There are many myths, legends and much folklore about the mother goddess of fertility and rice. The ancient Indus community, perceived the Divine Female as Mother Goddess or Devi. Goddesses like Lakshmi, Gauri and Saraswati gave rice to Indians and taught them how to grow it. It was the practice of personifying the beauty and bounty of earth as a goddess and it was prevalent in ancient cultures.


The worship of a Mother Goddess in ancient World mostly related to fertility of the soil [and the botanical life circle] with no connection with any kind of religion. It was the practice of personifying the beauty and bounty of earth as a goddess and it was prevalent in all ancient cultures.

A Chinese story says that although rice has always existed, there was a time that the ears of the rice plants were not filled. Observing that humans were near starvation, the Goddess Guan Yin and to help them, secretly descended to the fields of shoots during the night. When she arrived, she squeezed her breasts until they expressed milk, but the last drop was of blood. From that day on, the buds of the plants produced some useless red grains and the white rice, which served to feed all her people.

Houtu, (also spelled Hou Tu) is the the Deity of Earth, is an almighty goddess in the pantheon. People offer her sacrifices and pray to her for harvest, rain, children, health, wealth, safety when boating in the Yellow River, and the tide when a boat is stranded. In local legends, Houtu often is depicted as a kind, wise, and powerful goddess.

In Japan, it is said that the first cultivator of rice was the Sun Goddess Amatereshu-Omi-Kami. She grew rice in the fields of heaven, giving the first harvest to Prince Ninigi. He was told to take it to “The Land of Eight Great Islands,” Japan.

Also in Japan, in the classic Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) compiled in AD 712, it is said that rice first came from the eyes of the Food Goddess Ohegetsu-hime.

In southern Philippines, it is said that Agmay, a beautiful slave girl whose mother had died of drudgery and disease, was the first cultivator of rice. One day, as she sat weeping on the bank of the village stream, saddened by thought of her father’s difficult life as a slave and widower, she saw something in the water.

Through tears, Agmay saw a beautiful green grassy tuft, heavy with golden grains, floating on the river. She had never seen such a thing before. She scooped it up and planted the grains in the river mud, praying that they would grow and bring luck. Soon they sprouted and she began mothering her new “green children”, watering them twice daily and protecting them from wild animals. The grain, which was rice, grew quickly. Agmay had such a good harvest that in the next year, her family was freed from slavery.

In Thailand, the Rice Mother Mae Posop is worshiped as rice itself. It is believed that, like a mother who feeds her children, Mae Posop gives her body and soul to sustain human life.

For the Rungo people of Vietnam, the shadows on the moon are created by the Rice Goddess stacking up her freshly harvested rice in the shade of a Bo tree.

Rice is intimately involved in the culture as well as the food ways and economy of many societies. For example, folklore tells us that when the Kachins of northern Myanmar (Burma) were sent forth from the center of the Earth, they were given the seeds of rice and were directed to a wondrous country where everything was perfect and where rice grew well.

Indonesia worships Dewi Sri, the Goddess of Rice, who is believed to have control over birth and life, and controls the rice fields and the growth of rice. Many ancient Javanese and Balinese Kingdoms paid respect and present lavish offerings respect to Devi Sri, ensuring that they continuously have good harvests. Plentiful rice equals to wealth and survival of their kingdoms.

In Malaysia Bambarazon, the Goddess of Mercy, is believed to have created rice, as she secretly slipped down the fields and pressed her breasts until her milk and blood flowed and transformed into rice. To the present day, every Dusun or Kadazan celebrates the “Modsurung”, which is known today as the Harvest Festival, in memory of the great Goddess of Mercy. Traditionally it is  believed that rice, or paddy, is animated by a soul- the rice soul semangat padi.

Mother Goddesses of fertility of the ancient World

  • The Greeks had Core, the corn-goddess, who was known to Romans as Demeter.
  • The Egyptians had Isis,
  • Sumerians had Innana,
  • Babylonians had Ishtar,
  • Persians had Anahita and
  • Vikings had Freia.

In India the mother goddess of fertility has many names and only sometimes is distinguished from the Earth Mother or Divine Female. Unlike the mother goddess, who is a specific source of vitality and shows the circle of life, the Earth Mother is the eternally fruitful source of everything. Mother goddesses are individual, posses distinct characters and are not cosmogonic.

The Universal Earth Mother

The ancient Indus community, perceived the Divine Female as Mother Goddess or Devi. The Rigveda calls the Female power Mahimata, a term which literally means Earth Mother. At places, the Vedic literature alludes to Her as Viraj, the universal mother, as Aditi, the mother of gods, and as Ambhrini, the one born of Primeval Ocean.

