Dr. P. P. Narayanaswami

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The glory of performing the VARALAKSHMI VRATAM, narrated directly by Lord Shiva Himself, is elaborately discussed in the Skanda Puranam. This is a festival to propitiate Shri Varalakshmi (Mahalakshmi ) - the consort of Lord Vishnu, who is the abode of all mangalam (auspiciousness) , prosperity and wealth. The Varalakshmi Vratam is to be performed on the shrAvaNa shukla shukra vAram , that is, the Friday immediately following the full moon day (Purnima) in the auspicious month of Shravanam (corresponding to August - September). This Vratam is undertaken by the sumangalis (whose husbands are still living) for good progeny, good health, and wishing long life for the husbands.

Lakshmi is symbolic of eight forces - wealth (shrI), earth (bhU), learning (sarasvati), love (prIti), fame (kIrti), peace (shAnti), pleasure (tuShTi), and strength (puShTi). Each of these forces is called a Lakshmi, and collectively they are known as ashTa lakshmi. Worship of Varalakshmi is rendered equivalent to the pUja for ashTalakshmi. Since She is ever ready to grant boons to her true devotees, she is usually referred to as "vara lakshmi".

The Worship

The rituals of worship during the Varalakshmi Vratam differ from region to region in south India, but they all have the same basic format. The performer begins the day with a holy purification bath, and wears clean clothes. The arena is decorated with kolam (rangoli). A geometrical design known as mandalam is then drawn on the clean surface of the floor (with the picture of a lotus upon it). A sacred pot (kalasham) is filled with pure water and rice (akshata), topped with a bunch fresh mango leaves, and a coconut (unbroken, with its kudimi on) smeared with turmeric powder is placed atop. Also, sandal paste and kumkumam are applied to the kalasham, and a cloth is tied around it before placing it on the mandalam. Some people further beautify the kalasham with a picture of Varalakshmi drawn on it and decorated with jewels. Then, Goddess Lakshmi is invoked. Fresh flowers and grains are used in the worship, indicating growth and prosperity.

After performing the initial worship of Lord Ganesha (seeking removal all obstacles), prayers are offered to the kalasham. A toram (which consists of nine threads and nine knots) is tied to the Goddess. Then they worship the thread (raksha). Now the main worship of Lakshmi begins, with a second worship of the sacred Thread. Finally, it is tied around the right hand of the performer. Prayers in the form of Lakshmi Ashtottara shatanAma and sahasranAma are then chanted. Another sumangali is then chosen, and she is offered auspicious articles as gifts and food. The function concludes with the singing of several hymns and songs in praise of Varalakshmi.


There are several varied legends associated with this festival. Goddess Parvathi once asked Lord Shiva to recommend her a vratam, which would be beneficial for the womenfolk on earth who seek prosperity. Then, Lord Shiva preached her about Varalakshmi Vratam (as mentioned in Skanda Puranam). To illustrate the sanctity of this vratam, Lord Shiva then narrated the story of one Charumati (of Kuntinapura in the Maratha desham). Charumati was a true pativrata (devoted to husband in all sincerity). Pleased with her true and undivided devotion to her husband, Goddess Lakshmi appeared in her dream and advised her to undertake the Varalakshmi Vratam on the auspicious day of shrAvana shukLa shukRa vAram. Charumati performed this pUja with utmost devotion, the same day, in the dream itself (mAnasIka pUja). The next day she narrated this dream to her husband, and with his full consent, to all other women folk in town. On the auspicious day, she did not fail to perform Varalakshmi vratam as prescribed to her by Goddess Parvathi. Then some miracles took place. As the womenfolk stepped out of the house, they saw all houses decked with riches and gold, and a golden chariot awaiting them outside Charumati's house. Everything seemed bountiful! Ever since, this Vratam has been regularly performed in households.

Another legend is that a person by name Chitranemi was once cursed (to become a leper) by Parvati for showing partiality toward Lord Shiva in a game, in which he was the judge. Chitranemi got shApa vimochanam (relief from this curse) when he watched with great attention, the Varalakshmi Vratam performed by some pious ladies.

Legend also says that this Vratam was later conveyed by sage Suka to Shaunaka and other sages. There are numerous varying legends too.

Songs on Varalakshmi

In the attached PDF file we have a selection of nine beautiful Carnatic Compositions in praise of Goddess Lakshmi, that are rendered during this auspicious occasion. These songs are chosen from a variety of composers. The first three songs are by Muthuswami Dikshitar, the next two by Mysore Vasudevachariar, then two in chaste Tamil by Papanasam Sivan and finally two in Kannada by Purandharadasa. They are:

