Vara LakshmiLakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is more sought after than Saraswati, the goddess of learning. As the power and consort of Vishnu, the preserver. According to the puranas, she was the incarnated daughter of the sage Bhrigu and his wife Khyati. She was later born out of Ksheer Sagar (ocean of milk) while being churned. Hence, her appellation, Ksheera Samudra Raja Tanaya. As consort of Vishnu, she is born as his spouse whenever he incarnates. When Vishnu appeared as Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, Krishna, she appeared as Padma or Kamala, Dharani, Sita and Rukmini. She is as inseparable from Vishnu as speech from meaning, or knowledge from intellect, or good deeds from righteousness.
Vara Lakshmi Vrata
The day begins with rangoli and sacred head baths just as any other festival and is marked by the performance of "Varalakshmi Vrata" by the women folk of the house. Worshipping Vara Lakshmi is rendered equivalent to Ashta Lakshmi puja. It is thus held that the Goddess of wealth would bless those who perform the vratam on this particular day of the year with Dhana (Money), Dhanya (food), Aayu (long life), Aarogya (health), Aishwarya (wealth), Satsantana (good offsprings) and Soubhagya (long life of husband).
The preparation for the festival begins the prior evening, when a stage for the puja is set after having cleaned the entire area. On the day, A bronze or silver kalasam, with water, akshatas and a couple of coins, is taken and five betel leaves are placed on to it. The kalasam is smeared with sandal paste and kum-kum is applied at five places. On this is placed a round coconut smeared with turmeric to which kum-kum is applied. A new cloth or saree is tied to the Kalasam and is worshipped as Vara Lakshmi. Some people even adore this with the face of the Vara Lakshmi decked with jewels.
Women folk of the house traditionally worship this Vara Lakshmi the next day, with Ashtottaram and Sahsranamavali, along with some new gold bought each year. The legend of the vratam is once again memorised in devotion and a "toram" of Nine threads and nine knots is tied to the Goddess first and then to the right wrist of the worshippers. Prasadams are offered in the numbers of either three or five or nine to the Goddess. And the puja is concluded with the distribution of this prasadam and Tamboolam to the married women in neighbourhood. It also is customary for these women folk to visit the temples of the Goddess towards the evening
Legend has it that Goddess Parvati has once asked Lord Siva about a vratam, performing which would render the women on the earth blessed with all kinds of wealth. Then did Lord Siva preach of "Vara Laksmi Vratam" to be performed on a Friday that comes just before the full moon day in the month of Sravanam. Illustrating the sanctity of the vratam, Lord Siva narrated the story of Charumati of Maratha desa, which runs like this -
Once upon a time, there lived a gracious and wise Brahmin lady called Charumati in the Maratha Desa, a town that had golden houses and golden walls. Charumathi was a Maha Pativrata, indulged in a whole-hearted worship of her husband and looked after her in laws with utmost respect. Pleased with her good nature, Goddess Lakshmi happens to appear in her dream and advises her to perform the Varalakshmi vratam on Sravana sukla sukravaram preceding the full moon day. Charumathi prostrates in devotion to the Goddess in the dream itself and the next morning illustrates the dream to her husband and in-laws. With their consent, she tells the same to a few more women folk of the town and they together wait the day.
The much-awaited day finally comes and they set stage to worship the Goddess Vara Lakshmi at one corner of the house, which is cleaned up with cow dung. All of them perform the puja to the Kalasam with all devotion and piety, tie the toram to their wrists and offer prasadam to the Goddess. Then does the miracle start as they go about to take the Pradakshinas after the puja. They see themselves bedecked with various ornaments one at a time as - anklets on feet for the first, bracelets for the second and various other ornaments for the final pradakshina. Excited about the blessing of Vara Lakshmi, they once again prostrate to the Goddess and honour the Pundit with due Dakshina and conclude the vratam by taking the prasadam.
As the women folk stepped out of the house do they see their houses decked with all riches and golden chariots awaiting them outside Charumati’s house. Extremely happy about what all had happened, the women thank Charumati for having shared her luck with them. Ever since then is the Vara Lakshmi Vratam performed in every household on this auspicious day.
Legend also say that the vratam was later also preached by sage Suta to Sounaka and other sages. Another legend is that Chitranemi who was one cursed by Parvati for having made a partial judgement in favour of Shiva when asked to play the referee for their game, got relieved from the curse by having watched this vratam performed by some pious women. Such is the sanctity of the Vrata.