January 15, 2017: Kanuma, Sankatahara Chathurthi
January 16, 2017: Mukkanuma, Tyagaraja Aaradhanotsavams
The traditional month of Sravanamasam / Aavani is considered to be very auspicious especially for women. Women perform the famous Mangalagouri vratam on Tuesdays and Mahalakshmi puja on Fridays during the month. Varalakshmi Vratam is the most important of festivals of them all. The vratam will be performed on the Friday before the Full Moon Day or the Poornima day in Sravanamasam. It is believed that worship of Goddess Lakshmi will bring health, wealth and prosperity. Vara means boon. Needless to say, performing puja (in the form of a Vratam) to Goddess Varalakshmi will bring in boons to those who performs with utmost devotion. Those who fail to perform the Vratam to invoke the blessings of Goddess on that day could do so on any other Friday of the Sravanamasam. This puja is performed by the women folk irrespective of their caste and creed. This women festival is popular in Southern India, particularly in the regions of Andhra Pradesh and parts of Tamil Nadu (particularly amongst the Tamil Iyers) and Karnataka, and is considered a must-do puja by the newly married women.
The name Varalakshmi can be interpreted in two ways. In one sense, Varalakshmi is one who grants boons. In another, she is the Goddess who is invited into the home and honored. The different types of benefits that will accrue thanks to performing the Varalakshmi puja are Dhan (Money), Dhanyam (Gains or Food), Arogyam (Health), Sampath (Property), Sathsanthanam (Virtuous offspring) and Dheerga saumangalyam (Longevity of the husband).
Ancient texts say that those who perform the puja have to observe fast on the eve of Varalakshmi Vratam. The preparation for the puja begins few days before the actual puja day. Women shop gold ornaments and new clothes (that are placed before the Goddess Lakshmi on the puja day). Goddess Lakshmi loves cleaner and tidier homes. Hence, it is a general practise to make the house clean and tidy the day before the puja day itself. Puja related vessels are cleaned and polished. The actual puja day will be a very busy one. Women gets up early in the morning (during Brahma Kalam) and take bath. The household should be cleaned and the entrances of the house are smeared with turmeric powder. Kum kum marks are applied. A small Mantapam (or mandapam) is set up by drawing rangoli. Rice is spread on the rangoli and a kalasa is placed on the rice. The kalasa comprises of a small pot on which a coconut is placed. The coconut is applied with turmeric and is richly decorated with kumkum. Atop the coconut, a cloth is placed to look like a cap. The features of the Goddess are also drawn on the coconut to make the image of Her to facilitate worship. Jewelry is put round the coconut. Flowers are used to enhance the decoration.
Lord Ganesh is worshipped first which is the usual practice before any puja or ritual. The main puja of Varalakshmi Vratam is performed after that. Special eateries (called pindi vantalu) are cooked. According to the legend, a brahmin woman Charumathi, an ideal housewife serving her in laws and husband dutifully has a dream in which Goddess Mahalakshmi appears and asks her to perform puja to Varalakshmi. She, therefore, organizes the puja and invites her friends and relatives to the puja, after which Charumathi as well as all those who attend were bestowed wealth.
One day when Lord Eswara is relaxing in Kailasa giri, Goddess Parvathi approached Him and asked him to tell a vrata that gives wealth and prosperity. The Lord tells her that performing Varalakshmi Vratam will bring in sowbagyam to the women folk. He narrates the story and explains the process of performing the vrata to Goddess Parvathi. This vrata has to be performed on Friday that falls before Poornima in Sukla Paksham in Sravanamasam.
The story happens in a beautiful town called Kundinagaram located in the Kingdom of Vidarbha (Vidarba Rajyam). In that Kundinagram town, Goddess Adilakshmi, being pleased by her devotion tells Charumathi in a dream and directed her to perform the vrata to enable Her to fulfil her desires. Charumathi wakes up and tells her husband about the dream. Charumathi along with some neighbourhood women takes bath in the wee hours and prepare a mandapam and invites Varalakshmi Devi. She recites the following sloka along with other women with utmost faith and devotion.
