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    Varalakshmi Vratham

    The glory of Varalakshmi Vratham, as narrated by Lord Shiva himself, is elaborately discussed in the Skanda Puranam. This is a festival to propitiate Shri Varalakshmi (Mahalaxmi) - the consort of Lord Vishnu, who is the abode of all mangalam (auspiciousness), prosperity and wealth. The Varalakshmi Vratham is performed on the Shravana Shukla Shukra Varam (the Friday immediately following the full moon, Purnima) in the auspicious month of Shravanam (corresponding to August - September). This Vratham is undertaken by the Sumangalis (married women) for good progeny, good health, and to wish a long life for their husbands.

    In the hymns of Rigveda, "Sree Suktam" is a hymn to Lakshmi. There are eight modes of worshipping Lakshmi depending on the desired outcome. Ashta Lakshmis: Dhanalakshmi - for wealth and prosperity, Gajalakshmi - for fulfillment of desires, Aadilakshmifor victory, Vijayalakshmi- for victory in work, Aishwaryalakshmi for wealth, Veeralakshmi - for health, courage and power, Dhaanyalakshmi - for good harvest and Santaanalakshmi - for children. Worship of Varalakshmi is rendered equivalent to the Pooja for Ashtalakshmi. Since she is ever ready to grant boons to her true devotees, she is referred to as "Vara lakshmi".

    The evening that precedes the festival sees each household cleaned thoroughly and a bronze or silver kalasam is filled with rice or water, coins, turmeric, betel leaf and a nut. The idol of Goddess Lakshmi is then adorned with jewellery and placed against the coconut. The next morning, the idol is placed on the erected pandal and hymns are sung in honour of the goddess.

    Women decorate their front yards with rangolis (colorful designs traced on the floor) on the day of Varalakshmi Vrahtam. Later, they take a bath and wear new clothes and jewellery. As a conclusion to the festivities, they sing praises of the goddess and also invite another married woman to don the role of Lakshmi and offer them sweets. That evening, all the women neighbours are invited to one's home and offerred tamboolam (an offering consisting of betel leaves, fruits, betel nuts, vermallion, turmeric and money). Together, they also collectively sing hymns in praise of goddess Varalakshmi.

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