Ashta Lakshmi - The Eight Forms of Goddess Lakshmi
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Lakshmi Devi is the Hindu Goddess of Wealth and is considered as the wife of Lord Vishnu. She is believed to be the daughter of Ksheera Samudra Raja or the King of Oceans. The Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi Devi is always portrayed as sitting on Padmam or the Lotus and with an ever-smiling face. She is also considered as the Goddess of beauty. Hindus believe that there are eight different faces / forms of Goddess Lakshmi and each face of Lakshmi is assigned with a name that is associated with the specific boon that she bestows on her devotees. Accordingly, the eight faces i.e forms of Goddess Lakshmi are collectively known as Ashta Lakshmi. Though there are 8 faces of Goddess Lakshmi, yet she is called by different names almost 1001 names like Sridevi, Ramaa, Padma, Pankaja, Madhavi, Sundari, Saroja etc.
Adi Lakshmi is believed to be the foremost or the first form of Lakshmi Devi. This face of Lakshmi is mostly seen in a sitting posture on a lotus with chatur bhuja i.e four hands. She is portrayed with a lotus in one of the hind hands and a white flag in the other hind hand. While her fore hands - the abhaya hasta i.e the right hand is in abhaya mudra which depicts her blessings to her devotees. And the varada hasta i.e the left hand is in varada mudra.
The meaning of the Sanskrit word 'Dhana' is wealth. This face of Goddess Lakshmi is picturized as the giver of wealth. Dhana Lakshmi is portrayed in sitting posture wearing a red sari (a typical traditional costume of the Indian women). The picture of Lakshmi Devi is seen with six hands holding a conch (sankham) and a disc (chakram) in the hind arms, a bow (dhanush) and the sacred pot (kalasham) in the middle two arms and the two fore arms in abhaya and varada mudra. And there seen the pouring of gold coins or wealth from the palm of the abhaya hasta in the abhaya mudra.
The word 'Dhaanya' actually means 'grain' but in a broader sense it means food. This face of Goddess Lakshmi is considered to be the bestower of food and nutrients to the humans. It is believed that on worshiping Dhaanya Lakshmi, the devotee is blessed with abundance of food in his life. This face of Lakshmi is picturized in green sari symbolizing the greenery and is seen with eight arms. She holds a sheaf of paddy and a pink lotus in her hindmost arms, a sugarcane and a bunch of bananas in the mid hind arms, a mace (gada) and a lotus in the mid fore arms and the foremost two arms in the abhaya and varada mudras.
The word 'Gaja' means elephant. As the name indicates, this face of Lakshmi is seen flanked by two bedecked white elephants with (kalasham) in the trunks and performing abhishekam (pouring of water) to the Goddess. As per Hindu mythology, it is Gaja Lakshmi, the daughter of Ksheera Samudra Raja (the King of Oceans), who helped Indra in getting back his lost wealth from the depths of the oceans. This face of Lakshmi Devi is seen with four hands holding lotus in each of the hind arms and the fore arms in Abhaya (right hand) and Varada (left hand) mudra.
The meaning of the Sanskrit word 'Santana' is children or offspring. As the name suggests, this face of Maha Lakshmi is considered as the Goddess of progeny and the giver of offspring / children. In the Hindu society family life is give much importance and hence progeny is considered as the most valuable / important wealth of the family life. This face of the goddess is picturized with six hands with two kalashams in the hindmost arms, a sword and a shield in each of the mid arms and the foremost hands in Abhaya and Varada mudras. And most importantly the goddess is portrayed with a small child in her lap.
The word 'dhairya' means courage and this face of Goddess Lakshmi is believed to give courage / power to her devotees who seek her blessings to gain courage / power / strength for overcoming the adversities in life. This face of Lakshmi Devi is portrayed with eight arms holding a sankham and chakram in the hindmost arms, a bow and an arrow or a trident (trishul) in the mid hind arms, a sword and a book or a gold brick in the mid fore arms and the foremost arms in the Abhaya and Varada mudras.
As the name implies 'vidya' which means education / knowledge in all spheres, this face of Lakshmi Devi is worshiped as the knowledge-giver. Actually, it is the Hindu goddess of Saraswati who is considered as the knowledge-giver and this face of Lakshmi shows that Lakshmi Devi and Saraswati are not separate entities but are the same. Hence, this face of goddess Lakshmi is portrayed with a white sari like Saraswati Devi and is seen with four arms holding lotus in the hind arms and the fore arms as usual in Abhaya and Varada mudras.
As the name implies 'vijaya' which means victory in Sanskrit, this face of Goddess Lakshmi signifies victory of man / her devotees over our enemies which not only include the external ones but our internal enemies as well. Our internal enemies include our anger, lust etc besides the negative thoughts. As this face of the goddess has to combat the enemies She is portrayed with eight arms holding sankh and chakra in the hind most arms, a lotus and a shield in the mid hind arms, a sword and a noose in the mid fore arms and the fore most arms in Abhaya and Varada mudras.