Ravi Varma-Lakshmi

Goddess Lakshmi

Lakshmi puja is performed during Diwali, the festival of lights. According to tradition people would put small oil lamps outside their homes on Diwali and hope Lakshmi will come to bless them.

Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped by those who wish to acquire or to preserve wealth. It is believed that Lakshmi (wealth) goes only to those houses which are clean and where the people are hardworking. She does not visit the places which are unclean/dirty or where the people are lazy.

In the Sri Vaishnava philosophy however, Sri (Lakshmi) is honoured as the "Iswarigm sarva bhootanam" i.e. the Supreme goddess and not just the goddess of wealth. This is an important distinction between Sri Vaishnavism and other materialistic philosophies.

The auspicious moment

The third day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day of Lakshmi-puja and is entirely devoted to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi. On this very day sun enters his second course and passes Libra which is represented by the balance or scale. Hence, this design of Libra is believed to have suggested the balancing of account books and their closing. Despite the fact that this day falls on an amavasya day it is regarded as the most auspicious.

The day of Lakshmi-Puja falls on the dark night of Amavasya. The strains of joyous sounds of bells and drums float from the temples as man is invoking Goddess Laxmi in a wondrous holy "pouring-in" of his heart. All of a sudden that impenetrable darkness is pierced by innumerable rays of light for just a moment and the next moment a blaze of light descends down to earth from heaven as golden-footed Deep-Lakshmi alights on earth in all her celestial glory amidst chantings of Vedic hymns.

A sublime light of knowledge dawns upon humanity and this self enlightenment is expressed through the twinkling lamps that illuminate the palaces of thewealthy as well as the lowly abodes of the poor. It is believed that on this day Lakshmi walks through the green fields and loiters through the bye-lanes and showers her blessings on man for plenty and prosperity.

Floating candles on Diwali day

After Lakshmi Puja, lamps are lit all over the house

Lakshmi Pooja, or the worship of the goddess of wealth, is the main event on Diwali in North and West India. It is extremely important to keep the house spotlessly clean and pure on Diwali. Goddess Lakshmi likes cleanliness, and she will visit the cleanest house first. This is also the reason why the broom is worshiped on this day with offerings of haldi and kumkum (turmeric and vermilion). Lamps are lit in the evening to welcome the goddess. They are believed to light up Her path.

Lakshmi Puja consists of a combined puja of five deities: Ganesha is worshiped at the beginning of every auspicious act as Vighneshvara; Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped in her three forms - Mahalakshmi (the goddess of wealth and money), Mahasaraswati (the goddess of books and learning), and Mahakali; Kuber (the treasurer of the gods) is also worshiped.

Rite of a Diwali Puja

Initially the hosue must be cleaned, and a Rangoli is drawn at the doorstep in order to welcome Goddess Lakshmi.

The Puja requires the following elements:

The Ritual Elements

The Rite

On a new piece of cloth mounds of the uncooked rice and betel nuts (supari) are made, each mound having one nut. These mounds and supari stand for the nine planets. Depending on whether an Icon of Ganesh is used an extra supari may be kept in which case ten are required.

The small pot (lota) is filled with water and adorned around with paan or mango leaves, then a coconut is placed on top of it. Once this has been done a red string is tied around around the lota. Then a swastika moving clockwise with four Tilak is drawn on the lota with kumkum (see here for the design). This fourfold swastika represents the Vedas. After this the incense and the lamps are lit and the worshipper washes their hands. Then the worshipper sprinkles themself with water using their left hand. They then place a flower petal in their left hand with some rice and (optionally) chant the Gayatri Mantra thrice.

At this point the worshipper begins to visualise the deities and welcome them to the Puja. Initially they visualise and welcome Ganesha, by chanting a brief mantra: "Om Ganeshaya Namah" Shiva is visualised and welcomed in the same way through chanting: "Om Namah Shivaya"

At this point the worshipper sprinkles water on the lota, applies kumkum, sprinkles flowers (or flower petals) and rice, and offers mithai, dried fruit and/or nuts to the deity. This process is intended to express to the deity a welcome as would be expected by a special guest. The same procedure is followed with the 9 planets.

Water is sprinkled to the four cardinal directions and the icons are then bathed, first in panchamrita, and then in rose water. After this kumkum, the showering of flowers and the offering of mithai and dry fruit are made to the different icons of Gods.

