For obvious reasons, Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, prosperity and wealth, is more sought after than Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Being the power and consort of Vishnu, the preserver, she is represented as the power of multiplicity and the goddess of fortune, both of which are equally necessary in the process of preservation.

 ‘Sri’ or ‘Lakshmi’, as depicted in the Vedas, is the goddess of wealth and fortune, power and beauty. Though there is scope for the supposition that ‘Sri’ and ‘Lakshmi’ are two separate deities, the description of them are so identical, that we are tempted to conclude that they represent one and the same deity. Some scholars opine that ‘Sri’ was a pre-Vedic deity connected with fertility, water and agriculture. She was later fused with ‘Lakshmi’, the Vedic goddess of beauty.

In her first incarnation, according to the ‘puranas’, she was the daughter of the sage ‘Bhragu’ and his wife ‘Khyati’. She was later born out of the ocean of milk at the time of its churning. She being the consort of Vishnu, is born as his spouse whenever he incarnates. When he appeared as ‘Vamana’, ‘Parsurama’, ‘Rama’,’ Krishna’, she appeared as ‘Padma’ (or ‘Kamala’), ‘Dharani’, ‘Sita’ and ‘Rukmani’. She is as inseparable from ‘Vishnu’ as speech from meaning or knowledge from intellect, or good deeds from righteousness. He represents all that is masculine, and she, all that is feminine.

‘Lakshmi’ is usually described as enchantingly beautiful and standing on a lotus, and holding lotuses in each of her two hands. It is because of this, perhaps, that she is named as ‘Padma’ or ‘Kamala’. She is also adorned with a lotus garland. Very often elephants are shown on either side, emptying pitchers of water over her, the pitchers being presented by celestial maidens. Her colour is variously described as dark, pink, golden-yellow or white. While in the company of ‘Vishnu’ she is shown with two hands only. When worshipped in a temple – separate temples for ‘Lakshmi’ are rather rare – she is shown seated on a lotus throne, with four hands holding ‘Padma’ (lotus), ‘Sankha’ (conch), ‘Amrit Kalasha” (port of ambrosia) and ‘bilva’ (fruit). Sometimes, another kind of fruit the ‘mahalinga’ (a citron) is shown instead of ‘bilva’. When shown with eight hands, bow and arrow, mace and discus are added. This is actually the “MahaLakshmi”, an aspect of “Durga”.

We can now attempt an explanation that is behind this highly symbolical picture. If Lakshmi is pictured as dark in complexion, it is to show that she is consort of Vishnu, the dark-god. If golden-yellow, that shows her as the source of all wealth. Of white, she represents the purest form of ‘prakarti’ (the nature) from which the universe has developed. The pinkish complexion, which is more common, reflects her compassion for creatures, since she is the mother of all.

Her four hands signify her power to grant the four ‘purusharthas’ (ends of human life), ‘dharma’ (righteousness), ‘artha’ (wealth), ‘kama’ (pleasure of flesh), and ‘moksha’ (beatitude).

The lotuses, in various stages of blooming, represent the worlds and beings in various stages of evolution.

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