Lakshmi's significance can be traced back to ancient Vedic texts. Over time, her attributes expanded and evolved, and today she is a pan-Indian deity worshiped in various forms across the subcontinent and the diaspora.
- Four Arms: Typically depicted with four arms, each holding a distinct object, they represent the four goals of human life according to Hinduism: Dharma (righteousness), Kāma (desires), Artha (wealth), and Moksha (liberation from the cycle of births and deaths).
- Lotus Flower: Lakshmi is often shown seated or standing on a lotus, symbolizing purity, beauty, and spiritual power. The lotus's unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul and spiritual growth.
- Gold Coins: In many depictions, gold coins are seen flowing from her hand, symbolizing the unending distribution of wealth and prosperity to her devotees.
- Owls: Some representations also feature an owl as her vahana (vehicle). While the owl typically symbolizes wisdom, in this context, it can also be a warning against distrust and isolation that wealth might bring.
- Consort of Vishnu: Lakshmi is considered the consort of Lord Vishnu, the preserver god in Hinduism. Together, they form a divine couple where Vishnu provides order, balance, and protection, while Lakshmi brings wealth, prosperity, and well-being.
- Diwali: One of the most important and widely celebrated Hindu festivals, Diwali (the festival of lights), is closely associated with Goddess Lakshmi. On this night, devotees light lamps and candles to invite her into their homes, seeking her blessings for prosperity and well-being for the year ahead.
Forms and Expansions
Goddess Lakshmi is believed to have eight forms or avatars, each representing a unique aspect of life and wealth. Four of the most well-known from her eight forms include:
- Dhana Lakshmi: Governess of gold and wealth.
- Dhanya Lakshmi: Goddess of agricultural wealth.
- Santana Lakshmi: Bestower of progeny.
- Vidya Lakshmi: Granter of knowledge.
While on the surface, Goddess Lakshmi represents material wealth and prosperity, her spiritual symbolism runs deeper. She embodies the source of strength and sustenance that any individual requires to move through life. Prosperity in the form of knowledge (Vidya), progeny, and food are as important, if not more so, than gold or material wealth.
Goddess Lakshmi's appeal is vast, spanning from those who seek material comfort to those pursuing spiritual richness. Through her various forms and stories, she communicates the idea that wealth and prosperity in all their forms, when pursued with righteousness and without attachment, can lead to spiritual enlightenment.