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
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.
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