At this point the worshipper draws a Swastika, applies kumkum appropriately, showers rice and flowers and offer mithai and dry fruit to Lakshmi and the notebook. At this point the worshipper adds to a milk bowl: water, Holi colours, flower petals and mithai are added followed by, the silver and gold coins. Traditionally, at this point, it is ideal to make the coins jingle, as it is said that Lakshmi is attracted to the jingle of the coins.

At this point the worshipper visualises Lakshmi and recites the mantra: "Om Shreem MahaLakshmaye Namah'. It is traditional in some circles to tap a coin to your teeth and to your eyes (tapping the coin to the teeth symbolises that despite prayer for wealth, there is acknowledgement that material wealth is passing; and tapping coin to the eyes symbolizes a request for intellectual stimulus).

Mahalaxmi Aarti. Make a mound of rice and place camphor in a thali or an aarti container. After the aarti is over, rotate the lighted aarti container before all gods and the whole house. Place your hands over the lighted camphor and then over yourselves. At the end of the post, you have a video and the words for the Aarti :)

Do the above with faith and devotion and don't worry too much if you do not do it very correctly. Say 'Haraye Namaha' 3 times. That takes care of all the mistakes that you may have committed knowingly or unknowingly during the ritual. What is most important is your faith and love.

After the Aarti, the ‘Palau’ is traditionally recited, followed by the ‘Bhog’. Now, what exactly is the Palau? Why do we do it? What are we doing when we do Bhog? Keep reading ;)

The Palau ceremony (bowing our heads in obeisance) is said after songs of worship or the aarti. We end our prayer with a request to the Lord to fill up the ‘jholee’ or the Palau which they hold in their hand in a symbolic attempt to fill it with the goodies that they prayed for and which they expect to drop from Heaven at the end of their ritual. This is done by holding the lower part of the shirt stretched out to beg from the Lord the good and welfare of all. One should also pray for the well being of others before one asks anything for oneself.

The Bhog ceremony is the offering of the ‘prasad’ or the sweets and food to the deities for blessing. Some people recite a specific mantra during this ritual while some others say a few personal words of appreciation. Either way, it is one’s personal way of making offerings and securing blessings for what they are about to consume. The items offered are gathered in small amounts on a plate or a ‘thaali’ – then placed in front of the altar. Once offered, the items are returned to the pots or serving trays from which they were taken – an action that symbolically spreads the blessings of the food into everything that is prepared / served.

Offering Prayers to Goddess Laxmi:-

Om Jai Laxmi Mata, Maiya Jai Laxmi Mata, Tumko nis din sevat, Maiya ji ko nis din sevat Hari Vishnu Data Om Jai Laxmi Mata (Repeat above verse)

Uma Ramaa Brahmaani, Tum hi Jag Mata,Maiya Tum hi Jag Mata, Surya Chandra Ma dhyaavat, Surya Chandra Ma dhyaavat Naarad Rishi gaata. Om Jai Laxmi Mata.

Durga Roop Niranjani, Sukh Sampati Data, Maiya Sukh Sampati Data Jo koyee tumko dhyaavat, Jo koyee tumko dhyaavat Ridhi Sidhi dhan paataa Om Jai Laxmi Mata.

Tum Pataalani Nivasini, Tum hi Shubh Data, Maiya tum hi Shubh Data Karma Prabhaav Prakaashini, Karma Prabhaav Prakaashini Bhuv Niddhi ke praata Om Jai Laxmi Mata

Jis ghar tum rehti teh, sab sath goon aataa, Maiya sab sath goon aataa, Saab sambhav hojata jataa, Saab sambhav hojata jataa Man naheen ghabraataa. Om Jai Laxmi Mata

Tum Bin Yaghya na hote, vaastra na ho paata, Maiya vaastra na ho paata, Khana paan ka vaibhav, Khana paan ka vaibhav Sab tumse aata Om Jai Laxmi Mata

Shubh Goon Mandir sunder, shero da di jaata, Maiya shero da di jaata Ratna chaturdashi tum bin, Ratna chaturdashi tum bin Koi nahi paata Om Jai Laxmi Mata.

Maha Laxmiji ki Aarti, jo koi nar gaata, Maiya jo koi nar gaata, Pur aananda samata, Pur aananda samata, Paap utar jaata Om Jai Laxmi Mata.

Om Jai Laxmi Mata, Maiya Jai Laxmi Mata, Tumko nis din sevat, maiya ji ko nis din sevat Hari Vishnu Data Om Jai Laxmi Mata (Repeat above verse)

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