The Trimurti is the basis of the Hindu spiritual teaching which makes it possible to clarify the manifested world in which we evolve: Brahma represents the creative principle, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer who allows renewal. These three forces are inseparable, complementary and opposed.
However, the active principle, the Shakti, the creative energy, is manifested by the feminine side of the Hindu divinity: for Vishnu, it is Lakshmi, his wife.
She was born from the churning of primordial waters by the Gods with the help of Vishnu and appears sitting on a lotus or holding a lotus in her hand. However, according to the Vishnu Purana, she is the daughter of the wise Bhrigu and his wife Khyati. But she can also be the daughter of Shiva and Parvati! In fact, as Hinduism evolves, the qualities and importance of the deities evolve, which explains the various origins attributed to Lakshmi.
She always accompanies Vishnu, as his wife, during each of his incarnations as an avatar: she is The Lady of the Lotus (Padma) when he was Vâmana, the dwarf, then Furrow (Sita) who springs from the work of the plough in the Ramayana. She is Radha and Rukhmini, Krishna's companions in the Bhagavad-Gita.
The association of Vishnu and Lakshmi is indispensable: alongside Vishnu who ensures the maintenance, the balance of the world, who gives it the conditions for harmonious development, she represents fertility, abundance, happiness that flourish when all conditions are met. They form the ideal couple guaranteeing balance, stability and a fertile space.
They are worshipped, moreover, often together under the name of Lakshminârâyan. They are in fact inseparable, they are one and this is symbolized by the tuft of hair (Shri Vasta, see article on Vishnu) that adorns Vishnu's chest and constantly reminds him of Lakshmi.
Mâhâ Lakshmi, the transcendent fortune
Lakshmi, queen of the world, illuminates the universe and takes on the qualities of all the Gods: her form is then composed of various elements coming from all the Gods: arms made of the substance of Vishnu, her waist, red comes from Indra, her feet from Brahma.... Its many arms carry, from then on, multiple attributes with varied functions. She is the personification of the Absolute.
The primary function of Lakshmi is her quality of fertility: it is this that allows the manifestation to emerge, to be and to deploy. It is therefore the underlying, latent matrix. It is the foundation, the base of all things, without it, nothing can develop. In this sense, she can personify the earth (Bhûdhevî, goddess of the earth is then considered as one of the functions of Lakshmi).
She thus embodies the active function of energy while Vishnu brings stability, balance. For life to unfold, a balance is needed between two forces: maintenance and expansion.
Beyond this function, Lakshmi embodies power, sovereignty, capacity
: these qualities will allow the Vishnu-Lakshmi couple to make the Dharma reign, the right order. Lakshmi is thus associated with royalty, with those who govern, administer, make laws, ensure justice, security....
She then takes the name of Devi, Goddess, Lokamâtâ, Mother of the world, Nârâyanî, Eternal mother, Indirâ, Powerful, Hira, Jewel ...
Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity, beauty and fertility
Once the living environment is created and firmly established, Lakshmi is the deity that allows opulence.
The wealth that flows from Lakshmi is primarily spiritual even if its benefits also concern material existence. She is a nurturing, generous goddess: she protects and watches over her children. She spreads her blessings over the earth.
She thus embodies goodness, gift, happiness.
Moreover, it also symbolizes the perfect wife: it represents devotion to the husband, service and the Vishnu-Lakshmi couple represents the ideal couple where harmony and family harmony reign.
She is then called Shri, Splendor, Beauty.
The main attributes of Lakshmi
She is a goddess who does not carry weapons, she does not represent the combative side of energy. These attributes and her form embody wisdom, gift and blessings.
: the low-pitched sound keeps the demons away but above all symbolizes infinity and expansion (the rings start from a point and expand endlessly). It comes from water, at the origin of creation. The sound it produces is considered as the primordial sound.
: The snake is very important in India and beneficial: it is the symbol of fertility, life (Shakti), permanent renewal (moulting) and therefore immortality.
The vase of abundance
: Akshayaz Patra, the vase that is never empty or Purna Kumbha, the full vase that represents abundance, wisdom and immortality.
A fruit or an ear
: nurturing symbol of abundance.
: Padma, one of Lakshmi's names, symbolizes purity, beauty, perfection. It is the mother's breast, the matrix from which all things come. It is the seat of the feminine principle, the Shakti.
The lotus gives a flower of all beauty, whereas it comes from a swampy, obscure, repulsive environment: it therefore represents the possibility of transformation, of elevation.
So it is the throne of the gods from which they emerged. It is also the center, the Guna Sattva. Its petals express the unfolding of the universe.
The forms of Lakshmi
Lakshmi is always portrayed as a glorious and beautiful woman: she is radiant, her face is full of goodness. She exudes an impression of pure happiness, of joy that fills the hearts.
She is richly adorned and assumes a royal bearing enhanced by numerous gold jewels, the tiara that crowns her and she sparkles with the reflections of precious stones: she shines like fire or sun. And from her hands, turned downwards, flows streams of gold coins: she gives the gift of fortune!
Her sari is red, the color of love, victory, divine wisdom, her skin may be dark like her husband's, but most often it is pink (a mixture of red and white, the color of love), white or golden.
Lakshmi is often represented and honored in eight forms, the Ashtas Lakshmi, who depict fortune in different ways: Bhâgya-Lakshmi, luck; Gaja-Lakshmi, power; Dâna-Lakshmi, wealth; Dhânya-Lakshmi, food, dhanya meaning grains; Santâna-Lakshmi, descent; Vidyâ-Lakshmi, knowledge; Vîrâ-Lakshmi, strength and Vaibhava-Lakshmi, success.
She then sits in a lotus, is adorned with two to eight arms with different attributes. The Temple of Ashtalakshmi at Hyderabad is dedicated to her.
Gaja-Lakshmi, Lakshmi framed by two elephants
When Lakshmi emerged from the ocean of milk, she was crowned queen of the world by two elephants who poured water on her: water that recalls the origin of all manifestations, water that allows life, growth, development. Elephants symbolize strength, power.
When she is represented alongside Vishnu, Lakshmi has only two arms. She is then standing or sitting on her left (or even on one of her knees) and can hold a lotus in one hand while the other makes the gesture of Varadra mudra, the gesture of giving, of offering.
Lakshmi is also depicted with certain demons and kings as a partner: she gives them a legitimacy of power, of royalty: her influence is then beneficial.
Its association with other gods (such as Indra, Kubera...) always reinforce their qualities.
His mount is the owl
: however one sees it little at its side because this bird, while symbolizing wisdom and the ability to see in the darkness, also embodies bad luck, even madness! It is thus rather accompanied by Garuda at the sides of Vishnu.
The cult of Lakshmi
Lakshmi has few temples dedicated to her in her own right (although the number of temples dedicated to her is increasing year by year) but she is venerated in many holy places alongside Vishnu and especially, privately, inside many mansions: because of her qualities, she is one of the most popular deities and is chosen by many devotees (traders, farmers, businessmen...) as their Ishta Devata. The offerings evoke abundance, everything that can recall the beauty, the sweetness in this existence.
Ceremonies and rituals very often associate Vishnu and Lakshmi, and the many adventures associated with their couple are even the subject of scene games during Pranayakalacha (Festival of Lovers' quarrels).
One of the particularities of the cult of Lakshmi comes from the fact that she is also honored by certain other gods such as Ganesh.
Note : Lakshmi is the only goddess who has her opposite deity Alakshmi, the Misfortune (sometimes symbolized by the owl)!
Sarah Combe - Un et Multiple – Editions Dervy
Alain Daniélou : Mythes et Dieux de l’Inde