Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Varalakshmi Pooja/Vratam

Varalakshmi Vratam is an important pooja performed by many women in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and some parts of Tamil Nadu. The glory of performing the Varalakshmi Vratam narrated directly by Lord Shiva Himself, is elaborately discussed in the Skanda Puranam. This is a festival to propitiate Shri Varalakshmi (Mahalakshmi ) - the consort of Lord Vishnu, who is the abode of all mangalam (auspiciousness) , prosperity and wealth. The Varalakshmi Vratam is to be performed on the shraavana shukla shukra vaaram , that is, the Friday immediately following the full moon day (Purnima) in the auspicious month of Shravanam (corresponding to August - September). This Vratam is undertaken by the women for good progeny, good health, and wishing long life for their husbands.

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".


There are several varied legends associated with this festival. Goddess Parvathi once asked Lord Shiva to recommend her a vratam, which would be beneficial for the womenfolk on earth who seek prosperity. Then, Lord Shiva preached her about Varalakshmi Vratam (as mentioned in Skanda Puranam). To illustrate the sanctity of this vratam, Lord Shiva then narrated the story of one Charumati (of Kuntinapura in the Maratha desham). Charumati was a true pativrata (devoted to husband in all sincerity). Pleased with her true and undivided devotion to her husband, Goddess Lakshmi appeared in her dream and advised her to undertake the Varalakshmi Vratam on the auspicious day of shraavana shukla shukra vaaram. Charumati performed this pooja with utmost devotion, the same day, in the dream itself. The next day she narrated this dream to her husband, and with his full consent, to all other women folk in town. On the auspicious day, she did not fail to perform Varalakshmi vratam as prescribed to her by Goddess Parvathi. Then some miracles took place. As the womenfolk stepped out of the house, they saw all houses decked with riches and gold, and a golden chariot awaiting them outside Charumati's house. Everything seemed bountiful! Ever since, this Vratam has been regularly performed in households.

Another legend is that a person by name Chitranemi was once cursed (to become a leper) by Parvati for showing partiality toward Lord Shiva in a game, in which he was the judge. Chitranemi got shaapa vimochanam (relief from this curse) when he watched with great attention, the Varalakshmi Vratam performed by some pious ladies. Legend also says that this Vratam was later conveyed by sage Suka to Shaunaka and other sages.

The Worship

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

The following songs are in praise of Goddess Lakshmi which are rendered during this auspicious occasion. These songs are chosen from a variety of composers. Some of the songs (Pallavi, Ragam and Composer) are given below.

1. Varalakshmim Bhajare – Sauraastram – Muthuswami Dikshitar
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

1 comment:

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