Some Indian Goddesses
Lakshmi's name comes from the Sanskrit root 'laksh' meaning "to perceive", "to observe", in the sense of an observed or perceived aim. She makes it possible to attain our heart's desire. She is therefore the goddess of prosperity. She is also associated with wisdom, generosity, courage and fertility and she is grace, beauty and charm incarnate. Those who understand her being, and who remain true to her, are protected from misery, desolation and poverty. She is the embodiment of love and of the devotion of the seeker. Lakshmi certainly brings success, and is often worshipped for this reason, but she in fact has a low opinion of anyone who seeks her out solely for this reason, and so who desires her only for her wealth. She is the divine qualities of God and the soul. She is the actualization of the divine spiritual feminine energy which first purifies, and then uplifts so that the individual can have an elevated nature … along with the superior powers that go with this. At the beginning of Creation neither the gods, the devas, nor the demons, the asuras, were immortals. Both the gods and the demons desired immortality. The necessary amrita or divine nectar of immortality could only be secured by churning the Ocean of Milk or Kshirsagar. Gods and demons worked together, the devas on one side and the asuras on the other. Vishnu incarnated himself as Kurma, the tortoise, and the mountain Samudra was placed on his back to act as the churning pole. The great serpent, Vasuki, spewing venom, was wrapped around Samudra. As the devas and asuras—gods and demons—churned away, amongst the celestial objects that came up was the Goddess Lakshmi, daughter of the King of the Ocean of Milk. The moon, Chandra, also appeared at around this time, and is therefore her sibling. Alakshmi, the goddess of misfortune, is her older sister. As soon as all the gods saw Lakshmi, they were all taken with her beauty. They all fell in love with her. After she emerged Amrita—sought for by both gods and demons—also emerged. In order to prevent the demons from gaining the elixir of immortality, Vishnu took on the form of a beautiful maiden and distracted them. Siva tried to claim Lakshmi as his wife, but since he had already claimed the Moon, her hand was instead given to Vishnu—who was in any case her own first choice. She is thus the consort of Vishnu or Narayana, the Supreme Being, so making her Mother of the Universe. She and Vishnu are together eternally. Whenever he comes, she also comes. She is reborn as his consort each and every time he is incarnated. When he was Rama, she was Sita. When he was Krishna, she was both Radha and Rukmini. She emerged from the Ocean of Milk with a lotus in her hand, and she is therefore also called Padma. She is the goddess of light, beauty, good fortune and wealth. She can often be seen expressing her devotion to Vishnu by massaging his feet as he lies upon the coils of Shesha, the eternal snake who is symbol of the Infinite.
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Parvati is the consort of Siva. The stories of her are legion, as also the associations. She is on some accounts the mother of Ganesha and Skanda or Kartikeya. She is also held by some to be sister to Vishnu. Siva and Parvati together represent the archetype of male/female duality. Parvati's main lesson is that love and perseverance can overcome all and bring about the union that is emancipation. Adishakti, the great mother goddess, is wife in the heavens to Siva, Supreme Lord of All Gods. Whenever the two come down to Earth, they will inevitably meet and marry—although not without trials and tribulations. Adishakti manifested herself as the beautiful mountain princess Parvati. Her name means "She of the mountains". She was born the daughter of Himavan, the Lord of the Himalayas. She set out to win the attentions and affections of Siva who was busy meditating on Mount Kailash, high up in the Himalayas. He had lost her in a previous life. She had then been known as Sati. As Sati, her divine body had been strewn about all over India. Everywhere a piece landed, "Shakti pithas" or "seats of the Goddess" arose, and which are now sites of the many Devi temples. Having lost his Sati, Siva turned his back on all worldly matters and became an ascetic. Since he was now absorbed in meditation, the demon Taraka took advantage and had soon overrun the Earth. Parvati, Sati reborn, determined to win Siva anew. She washes his feet; wipes his brow; and sets 16 different offerings before him. Nothing works. His meditation is undisturbed and he continues to be supremely uninterested in such merely earthly things as women, family and marriage. Eventually, the Divine Sage Narada advises Parvati to chant the mantra "Aum Namah Sivaya" or "Aum, Respectful Adorations to Siva", over and over again. She does this through blinding sun, driving rain, and freezing snows which reach right up to her neck. Her focused power is so great that she eventually succeeds in piercing through his veil of meditation. His heart is at last opened … and she is able to persuade him to ask her for her hand in marriage. Together, they also free the world of the demons.