The Rigveda takes a mystic line, when it perceives the Divine Female as Vak or Vani, in Vedic mysticism the cosmos and all things pre- exist but are unmanifest. The Vak, or Vani makes them manifest.


The Upanishadas identify her as Prakriti, the manifest nature, which is the material aspect of the Creation, She is the all-pervasive cosmic energy inherent in all existing things. Ushas, the glowing light of early morning. That makes the darkness of night disappear.

The Mahabharata, 3000 years ago, keeping in line with the Vedic mysticism, alludes her as the source of all things, the spiritual as well as material.

Devi’s cosmic perception is a mix of metaphysics and mythology. In India’s metaphysical perception the Creation has been perceived as comprising of two factors, variedly named as Prakriti and Purusha, Matter and Self, Male and Female and the like. Mythology identifies them as Shiva and Shakti.

As Shakti, she is worshiped by Shaktas, and in this aspect, she denotes the mother of all creation, including the gods. Thus, she represents the divine mother, creator, preserver, the destroyer and the director of all activities in the universe. She is later known as Parvati, the consort of Shiva. In the northern Himalayas, the goddess is believed to be the first to have grown rice.

To Krishna (Vishnu) devotees, she is Mahamaya Radha. The power of female energy has been called variously as Usha, Prithvi, Aditi, Saraswati, Indrani, Rudrani, Sita and Gauri.


Gauri stands for spring, protection, fertility, harvest and equality. She is said to represent sexual restraint and the life giving aspect of Nature. Legends surrounding Goddess Gauri are connected with Shiva and Parvati:

Parvatis first attempted to seduce Lord Shiva. The Lord found her hardly attractive and does not entertain her. He reproached her. This taunt so incensed her that Parvati retreated into forest greens. Amidst nature, she performed a most severe course of austerities. But she was focused to develop Her spiritual powers. This caught the attention of Lord Brahma. He decided to grant Her one wish. Parvati asked that Her dark skin be taken away, so that Shiva would love Her.

Brahma took the darkness and created Goddess Kali with it. Brahma then bestowed that Parvati be shining with golden skin. She became the Goddess Gauri. That was not enough to distract Shiva. Brahma had to send Kama, Rati and Spring to draw the Lord’s attention. Thereafter she re-manifests as Parvati.

Another Myth, recorded by Shri Lele in his essay Tirthyatraprabandha- a travelogue of pilgrimage, explains why Lajja Gauri, the shameless Goddess, is headless and in such explicit position.

Once god Shiva decided to test Parvati. He gave his bed linen (godhadi) to Parvati and said, “ My dear, this is my favorite blanket. Can you take good care of it”.

“ Sure” Parvati replied not realizing that her husband was on to playing some mischief.

A sandstone sculpture of Lajja Gauri or Aditi, also called uttānapad (“she who crouches with legs spread”), c. 650 CE (Badami Museum, India).

After this exchange Shiva left the room. But he returned assuming the form of a rat and gnawed at the blanket, which was in Parvati’s custody.

When Parvati noticed that a rat has made holes in Shiva’s blanket, she panicked. “How could this happen? “She muttered to herself, “Now Shiva will get furious? What will I tell him.” she kept admonishing herself.

Just then, a tailor came to the door. Parvati sighed with relief and asked him “ Sir can you mend this blanket? This is my husband’s favorite blanket and a rat has gnawed through it. If my husband finds out he is going to get very upset and throw a fit. Please mend this for me right now”- Parvati pleaded.

Watching Parvati’s desperation the tailor said, “ I can mend this blanket, but on one condition. You will have to lay down with me as the reward”. Parvati was taken aback by this indecent proposal and became furious. But then she thought for a while and decided may be it is better to agree to the tailor’s demand than face Shiva’s wrath. So she agreed to sleep with the tailor.

As they were making love, the tailor who was Shiva in disguise assumed his true form. When Parvati saw Shiva, she became frozen with shame. Out of acute embarrassment her head fell off, while her body remained in the erotic posture.

Thus the headless goddess came to be known as Lajja gauri- or shameless Goddess.

Notwithstanding, Hindus revere Gauri as a stand alone Goddess.

The Markandeya Purana and almost all other Puranas perceive Devi, the Universal Mother, primarily in Her role as

  • warrior or destroyer,
  • sustainer and
  • creator,

three aspects of cosmic activities which are a Trinity. Later she is also a partner of Shiva, Vishnu or Brahma, illustrating the triple power of dissolution, preservation and creation and of threefold qualities of tamas, rajas, sattva.

