Hindus Prepare for Varalakshmi Vratam to Honor Lakshmi

History of Varalakshmi Vratam, the festival honoring Hindu god Lakshmi.

Varalakshmi Vratam is a Hindu festival honoring the goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Vishnu. What makes this celebration much more important for Hindus is the observance of the Varalakshmi Pooja (ritual) which is believed to be auspicious. Hindus believed that requests and wishes can be granted if the pooja is performed. From the time the festivity was created, it is the Hindi women, particularly the wives and mothers, who observe and perform the rituals. Most women perform the Varalakshmi Vratam asking for wealth, prosperity, health and well-being of their husbands, children and family.

The pooja is so auspicious that Hindus believe that when women worship Varalakshmi on this day, it is equivalent to worshipping the eight goddesses associated with wealth, earth, learning, love, fame, pleasure, peace and strength. The festivity is celebrated on the second Friday or the Friday prior to the full moon of the Hindu month of Sravana. In our modern day Gregorian calendar, it falls between July and August. In 2016, Varalakshmi Vratam will be observed on August 12.

Hindu mythology on the festival

The origin of the celebration is linked with the story of a Brahmin woman named Charumathi. Goddess Mahalakshmi was pleased of Charumathi’s devotion to her religion and dedication to her family. The goddess was said to have visited the woman in her dream and ask her to worship Varalakshmi (Lakshmi) for the fulfillment of her wishes. Many other wives and mothers in the community followed suit after learning about Charumathi’s dream, hence, the Varalakshmi Vratam tradition started.

Not only mortals have fulfilled their wishes via the Varalakshmi pooja. In one of the stories of the Lord Shiva and her wife Parvati, the two gods played a game called paramapatham (other accounts say they were dancing). Though it’s obvious that Parvati won the games, Shiva claimed victory. To settle the dispute, Shiva asked Chitranemi to become the judge. Since Shiva was Chitranemi’s creator, she sided with Shiva. Enraged by her partiality, Parvati cursed Chitranemi to become a lepor and be born as a human. Chitranemi and Shiva pleaded that Parvati revert her curse but the goddess only agreed to treat Chitranemi if she performs the Varalakshmi Pooja. After observing the Varalakshmi Vratam, it is said that Chitranemi was completely cured.

How the Varalakshmi pooja is performed

Women start preparing for the pooja by collecting their decorations, idols and offerings a day before. On the day of the Varalakshmi Vratam, the first activity is to bathe. After which, the area where the pooja or ritual shall be performed will be cleaned and prepared. The kalasham which symbolizes Lakshmi is filled with saree, flowers, leaves, jewelry and other offerings shall be placed in front of the idol. The ritual is followed by prayers, chants and the offering of sweets and flowers to the goddess.

There are also women who fast during the festivity. Some communities practice the offering of thamboolam (combination of betel leaf, slaked lime and areca nut) to their women.

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