Introduction: The sacred day dedicated to goddess Mahalakshmi that is known as ‘Mahalakshmi Vrata’ or ‘Varalakshmi Vratha’. This ritualistic practice is performed by men and women, preferably married, on Friday before the full moon in the month of Sravana as per Hindu calendar. Those who miss the occasion can follow the customary ritual corresponding to the same fasting on any other Friday falling in that month.
Etymology: ‘Vrata’ stands for ‘vow’ or ‘determination’. Mahalakshmi Vrata connotes vow or determination to appease goddess Mahalakshmi.
Observing places: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and in some parts of Maharashtra and Odisha.
Belief: This holy ‘Vrata’ is kept for getting blessed with wealth and prosperity since goddess Mahalakshmi is narrated as the giver of riches, comfort and wealth. Along with Vishnu, goddess Mahalakshmi lavishes life of the worshipper with prosperity with luxuries.
The legend: The narration stated in scripture goes that the legend of this religious festival has its connection with lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. The former deity recommended this ‘Vrata’ to his latter consort for attaining wealth and prosperity.
Another tale briefs that a lady with pride namely ‘Charumati’ witnessed the goddess in dream asking to do the foretold ‘Vrata’ so that the desire flourishing in her heart could be fulfilled. She offered prayer with pure and holy heart accompanying other ladies. Lots of delicacies were offered to the deities. Consequently, they reaped fruitful result and were astonished to witness the precious jewels bedecked on their bodies. Thereafter, women started this practice of following ‘Vratam’ every year.
Rituals: People, on the day of celebration, sweep and clean their homes. They design beautiful ‘Rangoli’ patterns on the floor in the front yards. Later, they begin their day with having bath and decking themselves with lovely drapes or cloths and jewellery. It is believed that the goddess gets appeased with the customary rituals performed by the adorned ladies and gentlemen. As money attracts money thus the goddess of wealth blesses riches as well as prosperity to those who really worship the goddess with intense heart of devotion.
As far as rituals are concerned, a kalash or urn (sacred pot) is kept on the plinth covered with red cloth. That pot is filled with rice and water. Betel and mango leaves are also pressed in between the lid and the pot from all around that symbolize prosperity. Then, a coconut is smeared with turmeric, vermillion and rice for keeping it on the lid. Some wealthy people decorate the pot with precious jewels as well. Then, the beautiful pot is kept over the lump of the rice seeds filled in a plate before the deities on the plinth.
Firstly, Lord Ganesha is worshipped for showering his blessing of goodness over the devotees while removing all hurdles, such as negative aura and ominous happenings, in the way of success. The symbol of ‘Swastik’ and the image of goddess Mahalakshmi are drawn on the pot using vermillion. Afterwards, a toran (festoon) made of yellow cotton thread having nine knots is tied around that pot. More torans are kept in worshipping those are tied around the right wrist of ladies. Hymns, such as Lakshmi Ashtottara Shatanamam, are enchanted in admiration of the goddess. Nine puddings, including sweets or other delicacies, are offered to deities that, later, are consumed as ‘prasadam’ by them. This festival is celebrated jointly by the group of women those can be neighbouring. They perform the hierarchy of rituals altogether at home or at temple and offer tamboolam prepared with betel leaves, fruits, betel nuts, vermillion, turmeric and a coin or money. The ritualistic ceremony ends with the chorus enchanting Arti of goddess ‘Varahlakshmi’.