The goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, quite like the element of water from which she was born, requires circulation. Wealth that is hoarded often lies inert in illegal accounts or falls prey to the taxman’s raid.

 

In Indian mythology Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth. Married to  Maha Vishnu, the preserver in the Hindu trinity, Lakshmi is often invoked in her own right, especially by businesspersons, politicians and women seeking prosperity at home. The first daughter is considered to be the Lakshmi of a household. The advent of a  daughter-in-law similarly heralds the entry of fortune into a family, although unfortunately linked to dowry in some cases.

Lakshmi is independently wealthy of her spouse. She is also capable of bestowing fortune on those she favours. This financial independence of the woman makes her very sure of her choices. Calendar art may suggest her to be buxom, gloriously attired and demurely pressing the feet of her divine husband Maha Vishnu. In reality, Lakshmi is quite capricious and well able to decide whom she (often dramatically) blesses.

Lakshmi’s genesis is thus: Born as sister to the moon and the amrit, elixir of immortality, she emerges from the churning of the sea of milk, an operation that both the devas and their half-brothers, the asuras, participated in. Having thus arisen from under the ocean, she directly goes to Maha Vishnu and chooses him as her love. That the decision is hers
is significant.

It is the uniqueness of ancient Indian mythology that it is completely non-judgemental, a fact that is unknown or conveniently ignored by those who profess to be experts of this vast sea of knowledge. For it is not that the devas are gods and therefore all good, and that the asuras are bad from birth. There are asuras such as Bali, Ravana, Prahlada and big bad boy Mahishaasura who show qualities establishing them as wonderful beings, compared to the perennially insecure king of devas, Indra.

As is so often with human beings, the gods take their female counterparts for granted. Maha Vishnu is more solicitous of Maharshi Bhrigu’s foot, when Bhrigu kicked Vishnu on his chest where Lakshmi dwells. Vishnu won the title of being the most patient of gods, but had to see Lakshmi walk off in a totally justified fit of anger. Sure, it was the duty of a god to be a bhakthavalsalan, or one who loved his devotees, whatever be their transgressions. But was it okay for the selfsame divinity to be unbothered about what happened to his spouse in the meantime ?

The all-powerful Maha Vishnu becomes Daridra Narayanan or the poverty-struck Narayanan after the departure of Lakshmi. As with mortal wives, Maha Vishnu succeeds in winning back his wife after a fair bit of drama and even trauma. Having Lakshmi on one’s side ensures victory, as Vijayalakshmi, although keeping her on one’s side is not always easy.

One of the wives of Maha Vishnu is Bhoomi or the Earth. Bhoomi is the epitome of patience. Lakshmi the very opposite!

Like the element of water from which she is born, Lakshmi requires circulation. Lack of movement or stagnation results in the decay of the quality of water. Lakshmi, when she is not mingling or appreciated, disappears underground. Sita, an avatar of Lakshmi, disappears underground when questioned one time too many about her fire-certified chastity.  Rama consequently loses her.

The endearing and enduring quality of these fables are that they find traction when applied to modern life. A hoarded wealth often lies inert in non-legal accounts or falls prey to a taxman’s raid. Pomp is considered to be a vice to be avoided. Very often it is the tradespeople who benefit from this inevitable sharing, rather than the disgruntled to whom ostentatiousness is anathema. When a rich person shares his/her wealth (for example through a lavish marriage) rather than park it in numbered foreign accounts, it is a sharing of Lakshmi. And such sharing is the best way to ensure Lakshmi continues to stay with them.