As warrior, she is Maha Kali, the Destroyer who eradicates evil, evil doers and wrongs and restores good and righteousness.

As sustainer, she is Maha Lakshmi, who bestows bliss, prosperity, wealth and material happiness and yields good crop and abundant grain.

And, finally, as supreme wisdom and all knowing intellect, she is Maha Saraswati, who nourishes all creative faculties, arts, music, dance and creativity.


Saraswati, Mysore Painting,19th Century,National Gallery of Modern Art,New Delhi. By Durgada Krishnappa [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As Saraswati, she is goddess of speech, inspiring of good thoughts and wisdom. She is also treated as the Supreme universal soul, and deemed as the spouse [or daughter] of Brahma.

The word Saraswati stems from the Sanskrit root ‘saras’ which means that which is fluid and can be either contained in a lake (sarovar) and made to flow as in a river (sarita).

Saraswati thus has many forms – knowledge and skills that we can pass on through schooling and apprenticeship is the most prominent of them. But the one form of Saraswati that cannot be passed on is wisdom. Wisdom cannot be inherited or bequeathed. It has to be generated through reflection or tapasya.


As Kali in her fierce form the mother goddess is the earth that drinks blood to quench her thirst. She is visualized with a garland of human skulls; her blood-smeared tongue stretched out. She is even described as naked and dancing at crematoriums, thus embodying death and life, violence and sex.

In other images, her eyes are made to look kind, her body soft and rounded and her nakedness strategically covered with long hair, garland of human skulls and a skirt of human limbs to make her ‘bhadra’ (decent). Kali’s name derives from the Sanskrit meaning ‘she who is black’ or ‘she who is death’.

T he Jaiminya Brahmana dated around the 8th century B.C. tells the story of one Dirgha-jihvi. “Dirgha-jihvi or ‘the long-tongued one’ used to lick up the divine drink, Soma, produced during the yagna that was much loved by the gods. Exasperated by her actions, Indra, king of the gods, wanted to grab her, but he could not get hold of her. So he said, “Let no one perform any sacrifices at all, for Dirgha-jihvi licks up the Soma produced.”

Now, Sumitra, the son of Kutsa, was handsome. Indra said to him, ”Go seduce Dirgha-jihvi.” When Sumitra approached her, she said, “You have just one organ, but I have many, one on each limb. This won’t work.” Sumitra went back and informed Indra of his failure. “I will make organs for you on every limb,” said Indra. Equipped with these, Sumitra went back to her. This time she welcomed him with open arms. They lay together. As soon as he had his way with her, he remained firmly stuck in her. Finding both pinned to the ground, Indra ran to her and struck her down with his thunderbolt.

It is speculated that Dirgha-jihvi refers to a Kali-like goddesses worshiped by agricultural communities, who were probably matriarchal, who came to be feared by patriarchal nomadic communities.

A century or two after the Jaiminya Brahmana, the Vedic priests put together the Mundaka Upanishad where Kali is the name of one of the seven quivering tongues of the fire god, Agni, whose flames devour sacrificial oblations and transmit them to the gods.

Between the 2nd century B.C. and 3rd century C.E., Kali appears unequivocally for the first time as a goddess in the Kathaka Grihyasutra, a ritualistic text that names her in a list of Vedic deities to be invoked with offerings of perfume during the marriage ceremony. Unfortunately, the text reveals nothing more about her.

In the Mahabharata and Ramayana which were being composed around this time, goddesses, including Kali, are given more character: they are usually independent and wild, appearing as manifestations of divine rage and embodiment of the forces of destruction.

In the Mahabharata, for example, the nocturnal bloodbath by Ashwattama at the end of the 18-day war, when the innocent children of the Pandavas are slaughtered rather dastardly while they are asleep, is seen as the work of

“Kali of bloody mouth and eyes, smeared with blood and adorned with garlands, her garment reddened, — holding noose in hand — binding men and horses and elephants with her terrible snares of death.”

In the Devi Mahatmya, dated roughly to 8th century C.E., Kali became a defender against demonic and malevolent forces and by the 19th century, Kali was a goddess of mainstream pantheon, a symbol of divine rage, of raw power and the wild potency of nature.

Every village has a Devi for whose pleasure male goats and male buffaloes are slaughtered each year in the period following the monsoon, to satisfy her craving for blood so that she can bring forth crops: the milk of the earth-cow. Durga is another name of Kali, for some it is different goddesses.

