Varalakshmi and Varalakshmi Vratha

When the Sun is in Kataka (Cancer in the Zodiac), in the month of Shravana, on the Friday of Shukla Paksha (Bright fortnight) the Varalakshmi or VaraMahalakshmi vratha is performed.


Lakshmi and Varalakshmi: Lakshmi is the goddess of not just fortune. She is श्री, “Shri” “Sri” or “Siri” the consort of Vishnu and source of his power and preservative function. She is the repository of all virtue, excellence, dignity, intellect, beauty, grace, splendour, prosperity, majesty, royalty, and wealth.

Lakshmi is described and depicted as enchantingly beautiful, sitting or standing on a lotus and holding two lotuses, one in each hand. Her other two hands are usually in “Abhaya-Hastha” and “Varada-Hastha” poses. The Abhaya-Hastha pose, where the palm of the right hand is seen with the fingers pointing upwards represents “protection” and the Varada-Hastha pose, where the palm of the Left hand is seen with the fingers pointing downwards represents “boon-conferring”

Her four hands by themselves symbolically signify her divine power to grant the four पुरुषार्थ (Purusharthas) of human life – Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha.

The different hues in which she is depicted are also deeply symbolic. If her complexion is dark then she is Vishnu’s consort, when she is golden-yellow, she is the supreme source of all wealth, prosperity, and happiness, when she is white and pristine, she is prakriti the all pervasive nature herself – that prakriti from which springs the universe with its animate and inanimate beings. When she is rose-coloured or peach in complexion she is the compassionate mother of the Universe.

She is also the “power of multiplicity” depicted as the one supreme goddess manifesting in different forms with eight of these aspects being most popular and depicted in popular iconography:

  1. Aadi-Lakshmi (The Primeval Goddess) or Maha Lakshmi (The Great Goddess)
  2. Dhana-Lakshmi or Aishwarya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth)
  3. Dhaanya-Lakshmi (Goddess of Food Grains)
  4. Gaja-Lakshmi (The Goddess flanked by two elephants; the provider of “cattle wealth”)
  5. Santana-Lakshmi (The Goddess of Progeny)
  6. Veera-Lakshmi or Dhairya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Valor and Courage)
  7. Vidya-Lakshmi (The Goddess of Knowledge)
  8. Vijaya-Lakshmi or Jaya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Victory)

Varalakshmi specifically is the compassionate, wish-fulfilling mother of the universe. Two of her hands hold a lotus each and her other two hands are in the “Abhaya-Hastha” and “Varada-Hastha” poses.

Varalakshmi Vratha: There are several stories that talk about the origins, the significance and importance of the Varalakshmi Vratha:

Story-1: Shyama Bala was the beautiful daughter of King Bhadrashravas and his wife Surachandrika. Shyama Bala was married to emperor Maladhara. Once Goddess Lakshmi visited Shyama Bala’s mother Surachandrika in the guise of a poor old woman and tried to explain the procedure and importance of the Varalakshmi vratha. Surachandrika insulted Lakshmi (who was in the guise of an old woman) and Lakshmi walked away and with her so did all the riches of the household of Surachandrika and Bhadrashravas.

Lakshmi then went to Surachandrika’s daughter Shyama Bala’s house who received Lakshmi (in the guise of an old woman) with great regard and heard from her with devotion the methodology and significance of the Vratha and derived the benefits of the Vratha. When she learnt of the poverty stricken state of her parents, she sent them a pot of gold but even that did nothing to alleviate her parents poverty – It is perhaps (my conjecture) this that has given birth to the practice of invoking the goddess in a “Kalasha” or pot. Finally Surachandrika accepted her mistake and started the annual Varalakshmi vratha and regained her lost prosperity and happiness.

Story-2: Once Lord Shiva and Parvati were playing a game of dice. When the last dice was thrown, Pravati claimed victory. Shiva disputed her claim and asked Chitranemi one of the “Shiva-Ganas” to be the arbiter. Chitranemi was partial to Shiva and therefore declared Shiva the winner although in reality Parvati had won. An infuriated Parvati cursed Chitranemi declaring that he would lose his place amongst the Shiva-Ganas and live a lifetime as a leper. Shiva, interceded on Chitranemi’s behalf and requested that Parvati forgive Chitranemi as this was the first time he had uttered a lie and that too on Shiva’s behalf. Parvati relented and told Chitranemi that he would be released from the curse the day he witnessed the “divine damsels” observing the Varalakshmi vratha. Chitranemi suffered from leprosy for long. He started living on the banks of the Tungabhadra, waiting for the day of his liberation. One day he saw a few divine damsels come to the banks of the Tungabhadra and asked them who they were and when he learnt that they were “divine damsels” who had come to the Tungabhadra to observe the Varalakshmi vratha. Chitranemi requested that he be allowed to watch the Vratha. As prophesied by Parvathi, Chitranemi was cured of his leprosy.

