The Owl – Vahana of Lakshmi
See part 1
Devi Lakshmi or Mahalakshmi, the daughter of Bhrigu and Khyaati, is the consort of Sri Mahavishnu and one of the Holy Trinity of Goddesses. The Hindu Goddess of prosperity and wealth, Shri, as she is also known, can be found in Buddhism and Jainism.
The name Lakshmi is derived from the Sanskrit root, ‘laksh’, which means observation, perception or concentration, also aiming towards a certain objective or goal. In one life, She emerged from the Milky Ocean during Samudra Manthan, and went on later to wed Vishnu. Her name, ‘Shri’, also stands for auspiciousness. Married women in India are adressesed by the title ‘Shrimati’.
Lakshmi also embodies purity, riches, beauty, good fortune, grace, charm, lustre and splendor. In other words, she is the Goddess of Plenty. She is pictured as a stunningly beautiful lady with four hands, sitting on a full-bloomed lotus, holding lotus buds in her two hands, a pot of gold with her third, her right hand holding the ‘abhaya’ hasta (offering succor and fearlessness to her devotees). She is dressed in silk attire and wears a lot of rich, heavy jewellery on her person, indicating her power as the Goddess of Wealth.
Two elephants flank her on either side, spraying water. This signifies that adhering to dharma at all costs, in accordance with the laws of purity and wisdom, finally lead to success and prosperity in both the worldly and spiritual pursuits.
Lakshmi is also known by the names, Padma, Kamala, Padmapriya, Padmamaladhara, Padmakshi, Padmamukhi, Padmasundari and Padmahasta. Yet other names are Indira, Kamalika, Lalima, Rujula, Ramaa, Manushri, Chandrika and Nandika.
The Ashta Lakshmi
The Ashta Lakshmi or eight Lakshmi-s is a group of manifestations of the Goddess of Fortune. They jointly represent the eight sources of wealth. They are Aadi Lakshmi, Dhaanya Lakshmi, Dhairya Lakshmi, Gaja Lakshmi, Santaana Lakshmi, Vijaya Lakshmi, Vidyaa Lakshmi and Dhana Lakshmi.
Hindus celebrate their major festival, Diwali, by lighting little oil lamps inside and around their houses in order to welcome the Goddess of Happiness and Prosperity into their houses. It is believed that the Goddess only enters homes which are neat and clean and where her devotees are hardworking, sincere and completely devoted to her.
The significance of the Owl
The Owl, or the Ulooka in Sanskrit, is Devi Lakshmi’s vahana. Though this bird appears to be the unlikeliest vehicle for the extremely lovely Goddess, there is a deep spiritual significance as to why she selected this creature as her mount.
The Ulooka is a bird that sleeps during the day and prowls through the night. This is because it can only see in the dark, and goes blind in the day. This partial blindness in the creature is actually indicative of a sadhaka’s (seeker) tendency of going toward the pursuit of secular instead of spiritual wealth.
The owl, in the Bhagavad Gita, is likened to an enlightened sthita prajna (the one who remains unwavering to any situation, whether it be happy or sad). Goddess Lakshmi is also said to be the mistress of spiritual wisdom. By keeping the owl as her vehicle, she teaches us to open our eyes to the light of the wisdom residing within us. This Karunamayi (compassionate One) Mother, hence, symbolically keeps ignorance under her control.