The Legend of Durga

According to legend, long ago after the gods lost in a battle with the demons, Goddess Kali was born as Kal Bhoi Nashini from the forehead of Goddess Durga. Said to be a personification of Nari Shakti (female power), Kali was born to save heaven and earth from the growing cruelty of the demons. Kali Puja – Goddess Kali from the forehead of Goddess Durga After killing all the devils, Kali lost her control and started killing anyone who came her way which stopped only when Lord Shiva intervened. The well-known picture of Ma Kali, with her tongue hanging out, actually depicts the moment when she steps on the Lord and repents.

The story of Durga – of her slaying the buffalo demon and her attendants drinking the blood of Raktabeeja – comes to us only from Devi Mahatmaya, part of Markandeya Purana, which dates back to around 1500 years ago. Some historians propose, rather controversially, that this story came with the Kushanas or the Indo- Greeks about 2000 years ago.

A s the tradition has it, a buffalo demon Mahishasura ruled the earth. The tyrannous demon inflicted upon all creatures great atrocities and rendered life miserable. He even invaded heaven, the seat of Indra and other gods and drove them out of the holy place.

Under a sanction from Brahma Mahishasura was invincible against any male, a beast or human born. After Brahma made the disclosure of his boon, gods decided to seek a female warrior for eliminating the buffalo demon.

When they found none capable to accomplish their object, they decided to create such one out of themselves and by their own powers. They decided to create a female warrior, who was unique in might and unparalleled in beauty and charm, as she could be required to bewitch and beguile the demon also by them.

Accordingly, her head was formed by the powers of Shiva, her hair by those of Yama and her arms, breasts, waist, feet, toe-nails, fingernails, nose, teeth, eyes, brows and ears respectively with those of Vishnu, Moon, Indra, Brahma, Sun, Vasu, Kuber, Prajapati, Agni, Twilight and Vayu. Her glittering jewels and ornaments were Ocean’s gift and her necklace inlaid with celestial gems that of the great Serpent Shesh.

The Devi emerged with three eyes and eighteen hands carrying in them various celestial weapons, the instruments of war and destruction- Shiva’s trident, Vishnu’s disc, Varuna’s conch, Vayu’s bow, Agni’s dart, Yama’s iron rod, Surya’s quiver, Indra’s thunderbolt, Kuber’s mace, Brahma’s rosary and water pot, Kala’s sword and shield, Vishwakarma’s battle axe and many others. Himvana gave her a lion to ride.

The enthused gods rejoiced and in gratitude prostrated before Mahadevi, as they called her. Mahamuni Narada then told to her the plight of gods, hearing which she proceeded to annihilate Mahishasura and killed him in no time.

During Navaratri, Durga is seen as Shakambari, the mother of all vegetation. The nine forms of the goddess worshiped during the nine days are actually nine plants with various medicinal properties and rich in starch. The nine plants (nava-patrika) include: banana, turmeric, pomegranate, bilva, rice, ashoka, (almost extinct) jayanti, arum (yam) and taro (arvi). The nine plants are tied up using the aparijita vine, whose flowers resemble the female genitalia. They are worshiped as Kola Bau, or the lady of the house. Some see Kola Bau as Ganesha’s mother and others as Ganesha’s spouse.


Shri-Lakshmi is another Hindu form of the timeless mother goddess of fertility who nurtures and nourishes all life. Indians worship rice itself as Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth or Annapurna, one of her many manifestations.

Shri-Lakshmi has a long history testified by the fact that her first hymn, the Shri Shukta, was added to the Rig Veda, the oldest and most revered of Hindu scriptures, somewhere between 1000 and 500 BC.


Invoke for you O Agni, the Goddess Lakshmi, who shines like gold, yellow in hue, wearing gold and silver garlands, blooming like the moon, the embodiment of wealth.

O Agni!

Invoke for me that unfailing Lakshmi, blessed by whom, I shall win wealth, cattle, horses and men.


I invoke Shri (Lakshmi, who has a line of horses in her front, a series of chariots in the middle,

who is being awakened by the trumpeting of elephants, who is divinely resplendent.

May that divine Lakshmi grace me.

I hereby invoke that Shri (Lakshmi) who is the embodiment of absolute bliss; who is of pleasant smile on her face;

whose lustre is that of burnished gold; who is wet as it were, (just from the milky ocean)

who is blazing with splendour, and is the embodiment of the fulfillment of all wishes;

who satisfies the desire of her votaries;

who is seated on the lotus and is beautiful like the lotus…

On the origin of Lakshmi

The appearance of goddess Lakshmi is related to an ancient story.