1. varalakSmIM bhaja re re, saurAShTram, Adi (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)
2. shrI varalakSmi namastubhyam, shrI, rUpakam (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)
3. mahAlakSmi karuNArasalahari, mAdhavamanOhari, Adi (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)
4. varalakSmi namostute gaurimanohari, rUpakam (mysore vAsudEvAcAriar)
5. shrI mahAlakSmIM bhajeham, paraju, Adi (mysore vAsudEvAcAriar)
6. varalakSmI nIyE vandarLvAyE, sAlaga bhairavi, Adi (pApanAshaM shivan)
7. mahAlakMi jagan mAtA, shankarAbharaNam, misra cApu (pApanAshaM shivan)
8. bhAgyadA lakSmI bAramma , madhyamAvati/shrI, Adi (purandharadAsa)
9. pAlise enna shrI mahAlakSmi, shrI, aTa (purandharadAsa)

Last year, during the Varalakshmi Puja uploads, Carnatica presented the text of the shrI rAga k.rti : "shrI varalakshmi namasthubhyam" by Muthuswami Dikshitar, with word-for-word meaning. The charaNam line of this song clearly mentions the Charumati legend, as well as the correct day for the performing the vratam -

ShrAvaNa paurNamI pUrvastha shukravArE
ChArumatI prabh.rtibhiH pUjitAkArE

The k.rti also features the beautiful gopucha yati

sArasa padE
rasa padE

We recall that Dikshitar has used this type of "yati" (a figure of speech) in various other compositions (e.g. tyAgarAja yoga vaibhavam, mAyE tvam yAhi). In the saurAshtra rAga k.rti "varalakshmIm Bhaja re re mAnasa ", Dikshitar mentions that Lakshmi was worshipped by the King of Saurashtra (also suggesting the raga mudra for saurAShTram!).

The mAdhava manOhari composition, "mahAlakShmI karuNArasalahari" is the only one in that ragam composed by Dikshitar in this beautiful janyam of shrI (asampUrANa melam 22). In fact, Professor S. R. Janakiraman remarks in his recent book that mAdhavamanohari is an Eka krti rAga (just one composition exists in this rAgam). However, there is a second version of mAdhavamanohari under mELam 57 (simhEndramadhyamam), and Muthaiah Bhagavathar has a composition in this version.

The compositions in gaurimanOhari, and paraju by Mysore Vasudevachariar are in simple sanskrit, short and sweet!

The Tamil composition "varalaksmi nIyE vandaruLvAyE", a simple song by Papanasam Sivan, has been popularized by Shri O. S. Thyagarajan. He invariably sings this piece in his concerts. Papanasam Sivan's shankarAbharaNa song " mahAlakshmI jagan mAta" is increasingly popular in concerts these days.

The Purandhara dasa krithi "bhAgya lakshmi bAramma" (in madhyamavati/shrI) is another popular composition we often hear in the post pallavi segment, at the conclusion of carnatic concerts, as well as in south Indian Bhajans. It is a favorite of the instrumentalists. Saxaphone artist Kadri Gopalnath plays it regularly in his concerts. Flute artist K S Gopalakrishnan regularly uses this compostion as a Mangalam for all his concerts (instead of the traditional piece "pavamAna sududupaTTu" of Tyagaraja).

Though we have not provided the lyrics, the song "lakshmi ravE ma indikE" is very popular for Varalakshmi celebrations. The composer of this beautiful song in mAyamALavagauLa is unknown.

The rendering of the Varalakshmi songs usually conclude with a mangala krti, "lakshmI kalyANa vaibhOgamE", usually rendered in rAgam kura~nji.

Commercial Recordings

There are at least two commercial audio cassettes (perhaps more!) that are exclusively devoted to Varalakshmi Puja and Varalakshmi songs. They are: 

Varalakshmi Songs (rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi R. Vedavalli, assisted by R. Abhirama Sundari - GITA GCT 4003). It has the following songs :

lakshmi rAvE mA yinDike (mAyamAlavagauLa)
pUja seika murAre (sahAna)
gauri kalyana vaibhogame (kura~nji)
shri varalakshmi (shrI)
ninnu jUDe (shankarAbharaNam)
mahAlakshmi karunalahari (mAdhava manohari)
bhAgyada (madhyamavAti),

Another recording is:
Varalakshmi Puja Vidhanam and Songs (Valuttor S. Rajagopala Sharma, songs by Bombay Sisters) containing the following songs:

lakshmi rAve ma iniDike (mAyamALavagauLa)
mahalakshmi (shankarAbharaNam)
varalakshmIm bhaja (saurAShTram)
varalakshmi namostute (gaurimanOhari)
shri mahalakshmIm bhajeham (paraju)
palisenna shri mahalakshmi (kamAs)
shri varalakshmi namasthubhyam (shrI)

mahAlakShmi Stotrams

Stotrams on Vara (mahA) lakshmi too are very popular and chanted on this auspicious occasion. The Composition Bank has a few stotrams in praise of Maha Lakshmi. The following stotrams can be accessed from the Composition Bank (in the shlOka bank) :

ashTlakShmi stotram 

mahAlakShmi ashtakam

Both these prayers are sung melodiously by Carnatica's own Sowmya in a cassette/CD entitled "mahiShAsura marddani", which includes many other popular Devi Stotrams.

CLICK HERE for lyrics of Varalakshmi songs in Sanskrit and tamil.

CLICK HERE for lyrics in diacritical English.

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