Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is more sought after than Saraswati, the goddess of learning. As the power and consort of Vishnu, the preserver. According to the Puranas, she was the incarnated daughter of the sage Bhrigu and his wife Khyati. She was later born out of Ksheera Sagara (ocean of milk) while being churned. Hence, her appellation, Ksheera Samudra Raja Tanaya. As consort of Vishnu, she is born as his spouse whenever he incarnates. When Vishnu appeared as Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, Krishna, she appeared as Padma or Kamala, Dharani, Sita and Rukmini. She is as inseparable from Vishnu as speech from meaning, or knowledge from intellect, or good deeds from righteousness.
Vara Lakshmi Vrata
The day begins with rangoli and sacred head baths just as any other festival and is marked by the performance of "Vara Lakshmi Vrata" by the women folk of the house. Worshipping Vara Lakshmi is rendered equivalent to Ashta Lakshmi pooja. It is thus held that the Goddess of wealth would bless those who perform the Vrata on this particular day of the year with Dhana (Money), Dhanya (food), Aayu (long life), Aarogya (health), Aishwarya (wealth), Satsantana (good off springs) and Soubhagya (long life of husband).
The preparation for the festival begins the prior evening, when a stage for the pooja is set after having cleaned the entire area. On the day, A bronze or silver kalasa, with water, akshatas and a couple of coins, is taken and five betel leaves are placed on to it. The kalasa is smeared with sandal paste and kum-kum is applied at five places. On this is placed a round coconut smeared with turmeric to which kum-kum is applied. A new cloth or saree is tied to the Kalasa and is worshipped as Vara Lakshmi. Some people even adore this with the face of the Vara Lakshmi decked with jewels.
Women folk of the house traditionally worship this Vara Lakshmi the next day, with Ashtottaram and Sahsranamavali, along with some new gold bought each year. The legend of the vrata is once again memorized in devotion and a "toram" of Nine threads and nine knots is tied to the Goddess first and then to the right wrist of the worshippers. Prasadams are offered in the numbers of either three or five or nine to the Goddess. And the pooja is concluded with the distribution of this prasadam and Tamboola to the married women in neighborhood. It also is customary for these women folk to visit the temples of the Goddess towards the evening.
Legend has it that Goddess Parvati has once asked Lord Siva about a vrata, performing which would render the women on the earth blessed with all kinds of wealth. Then did Lord Siva preach of "Vara Lakshmi Vrata" to be performed on a Friday that comes just before the full moon day in the month of Shravana. Illustrating the sanctity of the vrata, Lord Siva narrated the story of Charumati of Maratha desha, which runs like this -
Once upon a time, there lived a gracious and wise Brahmin lady called Charumati in the Maratha Desha, a town that had golden houses and golden walls. Charumathi was a Maha Pativrata, indulged in a whole-hearted worship of her husband and looked after her in laws with utmost respect. Pleased with her good nature, Goddess Lakshmi happens to appear in her dream and advises her to perform the Varalakshmi vrata on Shravana shukla shukravara preceding the full moon day. Charumathi prostrates in devotion to the Goddess in the dream itself and the next morning illustrates the dream to her husband and in-laws. With their consent, she tells the same to a few more women folk of the town and they together wait the day.
The much-awaited day finally comes and they set stage to worship the Goddess Vara Lakshmi at one corner of the house, which is cleaned up with cow dung. All of them perform the pooja to the Kalasa with all devotion and piety, tie the toram to their wrists and offer prasadam to the Goddess. Then does the miracle start as they go about to take the Pradakshinas after the pooja. They see themselves bedecked with various ornaments one at a time as - anklets on feet for the first, bracelets for the second and various other ornaments for the final pradakshina. Excited about the blessing of Vara Lakshmi, they once again prostrate to the Goddess and honour the Pundit with due Dakshina and conclude the vrata by taking the prasadam.
As the women folk stepped out of the house do they see their houses decked with all riches and golden chariots awaiting them outside Charumati’s house. Extremely happy about what all had happened, the women thank Charumati for having shared her luck with them. Ever since then is the Vara Lakshmi Vrata performed in every household on this auspicious day.
