotus and holding a lotus bud, which stands for beauty, purity and fertility.
Her four hands represent the four ends of human life:dharma or righteousness, "kama" or desires, "artha" or wealth, and "moksha" or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Cascades of gold coins are seen flowing from her hands, suggesting that those who worship her gain wealth. She always wears gold embroidered red clothes. Red symbolizes activity and the golden lining indicates prosperity.
Lakshmi is the active energy of Lord Vishnu, and also appears as Lakshmi-Narayan - Lakshmi accompanying Vishnu.
Two elephants are often shown standing next to the goddess and spraying water. This denotes that ceaseless effort, in accordance with one's dharma and governed by wisdom and purity, leads to both material and spiritual prosperity.
A Mother Goddess:
Worship of a mother goddess has been a part of Indian tradition since its earliest times. Lakshmi is one of the mother goddesses and is addressed as "mata" (mother) instead of just "devi" (goddess).
As a female counterpart of Lord Vishnu, Mata Lakshmi is also called 'Shri', the female energy of the Supreme Being. She is the goddess of prosperity, wealth, purity, generosity, and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm.
Vara Mahalakshmi Vrata
Vara Lakshmi or Vara Mahalakshmi (the granter of bounty), one of Ashtalakshmi swaroopams is worshipped during Shravana masa. This Vratam is popular in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu.
Vara Lakshmi Vratam is performed on Shravana-Shukla-Shukravaram i.e., the Friday before Full Moon (Purnima) of Shravan Month. This Vratam is generally undertaken by Sumangalis for the longspan of spouse's health, progeny, good health, wealth and prosperity..
The glory of performing the Vara Mahalakshmi Pooja, Vrata is mentioned in Skanda Purana. This is a pooja or ritual to appease Lakshmi, the consort of Maha Vishnu. She is the personification of auspiciousness, prosperity and wealth. The feast is performed on the Shravana Masa, Shukla Paksha Shukravara, that is, the Friday immediately following the full moon day in the auspicious month of Shravana (corresponding to August - September). This pooja is undertaken by the women folk for excellent progeny, great health, and to wish long life for their husbands.
Ashta Mahalakshmi is symbolic of eight forces namely SHRI (Wealth),BHU (Land), VIDVAT (Knowledge), PREM (Love), KIRTI(Fame), SHANTI (Peace), TUSHTI (Sufficiency), and PUSHTI(Strength).
Worship of Varalakshmi equals worshipping Ashtalakshmi Swaroopam. Thus She is referred as 'Vara Mahalakshmi' - the Goddess who is ever ready to grant boons to Her true devotees.
Varalakshmi vratam ritual differs from region to region. In some regions, Goddess Lakshmi is invoked in the form of Kalasam/Kalash and a Coconut (A coconut is beautifully adorned with jewellery and Pattu Vastram/Pure Silk Saree).
On this day, women folk begin their day with holy bath, wear clean clothes, decorate the home front with beautiful muggu/kolam/rangoli, prepare variety of food offerings, decorate puja place with beautiful colors and kolam. Invoke Goddess Lakshmi with respect and worship Her with Shodasha Upacharas.
Worshippers recite Sree Suktam, Kanakadhara Stotram, Ashtalakshmi Stotra, , Mahalakshmi Ashtakam. It's a tradition to light a ghee lamp near Tulasi Brindavana on all Fridays during the month. Tulasi is considered as Sakshath Lakshmi Swaroopam.
She is ever ready to grant boons to her devotees so usually referred to as “Vara Lakshmi”. Representations of Lakshmi are found in Jain and Buddhist monuments, in addition to Hindu temples. Generally thought of as the personification of material fortune and prosperity, she is somewhat analogous to the Greco-Roman Aphrodite or Venus, as she also represents eroticism and is similarly thought to have originally “born of the sea” in her famous myth, as did the goddess Venus.
She is the consort of Maha Vishnu and is paired in all his incarnations. Rama (in her incarnation as Sita), Krishna (as Rukmini) and Venkateshwara (as Alamelu). In Vaishnava traditions, She is believed to be the Mother Goddess and the Shakti of Narayan.
The appearance of goddess Lakshmi is related to an ancient story. Durvasa, the short-tempered sage once presented Indra, the king of the celestial beings with a garland of flowers which would never wither. Egoistic Indra gave the garland to his elephant Airavata. Sage Durvasa saw the elephant trampling the divine garland and cursed Indra, for he had shown disrespect to the sage. The sage cursed Indra that he and all his followers would lose their power because it had made them so proud and vain. Due to the curse, the demons vanquished the celestial beings out of the heavens.
The defeated celestial beings then went to seek refuge to the Creator Lord Brahma who asked them to churn the ocean of milk, Ksheersagar, to obtain the nectar of immortality. They then went to Maha Vishnu, to seek his assistance. Maha Vishnu took the Avatar Kurma (Tortoise) and supported the Manthara Mountain which served as a churning rod, while the king of the serpents, Vasuki, became the churning rope. The celestial beings and the demons both helped each other in churning the ocean of milk.
Amongst the host of divine gifts which appeared from the ocean, Lakshmi appeared and then chose Maha Vishnu as her consort, as only He had the power to control Maya (illusion). Because of this, Lakshmi is also called the daughter of the sea; since the Moon also appeared from the ocean during the churning, the moon is referred to as her brother. Goddess Lakshmi's traditionally accepted vehicle, the owl which is a bird that sleeps through the day and prowls through the night.
The rituals of worship during the Varalakshmi Vrata differ from region to region in south India, but they all have the same basic format. The performer begins the day with a holy purification bath, and wears clean clothes. The arena is decorated with rangoli. A geometrical design known as mandala is then drawn on the clean surface of the floor. A sacred pot (kalash) is filled with pure water and rice (akshata), topped with a bunch fresh mango leaves, and a coconut smeared with turmeric powder is placed atop. Also, sandal paste and kumkum are applied to the kalash, and a cloth is tied around it before placing it on the mandala. Goddess Lakshmi is then invoked. Fresh flowers and grains are used in the worship, indicating growth and prosperity. Prayers in the form of Lakshmi Ashtottara and Sahasranama are then chanted. Women folk exchange auspicious articles as gifts and food. The function concludes with the singing of several hymns and songs in praise of Vara Lakshmi.
Legend behind worshipping Varalakshmi:
According to Skanda Puran - Goddess Parvathi once asked Lord Shiva to suggest Her a vratam, which would be beneficial for the womenfolk on earth seeking prosperity. Then, Lord Shiva recommended her Varalakshmi Vratam narrating the story of a devotee named Charumati.
Charumati means one who has a beautiful mind and clean heart. She was a chaste lady. Pleased with her true devotion, Goddess Lakshmi appeared in her dream and advised her to undertake Vara Mahalakshmi Vratam on the auspicious day of Shravana-Shukla-Shukra-Varam.
Charumati shared dream vision with her Husband and also with the women folk in town. They were eagerly waited for the day suggested by Goddess Lakshmi; performed vrata with utmost devotion and faith.
After completion of vrata, women folk stepped out of pooja premises, they saw beautiful golden chariots awaiting for them. They were adorned with beautiful dazzling jewelleries and everything in their homes seemed to be bountiful. Ever since, this vrata has been regularly performed in almost all the households.
Women folk need to thank Charumati for sharing her dream vision; Charumati not only shared the vrata procedure but She taught everyone to follow the concept of 'Virtues-Of-Sharing' of 'Dhana, Dhanya'.
Nagesh Kaikini - Mysore.