To be honest, I don’t know if that is the proper greeting. However, today is Varamahalakshmi Vratha — a festival day, when married women seek favors from Lakshmi for their families.
Varamahalakshmi Vratha is a “devi” or goddess day, in honor of Mahalakshmi — the Great Lakshmi. I though Lakshmi was the goddess of money & fortune. Apparently, she’s the goddess of prosperity in all regards — material, spiritual, knowledge, etc. — not just money. (I confess, I was suffering under a stereotypically American Capitalist misconception!) AND she’s the embodiment of Love — another Aphrodite. (I acknowledge the mixed metaphor.) She’s the “consort” of Vishu and you can often see her image in idols and carvings at his temples.
Here’s the happy couple, which I photographed at Somnathapur:
Here’s a relief of her between elephants, seated on a lotus, which I photographed at Gomatesvara:
Mahalakshmi will shower “varas” or boons on those who observe Varamahalakshmi Vratha on the full moon day of Shravana (um, today, I guess). According to religious text (i.e., the Skanda Purana), Lord Shiva stressed the importance of Varamahalakshmi Vratha to his wife Parvathi. This is an especially popular festival in Southern India, where I live. I am told ladies clean their homes, take special baths (Where? There are no bath-tubs in most Indian homes!), get dolled up in their jewels and worship idols of Mahalakshmi — including images that people make from coconut and turmeric paste — by chanting and saying her “auspicious names.” She has 108 such names, and collectively the chanted list is called “Lakshmi Ashtottara Shatanamam.” I found a whole range of people chanting her names on-line (since I have no idol of my own and I don’t know the chant, this is as close as I’m getting today): from this clear, sweet voiced lady to these manic priests drowning the idol in flowers. As the links show, the images of Mahalakshmi are decorated over-the-top with flowers, jewels, etc.
City Market Wholesaler (last week)
C was telling me about this festival and he cautioned me about the inevitable shortage of flowers that would result. As C predicted, the “Times of India” has reported a “soaring” demand for flowers and fruits. That City Market I visited last week, with the wholesalers, well it reportedly sold out of flowers — hard to imagine! And that despite the flower price gouging that is known to occur in the run up to festivals. The Jasmine I normally buy for Rs.10 a “hand” was being sold for Rs. 35! Needless to say, I am currently jasmine-less. I figured it mattered more to others this week so I opted out of the flower-buying insanity. Not to mention, the Gerber daises I got last Friday are still going strong (albeit never as fragrant as the Jasmine).
I think I need to go put some jewelry on now… you know, to honor Lakshmi and all because my family could use some varas!