Goddess Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual. The word ''Lakshmi'' is derived from the Sanskrit
word Laksme, meaning "goal." Lakshmi, therefore, represents the goal of life, which includes worldly as well as spiritual prosperity.
In Hindu mythology, she is also called Shri, is the divine spouse of Lord Vishnu and the Goddess of
wealth and fortune.
Lakshmi, when she resides in a king's palace is Rajyalakshmi; in a home she is Grihalakshmi. On the battlefield she is the fickle Jayalakshmi who often changes sides. As the goddess of fame she is Yasholakshmi and as Bhagyalakshmi she spreads good fortune. And the supreme ideal goddess is the great Mahalakshmi.
As the goddess of wealth, prosperity, good harvests, and of love, Lakshmi is one of the most popular goddesses of the Hindus. Also
called Sri, the beautiful, she is the epitome of feminine beauty. Lakshmi is the gentle and generous provider of riches and so
every Hindu home has its shrine to her, as do workplaces. The presence of Lakshmi brings good fortune and when she leaves she
takes fortune with her. So the radiant Lakshmi who is easy to please is propitiated with puja and flowers everyday.
ORIGIN OF LAKSHMI IN INDIAN MYTHOLOGY
Lakshmi the goddess does not appear in the Rigveda but the word is used
to mean good fortune. We find her as the consort of Vishnu in the Vishnu Purana. She rose to the surface of the Sea of Milk
during the great churning of the ocean and chose to sit beside Vishnu. After that in all the following
vatars of Vishnu, Lakshmi came down to earth with him. When his incarnation was the dwarf Vamana Avatar, she came as Padma.
With the boar incarnate of Varaha Avatar she was Kamala. With Parashuram she was Dharani, with Rama she was Sita and with
Krishna she was Rukmini.
Lakshmi is depicted as a beautiful woman with soft, gentle features and golden skin. She has an air of calm and docility that is
similar to the looks of Parvati or Gauri. She is clad in golden or red silk garments and wears a lot of gold jewellery including
a tiara and an unfading garland of lotus blossoms. She is usually shown seated on an open lotus, with her pet owl beside her. She
carries a bunch of lotus blossoms and also a pearl rosary and at times a jewel box.
Two elephants flank her, pouring Ganga water
over her from water vessels. She is ever youthful and like her consort Vishnu, is a compassionate, kind hearted goddess who is
easy to please. She indicates prosperity. Worship of Lakshmi indicates an appreciation of prosperity and a sense of responsibility
towards it. Depicted an extremely beautiful woman, she sits on a lotus. She has lotuses in various stages of bloom in her two hands. And
even wears a lotus garland.
Lakshmi normally appears on one of three vehicles. In her enlightened aspect, sattvic guna, she accompanies Vishnu on Garuda. In her materialistic aspect, raja guna, she appears with two elephants on either side of her. The owl depicts the pernicious aspect of wealth. Though its considered a bird of ill omen and a symbol of darkness, the owl also symbolizes wisdom and intelligence because of its ability to presage events.
The four arms represent the four directions in space and thus symbolize omnipresence and omnipotence of the Goddess. The red color symbolizes activity. The golden lining (embroidery) on Her red dress denotes prosperity. The idea conveyed here is that the Goddess is always busy distributing wealth and prosperity to the devotees.
The lotus seat, which Lakshmi is standing upon, signifies that while living in this world, one should enjoy its wealth, but not become obsessed with it. Such a living is analogous to a lotus that grows in water but is not
wetted by water.
Since the right side of the body symbolizes activity, a lotus in the back right hand conveys the idea that one must perform all duties in the world in accordance with dharma. This leads to moksha (liberation), which is symbolized by a lotus in the back left hand of Lakshmi.
The golden coins falling on the ground from the front left hand of Lakshmi,
illustrate that She provides wealth and prosperity to Her devotees. Her front right hand is shown bestowing blessings upon the devotees. To go hand in hand with Lord Vishnu's act of maintenance and protection, she is the possessor of every form of wealth.
Ashta Lakshmi are her eight forms which are the commonly worshipped aspects. In each form, she bestows one form of wealth to her devotees.
The 8 FORMS are
ADI - Gives us wealth,
AISHWARYA - Gives us Fame,
DHANA - Gives us Food,
DHANYA - Good us Prosperity ,
GAJA - Gives is Money,
SANTANA- Gives us Children,
VEERA - Gives us strength,
VIJAYA - Gives us Sucess .
(Ashtlakshmi Sukta Yantra)There are numerous poojas and festivals which are performed to invoke her blessings.