Why and how did Sri Lakshmi reach such a pinnacle in Her devotion towards Sri Vishnu? Sri Lakshmi is Sri Vishnu’s Dharmapathni (Dharma:Pathni) and there is no equivalent word in English for that title. The word wife will not suffice because a wife can be related to the word Bharya. There exists an expression called ‘Ardhangini’ meaning the one who becomes the half of one’s being. ‘Artha’ means half, ‘anga’ means body or beings (also refers to limbs) and ‘ni’ identifies femininity. This title was given to Devi Parvati who became one with Shiva, or one half of Shiva. This aspect (Swarupa) or form of Shiva and Parvati is titled as Ardhanarishwara (Artha:Nari:Ishwara). It means, that aspect of Ishwara with one half feminine and other masculine, depicting the wholeness or completeness of a being to be a balance of both feminine and masculine. There are many Dharmic rituals laid out by Shastra for a man to uplift oneself towards attaining joy and to express remorse for past deeds, but many such rituals are inapplicable in the absence of a dharma pathni, such significance is given to Gruhastu Ashram(am) and to dharma pathni. Shastra upheld the title of dharmapathni (dharma:pathni) with high esteem and to a significance. In the temporary absence of dharmapathni, Shastra gave a small liberty for the husband to hold the wife’s blouse (piece of cloth belonging to wife) while performing such karma. Sri Ram in the absence of Sita Devi had to perform dharmic karma in the presence of an idol of Sita Devi and suffered an ocean of pain that one cannot even dare to put into words. In the absence of dharmapathni a father cannot give away his own daughter in marriage as Kanyadanam, and so must urge a relative couple to perform that ceremony as his proxy.
As a dharma:pathni Sri Lakshmi understood Sri Vishnu more than He could understand Himself and hence is called Nityayapayani. She conquered His heart and made it Her abode, She dwells within Him and He within Her. When a man’s soul becomes one with his Pathni then nothing can come between them and separate them. This is the reason why, when Sri Vishnu manifested as Vamana Murthy as a young boy, Sri Lakshmi never was separate, She came as a His jewel which He wore around His ankle. Now that we know this secret, if we recall King Bali and His dharma:pathni, Vindyavali who washing the feet of Vamana Murthy, actually washed that very jewel that was around His ankle, meaning they both were worshiped as one.
The title ‘Pathi’ usually is related to a male, however its doesn’t necessarily mean husband, Pathi means that one to be attained or a target to be reached or followed, like a steer or a shepherd. And ‘Patni’ is not a female or a wife, it means the one who does ‘Anuvartana’ meaning the one who follows and strives towards reaching a Pathi. These two titles are given to a husband and wife in Sanatana Dharma sidhantham (fundamentals of a concept) who enter Gruhast Ashram and follow its dharma through a system known as Vivaha (marriage). In the title Vivaham, ‘Vi’ means significant, ‘Vaham’ means to obtain. Hence we (human beings), are all considered as ‘Pashu’ meaning animals who need to be steered by Ishwara, hence the title ‘Pashupathi’, meaning the lord or steer of animals, as He is the one we all have to attain and follow. Therefore He (Ishwara), is the only pathi and we (irrespective of human gender) are all who have to attain Him and Him alone.
During the process of Kanyadan(am), the father of the bride has his daughter seated in a basket, where all cousins (especially uncles, brothers of the bride’s mother) carry the bride in the basket to marriage. The brides continue to sit in the basket during the course of the marriage ceremony. The father does this because he treats his daughter as Sri Lakshmi and the basket represents a lotus flower. It’s through this ceremony he intends and wishes for his daughter to reach her abode which is Sri Vishnu, who in this case if the groom. This is the reason why the bride’s father washes the feet of the groom even though the groom is younger. The brides father visualizes him as Sri Vishnu and presents his daughter for marriage, with a promise from the groom that the bride is a dharmapatni, meaning a person who is a companion in the journey life towards implementing dharma and aid in each others upliftment towards dharma. This is the reason why in Sanatana Dharma, a wife is a dharma:patni and not a kamapatni (kama:patni). The father of the bride also claims that at any point if the groom abuses this promise then he will bring his daughter back, this is the reason its called Kanyadanam, meaning donation of one’s daughter so that she and the groom can journey a life of dharma.