D urvasa the short-tempered sage once presented Indra, the king of the gods (devas) with a garland of flowers which would never wilt. Indra gave this garland to his elephant Airavata. Sage Durvasa saw the elephant trampling the divine garland and cursed Indra, for he had shown disrespect to the sage. The sage cursed Indra that he and all the gods would lose their power because it had made them so proud and vain. Due to the curse, the demons vanquished the gods out of the heavens.

The defeated gods then went to seek refuge to the Creator Lord Brahma who asked them to churn the ocean of milk, Ksheersagar, to obtain the nectar of immortality. The gods then went to Lord Vishnu, to seek his assistance. Lord Vishnu took the Avatar Kurma (Tortoise) and supported the Manthara Parvata (mountain) as a churning rod, while the king of the serpents, Vasuki, became the churning rope. The gods and the demons (under the leadership of the pious and wise King Bali Chakravarti) both helped each other in churning the ocean of milk.

Amongst the host of divine gifts which appeared from the ocean, was goddess Lakshmi, bearing a red lotus in her hand. Because of this, Lakshmi is also called the daughter of the sea; since the moon also appeared from the ocean during the churning, the moon is called her brother. Alakshmi, the goddess of misfortune, is Lakshmi’s older sister. She is said to have also arisen from the sea of milk.

Each member of the divine triad- Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (creator, preserver and destroyer respectively)- wanted to have Lakshmi for himself. Shiva’s claim was refused for he had already claimed the Moon, Brahma had Saraswati, so Vishnu claimed her and she was born and reborn as his consort during all of his ten incarnations. She on the other hand chose Vishnu as her consort, as only He had the power to control Maya (illusion).

Though retained by Vishnu as his consort, Lakshmi remained an avid devotee of Lord Shiva. An interesting legend surrounds her devotion to this god:

Every day Lakshmi had a thousand flowers plucked by her handmaidens and she offered them to the idol of Shiva in the evening. One day, counting the flowers as she offered them, she found that there were two less than a thousand. It was too late to pluck any more for evening had come and the lotuses had closed their petals for the night.

Lakshmi thought it inauspicious to offer less than a thousand. Suddenly she remembered that Vishnu had once described her breasts as blooming lotuses. She decided to offer them as the two missing flowers.

Lakshmi cut off one breast and placed it with the flowers on the altar. Before she could cut off the other, Shiva, who was extremely moved by her devotion, appeared before her and asked her to stop. He then turned her cut breast into round, sacred Bael fruit (Aegle marmelos) and sent it to Earth with his blessings, to flourish near his temples.

A few texts say that Lakshmi is the wife of Dharma. She and several other goddesses, all of whom are personifications of certain auspicious qualities, are said to have been given to Dharma in marriage. This association seems primarily to represent a thinly disguised “wedding” of Dharma (virtuous conduct) with Lakshmi (prosperity and well-being). The point of the association seems to be to teach that by performing Dharma one obtains prosperity.

Tradition also associates Lakshmi with Kubera, the ugly lord of the Yakshas. The Yakshas were a race of supernatural creatures, who lived outside the pale of civilization. Their connection with Lakshmi perhaps springs from the fact that they were notable for a propensity for collecting, guarding and distributing wealth. Association with Kubera deepens the aura of mystery and underworld connections that attaches itself to Lakshmi. Yakshas are also symbolic of fertility. The Yakshinis (female Yakshas) depicted often in temple sculpture are full-breasted and big-hipped women with wide generous mouths, leaning seductively against trees.

The identification of Shri, the goddess who embodies the potent power of growth, with the Yakshas is natural. She, like them, involves, and reveals herself in the irrepressible fecundity of plant life, as exemplified in the legend of Shiva and the Bael fruit above.

An interesting association is between Lakshmi and the god Indra. Indra is traditionally known as the king of the gods, the foremost of the gods, and he is typically described as a heavenly king. It is therefore appropriate for Shri-Lakshmi to be associated with him as his wife or consort.

In these myth Gaja Lakshmi appears as the embodiment of royal authority, as a being whose presence is essential for the effective wielding of royal power and the creation of royal prosperity.

Sri Lakshmi- an ancient goddess

Considering her popularity among Buddhists and Jains, it has been proposed that her worship may predate the Vedic culture and may have developed independently before she was brought into the Vedic, Buddhist and Jain folds.

Coin with goddess, photographed at the British Museum. Wikimedia Commons.

Scholars are of the view that initially the words Shri and Lakshmi referred to anything that was auspicious or brought good luck or bestowed riches and power.

