As the summer sun begins to wane (well, it is still pretty hot here in Bangalore though!), a significant festival in Hindu culture sets the stage for the grandeur of the upcoming festive season. Varalakshmi Puja, a veneration of the goddess of wealth and prosperity, marks the beginning of a series of wonderful festivities. And when I say wealth and prosperity here, this refers not only to the financial aspects of it but also spiritual wealth and abundance in other good things for life as well as overall well-being.
So Goddess Lakshmi is the one to approach for a life of abundance in everything!
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Lakshmi: The Goddess of Wealth
Varalakshmi literally translates to the Lakshmi who grants boons (vara meaning boon). As some of you might already know, Goddess Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, fortune, and beauty. In Hindu mythology, Lakshmi is the consort of Lord Vishnu, one of the principal deities of the Hindu trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva).
Many festivals throughout the year celebrate the goddess, including Diwali, and the Varalakshmi vratham or pooja observed on Aug 25th this year (based on the Tamil/Hindu calendar). I just finished celebrating this one.
In the Tamil calendar, you will see that the months of May, June, and July are figuratively and literally dry (heat waves everywhere and not too many festivals mark these three months). I wonder now if our ancients decided to keep these months free of festivities because of the weather!
Varalakshmi Puja to Celebrate the Goddess of Wealth
This is a festival celebrated by women, and is known for both its spiritual significance and its festive fervor. Women worship the goddess for their own well-being as well as that of their spouse and family. It is believed that praying to the goddess Varalakshmi is equivalent to praying to eight different Lakshmis (eight different forms of the goddess Lakshmi, also known as the Ashtalakshmi – with ashta meaning eight). The Ashtalakshmi are the eight goddesses of Wealth, Earth, Wisdom, Love, Fame, Peace, Contentment, and Strength.
Below is a photo from celebrating this at my home this year.
The Social Factor
The festival does manage to bring people out of their homes from the days before itself, as was evident by the sudden onset of larger crowds on Thursday this week. My brother’s commute back home tripled literally to almost three hours due to this! If you wonder how many people live in a city, just head to the markets on the day before such festivals!!
Jokes aside, Indian festivals have a social aspect to it. Festivals like this one are a way for women to socialize, to invite other women home, and to hand them fruits, sweetmeats, and other small yet useful and often delightful gift articles (like a little goody bag!)
The Goddess of Wealth Marks the Start: The Next Five
Varalakshmi Puja serves as a precursor to a series of major Hindu festivals that follow in the calendar, such as Raksha Bandhan/Avani Avittam, Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Navaratri, and Diwali. It is seen as a way to invoke blessings for a prosperous and joyful festival season ahead.
I realized 3/4s of the way through writing this post that I wrote one with a similar theme in mind last year but since I decided to leave this one here anyways. Simply because… and I am trying to include more books for each one..
Raksha Bandhan and Avani Avittam
(on Aug 30 this year)
These are actually two different festivals that I put together for they tend to fall on the same day (almost). Raksha Bandhan is a festival traditionally celebrated in northern Indian states (but now all over the country). It celebrates the bond between siblings, and one that I cherish a lot. Traditionally, sisters tie the rakhi (a decorated thread) around their brother’s wrist. In return, the brother promises to take care of their sister and protect them, and also offer a gift as token! Of course, today, siblings tie the rakhis to each other regardless of whether brothers or sisters, and gifts are a fun exchange.
These rakhis from Indotribe sure appeal, and while I normally ship a rakhi to my brother, this time since I am going to be in India on the day of, I can just get one locally and tie it to my brother.
Avani Avittam (also known as Upakarma) is a Vedic ritual with spiritual leanings, and marks progress in one’s life (mostly observed by the Brahmin community).
- Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers by Rajani LaRocca and illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat (3 – 6 years, and up)
- Thread of Love by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal (Author) and illustrated by Zara Gonzalez Hoang (Baby – 8 years, and up)
This festival marks the birthday of one of the most beloved Indian gods – Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. Each region of India celebrates the god and this festival in their own unique way. In our home, the tradition is to welcome Krishna home by enticing him with his favorite delicacies, and lots of butter!
We also make sure he knows the way home by drawing little footprints, representing Krishna as an infant, from the threshold of the house till the prayer room. When my kids were toddlers themselves, I simply dipped their feet in rice flour mixed with water and lo, I had little footprints! Later, it was a different story.. the letter 8 skewed to each side for each foot with a flat top (or not) and 5 tiny toes above that (one fore each foot).
- Let’s Celebrate Krishna’s Birthday! (Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series, Book 12) by Ajanta Chakraborty and Vivek Kumar (8 – 12 years, and up)
- Krishna (Amar Chitra Katha)
Vinayakar Chaturthi or Ganesh Chathurthi celebrates the remover of obstacles and the god of new beginnings, the Hindu God Ganesha. In fact, no matter the festival and the god we are celebrating for it (like the festivals for Varalakshmi and Krishna above), we first pay obeisance to Ganesha.
For this festival itself, in our home, we make a clay idol (or sometimes flour/turmeric) of the god and pray to him. Depending on the traditions of each family/culture, we keep the idol at home for a set number of days (odd numbered usually) and then immerse it in body of water, returning the god to the elements. In my case, I immerse the idol in a bucket of water and then use it for our roses.
- Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel (picture book for 4 – 8 years, and up)
- 99 Thoughts on Ganesha by Devdutt Patnaik (Hinduism/Spirituality). Patnaik is a name to reckon with when it comes to books on Hindu mythology and spirituality, and this book is no different.
- Ganesha Goes to Lunch: Classics From Mystic India by Kamla Kapur (Folklore and Mythology)
- E is for Elephants – Facts, Stories, and Reads
The Navratri festival comes shortly after (this year in mid October). It is celebrated all across India, with unique traditions in each region. And no matter how it is done, it is always a celebration of womanhood, of all the different forms of a woman.
- Ten Wonderful Stories for Dussehra (and Typographical Covers 2)
- Navratri Golu: The Stories of the Marapachi Dolls and More
- 9 Great Books for the Indian festival of Navratri
Then there is Deepavali or Diwali, the grand festival of lights! Read more about the festival in these posts linked below
- Five For Friday: Fascinating Facts About Diwali & More
- 7 Great Children’s Books About Diwali
- Diwali: Then Now and Later
- South Indian Hindu Festival and Traditions by Maithily Jagannathan (Abhinav Publications; 1st edition | August 1, 2006). This book is proving to be an enlightening read for me though I am aware of many of the festivals and traditions in the book.
- Material Acts in Everyday Hindu Worlds by Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger (
- The Little Book of Hindu Deities: From the Goddess of Wealth to the Sacred Cow by Sanjay Patel
And Now, the End of This Post
As families and communities come together to worship Goddess Varalakshmi and seek her blessings, they also embrace the values of prosperity, unity, and inner wealth that form the essence of the festival. In this way, Varalakshmi Puja beautifully ushers in the spirit of joy and togetherness that defines the Indian festival season.
Dear reader, hope you enjoyed this post. Which festival appeals to you most? Which book would you pick for yourself first? As always, I welcome your thoughts and recommendations