Legend also say that the vrata was later also preached by sage Suta to Sounaka and other sages. Another legend is that Chitranemi who was one cursed by Parvati for having made a partial judgement in favour of Shiva when asked to play the referee for their game, got relieved from the curse by having watched this vrata performed by some pious women. Such is the sanctity of the Vrata.
Shloka to be said on Vara Mahalakshmi
Namastestu Mahaamaaye Shreepeete Surapoojite
Shankha Chakra Gadaa Haste Mahaalakshmi Namostu Te.*
Meaning: O Mahaamaaya, abode of fortune, worshipped by the Gods, I salute Thee.
O Mahaalakshmi, one who has conch, disc and mace in Her hands, obeisance to Thee.
*Namaste Garudaroode Koalaasura Bhayankari
Sarva Paapa Hare Devi, Mahaalakshmi Namostu Te. *
Meaning: My salutations to Thee, who rides Garuda and are a terror to demon Kola;
O Devi Mahaalakshmi, remover of all miseries, my obeisance to Thee.
*Sarvajne Sarva Varade Sarva Dushta Bhayankari
Sarva Duhkha Hare Devi Mahaalakshmi Namostu Te. *
Meaning: O Devi Mahaalaksmi, who is the embodiment of knowledge, giver of all boons,
a terror to all the wicked, remover of all sorrows, obeisance to Thee.
*Siddhi Buddhi Prade Devi Bhukti Mukti Pradaayini
Mantra Moorthe Sadaa Devi Mahaa Lakshmi Namostu Te. *
Meaning: O Devi, You give success and intelligence and worldly enjoyment and liberation (as well).
Thou hast always the mystic symbols (Mantra) as Thy form, O Mahaalakshmi, obeisance to Thee.
*Aadyantarahite Devi Aadya Shakte Maheshvari
Yogaje Yogasambhoote Mahaalakshmi Namostu Te. *
Meaning: O Devi, Maheshwari, You are without a beginning or an end ,
You are the Primeval energy, You are the greatest ruler, You are born of Yoga.
O Mahaalakshmi, obeisance to Thee.
*Sthoola Sookshmah Mahaa Raudre Mahaa Sakthe Mahodaye
Mahaa Paapa Harey Devi Mahaalakshmi Namostu Te. *
Meaning: O Mahaalakshmi, You are both gross and subtle, most terrible (for the wicked),
You are the embodiment of great power and prosperity and You are remover of all sins, obeisance to Thee.
*Padmaasanasthite Devi Parabrahma Svaroopini
Paramesi Jaganmaata, Mahalakshmi Namostu Te. *
Meaning: O Devi, You are seated on the lotus, You are the Supreme Brahman,
You are the great Lord and Mother of the universe, O Mahaalakshmi, obeisance to Thee.
*Svetaambaradhare Devi Naanaalankaara Bhooshite
Jagatsthite Jaganmaatah, Mahaalakshmi Namostu Te
Meaning: O Devi, You are dressed in white garments and decked with various kinds of ornaments,
Thou art the mother of the universe and its support, O Mahalakshmi, obeisance to Thee.
*Mahaalakshmyaastaka Stottram Yad Pated Bhaktiman Naraha.
Sarva Siddhimavaapnoti Mahalakshmi Prasaadataha.
Meaning: Whoever with devotion reads this hymn to Mahalakshmi composed in eight stanzas attains all success through the Grace of Mahalakshmi.
*Ekakaale Patennityam Mahaapaapa Vinaashanam
Dvikaalam Yah Patennityam Dhana Dhaanya Samanvitaha
Meaning: Whoever reads this hymn at least once a day will have all their sins destroyed;
those who recite it twice will be blessed with wealth and prosperity.
*Trikaalam Yah Patennityam Mahaa Shatru Vinaashanam
Mahaalakshmir Bhavennityam Prasannaa Varadaa Shubhaa
Meaning: Those who recite this three times in a day will have all their enemies destroyed.
They will be always be blessed by the Goddess Mahalakshmi.