The serene existence of magnificent Maha-Lakshmi temple amidst the commotion of a busy traffic signal across Sarasbagh in Pune might strike as rather odd. Built with pristine white marble in Dravidian architectural style, the temple opened to public for worship in 1984 and has since been held of great religious significance in the city. Devotees can instantly feel a sense of calm and peace dawning upon them as they walk through the elaborately carved entrance. Tranquility takes over as their bare feet touch the cold marble beneath. They are mesmerized as they take each step through the line of pillars and walls carved in intricate patterns leading up to the Idols of Sri Mahsaraswati, Sri Maha-Lakshmi and Sri Mahakali. Pune’s Maha-Lakshmi temple is a site worth visiting.
Lakshmi is the goddess of affluence and abundance and her pictures adorn shops, business establishments and homes. She is said to be the goddess of 16 forms of worldly wealths including fame, courage, victory etc. Maha-Lakshmi is an incarnation of goddess Lakshmi. While Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, portrayed as standing on a lotus, Maha-Lakshmi’s iconography portrays her riding a lion like Durga. She is particularly popular in Maharashtra. She is said to be the root of all creations.
Goddess Lakshmi is often taken to be a “restless” goddess who comes and leaves without warning! Good fortune come and leave without apparent reasons! That is why in order to please Vaibhav Lakshmi (goddess of riches) some people observe a fast on Fridays. It is considered to be an auspicious day to invite Lakshmi home to replenish wealth and fortune.
The person observing the fast has to wake up early in the morning, clean the house, bath and wear clean clothes. Cleaning the house is an essential part of the fasting ritual for Lakshmi is known to abhor untidy homes and lazy people.
The ritual of puja is performed which begins with the decoration of the puja alter with flowers. There are three ways of performing the puja. Either an idol of Lakshmi, or a four sided oil lamp or a copper kalash filled with rice is placed on the alter. If a lamp is used, it is lit and decorated with vermilion and rice. In case of a kalash, it is filled with rice and decorated with mango leaves and inverted dry coconut. Incense sticks are lighted and a sweet is offered as a prasad. With folded hands the person has to chant Lakshmi mantras or a single mantra is to be chanted 108 times on a Rudraksha mala or Kamal gatta mala. The puja culminates with an arti and distribution of prasad. If a rice filled kalash is used, after the puja the rice is mixed with the stock of rice in the house. The person who is fasting has to give up food during the day and eat a simple meal at night.
Popular festivals of Diwali and Kojagiri Purima are the two main Hindu festivals when Lakshmi is celebrated and worshipped in all its grandeur.
Her popularity is evident from the fact that the Indian equivalents of English titles Mr. and Mrs. are the prefixes Sri and Srimati, the sacred names of Lakshmi. It signifies that the married men and women have the blessings of goddess Lakshmi to sustain and perpetuate life. If you are seeking affluence in something, the prefix or suffix Lakshmi or Sri is added to it e.g. Shanti Sri (abundance of peace), Rajya Lakshmi (wealth of empire).
Numerous equivalents of Lakshmi are found in other Asian cultures. Kishijoten in Japan, Vasundhara in Tibet and Nepal and Dewi Sri in Indonesia are some of the close analogues of Indian goddess Lakshmi.
Interestingly and ironically, in religions like Buddhism and Jainism which preach and practice worldly renunciation, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is greatly revered and worshipped.