The asurs heard about it and demanded a share of the ‘amrit’; thus it came about that both the devtas and asurs decided to churn the ocean together and share the nectar. Narayan quietly promised the devtas that he would himself play such a trick that the ‘devtas’ would get the entire benefit of the ‘amrit’ and the asurs would get nothing at the time of distribution.
Many valuable gifts the ocean gave to the asurs. Then all of a sudden like a streak of lightning appeared a most beautiful and gracious woman sitting on a lotus, carrying a garland of the same flower. Everyone stopped working as they were bewitched by so much beauty. Everyone wanted her, but she was the one to choose a husband for herself as women in those days were the ones who selected their life partners and were given full freedom in their choice.
Everyone tried to please her with beautiful gifts and great praise in an effort to entice her, but she found some fault or the other in all until she saw Narayan — calm and serene and without passion that seem to affect all others. Laxmi walked straight to him and put the garland round his neck and stood by his side but the Lord placed her on His chest and they both glowed like lightning in a thunder storm. After that He could do nothing without her.
There is a story about the plight of Narayan without her at ‘Tirupati temple’ at ‘Tirumalai’ in Tamil Nadu in the south of India. Narayan to this day is asking his devotees to give Him wealth and in exchange He will fulfill any and every desire of the devotees — the more he gives the more he will receive from the Lord, and very quickly at that, because the Lord is in great debt!!
All this came about because once the great ‘rishis’ decided on performing a great yagya and at the end of it Rishi Brigu was given the task of finding out who amongst the three great Gods — Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh — was fit to receive the first offering.
At the end of the yagya, Brigu took the offering to ‘Brahm Lok’ in search of Brahma, but found him engrossed with his wife Saraswati and they did not even hear him come! This annoyed the rishi and he proceeded to Kailash in search of Shiva.
He too was busy making love to his wife Parvati and paid no heed to Rishi Brigu. Containing his anger he thought he will still try out Vishnu and went straight to Vaikunt, the abode of Vishnu and Laxmi. They also seemed to be oblivious to everything except themselves. The rishi turned to go in great anger at the disrespect shown to a learned man by even ‘Vishnu and Laxmi, but at that moment Vishnu saw him and caught hold of his feet.
Brigu was so incensed that he kicked Vishnu on his chest, still the God did not let go off his hold and appealed for forgiveness since even ‘Gods’ cannot show disrespect to the great amongst the mortals. This annoyed Laxmi who told Narayan in no uncertain terms that he had no business to plead with a person who had kicked her dwelling place — ‘the heart of the Lord’! — But Narayan kept on asking for forgiveness from Brigu. So Laxmi left Vishnu and Vaikunt Lok and returned to her father — ‘the ocean’.
Vishnu suddenly lost all his glory and riches and became very poor and powerless to do anything anymore. He loved Laxmi very much. So he made his way somehow to the ocean to find his wife and bring her back.
The Lord of the Ocean refused to part with his daughter and return her to one who had scant regard for her. For a long time he did not choose to hear the pleading of the distraught husband but finding that even his daughter was really very fond of the Lord and didn’t really want to forsake him — he relented but on the condition that Vishnu would give him riches beyond human imagination and dreams — before he could take her again.
The poor Lord didn’t know where to get the money that his father-in-law demanded. Without Laxmi he was penniless. He thought hard and suddenly thought of Kuber — Ravan’s half-brother — who had so much wealth that no one could fathom. He at once went to Kuber.
After listening to Narayan’s tale of woe Kuber agreed to loan him the money on a very heavy interest, which had to be paid back before the cycle of time — before pralay vanquished everyone and everything. The Lord promised that He will do so.
That is how Narayan made his abode at Tirupati and made it the centre of collection of funds from the human race. All and sundry would get their wishes fulfilled in return for funds, the more one gives, the more quickly his desire will be fulfilled.
Now in Kalyug the last quarter of time he still owes Kuber the interest on the loan and therefore he is in a hurry to get over with his commitment. Of course Laxmi is now with Him. Therefore, there is no dearth of money flowing into the hundies of Tirupati, but the amount of interest is huge and no one knows exactly what remains to be given still.
Therefore, those who go to Tirupati temple in the town of Tirumalai and give generously are also rewarded generously. Even prized possessions are accepted if they injure no one. Therefore people have their hair shaved as offering since one of the most prized and beautiful possession of a human being is his or her hair; except for the looks it does not harm the person as it grows again.