The Vratha: When the Sun is in Kataka (Cancer in the Zodiac), in the month of Shravana, on the Friday of Shukla Paksha (Bright fortnight) the Varalakshmi or VaraMahalakshmi vratha is performed. The goddess is invoked typically in a Kalasha or pot (silver, copper, brass). A mango leaf-bunch is placed around the mouth of the pot and a coconut smeared with turmeric is inserted into the mouth of the pot. Over this an icon/image of the goddess made of silver is placed. This is followed by the Shodasha-upachara (16 steps) and Ashtottara-shatanamavali (108 names) puja. There are several videos and books that detail the puja procedure.

  3. Hindu Gods and Godesses; Swami Harshananda; Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai
  4. Sampradaya Vratha Puja Vidhi; A.R. Parthasarathi, Dr. Kethu Ramachandrashekar; GIRI Trading Agency Private Limited.




Krishna and his 16,000 wives! (2)

I am going to take up random topics from Krishna’s life (as detailed in the Srimad Bhagavata) and not follow any specific chronological order. Today’s topic discusses the controversy with regard to Krishna’s alleged dalliance with women and him having married 16,000 women at one time:

This particular incident is tied-in with the liberation of Narakasura (I use the word liberation as opposed to killing deliberately) and the 16,000 damsels he had allegedly kept caged in his capital city of Pragjyotisha. In the Srimad Bhagavata, this story occurs in the 10th “Skandha” / Chapter-59 in the form of a story that Sage Suka tells Raja Parikshit. This day is also the day when Deepavali is celebrated in parts of South India (Naraka Chaturdashi)

I make an interpretative re-rendering of the story in order that the true purport and the allegorical significance is clarified:

I had mentioned in an earlier post (Click-here) that the word Asura is an allegorical reference to the “dark forces” within each one of us. Now if you look at the name Narakasura, one can conclude that here was a person who was going through a “living hell” with the dark forces holding sway over his mind and intellect although he lived in the “city of light” (Pragjyotisha)! On top of this not only was Narakasura living in a literal hell of his own making but he also had 16,000 thoughts threatening to break out of the cages in his brain – the reference to the 16,000 damsels is actually a reference to the thoughts running amok in his brain (damsel in distress?).

In the same post referred to above (Click-here), I had said that Vishnu is actually the Atman/soul, the indwelling reality within each person. In this particular story Krishna goes into the fight with Narakasura traveling on Garuda (Vishnu’s vahana/vehicle), carrying the bow “Sharang-Dhanva” (a weapon of Vishnu, this word appears in the Vishnu Sahasranama). Therefore Krishna by assuming the form of Vishnu is actually the Atman/soul here – that is the allegorical conclusion one must draw. The story also mentions that he had by his side his wife Satya (Satyabhama) i.e. Truth by his side and with Truth on his side the Atman wages war on the dark forces that have clouded his/her mind.

When the battle is won all the 16,000 thoughts (damsels) subside and dissolve in the Atman and this lights a lamp in the heart of the “Seer” or the realized person…

There is also one other allegory that is relevant here – In the Chakra-philosophy (notional centers of higher consciousness in the body), the Vishuddha Chakra (Throat Chakra), is depicted as a 16-petalled lotus and the flowering of this chakra is believed to purify the person (in a spiritual sense) and open up higher pathways of sensory perceptions and discrimination and help in the flowering of the 1,000-petalled Sahasrara Chakra in the Brain which is the seat of supreme consciousness (Where Shakthi merges with Shiva).

Now, 16 X 1,000 = 16,000 – an allegorical reference again here in this story to purify the Vishuddha and attain the Sahasrara*

The next time someone refers disparagingly to Krishna and his 16,000 wives perhaps we have a few answers… There is another story connected with this claim of 16,000 wives that has to do with Narada but that shall be the subject matter of a separate post.


*Attribution: The seed for the idea with regard to Chakra Philosophy comes from Guruji Amritananda Natha Saraswati whose articles appear on: