Followed by Karadayan nonbu, Gyanopadesam attempts at explaining the significance of Varalakshmi nonbu/vrata, performed by married women especially in southern part of the country: Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala.
Varalakshmi Vratam is performed by married women to the Goddess Varalakshmi (one who offers boon). The vratham is usually performed on the last Friday before the full moon day, in the month of Shravan/Aadi. In the day, women pray the God by performing a kalasa pooja dedicated to Varalakshmi, asking for their husband’s long life, prosperity and happiness of their family members. They believe that performing this pooja gives them the boon they want.
It is said that Varalakshmi Vratham was suggested to Goddess Parvathi by Lord Shiva based on the story that happened in Kundinpura village: There was a woman called Sarumathi in the village, in whose dream the Goddess Lakshmi came and asked her to pray to her by performing a Vrata Pooja. Sarumathi gathered her village women and they prayed together to the goddess by chanting the sloka,
“Padmaasane Padmakare sarva lokaika poojithe
Narayana priyadevi supreethaa bhava sarvada”
Meaning: One who is sitting in the lotus, holding lotuses, one who is prayed by the entire universe, One Who is very dear to Lord Narayana, Please always be benevolent to me.
When the vratham was over, the women found their houses decked up with riches and prosperity. From then, the vratham is said to be followed every year, on the Friday before Poornima in the Shravana Maasa. Moreover, as there is a legend that this Vratha is recommended by Parameshwara to his consort Parvathi for the family’s happiness, the vratham signifies the equality between the two mighty Gods: Shiva and Vishnu.
Ritual of Varalakshmi Vratam
The puja begins by arranging the kalasa or what is known as the sacred pot. The pot is filled up with water and rice symbolizing prosperity. It is then covered with mango as well as betel leaves. Then a coconut that is smeared with vermillion and turmeric powder is placed on the Kalasha. A new cloth is placed on the coconut. Some decorate the Kalasha with jewels to make it appear more beautiful. The puja starts with the worship of Lord Ganesha, who is considered to help in getting rid of obstacles as well as evil forces. Subsequently, the devotees invoke Goddess Varalakshmi to enter the Kalasha. Then torams ( it consists of nine threads with about nine knots) are worshipped and one is tied around the Kalasha, while another one is tied on the right hand of the woman, who is performing the puja. Then they chant Lakshmi Ashtottara Shatanamam (it is a list consisting of a hundred names praising the Goddess). Nine types of sweets, as well as savouries, are offered to the Goddess. Hymns are sung in praise of the deity. Another woman is invited; who is considered to be Goddess Varalakshmi and sweets as well savouries are offered. In the evening all the ladies in the locality are invited and are offered tamboolam (betel leaves, betel nuts fruits, turmeric as well as dakshna(money). Together they sing songs in praise of the Goddess.
In Hinduism, there are eight forces believed to be personified as Ashta Lakshmis, that are listed as follows.
- Sri (Wealth),
- Bhu (Earth),
- Sarasvati (learning),
- Priti (love),
- Kirti (Fame),
- Santi (Peace),
The above eight forces are called as Ashta Lakshmi and these abstract forces are beyond the understanding of human beings. However, the rhythmic play of these forces plays an important role in obtaining health, wealth and prosperity. Performing Varalakshmi Vratam is intended to obtain the significant three factors: health, wealth and prosperity by worshipping the above eight forces in the form of eight goddesses (ashta lakshmi).