Lakshmi, also known as Sri ‘Noble Goddess’, is one of the principal goddesses in Hinduism. She is the goddess of wealth, fortune, love, beauty, joy and prosperity. Along with goddesses Parvati and Saraswati, she forms the Trinity of Hindu goddesses (Tridevi).
Within the Goddess-oriented Shaktism of Hinduism Lakshmi is venerated as a principle aspect of the Mother Goddess / Divine Mother. Lakshmi is both the wife and divine energy of the Hindu God Vishnu, the Supreme Being of Vaishnavism. Whenever Vishnu descended on the earth as an Incarnation (Avatar), Lakshmi accompanied him as wife, for example as Sita and Radha or Rukmini as consorts of Vishnu’s Avatars Rama and Krishna respectively.
The eight prominent manifestations of Lakshmi, the Ashtalakshmi symbolize the eight sources of wealth.
Lakshmi is depicted in Indian art as an elegantly dressed, prosperity-showering golden-coloured woman with an owl as her vehicle, signifying the importance of economic activity in maintenance of life. She typically stands or sits on a lotus pedestal, while holding a lotus in her hand, symbolizing fortune, divine-knowledge, and spiritual liberation.
Archaeological discoveries reveal that Lakshmi’s iconography and statues have also been found in Hindu temples throughout Southeast Asia, estimated to be from the second half of the 1st millennium CE.
In the Epics of Hinduism, such as in Mahabharata, Lakshmi personifies wealth, riches, happiness, loveliness, grace, charm, and splendor.
Numerous ancient Stotram and Suktas of Hinduism recite hymns dedicated to Lakshmi. She is a major goddess in Puranas and Itihasas of Hinduism too. In ancient scriptures of India, all women are declared to be embodiments of goddess Lakshmi.
Lakshmi features prominently in Puranas of Hinduism. Vishnu Purana, in particular, dedicates many sections to her and also refers to her as Sri.
Many Hindus worship Lakshmi on Diwali, the festival of lights. It is celebrated in autumn, typically October or November every year. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair.
Before Diwali night people clean, renovate and decorate their homes and offices. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes, light up lamps and candles inside and outside their homes, and participate in family prayers to Lakshmi & Ganesha. After Puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including sweets, and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends.
Diwali also marks a major shopping period, since Lakshmi connotes auspiciousness, wealth and prosperity. This festival dedicated to Lakshmi is considered by Hindus to be one of the most important and joyous festivals of the year.