Lakshmi is symbolic of eight forces - wealth (shree), earth (bhu), learning (sarasvati), love (preeti), fame (keerti), peace (shaanti), pleasure (tushti), and strength (pushti). Each of these forces is called a Lakshmi, and collectively they are known as "Ashta lakshmi". Worship of Varalakshmi is rendered equivalent to the pooja for ashtalakshmi. Since She is ever ready to grant boons to her true devotees, she is usually referred to as "Vara Lakshmi".
The rituals of worship during the Varalakshmi Vratam differ from region to region in south India, but they all have the same basic format. The performer begins the day with a holy purification bath, and wears clean clothes. The arena is decorated with kolam (rangoli). A geometrical design known as mandalam is then drawn on the clean surface of the floor (with the picture of a lotus upon it). A sacred pot (kalasham) is filled with pure water and rice (akshata), topped with a bunch fresh mango leaves, and a coconut (unbroken, with its kudimi on) smeared with turmeric powder is placed atop. Also, sandal paste and kumkumam are applied to the kalasham, and a cloth is tied around it before placing it on the mandalam. Some people further beautify the kalasham with a picture of Varalakshmi drawn on it and decorated with jewels. Then, Goddess Lakshmi is invoked. Fresh flowers and grains are used in the worship, indicating growth and prosperity.
After performing the initial worship of Lord Ganesha (seeking removal all obstacles), prayers are offered to the kalasham. A "toram" (which consists of nine threads and nine knots) is tied to the Goddess. Then they worship the thread (raksha). Now the main worship of Lakshmi begins, with a second worship of the sacred Thread. Finally, it is tied around the right hand of the performer. Prayers in the form of Lakshmi Ashtottara shatanaama and sahasranaama are then chanted. Another sumangali is then chosen, and she is offered auspicious articles as gifts and food. The function concludes with the singing of several hymns and songs in praise of Varalakshmi.
Songs on Varalakshmi
2. Shri Varalakshmi Namastubhyam – Shree – Muthuswami Dikshitar
3. Mahalakshmi Karunaarasalahari - Madhavamanohari – Muthuswami Dikshitar
4. Varalakshmi Namostute – Gowri Manohari – Mysore Vasudevachariyar
5. Shri Mahalakshmim Bhajeham – Paraju – Mysore Vasudevachariyar
6. Varalakshmi neeye vantharulvaye – Salaga Bhairavi – Papanasam Sivan
7. Mahalakshmi Jagan Mata – Shankarabharanam – Papanasam Sivan
8. Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma – Madhyamaavati/Shree – Purandaradasar
9. Paalise enna shri mahalakshmi – Shri - Purandaradasar