Shri or Sri, is the sacred sound of cosmic auspiciousness and abundance since Vedic times. Shri is written atop most documents and spoken before addressing a god, a teacher, a holy man or any revered individual. Shri is the female energy of the Supreme Being. The word evokes among other things: grace, affluence, abundance, auspiciousness, authority.

Married men and women are addressed as Shriman and Shrimati as they have Lakshmi’s blessings to harness the wealth of the world to support family and sustain society.

Just as the word ‘aum’ is associated with the mystical side of life, the word ‘shri’ is associated with the material side of existence.

Later Shri and Lakshmi words were personified into two goddesses who eventually merged. Thus, Shri Lakshmi came into being.

Fragmentary verses in the Shatapatha Brahmana, written not long after the Vedas, talks of the birth of Lakshmi from the mouth of Prajapati to provide the inhabitants of the cosmos food, clothing, shelter, and all things that make life more comfortable. She also offered wisdom, strength, beauty, luck, sovereignty and splendor—the good things in life.

For centuries Hindus have invoked her thus:

Beautiful goddess seated on a chariot,
Delighted by songs on lustful elephants,
Bedecked with lotuses, pearls and gems,
Lustrous as fire, radiant as gold,
Resplendent as the sun, calm as the moon,
Mistress of cows and horses —
Take away poverty and misfortune
Bring joy, riches, harvest and children.

Stories of Lakshmi first appeared in the epics Ramayana and Mahabharta, that were composed between 300 B.C. and 300 C.E. [some say much earlier about 10000 B.C.], a period that witnessed the waning popularity of Vedic gods and the rise of gods who offered moksha such as Shiva and Vishnu. Gods and demons fought over her and both strove to churn her out of the ocean of milk, where she was born. As folk heroes such as Rama and Krishna were viewed as incarnations of Vishnu, their consorts Sita, Radha and Rukmini became increasingly identified with Lakshmi. In the Harivamsa, appendix to the Mahabharata, Manmatha, the god of love, lust and fertility, was described as her son.

Prithvi, the Vedic earth-goddess, became Bhumi or Bhoodevi in the Puranas and a manifestation of Lakshmi. In south India, the two goddesses were visualized as two different entities, standing on either side of Vishnu, Bhoodevi representing tangible wealth while Lakshmi or Shridevi representing intangible wealth.

In north India, the two goddesses became one.

Within the Vedic pantheon, Lakshmi was linked with many gods, especially those associated with water bodies:

  • Indra, the rain-god and the king of the gods (bestower of fresh water);
  • Varuna, the sea-god (source of all water);
  • Soma, the moon-god (waxer and waner of tides).

As the Vedic gods waned into insignificance around the fifth century B.C., two gods came to dominate the classical Hindu worldview: the world renouncing hermit-god Shiva and the world affirming warrior-god Vishnu. Lakshmi was briefly associated with Shiva before she became the faithful consort of Vishnu- Narayana, the ultimate refuge of man. Lakshmi was visualized both as an independent goddess and as Vishnu’s consort, seated on his lap or at his feet.

There is tension between the mythology of Lakshmi as an independent goddess and her mythology as Vishnu’s consort. Philosophers choose to view the fickleness and independence of Lakshmi as an allegory for the restlessness of fortune. More often than not, there are no rational explanations for fortune and misfortune. Good times come without warning and leave as suddenly.

It is said, one should never keep the image of Lakshmi standing in the house; she will get tired and run away. One is advised to keep images of Lakshmi comfortably seated, preferably next to Saraswati, goddess of knowledge.

While Lakshmi brings prosperity into a household, Saraswati brings peace. The two goddesses are described as quarreling sisters. Lakshmi loves to go places where Saraswati resides. But her arrival marks the end of wisdom and peace. With wealth comes quarrels, bickering over money-matters, annoying Saraswati who runs away, which is why they say prosperity and peace rarely coexist.

The only god who can bring them together is Ganesha. In some scriptures, he is described as their brother. In others, Lakshmi and Saraswati are forms of Riddhi and Siddhi, wives of Ganesha.

Maha Lakshmi

In Tantrik texts, which were composed around the same time as the Puranas, between 300 B.C. and 300 C.E. [some say much earlier about 10000 B.C.] Lakshmi acquired importance. She was Maha-Lakshmi, the supreme goddess, as mother goddesses she is addressed as “mata” (mother) instead of just “devi” (goddess).

Her cosmic aspect is called Avidya-Maya, the preserver of the world which has evolved out of the Supreme Being. She is conceived of as all the various things that are necessary to have a prosperous and successful life upon earth. For Devotes the concept of Mahalakshmi in Her eightfold forms and the Hindus refer to Her as the Ashta-Lakshmi.

