It will be Kojāgari Pūrṇimā tomorrow, and the pūjā of Devi Lakṣmī and Lord Indra together. The association of Indra with Lakṣmī is very ancient and very wonderful; so far, every story I have read of these two has delighted me.
Here is one such story!
Have you ever wondered why Mā Lakṣmī is showered by elephants?
Long ago…or maybe just a little while ago…or perhaps in years still to come.
There was a king who had two wives. The first wife had borne many children; the second wife had but a single son, yet his deep mother-love could have filled the hearts of ten sons.
One day, both wives – grateful for their many blessings and wishing to show their joy – decided to undertake a great worship of Mother Lakṣmī.
The first wife and all of her children constructed a huge elephant of clay; this mighty figure they honoured with Lakṣmī, and the lovely Devī was pleased.
The second wife longed to serve also, but despaired of worshipping Lakṣmī with appropriate respect and honour; she and her one son alone could never build such a massive offering. Indeed, what could only two pairs of hands create, that could be worthy of Lakṣmī Devī Herself?
Her son saw her sadness and persuaded her to unburden her heart. When she at last told him the reason for her grief, he resolved to make his mother, and Mother Lakṣmī, happy.
The pious and clever child sought solitude, and prayed without cease to Lord Indra. At last, Śakra heard, and fixed his thousand radiant eyes upon the boy.
Now, the youth had earned the audience of the King of Devas. He could have had any worldly desire fulfilled in an instant! But he asked only one gift, for his mother and for Lakṣmī.
Indra, delighted by such devotion, gave his assent, and sent the child back to the palace with his boon.
The boy seemed to shine more brightly than even Svarga as he walked home, stepping lightly on joyous feet.
How excited he was to return with such a prize! but best of all, how surprised his mother was when she saw!
Mother and son excitedly prepared everything for Lakṣmī’s worship, and then together they led the third participant to the pūjā: the white elephant Airāvata, the showering cloud, Indra’s vāhana loaned to honour Śrī Devi.
The royal elephant himself bathed the murti, and when the rite was complete, that Lord of all Elephants returned to his master in the sky.
Wealth and good fortune rained upon the child, and not surprisingly at all, he grew to be a kind and generous king!
And Lakṣmī smiled, not only upon mother and son, but upon the world for all time to come — for since that day, Lakṣmī has shown her graceful and auspicious form to all as Gajalakṣmī.
When I see an image of Mother Lakṣmī with white elephants, I remember this story, and I feel invigorated and encouraged. The tale reminds me that problems have many solutions, that despair may easily transform to delight, and that devotion is greater than anything! Isn’t it wonderful how Lord Indra (who is sometimes depicted only as a wealthy bhogi enslaved to throne and riches) and Devī Lakṣmī (whose images often show her pouring gold coins and surrounded by treasure) are both moved most greatly, not by the size or richness of the offering or by the ostentation of worship, but by the sincere, earnest effort of a single devotee?
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