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Consort of Vishnu

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 5:36 AM
Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and fortune, who provides Vishnu with the wherewithal to preserve the world Modern calendar art
Vishnu's Shakti

On Vishnu's chest is a beautiful curl of golden hair called Shreevatsa. It is the symbol of Shree-Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and fortune, his consort.

When the goddess rose from the ocean of milk, she found only Vishnu the detached guardian of the cosmos, the upright keeper of dharma to be worthy of her affection. She became his Shakti, source of his strength and splendor, invigorating him with her presence. Vishnu became Shreenath, her lord.

Vishnu is the soul of the universe; Lakshmi its substance. He is the protector; she the provider. They are the divine couple who nurture life.

Lakshmi Leaves Vaikuntha

Whenever Vishnu returned to Vaikuntha, tired after his battles with demons, Lakshmi would invigorate him with her affectionate touch.

Once, while Vishnu was resting, the sage Bhrigu entered Vaikuntha. Neither Vishnu nor Lakshmi saw him arrive. Insulted, Bhrigu kicked Vishnu on his chest shouting, "How can you sleep when someone is calling on you?"

Bhrigu's insolence horrified Lakshmi. To her surprise, the lord placed his hand on Bhrigu's foot and asked, "Did you hurt yourself by kicking me?"

:- Bhrigu kicking Vishnu on his chest; Comic book illustration The sage was touched by the lord's concern. Lakshmi was not. "Bhrigu kicked you on your chest, on Shreevatsa, and by doing so kicked me. Avenge this insult." She demanded angrily.

"I cannot harm one who is my guest," said the lord. Considering this an affront to her dignity, Lakshmi disappeared from Vaikuntha.

The Separation

Without Lakshmi beside him, Vishnu could not bear to live in Vaikuntha. He descended upon earth and waited for her under a banyan tree, refusing to move until she returned.

As time passed termites built a hill round him, covering his body completely.

Birds and beasts were stunned by the lord's plight. Cows rushed to the banyan tree and began shedding milk over the termite hill to nourish the lord. Touched by their devotion, Vishnu promised them eternal grace.

The Reunion

Vishnu and Lakshmi in loving embrace; Temple carving from Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Bhrigu, the cause of Lakshmi's ire and Vishnu's anguish, was consumed by guilt. He took it upon himself to reunite the divine couple. He went near the termite hill and began kicking the cows.

The cows cried out and Vishnu rushed to their rescue, striking the offender with his mace.

"Ah, the lord has punished me for hurting Lakshmi whose spirit rests in every cow," shouted Bhrigu.

Hearing this, Lakshmi was pleased and she reappeared to join her husband in Vaikuntha.

Lakshmi's Promise

Lakshmi said to her lord, "Wherever you are in the three worlds, I shall always be by your side."

"Should anyone try to take you away from me, I shall fight and win you back," said Vishnu.

When Vishnu descended upon earth, Lakshmi joined him as Rama's Sita and as Krishna's Radha and his Rukmini. And when the lord was Yagna-purusha, the god of sacrifice, she was Dakshina, goddess of charity.

Shreedevi and Bhoodevi

Go-Mata, the cow who nourishes the whole cosmos; Calendar print Vishnu's chief consort Shree-Lakshmi, goddess of power, fortune and splendor was fickle and demanding. In contrast, Vishnu's other consort, Bhoodevi, the earth-goddess, was faithful and submissive.

Both vied for Vishnu's attention.

When Indra gifted the parijata tree to Vishnu, both wanted it to be planted in their respective gardens, separated by a very high wall.

Bhoodevi, proud of her generative powers, argued that as she was the earth-goddess only she had the right to nurture the plant.

Vishnu gave her the celestial tree, but decreed that its flowers would always fall on the other side of the wall into Shreedevi's garden.

Shreedevi was delighted with her lord's decision. She taunted Bhoodevi, "The lord has given you the responsibility of the plant, while making sure it is I who derive real pleasure from it."

To humble Shreedevi, Vishnu said, "This plant will only bloom when I enter Bhoodevi's garden. Each time Shreedevi finds the parijata in bloom, she will have to endure the knowledge that her husband is with someone else."

Saraswati, Ganga and Yamuna

Vishnu, the benevolent lord, flanked by Shreedevi, goddess of heavenly fortune and Bhoodevi, goddess of earthly wealth; South Indian bronze idols
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, said, "Vishnu is Vidyapati, the patron of science, philosophy and the arts. Time and again he has rescued my children, the Vedas and the Shastras, from demons. Surely he cares for me more than anyone else."

Ganga and Yamuna, the river-goddesses, disagreed. "Vishnu is Jalashayin, the keeper of the cosmic waters. He loves us most."

Lakshmi said, "The whole world knows Vishnu as Madhava, consort of Ma, that is me, the mother of the three worlds. He may be your guardian, but he loves none but me."

The goddesses began arguing when the lord appeared before them and said, "Saraswati, the goddess of sound and speech, sits on the tip of my tongue. Ganga flows out of my right foot, Yamuna out of my left. Lakshmi resides in my heart."

Thus did Vishnu make peace with all the goddesses.

Abduction of Lakshmi

The demons once found Vishnu in deep meditation. "Let us carry Lakshmi away to Patala. With her by our side we will be rich and powerful," they said.

Vishnu and Lakshmi in Vaikuntha; Rajasthani haveli painting
But when they brought Lakshmi to the nether-world, she began to weep and the asuras began experiencing great sorrow.

"So long as there are tears in the eyes of Lakshmi, there will be misery in Patala," revealed Shukra, preceptor of the demons.

"Why is she crying?" asked the asuras.

"You have wrenched her away from her lord. She can give you all the material comfort you want, but without Vishnu, she cannot give you any peace of mind."

Realising their foolishness, the demons let Lakshmi return to Vaikuntha. As she went away, they lost their wealth and power, but there was joy in their hearts.

Those who seek both spiritual bliss and material delight, worship both the lord and his consort, taking her name before his: 'Sita-Rama, Radhe-Shyam, Lakshmi-Narayana'.

Writer Name:- Devdutt Pattanaik

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