Ancient Pancharatra texts that adore Mahalakshmi consider her to be the root of all creation. In the beginning, they say, the cosmic soul—the unfathomable unmanifest Narayana—desired to create the cosmos. But he did not have the resources to do so. As he pondered over this problem, his dormant energy, his shakti, burst forth in a blinding light, manifesting as Mahalakshmi.

Mahalakshmi placed the seed of divine desire in the palm of her hand and unleashed the dynamic forces of creation until the three worlds took shape and all forms of life came forth.

In the Lakshmi Tantra, the goddess says:

“I am inherent in existence. I am the inciter, the potential that takes shape. I manifest myself. I occupy myself with activity and finally dissolve myself. I pervade all creations with vitality, will and consciousness. Like ghee that keeps a lamp burning, I lubricate the senses of living beings with the sap of my consciousness.”

Dhaanya- Lakshmi

For the sustenance of life upon earth the most important thing is food. Grain is called Dhaanya. Therefore, Mother is worshiped as Dhaanya-Lakshmi. The first crop of golden corn which has filled the field is cut, taken up with great ceremony, with music and rejoicing and it is brought to the house wherein all the ceremonial worship due to a deity is offered to it. Thus Mother in Her universal aspect as life-sustaining corn is regarded as the most important factor and in this form Lakshmi is manifest in this world.

In India, she is the Goddess of all crops as in pre- industrial period grain was the symbol of wealth and prosperity.

Sri Lakshmi in Buddhism and Jain religion

In India, not only Hindus but also Buddhists and Jains adore Lakshmi. Buddhism and Jainism are primarily monastic orders that turned away from Vedic rituals and Brahmanical dogmas about 2500 years ago.

In the Buddhist Jatakas, there are tales of men and women who request the goddess Lakshmi to drive away the goddess of misfortune, Kalakanni.

Images of Kubera, the pot-bellied yaksha-king and treasurer of the gods, who is closely associated with Lakshmi, adorn most Buddhist shrines.

In holy Jain texts, it is said when an exalted soul like a Tirthankara is about to be born his mother dreams of many auspicious things, including the goddess Shri- another name for Lakshmi.

Symbols of wealth and royal power commonly associated with Lakshmi are auspicious to both Buddhists and Jains. These include: the pot, a pile of gems, a throne, a fly whisk, a conch, a fish, a parasol, nagas- a crowned, giant, magical serpent, sometimes winged, yakshas- benevolent nature spirits, a footstool, a horse, an elephant, a cow, and the wish-fulfilling tree.


A bowl of rice will provide equal satisfaction to a rich man and a poor man, to a saint and a sinner.

A bowl of rice does not judge the person who consumes it. The same applies to a piece of cloth.

A piece of cloth will provide comfort to whosoever drapes it, man or woman, irrespective of caste, creed or religion.

And a house will provide the same quality of shelter to all, without any discrimination.

We may judge a bowl of rice, a piece of cloth or a house, but the rice, the cloth and the house will never judge us.

For rice, cloth and house are forms of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

South Indians call rice Anna Lakshmi. Anna means “food” and Lakshmi is the Goddess of prosperity. From ancient times, Dhanya Lakshmi has been depicted holding a few sheaves of rice in her hand. Hindus particularly associate rice with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Paddy stalks or un husked paddy is worshiped as embodying the goddess, from the sixteenth century till today. Rice and Lakshmi are interchangeable concepts in local imagination.


Lakshmi being the provider of food is still worshiped and feared in an agrarian society like Odisha and women still observe the rituals with devotion lest her displeasure would affect the harvest of rice and bring about starvation. This also ensured care and attention to the process of rice production. During the annual worship of Lakshmi, women recite the story of the Purana which was written by Balaram Das.

The story of the Purana reads like this:

Once Lakshmi in disguise went out of the temple of Puri and wanted to see how her devotees were worshiping her on her designated day. She was disappointed because nobody was worshiping her except one untouchable woman. Lakshmi went to her house and being pleased granted her a number of boons. On her return, her husband, Jagannath, adequately incited by his brother Balaram, rebuked her and asked her to leave the temple since she had become an out caste by visiting an untouchable household. Being offended by their lack of appreciation of her visit to a devotee irrespective of caste, she cursed them to be deprived of food until she offered food to them.

She vowed to teach both the brothers a lesson by showing her own capabilities. Since she was in charge of all the food grains of the mortal world and also in charge of household affairs, she saw to it that both the brothers did not get any food. She resorted to this punishing act as she felt that otherwise men of the mortal world would not care for their women.

