Friday, August 8, 2014

526. Importance and Significance of Varamahalakshmi Pooja

The glory of performing the Varamahalakshmi Pooja is mentioned in Skanda Purana. This is a pooja or ritual to appease Maha 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.

Mahalakshmi is symbolic of eight forces namely SHRI (Wealth), BHU (Land), VIDVAT (Knowledge), PREM (Love), KIRTI (Fame), SHANTI (Peace), TUSHTI (Sufficiency), and PUSHTI (Strength). 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 Kolhapura Lakshmi). 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 Mahavaralakshmi 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.

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