Sri or LAKSHMI occupies a pivotal position in the SRIVAISHNAVA tradition. The PURUSHASUKTA (Uttara Anuvaka) refers to HRI and LAKSHMI as the two Consorts of the Cosmic PURUSHA. HRI is identified with BHUMI and LAKSHMI is same as SRI. In the SRISUKTHA, LAKSHMI is glorified as the goddess of plenty, prosperity and charm, radiant with golden complexion.
CHATUSSLOKI describes Her as the Goddess of beauty, plenty, prosperity, compassion and supreme authority. All other Gods and Goddesses are Her subordinates
The word SRI, according to tradition, has several interpretations. All these interpretations point to her unique position as the Consort of the Lord and the mediator between Him and the erring humanity. For this reason She is popularly called the pusushakara. Some of the etymologies of the word SRI may be given:
1. One who removes all our sins (srinaati nikhilaan doshaan)
2. One who nourishes the world with virtues (sreenaati cha gunaih jagat)
3. One who is resorted to by all beings (sreeyate cha akhilair nityam)
4. One who stays in the highest abode (srayate cha param padam)
5. One who listens to the petitions of the beings (srinoti)
6. One who passes them on to the Lord also (i.e, makes Him listen to them) (sraavayati)
It is already stated that the VISHNUPURANA presents SRI as the inseparable Consort of VISHNU. SRI YAMUNA (ALAVANDAR) in his short hymn on LAKSHMI called the CHATUSSLOKI describes Her as the Goddess of beauty, plenty, prosperity, compassion and supreme authority. All other Gods and Goddesses are Her subordinates. She stays in the NITYAVIBHUTI (VAIKUNTHA) along with Her husband. She is so great that
even the Lord does not know Her in full. Without Her grace none can aspire for any welfare either in this world or in the other. Only through Her grace liberation becomes possible.
Following this stotra ofYAMUNA on LAKSHMI other SRIVAISHNAVA teachers like KURESVARA, PARASARABHATTA and VEDANTA DESIKA wrote hymns on the glory of LAKSHMI. SRI RAMANUJA in the opening portion of his SARANAGATI GADYA refers to LAKSHMI (SRI) as the mother of all, the Consort of Lord NARAYANA and as possessing innumerable auspicious qualities. He surrenders to Her whole heartedly thus: “sriyam deveem nityaanapaayineem …. saranam aham prapadye” (I seek refuge with SRI, the inseparable Consort of the God of Gods…)
The role of LAKSHMI as purushakara is illustrated by Her acts in the incarnation as SITA. She was responsible for SRI RAMA’S saving the sinner crow. Although SRI RAMA could have easily killed it, He did not do so because SITA, an embodiment of motherly love, intervened. It is stated that when the crow roamed over the three worlds and ultimately felt exhausted and fell down in the presence of SRI RAMA unable to find a protector, SITA turned the head of the bird in such a way that it appeared to seek refuge at His feet. This is quite befitting Her position as the purushakara. Another instance is when HANUMAN, subsequent to the death of RAVANA, wanted to kill the demonesses who were tormenting SITA, She pleaded on their behalf and came to their rescue. She argued that there was nothing wrong in their behaviour as they were just carrying out the command of their master.
“Paapaanaam uau subhaanaam vaa uadbaarbaanaam phvangama !
Kaaryam karunam aaryena na kascbit na apa raadbyati” – (RAMAYANA VI. 116.44)
(A noble person must be kind towards people irrespective of their being sinful or meritorious, and even towards those who deserve death. There is none in this world who does not err.)
Such an act of mediation makes SRI the mother of the Universe since She is the embodiment of parental love and compassion. The name SRI-VAISHNAVISM (kindly take note, SRI sampradaya is totally different from SRIVAISHNAVA sampradaya, hence, can’t be used interchangeably) is thus a significant expression because of the special status it accords to SRI.
Sri Nrisimha Priya