Tirupati is the most worshipped shrine in India today and Lord Vishnu is the richest deity of the world because the amount received by the ‘hundies’ (a large cloth bag with its opening high but absolutely open). People put lakhs and crores in it quietly, and no one is the wiser as to who has put what in it! At the end of the day the temple trustees count up the takings and with it are run big hospitals, universities and schools and other charitable institutions for the benefit of the inhabitants of the human race. Of course Vishnu receives it and is happy for it is being used for the benefit of the people of whom he is in charge and for whom in any case he has to provide all the facilities required.
Sri is another name for riches and another name for Laxmi. She on her own can bestow riches but cannot remain at one place for long, because of a curse of Ganga and Saraswati and so is also known as Rama — one who is always on the move and fickle by nature.
She is also known as Chanchal and no one can be ever sure when she will decide to leave. She has no qualms about how she comes and she often comes through dubious means or from the back door, therefore, her route can be through gutters and filthy paths.
That is why during Diwali — the day of Laxmi puja — lighted diyas are a must near drains, dustbins and back entrance. Gamblers and thieves can get rich by wrongful means. But Laxmi does not remain until good is done by the people who have her and who must benefit other people.
Laxmi has become one of the most worshipped ‘deity’ by the Hindus as wealth and beauty are the most desired by the people, although Ganesh has to be worshipped first, a picture or idol of Laxmi will always be in every household even if Narayan is not there. On Diwali it is ‘Ganesh, Laxmi’ that are the paramount deities of the day. Ganesh — because no worship can take place without first worshipping him and Laxmi because it is her day (night).
Laxmi is a docile and obedient wife and seldom gets annoyed with her husband but has been known to curse him now and then. Laxmi accompanies her spouse in his ‘avtars’ and was Sita with Ram and Radha (some prefer Satyabhama, since Radha was not Krishna’s wife) with Krishna in the most well-known ‘avtars’ of Narayan.
She is shown sitting or standing on a ‘lotus’ when by herself and has four hands — one holding the open lotus — the other may hold a golden pitcher with mango leaves and a coconut on top of it. The third and fourth, both pointing down, have gold coins falling continuously from them. When shown with Narayan she is shown with only two hands.
In some images she is supported by Narayan with his left arm around her waist while she has her right arm round his shoulder. She is also shown with Narayan reclining on ‘Adishesh’ floating on the eternal waters after the dissolution of the world. Laxmi and Vishnu are also shown as one and their combined image called Laxmi Narayan emphasising that they are one and cannot be separated.
Laxmi is called by various names in the Hindu scriptures, she is Shree — meaning glory and Indira because she was very pleased with Inder, the chief of the devtas, singing her praise. Kamla and Padama as she came out of the ocean sitting on a lotus carrying also a lotus garland. Lok Mata because she is the one who gives riches for the humans to be able to live. Haripriya, the beloved of Hari (Vishnu).
Although Vishnu’s abode is Vaikunt, he is most often floating on the ocean bed reclining on the serpent ‘Adishesh’. The name Narayan means one who resides in water and since Laxmi is the daughter of the ocean Vishnu became Ghar Jamai and if he can be one, so can a human being. No stigma is attached to Him on this account in the view of the Hindu thought and its scriptures.
Laxmi is the chosen deity of the Vaisyas or the trader class and every shop or trading place or a home of a Vaisya is never without a picture of Laxmi along with Ganesh.
All Hindus worship Laxmi as, without her, one is helpless. Diwali is the most lavish festival of the Hindus. It is celebrated day and night when Laxmi is worshipped with great joy and gusto. Houses are white-washed and cleaned thoroughly. Lamps are lighted and the houses decorated with shining and beautiful things.
Everyone is dressed in shining and clean clothes, and jewels, gold chains in the necks, arms and ears of the women of the house since Laxmi loves glitter and loves to be amongst people of prosperity and riches. They have to be very careful with her, and not let her slip out of their hands. She can come through ways of adharm and can leave by that way also, therefore, gamble with care (Gambling is more or less a must during Diwali) for the jingle of coins delights Laxmi — but remember she is Rama and Chanchal and is quick to leave. Her vehicle is the owl.