SRI LAKSHMI IN AUSPICIOUS SYMBOLS – PART II

Lotus

The lotus symbol is Lakshmi’s emblem. The lotus represents the water.  As Padma, she is herself the lotus. She is the lady of the lotus and holds lotuses in each of her hands. She is adorned with a lotus garland. The lotus is her seat. The lotuses in various stages of blooming represent the worlds and beings in various stages of evolution.

Purnaghata

Purnaghata is the brimming vessel with its overflowing water, the lotuses emerging from it are another auspicious symbol associated with Lakshmi. She is depicted standing or seated on a lotus, which emerges from a purnaghata.  Purnaghata is also called kalasa. So, Lakshmi is Kalasabdhiputri. The kalasa also signifies that Lakshmi can give mankind the bliss of immortality.

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Kalasa puja always precedes every puja, and the mantra is pronounced to invoke the devas. The whole kalasa represents Lakshmi, whereas the mouth represents Visnu, the neck Siva, the belly of the vessel Brahma and centrally situated are the seven mothers. The kalasa contains four oceans, four Vedas and seven continents. The devotee invokes the holy rivers such as Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri to be present to accept the offering and the worship. The temple gopurams have kalasa from one to eleven according to its importance and the celebrations associated with them are called kumbhabishekam.  In the Varalakshmi puja, the human face in the kalasa is noteworthy. In every Hindu household till date, the kalasa is a must e.g. Navagraha homa, Sudarshana homa and Lakshmi homa (Puja) etc.

Nidhis

There are two nidhis: Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi. They are represented as overflowing vases of coins with conch or lotus10. Sri flanked by nidhis has an excellent representation in a sculptural panel from Kaveripakkam. She is in the srivatsa symbol nearly transformed into human form, seated on a lotus as elephants bathe her, with the lamps on either side flanked by golden pitchers. Thick rolls of coins ooze out from the nidhis.

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Another representation of the two nidhis is brought out on two independent small marble carvings in the Krishna valley in the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. This was in late Amaravati style. These carvings were originally in the collection of S.T. Srimvasa Gopalachari. The Sankhanidhi is a conch on a lotus-filled vase full of water with coins oozing and flowing out as a thick roll from the conch. The Padmanidhi is similarly represented as a lotus-filled vase with a slightly longer roll of coins flowing from it as from the conch. These two should have flanked the doorway of some Buddhist or Hindu shrine now lost. Though the exact place of these two carvings is not known, it can be safely assumed that they are clearly from the Krishna Valley near Amaravati. These nidhis resting on purnakalasas flanking doorways came later to be represented in Chalukyan doorways11.

These two nidhis as auspicious symbols flank deities like Sri and Kubera, as well also those that renounce wealth itself. This is seen in a sculpture of Jaina Tirthankara, from South India in the National Museum, where the nidhis flank Mahavira. The satisfactory explanation that could be given is that here Lakshmi as Mokshalakshmi adores Mahavira for his noble spirit of sacrifice.

Lakshmi also lives in beautiful and chaste maidens, in ornaments, in sacrifice, in rain clouds, in byres, in lakes filled with lotus-flowers, in rivers, in elephants, in purnakumbha, lamps, in kings on the throne and they are all considered as her auspicious symbols.

 References 

  1. Pratima Kosha – Encyclopedia of Indian Iconography, Vol. 6, Daovajna. K.N. Somayaji, Bangalore, 1992, p. 288.
  2. Rig Veda, 6.28.5.
  3. Taittiriya Samhita, 22.2.
  4. Sivaramamurti C, Sri Lakshmi in Indian Art and Thought, Kanak Publications, New Delhi, 1992, p. 47.
  5. Gonda. J., Aspects of early Visnuism, Motilal Banarasidass, Varanasi, 1969, p. 220.
  6. Op. cit., Sivaramamurti C., p. 53.
  7. Birdwood G.C.M., The Arts of India, British Book Company, Sussex, edn. 1, 1880. Ed 3, 1996, p. 153.
  8. Raghuvamsa 10, 86 quoted in Sivaramamurti. C., Lakshmi in Indian Art and Thought, pp. 66-67.
  9. Heinrich Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, Joseph Campbell, Bollingen Series 6, New York, 1946, p. 108.
  10. Visnudharmottara, 3.82. 7-10.
  11. Op. cit., Sivaramamurti C, p. 8.

 Dr. R. Mohana Bai M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.,
Reader in History,
Queen Mary’s College, (Autonomous), Chennai.

Source: Journal of Indian History and Culture, September 2000

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