She in return with Her Anuvartana (follow and accompany) should win her husband’s hrudaya(m) (heart), compensate each other’s setbacks and uplift each other in their journey. To win over is to reach a state where both become one conscience dwelling in two separate bodies, unable to hide anything from each other, and always share with each other and looking after each other’s well-being. This promise and institution are called Vivaha(m) and so is the greatness of Kanyadanam in Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism). Vedas used five titles for this concept of marriage, they are, Vivaha(m), Panigrahanam, Parinayamu, Udvaham and Upayamam. When this celebration happens or is performed to any form of Ishwara is called Kalyanam, for example Shiva Parvati Kalyanam. It’s called Daanam (Donation) because the father gives his daughter to the groom and his family so that his daughter can help and accompany her husband in his path of dharma and in-return explore their journey as one entity.
As a dharmapathni she follows step by step through every obstacle and every joy. She corrects him (her husband) and uplifts him in his path of dharma and by doing so uplifts herself. She becomes the wealth of the family (hence is called the Lakshmi of the house). She moves the family forward by becoming a nourishing womb and a mother. She converts her blood and energy as milk to nourish next generations. She becomes the first teacher to the children. She makes her parents proud when she dissolves herself into Her in-laws so much that she becomes concern to leave them to visit her parents. She assimilates and wins over her husband so much that, in her temporary absence regular things become invisible to him, simplest tasks look complicated in the home, because she won over his daily life so much that she become a sanctuary of peace and serenity.
In Sanskrit there is another name for a girl after wedding, she is called duhitha (du:hitha). ‘Du’ means distance and ‘Hitha’ meaning well-wisher. A women is addressed in such a way because even after she leaving her parents and siblings and moves into a new family after marriage, she is the one who will still seek ‘hitha’ (well-being) of her parents and siblings along with her new family. (SriGarikapati. NJV.,n.d, p1484).
In the story of Gajendra Moksha, an account from Srimad Bhagavatam (Sri Bhagavata Purana(m)), Sri Vishnu in haste to protect His devotee, Gajendra, forgot Himself and his weapons but subconsciously never left Sri Lakshmi’s pallu (the corner tip of Her Sari worn over the shoulder) and so dragged Her with Him. This event is most beautifying to read and to cherish during dhyana (meditation). So, is the significance of Sri Vishnu and His love towards those who urge His help wholeheartedly along with His Sri (Sri Lakshmi). This is the reason why during festivities, Shastra advice to invite the in-laws or at least the husband and children along if they wish to see their daughter. The true destiny of performing Kanyadanam is to have Sri Lakshmi reach Her abode, which is Sri Vishnu.
Following sloka from Sri Valmiki Ramayanam, Sundara Kanda, book 5, Sarga 37, sloka 2 and 5:
“अमृतम् विष संसृष्टम् त्वया वानर भाषितम् |
यच् च न अन्य मना रामो यच् च शोक परायणः ||
शोकस्य अस्य कदा पारम् राघवो अधिगमिष्यति |
प्लवमानः परिश्रान्तो हत नौः सागरे यथा ||”
“amRitam viSha samsRiShTam tvayaa vaanara bhaaShitam |
yac ca na anya manaa raamo yac ca shoka paraayaNaH ||
shokasya asya kadaa paaram raaghavo adhigamiShyati |
plavamaanaH parishraanto hata nauH saagare yathaa ||”
(Valmiki Ramayana. S.K. n.d.)
Meaning Sita Devi asks Hanuman, “Sri Ram in Her absence is like a breeze or like a windstorm lost in sorrow? Is He strong or has He deprived of peace and will? And if He is determined and focused towards finding Her?
When all this is summarized, Sri Lakshmi is Sri Vishnu’s very compassion, making us recognize Him in Her radiance by becoming His advocate of compassion and empathy. With Her maya (illusion) She in times pushed a man further from Sri Vishnu so as to make them realize the absence of a father, this is the magnificence of Sri Lakshmi. An attempt to define Her separate from Sri Vishnu gets very difficult, and its this message that Sri Shankara shared with us in a very concise way in His magnificent stotram of Kanakadhara. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.15-16).
Kindly continue reading the magnificence of motherhood and the nature of the Divine Mother (Jaganmaatha).
REFERENCE ENTRY (APA Style citation)
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Valmiki Ramayana. (n.d.). Sundara Kanda. Retrieved from http://www.valmikiramayan.net/utf8/sundara/sarga36/sundara_36_frame.htm
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Goddess Meenakshi Wedding.JPG. Retrieved from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Goddess_Meenakshi_Wedding.JPG
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Retrieved From: http://myindiatravel.blogspot.com
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File: Hanuman taking Sita’s ring.jpg. Retrieved from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a1/Hanuman_taking_Sita%27s_ring.jpg
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Sri Garikapati Narasimha Rao (Orator). (n.d.). Nava Jeevana Vedam [Part 1494], recorded by Youtube channel ABN Telugu]. Retrieved from https://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpzEGDRZnqw