Let’s start with a question, Why did Śrī Lakṣmī reach such a pinnacle in Her devotion towards Śrī Viṣṇu? How did Devi Pārvatī (Pāraśakti) become half of Śankara (Pāramesvara)?
Śrī Lakṣmī is Śrī Vishnu’s Ḍharmapathni (Ḍharma:Pathni) and so is Pārvatī to Maheswara, and there is no equivalent word for that title in English. The word wife will not suffice because a wife can be related to the word ‘Bharya’. Many western translators with British backgrounds used terms like ‘Lord‘ to define the term Pathi, so equivalents used the term Pathni as a wife. Pathi doesn’t mean lord or husband, it means abode or resort. So, a Pathi is a resort for Ḍharma for his Pathini, it sounds very complicated, so what does this even mean? Ḍharma is an act to uplift oneself in consciousness, and this act is in-line with the cumulative wellbeing of the surroundings. So, Ḍharma is not a selfish act but an act towards the well-being of all. In this path of Ḍharma, she will take a resort in him as his companion, that is why she is called Ḍharma:Pathni. This might sound very complicated, but one has to understand that this culture took great care in the union of Man and Women.
There exists an expression called ‘Ardhangini’ meaning the one is half of one’s being (‘Ardha’ = half, ‘anga‘ = body or beings (also refers to limbs) and ‘ni‘ identifies femininity). This title was given to Devi Pārvatī who became one with Śiva, or one half of Śiva. This aspect (Swarupa) of Śiva and Pārvatī is titled as Ardhanarishwara (Ardha:Nari:Ishwara). What this represents is, one-half feminine and another masculine depict the wholeness or completeness of a being. There are many Dharmic rituals laid out by Śāstra for a man to uplift oneself in consciousness and karmā. Such rituals are inapplicable in the absence of a Ḍharma pathni, such significance is given to married life (Gruhastu Ashrama) and to Ḍharmapathni. So, Śāstra upheld the title of Ḍharmapathni (dharma:pathni) with highest esteem. In the temporary absence of Ḍharmapathni, Śāstra gave small liberty for the husband to hold a piece of her cloth while performing such karmā. Śrī Ram in the absence of Devi Sita had to perform dharmic karmā in the presence of her idol, and consequently suffered an ocean of pain that one cannot even dare to put into words. In the absence of Ḍharmapathni a man cannot give away his own daughter in marriage. The act of giving one’s daughter as a companion-to-Dharam is called Kanyadanam. So, without a Ḍharmapathni one must urge their relatives to perform that ceremony as his proxy.
As a Ḍharma:pathni, Śrī Lakṣmī understood Śrī Vishnu more than He could understand Himself and hence is called Nityanapayani. She conquered His heart and made it Her abode, She dwells within Him and He within Her. When a man’s jiva (soul) becomes one with his Pathni then nothing can come between them and separate them. This is the reason why, when Śrī Vishnu manifested as Vamana Murthy as a young boy, Śrī Lakṣmī was never separated, 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 Ḍharma: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.
We saw that the term ‘Pathi’ means to resort or an abode, and ‘Patni’ is the companion to Pathi in the path of Dharma. This culture gave the term ‘Anuvartana‘ to define companion, meaning the one who follows and strives towards dharma with Pathi. These two titles are given to a husband and wife in Sanātana Ḍharma Siddhānta (fundamentals of a concept). This institution of marriage is known as Vivaha. In the title Vivaham, ‘Vi’ means significant, ‘Vaham’ means to obtain. We human beings are all considered as ‘Pashu’ meaning those in bondage or tied to one’s karma. Meaning, those who are not free from the cycle of life and rebirth. Irrespective of male or female, all have one Pathi, meaning one resort, that one resort is called ‘Pashupathi‘. Therefore He (īśvara), is the only Pathi and we (irrespective of human gender) are all who have to reach his company.
During the process of Kanyadanam, 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. 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 Śrī Lakṣmī and the basket represents a lotus flower. It’s through this ceremony he intends his daughter to reach her abode which is Śrī Viṣṇu, who in this case is the groom. This is the reason why the bride’s father washes the feet of the groom even though the groom is younger to him. The bride’s father visualizes the groom as Śrī Viṣṇu and presents his daughter for marriage, with a promise that she will be a Ḍharmapatni, meaning a person who is a companion in the journey of life of Ḍharma and aid in each other towards Ḍharma. This is the reason why in Sanātana Ḍharma, a wife is a Ḍharma:patni and not a kamapatni (kama:patni). Kama means desire, so the basis of Vivaha (marriage) is not desire/lust but Dharam. 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 it’s called Kanyadanam, meaning donation of one’s daughter so that she and the groom can journey the life of Ḍharma.
She in return with Her Anuvartana (follow and accompany) should win her husband’s hrudaya(m) (heart), similar to the way Śrī Lakṣmi. By doing so, they both compensate for each other’s setbacks, and uplift each other in their journey. So as to reach a state where both become one conscience dwelling in two separate bodies, similar to Devi Pārvatī. This promise and institution are called Vivaha(m) and so is the greatness of Kanyadanam in Sanātana Ḍharma (Hinduism). Vedās 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, Śiva Pārvatī Kalyanam.
As a Ḍharmapathni she follows step by step through every obstacle and every joy. She corrects him (her husband) and uplifts him in his path of Ḍharma and by doing so uplifts herself. She becomes the wealth of the family (hence is called the Lakṣmī 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 the 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 concerned 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 for him, why? Because she is his half and his sanctuary of peace and serenity.
In Sanskrit there is another name for a girl after a wedding, she is called duhitha (du:hitha). ‘Du’ means distance and ‘Hitha’ meaning well-wisher. A woman is addressed in such a way because even after she leaves her parents house and siblings into a new family, she is the one who will still seek ‘hitha’ (well-being) of her parents and siblings along with her new family though she is at a distance. (SriGarikapati. NJV.,n.d, p1484).
In the story of Gajendra mokṣa, an account from Śrīmad Bhagavāta Purana, Śrī Vishnu in haste to protect His devotee, Gajendra, forgets Himself and his weapons but subconsciously never left Śrī Lakṣmī’s pallu (the corner tip of Her Sari worn over the shoulder) and so dragged Her with Him. This event is most beautiful to read and to cherish during dhyana (meditation). So, is the significance of Śrī Vishnu and His love towards those who urge His help wholeheartedly along with His Sri (Śrī Lakṣmī). This is the reason why during festivities, Śāstra advises inviting the in-laws or at least the husband and children along if they wish to see their daughter. The true destiny of Kanyadanam is to have Śrī Lakṣmī reach Her abode, which is Śrī Vishnu.
Following sloka from Śrī 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 if Śrī Ram in Her absence is like a breeze or like a windstorm lost in sorrow? She asks if He is strong or has He been deprived of peace and strength? And if He is determined and focused on finding Her?
When all this is summarized, Śrī Lakṣmī is Śrī 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 Śrī Vishnu so as to make them realize the absence of a father, this is the magnificence of Śrī Lakṣmī. An attempt to define Her separate from Śrī Vishnu gets very difficult, and it’s this message that Śrī Shankara shared with us in a very concise way in His magnificent stotram of Kanakadhara. She the Pāraśakti can either push us deep into her Maya and away from our father Shankara, or remove the curtain of Avidya and make us realize the ever auspicious SadaŚiva. (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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