Celebrating Varalakshmi Vratham: An Indian festival
Where Varalakshmi Vratham is celebrated
India is a land of many festivals. These festivals have a great influence on our society. Some festivals are celebrated throughout the country, some others are celebrated only in certain parts of the country.
Varamahalakshmi Puja is an important festival celebrated in the southern part of India, especially in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. This festival is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi , the consort of Lord Vishnu. Varalakshmi is the Goddess of wealth.
In Tamil Nadu, this grand festival is celebrated in the month of Aadi or Aavani (Tamil month), the Friday before the full moon. Apart from these southern States, Varalakshmi puja is also celebrated in some parts of Orissa and Maharashtra.
Significance of this festival
This usually falls in July-August. Goddess is called in different names like Devi, Ambal, Lakshmi, Shakthi, and is one of the most important figures in Hinduism. Varalakshmi Vratam is an important puja performed by married women (sumangalis).
Performing Varalakshmi puja is said to be equivalent to worshipping all the different names of Goddess Lakshmi. It is believed that one can achieve the following by performing this important puja -
1. Dhan (money)
2. Dhanyam (grains or food)
3. Arogyam (Health)
4. Sampath (Wealth)
5. Sathsanthanam (virtuous offspring)
6. Dheerga Saumangalyam (long married life)
Rituals and Celebration
Varamahalakshmi Festival is celebrated on the second Friday of Shravana month. The previous day of the festival, all the required puja items will be collected. On the puja day, the women wake up at Brahmamurtham and after bath, clean the puja area and decorate with a kolam or rangoli. Then they prepare the kalasam. A bronze or silver pot is chosen for this purpose, and a swastika symbol is drawn and smeared with sandalwood paste. The pot is filled with raw rice or water, coins, a single whole lime, five different kinds of leaves, and beetle nut. Items like turmeric, comb,mirror, small black bangles and black beads are also included.
The kalasham is sometimes covered up to the neck with a cloth, and then mango leaves are placed on the mouth of the kalasham. Finally, a coconut smeared with turmeric is used to close the mouth of the kalasham, and an image of Goddess Lakshmi is fixed. Now the kalasham symbolically represents Goddess Lakshmi. Pongal is made and offered to the Goddess, and the aarti is performed.
The next day before rahu kalam, the kalasam is kept on a bed of rice, and it is considered that the Goddess has entered the house to bless the family members. Then the puja is performed, first invoking Lord Ganesha, and then praising the Goddess. Various sweets are prepared and distributed on this occasion.
The next day, that is on Saturday, after taking a bath, the kalasham is dismantled and the water in the kalasham is sprinkled in the house to bless the house. If rice is used then it is mixed with the stored rice in the house.
Baked or boiled pulses, Holige, kadubu, sundal, kosambri, and vade are the delicacies made during this festival. In some other places, people make deep fried dishes like kadabu (a bengal gram and jaggery dish), chakuli, bajji and shankar paale, as naivedya ( Prasadam) for this festival. In some places, pongal is also made as special dish.
There are many stories about the importance of Varamahalaskhmi Vratam. As mentioned in Skanda Purana, once Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva about a vratam that will be most beneficial to women. Lord Shiva then mentioned the importance of Varalakshmi Vrata, narrating the story of Charumati. Pleased with Charumati’s devotion to her husband and family, Goddess Lakshmi appeared in her dream and asked her to perform the Varalakshmi Vratha and explained the procedures of the Vrata. Charumati invited all her neighbors, friends and relatives and performed the Varalakshmi puja as directed by Goddess Lakshmi. Soon after the puja, all the people who participated in the puja were blessed with wealth and prosperity.
Another story is about Shyamabala, daughter of King Bathrasiravas and Queen Surachandrika. The princess Shyamabala noticed her mother chasing away an old woman who advised her to do Varalakshmi Puja. The kindhearted princess called the old woman back who advised her about the importance of Varalakshmi vratam and to do the puja. After her return to her country she performed Varalakshmi puja and soon her country started prospering and the princess was appreciated for her good governance.
At the same time, her parents lost their wealth and were undergoing misery in their country. Shyambala sent them pots of gold, but surprisingly they all turned to ashes. Shyamabala realized that all this is the result of her mother driving out the old woman from the palace. She realized that the old woman was Goddess Lakshmi in disguise.
Shyamabala asked her mother to ask forgiveness to Goddess Lakshmi and perform the Varalakshmi Vrata. She did so and was able to attain the previous glory.
There is also another legend behind this great festival. During a small tiff between Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvathi while playing a game of dice, as to who is the winner, Chitranemi was asked to opine. His reply was in Shiva's favor, which made Parvathi angry and cursed him to become a leper.
When Shiva pleaded with her, she gave in and said the day women in the world observed Varalakshmi puja, Chitranemi would be relieved from his sickness. Chitranemi got relief when he observed some women performing the puja. Ever since then, this vratham has been observed.