Being deprived of food, the brothers roamed around and finally landed on the doorstep of the same household where Lakshmi had been living. Lakshmi fed them well by declaring herself as an untouchable. Jagannath realized his fault and promised her autonomy of free movement among her devotees without any caste bar and that members of all castes would share the offerings to him together without being an out caste. Incidentally, the offerings to Jagannath comprise cooked rice even now.

As mentioned in the story, women were in charge of the food grains for the household but also working the rice field. The Bhakti movement of the 16th century started as a protest movement against the stratified social structure and patriarchy. In this story from Lakshmi Purana, not only does Lakshmi assert her autonomy, but she also values women’s work and at the same time challenges caste discrimination.

Rangoli made of rice flour and dias, oil lamps.


Hindus worship Lakshmi the third day of Diwali, the festival of lights, this is when Lakshmi Puja. Devotees will clean their houses, decorate them with finery and lights, and prepare sweet treats, like keehr and other delicacies as offerings.

On this day, the mothers, are recognized by the family. Mothers are seen to embody a part of Lakshmi, the good fortune and prosperity of the household.

People wear new clothes or their best outfits as the evening approaches. According to tradition people would put small oil lamps outside their homes and open doors and windows to let her in.

It is popularly believed that Lakshmi likes cleanliness and will visit the cleanest house first. Hence, the broom is worshiped with offerings of haldi (turmeric) and sindoor (vermilion) on this day.

Devotees believe the happier Lakshmi is with the visit, the more she blesses the family with health and wealth. The kind family we where living with in Rishikesh would feed us the whole week of Diwali, offering us delicious sweets also on this day.

Learn more about Diwali

Lakshmi Puja

“Our Indian mother, as we called her, would sing while cleaning her house temple and prepare offerings for Lakshmi.”

Sandal paste, saffron paste, garland of cotton beads or flowers, attar (perfume), turmeric, kumkum, abir, and gulal are offered to the Goddess. Flowers and garlands, such as Lotus, Marigold, Rose, Chrysanthemum and leaves of Bael (wood apple tree) are also offered. An incense stick is lit and dhoop is given to her.

Sweets, coconut, fruits, and tambul is made later. Puffed rice and batasha (varieties of Indian sweets) are placed near the idol. Puffed rice, batasha, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds are poured or offered to her idol.

In villages, a pot made of bamboo-canes measuring the paddy known as Nana’ is filled up to the brink with freshly harvest paddy. Rice and lentils are also kept with the paddy. The ‘Mana’ is the symbol of Maha Lakshmi.

It is customary to read out the holy book, the Eulogy, “Lakshmi Purana” while performing the pooja

After the pooja, people go outside and celebrate by lighting up patakhe (fireworks). The children enjoy sparklers and variety of small fireworks, while adults enjoy playing with rockets and bigger fireworks. The fireworks signify celebration of Diwali as well a way to chase away evil spirits.

First Feeding Ceremony

Rice plays a central role in the Hindu ceremony of annaprashana, a ritualized first feeding, as it is the first solid food placed in a baby’s mouth.

The ceremony is conducted in the baby’s sixth or seventh month, depending on local customs and the health of the child, and is arranged by a priest. Simple boiled rice or a sweet rice pudding, kheer is prepared by the mother or grandmother of the child under the chanting of mantras.

The most special offering to Lord Ganesha is the modakam, a ball of sweet coconut/jaggery, covered with a thick rice paste, also a first food fed a child.

Education Initiation Ceremony

The Vidyarambham ceremony initiates Hindu children into the world of education by exposing them to their first letters. During the ceremony, a child is assisted to form letters in a plate covered with dry rice grains. The letters are generally a mantra of prosperity that is again written with gold on the child’s tongue. Rice is utilized in this ceremony as it represents fortune and blessings for the prosperous development of the child.

Griha Pravesh

Griha Pravesh- happens when the bride enters her husband’s home for the first time.
At the threshold a kalash or jar of rice, is kept. The bride pushes and topples this jar with her right foot while entering the home.  In some parts of India, she may even be required to dip her feet in water containing ‘red kumkum’ or vermillion powder. This way; she leaves her footprints across the home as she walks, signifying that the Goddess of Wealth or Laxmi has entered, bringing success and prosperity to the groom.
Hence, the post-wedding Griha Pravesh ceremony is the medium in which the bride puts first step at her in-laws and starts a new passage in her life.

The extents of Myths, History and Folklore of the mother goddess are hardly to be seized here, there is still much more to discover.

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