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Sarasvati is the consort of Brahma, the Creator, and goddess of the arts, music, learning, knowledge and culture. Her name is a contraction of "Saram vati iti" or "She who flows towards the Infinite". She is the symbol of fertility and prosperity, of purity and creativity, and of literary and verbal skills. She holds a mala, rosary, and a scroll which symbolize her knowledge. She is a daughter of Durga and sister to Lakshmi, Ganesha and Kartikeya. Her own children are the four Vedas, the oldest of India's sacred texts. Some say that she was born of Gauri, a personification of Sati; and of the divine Prakrti who gives form to everything at the bidding of Brahma, the Creator. In association with Indra, king of the gods, Sarasvati destroyed the serpent Vritrasura who had hidden and hoarded away all the Earth's waters. She is therefore the destroyer of chaos, darkness and drought. She is the guardian of thoughts and the chief bestower of the light of consciousness that bestows revelation and understanding.
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Sita was found in a furrow in a ploughed field by King Janaka of Mithila. She is often therefore regarded as a daughter of Bhumidevi, the Earth Goddess. She is an incarnation of Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu. She was raised by Janaka and his wife Sunayana. When she had come of age, King Janaka organized a 'svayamvara' for her. This was an ancient custom in which a woman could choose her own husband, entirely according to her own criteria. King Janaka had received Lord Siva's formidable bow Haradhanu as a boon. A legendary weapon it was so stout and heavy that neither King Janaka nor anyone else could use it. He made daily flower offerings to it to show his respect. Since Sita did not particularly want to be married, she persuaded Janaka to declare that whoever could bend Haradhanu, Lord Siva's great bow, could become her husband. She was a desirable catch, so many suitors tried their hand at her challenge. None of them could even lift the bow, using their two hands, never mind string it and shoot an arrow. And then Rama—an incarnation of Vishnu—appeared. The adventures of Rama and Sita make up the great epic tale, the Ramayana. The tall Prince Rama quietly and effortlessly lifted the bow with one hand. He then asked King Janaka what he should do with it. Janaka instructed him to string it. Rama bent Haradhanu with such force that it broke. Rama and Sita were married. Shortly afterwards, he was forced into exile. Sita willingly renounced the comforts of palace life and joined him in the wild forests. While in the forsts she was abducted by the demon king Ravana. After many travails, and with the monkey-god Hanuman's help, Rama was eventually able to defeat Ravana and rescue Sita. But since she had by then been with Ravana for rather a long time, many doubted her virtue and chastity. She was therefore forced to go through the 'Agni-Pariksha', the test of fire. Such was her purity that she was not burned, the hot coals instead being turned to lotuses.
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Durga is an incarnation of Devi, the Mother Goddess."Du" represents the four devils of poverty, sufferings, famine and evil habits. "R" refers to diseases. "Ga" is the destroyer of sins, of injustice, of irreligion, of cruelty, and of laziness. Her entire name means 'invincible'. She generally manifests herself on Earth in response to some travail or demon that has become too powerful. She is reputed to be an aspect of Kali. She is the mother of Ganesha, of Sarasvati, of Lakshmi, and of Kartikeya. She is the more terrifying face of Siva's wife, Parvati, and it is she who generally fights the demons. She is both fearless and patient. She never loses her sense of proportion and benevolence, no matter how terrible the trials she may be facing. Her battles are often marked by her bouts of humor. In order to help her in her work of destroying demons, the other gods each give her boons and aspects of their radiance, each of which forms a part of her body. She is most often depicted as having ten arms, and riding a lion or a tiger. She carries a variety of weapons, as well as a lotus flower. She generally receives the chakra or discus from Vishnu, and the trident from Siva. Her meditative smile is the source of peace; and her mudras or hand gestures cast forth blessings.
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