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Goddess Lakshmi, also known as Shri, is personified not only as the goddess of fortune and wealth but also as an embodiment of loveliness, grace and charm. She is worshipped as a goddess who grants both worldly prosperity as well as liberation from the cycle of life and death.
Lore has it that Lakshmi arose out of the sea of milk, the primordial cosmic ocean, bearing a red lotus in her hand. Each member of the divine triad- Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (creator, preserver and destroyer respectively)- wanted to have her for himself. Shiva's claim was refused for he had already claimed the Moon, Brahma had Saraswati, so Vishnu claimed her and she was born and reborn as his consort during all of his ten incarnations.
The most striking feature of the iconography of Lakshmi is her persistent association with the lotus. The meaning of the lotus in relation to Shri-Lakshmi refers to purity and spiritual power. Rooted in the mud but blossoming above the water, completely uncontaminated by the mud, the lotus represents spiritual perfection and authority. Furthermore, the lotus seat is a common motif in Hindu and Buddhist iconography. The gods and goddesses, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, typically sit or stand upon a lotus, which suggests their spiritual authority. To be seated upon or to be otherwise associated with the lotus suggests that the being in question: god, Buddha, or human being-has transcended the limitations of the finite world (the mud of existence, as it were) and floats freely in a sphere of purity and spirituality. Shri-Lakshmi thus suggests more than the fertilizing powers of moist soil and the mysterious powers of growth. She suggests a perfection or state of refinement that! transcends the material world. She is associated not only with the royal authority but with also spiritual authority, and she combines royal and priestly powers in her presence. The lotus, and the goddess Lakshmi by association, represents the fully developed blossoming of organic life.
This is a wood carving from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.