1. Discover Lakshmi Symbols
There are many ways that Lakshmi can be invoked (and recognized) through symbols that are said to represent her or represent an aspect of her.
Conch Shell (Shankha)
The conch is very sacred to Lakshmi's consort, Vishnu. It was also one of the things that emerged with her during the churning of the sea. It symbolizes infinite space. It also symbolizes her aspect of Mahalakshmi, the mother of the universe. The shell is a sacred instrument as well. It is blown like a horn or used to funnel water for sacred ceremonies. You can keep one on your altar as a symbol of Lakshmi and Vishnu or use it for pouring blessed water during rituals. You can also bless yourself, and others, by pouring blessed water on your head, hands, and feet, with a blessing for healing, health, and wealth.
Cowry Shells (Kowki)
It is said that during Samudra Manthan, the churning of the ocean, Lakshmi emerged along with other holy gifts, including cowry shells. The small shells are a favorite rare treasure from the milky sea and are associated with wealth, prosperity, and abundance. They are used in religious ceremonies, such as puja for Lakshmi, and in honoring Lakshmi and Kubera. They are also kept in the household, or a sacred money box, as a symbol of attracting money, improving finances, and bringing in new opportunities. Eleven cowry shells is an auspicious number.
She is usually depicted with four arms. Each has its own significance and represents a successful life. It is her arms that distribute loving blessings and embrace us with divine motherly love. Her arms represent the four pillars of Hinduism.
- Dharma (righteous living, duty)
- Kama (worldly pleasure, desire)
- Artha (prosperity, material wealth)
- Moksha (spiritual liberation, salvation, enlightenment)
Her front hands are in Abhaya mudra and Varada mudra, meaning one protects and the other bestows boons. "Her right lower hand is held in Abhaya Mudra (the pose signifying assurance of freedom from fear)," says Gyan Rajhans, in Lakshmi and Her Symbols. "The Gita says fear is caused by unfulfilled desires. The ultimate gift of the goddess is the blessing of deliverance from fears."
Coins are a symbol of the abundance she pours forth upon the universe and are also a symbol of abundance coming into your life. Psychologically they make people feel rich, but they also represent the idea that Lakshmi is raining prosperity upon her devotees from every direction. Traditional gold coins, often called Lakshmi Lotus Puja Coins, come in a batch of 108. They are small, light coins with the image of Lakshmi on one side and an image of a lotus on the other. They are made of gold-plated copper. They are used for Lakshmi puja on Diwali and other times. They can also be left as offerings to her on her altar year-round to honor her abundant, golden nature. Gold coins do not only represent money. They also symbolize a deep sense of prosperity in all aspects of life, as well as the richness of the soul.
The elephants came to Lakshmi the day she arose from the sea and showered her with sacred waters, performing an Abhishekam ritual. They have never left her. In this form, she is called Gajalakshmi, also known as Lakshmi with elephants. She is often pictured with a pair, at either side, showering her from their trunks. There may be four or eight elephants with her. Elephants are considered very auspicious. They are affiliated with luck and wisdom and represent Ganesha. When four elephants are pictured, some believe they represent the four directions—north, south, east, and west. They are also said to symbolize the tenants of the Hindu faith: Kama, Dharma, Artha, and Moksha. When elephants pour from a golden vessel, it means those aspects must be continuously strengthened with wisdom, purity, and charity. According to the ancient Indian practice of Vatsu, elephant art and statues can also help bring auspicious energy to your home and office.
Lakshmi is often pictured with a pot in her arms. It is a symbol of abundance and richness. From it, she pours the infinite resources of the universe, often in the form of holy water or gold coins. The Kalasha is also used in many ways in Hindu rituals, including in the creation of sacred icons for worship. For Lakshmi puja, sometimes a pot is used to build a Lakshmi icon. This is done by placing a beautiful ceramic face, known as a Varalakshmi mask, in the opening and wrapping it in sari material. Sometimes the pot is used to hold a coconut. You will often see Hindu priests using these pots as sacred containers for offering to Lakshmi during Abhishekam. Items are never poured on her through jars and containers, so the priest will fill the kalasha with milk, basil water, and other offerings to bathe her. The pot is then used to wash her with clear water. A kalasha can be purchased in a Hindu ritual supply store or online. It is a symbol of Lakshmi, and even a small version can help bring her energy home. It can also be used to hold gold coins. Even if you fill it with play money gold coins, it will look like Lakshmi's pot of gold is blessing your home or ritual.
Lakshmi's Feet (Paduka)
While the feet of Lakshmi are a special feature of Diwali, people also keep them in their puja room, home, office, or business year-round. They can also be found in temples and holy shrines. They are said to act as a wealth magnet and also protect her devotees from misery and financial sorrows. This holy aspect of Lakshmi is believed to invite her to walk into your abode or holy place to bring her boons and blessings. For this reason, you want to place her feet in areas that show her walking into your abode from numerous angles. Perhaps you can place her feet at the front entrance, as well as the back and side doors. They should be facing inward, never walking outward or outside the house. Paduka is available in many forms. They can be seen on the floor in the form of artistic rangoli and as pre-made decorations in multiple sizes. They come in acrylic, wood, ceramic, stone, brass, and other materials. A popular form is small charms. Known as Lakshmi Charan Paduka, these are tiny versions of her feet that can be used in her worship and on your Lakshmi altar. Sometimes they are pasted at the entrance of a building. They are often sold in multiples to be used in numerous areas, symbolizing wealth coming in from all directions.
Lakshmi is the goddess of the Lotus, a symbol of purity. She is often pictured standing or sitting upon the pink lotus. Many Divine Beings are pictured on a lotus. Gods and goddesses are not subject to earthly laws, so their feet never touch the ground. All parts of the lotus are symbolic, yet the whole flower is a symbol of beauty, happiness, purity, and eternal renewal, like Lakshmi herself. The two lotus flowers in her back hands signify gifts of the spirit. Lotus is the national flower of India.
One of the names of Goddess Lakshmi is Ulkavahini, the one who rides an owl. The owl is considered her vahana, which is an animal or mythical entity that is used as a sacred vehicle. It is sometimes called a "mount" because it is her transportation to where she needs to go. The owl represents loyalty, penetrating sight, and intelligence. If you look closely, you will find images and statues of her with her owl. While the Greek goddess Athena has made us accustomed to seeing an owl on the shoulder of a goddess, Lakshmi's owl is often sitting by her foot or close to her lap.
Prayer Beads (Kamal Gatta Mala)
This powerful mala is made of 108 dried lotus seeds and is considered a sacred rosary to Lakshmi. It is said to help people overcome financial hardships and difficulties and invite in prosperity and new possibilities. The mala honors one of Lakshmi's holy 108 names, Kamalvaasini, which means one who sits on a lotus. It can be used to chant the 108 names of Lakshmi or for repetitions of a mantra, such as "Om shreem maha Lakshmiyei namaha (my salutations or adoration to the great Lakshmi)" or "Dear Goddess Lakshmi, I pray to thee! Bless me with prosperity and wealth."
Yantra is a mystical diagram. Shri Yantra is considered one of the greatest Yantras. It is considered a manifestation of Shri Mahalakshmi herself. And an embodiment of Her energy and power. Some believe she resides in it.
Srivatsa means "beloved of Sri". It is a mark on the chest of Vishnu where his consort Lakshmi resides. There are images of Vishnu with Lakshmi on his heart. Some texts identify the Srivasta with the well-known "Endless Knot."