Laxmi Iconography and her representation

सक्तुमिव तित `उना पुनन्तो यत्र धीरा मनसा वाचमक्रत | अत्रा सखायः सख्यानि जानते भद्रैषां लक्ष्मीर्निहिताधि वाचि||

Rigveda Book 10 Hymn 71

In this verse of Rigveda, the most ancient scripture Laxmi is mentioned for prosperity and blessing. It symbolised purity and cleansing. This rigveda verse means- the establishment of the clean words and talk is as done by the teachers and parents on the tongue of the child, let the friends recognise the auspicious fortune, which is attached to their words.

One of the most important aspect of Laxmi is the lotus, this representation of lotus is nothing but that purity and cleanliness of mind even if it rises from the filthy swamp.

Water or water body is one of the most important aspect of Laxmi’s iconography. Whether she is alone- sitting on the lotus, or with her consort Vishnu in the Kshirsagara (ocean) or even sometimes she is shown with two elephants showering her.

She is called as “Aardra” in Sri Sukta- meaning wet because of water. I often ask this question why she is associated with water?
Some of my own understanding is as below…

Ardra is the name of a nákṣatra (bunch of stars in the universe or sky) in Indian astrology. The Sanskrit name Ārdrā translates to “green” or “the moist one”.

It lies completely in Gemini whose lord is Mercury and the ruling planet is Rahu (dragon’s head), hence it is a Mercury + Rahu combination. It can be considered as the combination of intellectual feeling with relentless thinking. Unless you are not soaked in the relentless follow-up towards your Laksha (Goal), with intelligent steps you won’t reach to the success and prosperity of material gains. That’s why she is one who gives this combination of relentless efforts and intelligence for prosperity to reach goal (laksha) and hence she is called as Laksh-Mi or Laxmi- One who leads you to the goal.

She is also called as Anapgamini in Shri Sukta, there are two meanings to this naming,
1) one she is consistent, slow and firm in her walking
2) one who cannot be taken away from Vishnu
Which informs us two aspects of life “Slow Steady and consistent efforts will lead to prosperity and success” and other one being…
Vishnu is among trinity, he is one who gives us strength for survival and operation of life, and hence she is that strength which gives us the power of survival and being operational in our life. That’s why she is represented with money, gold, grains and all material aspects which are needed for survival and operations of our life.

In Vishnu Purana this duo is represented beautifully…
Vishnu is the meaning, laxmi is the speech
She is the conduct, he the behaviour.
Vishnu is knowledge, she the insight.
He is dharma, she the virtuous action.
She is the earth, he is earth’s upholder.
She is contentment, he the satisfaction.
She is wish, he is the desire. Laxmi is the sky, Vishnu the Self of everything.
He is the moon, she the beauty of moon.
He is the ocean, she is the shore (destination).

With this beautiful narration of Vishnu Puran one can see the inseperable aspects of surviving life.

श्रीवर्चस्यमायुष्यमारोग्यमाविधात् पवमानं महियते । धनं धान्यं पशुं बहुपुत्रलाभं शतसंवत्सरं दीर्घमायुः

Oh Goddess Shri, let your auspiciousness flow in our lives as the vital power, making our lives long and healthy, and filled with joy. Let your auspiciousness manifest around as wealth, grains, cattle and many offspring who live happily for many years; who live happily throughout their long lives.

Compiled by: Dr Sandeep Sadanand Chaugule, you may reach out to him on Twitter @sandipchaugulle

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