Lakshmi Ksheerasamudra rajatanyam sri rangadhameswareem
Dasibootha samastha devavanitham lokaika deepamkuram
Sri manmanda kataksha labdhivibhat brahmendra gangadharam
Twamtrayamlokyakutumbhineem sasijavandemukunda priyam
Then she wore nine threads Thoranam to right hand and offers naivadyam to Goddess Lakshmi Devi. On the completion of the first circumstance, she heard she found Gajjelu, Andelu and other ornaments. On the second circumstance, they found kankanams made of navaratnams to their hands. On completion of the third circumstance, they found immense wealth. Then Charumathi offers Tambulam to the brahmin priests and distribute the vrata prasadam to the relatives and lead a happy life. Since then, Hindu women perform this vrata with utmost faith and trust till today. With this, Lord Eswara concludes telling the story to Goddess Parvathi. Varalakshmi Astottaranamavali is recited
The month of Sravanamasam marks the beginning of festival season in Andhra Pradesh. Varalakshmi Vratam is one of the eight most prominent and widely celebrated festivals. It is the festival of prosperity and well being. Varlakshmi refers to Goddess Lakshmi who grants boon to all her devotees and vratam meaning prayer offered to God. Thus this festival of Varalakshmi Vratam connotes prayer offered to Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth and riches, the one who bestows her worshipers.
Varalakshmi, the household Goddess of most Hindu families is portrayed as women of golden complexion, with four hands, sitting or standing on a full bloomed red lotus. The lotus symbolizes fertility, purity and beauty. Her four hands denote righteousness, desire, wealth and liberation from life. Gold coins are seen pouring from her hand, signifying that her devotees are conferred with wealth and divine blessings, Goddess Lakshmi is seen wearing a gold embroidered red Saree, where red symbolizes luck and gold represents affluence. As a Goddess of wealth, she is always seen decked with opulent gold jewellery. Like Goddess Mahalakshmi, who signifies aiswaryam, South Indian women during all puja and other religious occasions, customarily dress themselves in gold jewellery to impersonate goddess Lakshmi. There is even a trend of purchasing gold jewellery for occasion like Varalakshmi Vratham among certain sections of the society as it is considered appropriate and auspicious.
Varalakshmi Nomu believed to be the day in which Goddess Lakshmi was born from Sea falls on July 31, 2009. Praying to Goddess on this day is said to be equivalent to worshiping Ashtalakshmi (the eight goddess of wealth, earth, learning, love, fame, peace, pleasure, and strength) especially Dhanalakshmi. That is the reason why families also have a habit of buying gold jewellery or gold coins during Varalakshmi Vratam, as a sign of welcoming Dhanalakshmi into their houses. Varalakshmi Vratam is performed by married women for the welfare of their husband, children and household. It is believed that if one worships Goddess Lakshmi on this day, she will present the entire family the gift of health, wealth, peace and happiness.
After cleansing themselves, married women prepare the puja room for the celestial celebrations. The front yard of the house and the puja room where the mandapam will be set is cleanly mopped and decorated with muggu bordered with a thick maroon border. A mandapam or a small wooden structure resembling temple tower is set on the main kolam inside the puja room and is decorated with Young plantain trees and Mango leaves inside mandapam, a bed of raw rice is set on the plantain leaves and it is on this rice bed Lakshmi is placed. The holy kalasam is prepared and decorated as the Goddess.
One method of making kalasam exists where only gold jewellery is placed within the kalasam and is partially filled with holy water from any river. This method is gaining ground among the society as this also adds to the families riches in the form of jewellery. After the holy kalasam is filled, it is topped with mango leaves and a coconut smeared all over with turmeric powder. To this coconut, face mould of Mahalakshmi Ammavaru is fixed. The kalasam, now symbolically representing Goddess Lakshmi is further decorated with gold ornaments old and new, silk and fresh flowers. After karpoora harathi, kalasam is carried from the front door to the pooja room, placed inside the Mandapam and Devi is invoked in the kalasam. From now on Kalasam is called as Devi. On the next day, Lord Ganesh is worshipped first and then begins the Varalakshmi puja. The puja usually comprises of Kalasa puja, archana, ashtothra puja and Kanakana puja. Ladies wear the kankanam (yellow thread) in their right hand wrist. After worship Thamboolam consisting of betel leaf, areca nut, turmeric, gold coin or currency, blouse piece and flowers are given to married women who in turn bless the household. Let us all in this propitious day, welcome Goddess Mahalakshmi, the abode of all auspiciousness and prosperity into our lives.
Varalakshmi Vratam falls on the following days in the respective years: