Goddess Alakshmi is the Goddess of Misfortune, Barrenness and Strife. Alakshmi is all that does not
stand for Goddess Lakshmi.You don’t want this goddess visiting you, but you don’t get to make that call either. She comes... as a package with Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. It is your option to venerate the wiser of the two. Alakshmi is all that does not stand for Goddess Lakshmi. As such she is the
anti-thesis of Lakshmi.
My sangam literature guru, Swami Perumayinar, sometimes made a statement “Aval Lakshmi alla; Kaliyuga kottan, Avalakshmi” meaning ‘She is not Lakshmi but a Kali Yuga owl, the Alakshmi.’ Then, a rare moment, swami would add some humour by rolling His eyes, searching for an owl perched on his head! It also meant one of the five sadhaks had his mind fixed elsewhere not paying attention ……!
ALAKSHMI or Jayestha is the elder sister of Goddess Lakshmi. According to the Kalki Purana, she is also
second consort of Kali, the male demon of the Kali yuga. This Purana details the life and times of the current yuga and Vishnu’s ten avatars. When Vishnu, in the form of Krishna re-ascended to heaven, the fourth of Kali Yuga commenced, which as the name implies, is an age of impurity and dissension. The characteristics
will again and again be experienced until the final end of all things shall come. It thus appears that Alakshmi appropriately consorts with Kali. She rushes in when and where there is darkness or where a home or person far off from the purusharta goals of dharma, kama, arta and moksha.
Simply said, Alakshmi brings, discord, strife, jealousy, malice, hardship and ruination where ever she goes. Proximity to her gives rise to lack of knowledge, vision and positive thinking. She divides families and destroys wealth. She plants distrust and misunderstanding among family members, friends and relatives. With Alakshmi’s arrival come sloth, gluttony, envy, rage, hypocrisy, greed and lust. Being ignorant of this fact is arrogance.
Alakshmi is said to have emerged with Ma Lakshmi during the churning of the ocean of milk or
'samudra manthan'. Symbolically they emerged to show their opposing roles. While Lakshmi emerged with the 'amrit' or nectar, Alakshmi emerged with the 'halahala' or poison dripping from Vasuki, the divine serpent. There are writings to state that Lakshmi was born from the radiance of Lord Brahma's face while Alakshmi was
born from the darkness of his back. The same is also said of Prajapati’s face and back as the origin of the sisters. Legends also hold that the sisters were born as twins but Lakshmi goes on to live in Vaikunta with Vishnu. That is a paradise as opposed to Alakshmi’s impure and gluttonous abode with Kali.
Another name for Alakshmi is Nirriti. Mula is the deity of the 19th lunar mansion, Nirriti. Nritti is the Goddess of Destruction having the ‘barhana shakti; or the power to ruin, destroy or break up things. As Alakshmi was born Mother Goddess Devi is to have said “Lakshmi will dwell where there is nobility and righteousness, cleanliness and beauty, virtue and compassion. Alakshmi will dwell elsewhere, attracted by sloth, envy, greed, lust and pride.”
DEPICTION: Alakshmi represents extreme ugliness. She is depicted as an old, haggard, dirty, messy woman riding a donkey. Her skin is dark, leathery and shrinked. Her hair is dishevelled and matted, full of dirt and grime. She has sunken cheeks, shriveled breasts and coarse limbs. She likes to live where people are full of ego, vanity, and selfish mindset. An owl accompanies her always. Her vahana is a donkey.
The owl is known as Uluka. It is also a lesser known or unlikeliest vahana for the beautiful Goddess Lakshmi. But Hindu symbolisms carry spiritual message. It is a bird that sleeps during the day. The daytime partial blindness is indicative of a sadhaka’s assumed blindness and tendency to seek secular instead of spiritual wealth. Symbolically, Goddess Lakshmi thus seeks one to open the eyes to the light of wisdom residing within us.
Men are not all wakeful to the same thing. When the owl is compared to the sthitha prajna, the enlightened person described in Gita 2.69, the symbol means that Lakshmi is the mistress of spiritual wisdom. The disciplined yogi is awake at night. Lord Krishna states “That which is night to all beings, in that the disciplined man wakes; that in which all being wake, is night to the Atman-cognizing Muni.”
Thus uluka sitting at Lakshmi’s feet, symbolizes Alakshmi, the Goddess of Strife and her inauspicious nature.
There are some writings to say that Lakshmi’s owl is known as Pechaka, the name mentioned in Lakshmi pujas, especially in Bengal. In the Tamil vernacular, the word ‘Aanthai’ refers to the positive aspect of an owl, whereas “kottan” refers to the negative characteristics. Sometimes these words are used correlatively and the differentiating aspects left to the domain of poets.
Lakshmi’s owl symbolizes patience, intelligence and wisdom. It has the ability to foretell events. Uluka becomes Lakshmi’s vahana when she blesses with wealth and prosperity. But when Lakshmi’s wealth is used by humans for adharmic activities, then one is said to be blinded and the vahana is all but a bird of ill omen representing darkness, disgrace, inauspiciousness and misfortune. Thus Alakshmi’s owl represents ignorance, arrogance and the coming of misfortune. a symbol of universal wisdom that warns about arrogance and indiscipline.
Hindus believe that owls are the messengers. It announces an impending death or disaster. Thus the owl also calls for some respect as that is equivalent to respecting the Goddess of Strife as without due attention, she can
also create complete havoc and destruction.While the owl is the bird of wisdom, it is the negative aspects of the owl that follows Alakshmi.
WORLDLY WEALTH: Goddess Lakshmi maintains the rhythm of life. Ashtalakshmi means ‘eight
Lakshmis’ who preside over eight sources of wealth representing the powers of Lakshmi. Mother Mahalakshmi presides over eighteen forms of wealth. Out of these, ten are great siddhis called ashtasiddhis or the spiritual knowledge - Jnana. In Hindu thoughts, MahaLakshmi also presides over 16 forms of worldly wealth. They are as follows: 1. Fame, 2. Knowledge, 3. Courage and Strength, 4. Victory, 5. Good Children, 6.Valor, 7.Gold, Gems and Other Valuables, 8. Grains in abundance, 9. Happiness, 10. Bliss, 11. Intelligence, 12. Beauty, 13. Higher Aim, High Thinking and Higher Meditation, 14. Morality and Ethics, 15. Good Health, 16.Long Life. All of mankind seek these forms of wealth in one way or the other. Alakshmi, the antithesis comes in an invisible form to deny or to usurp such of Lakshmi’s blessings.
LAKSHMI – ALAKSHMI: Aiswarya means wealth and prosperity. ‘Sri Kubera Aiswarya Lakshmi Gadatcham’ means to have Lord Kubera and Mother’s Lakshmi’s blessings of nourishment and happiness.
Lakshmi wealth and beauty bring with it the contradictions and ego, pride, envy, power and clouded relationships. Thus Lakshmi is also responsible for calamities which may take away her own blessings.
In spiritual terms Alakshmi is a shadow of lakhsmi. It is inexorable that where there is Lakhsmi there would
Alakshmi also so they co-exist . But Alakshmi is not restless; once she finds a seat she occupies it to multiply her negative energy constantly until it engulfs the person or the household. It is therefore wise to avoid her presence rather than trying to get rid of her 'durbhagya' or bad luck, inauspiciousness and extreme ugliness of both external and internal nature.
No-one worships a negative aspect. But one should always acknowledge Alakshmi as she accompanies Lakshmi everywhere. So, one worships Lakshmi for adequate blessing and also to keep away Alakshmi. Praying for greed and abundance is inviting Alakshmi to the doorsteps because wealth has hidden within it the invisible
seeds of destroying Lakshmi’s blessings. In Hindu homes, Lakshmi is invited inside by various Lakshmi pujas by having sweet prasada in the prayer room. Whereas lemons and red chilly is kept outside. It is hoped that Alakshmi would feed on that and not enter. Once a while, both the front door and back doors are
kept open so that while Lakshmi is welcomed and stays in for the sweet prasada, Alakshmi is seen off through the back to taste the sour prasada kept outside. These are rituals but one is to use buddhi to know the difference between Lakshmi and Alakhsmi.
So one is to practice cleanliness, discipline, selflessness, and hard work so that Alakshmi does not
stay put. One also reveres Mother Saraswati for her blessings of jnana, sound knowledge and sound judgment to realize the difference between need and greed. Lakshmi stays with someone as long as the person is worthy of her. It is also believed that Goddess Saraswati wards off Alakshmi from other self, Lakshmi. The
belief is in keeping with the concept that wisdom helps to bring restrain and balance in a person. Hindu philosophy is a maze of symbolism and the energy is inward bound. It makes one think and attain a state of perfection through the evolution of the intellect through higher intelligence.
Samudra manthan episode is told in various Puranas. The Mahabaratha, Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Puran are of note. But before that, how did Alakshmi end with Kali? Alakshmi is said to be the elder sister. She sees Lakshmi living supremely happy with Lord Vishnu in paradise. She complaints that she neither had a husband nor a home. Lakshmi feels sorry about this but a husband for Alakshmi is not in the making. Finally, as Vishnu’s material energy and with a vision aimed at jnana for her devotees, Lakshmi decreed that Alakshmi would be
the consort of Kali, God of Decay and Destruction. Thus Alakshmi ended up to dwell wherever there is dirt, ugliness, sloth, gluttony, envy rage, hypocrisy, greed and lust. Hence those who want Alakshmi to stay out of their lives promptly seek Lakshmi’s blessings.
But the natural order of things would have it that Lakshmi herself is not beyond the holds of Alakshmi. Lakshmi
even disappeared from Lord Indra’s abode. The sage Durvasha Munivar had been observing Indra indulging in worldly pleasures. He was totally drunk for days on end, immersed in the arms of women with whom he was generous. He was given to adultery and forgiven but the next event was just to follow without any remorse.
His amusements were of worldly nature. His indulgence with courtesans’ was beyond redemption and he not only ignored the Muni’s arrival but his celestial duties. This was very unbecoming of a Lord of the Heavens.
Therefore Durvasha Munivar cursed him. “You do not respect the wealth and power bestowed
upon you. May you be deprived of it all. May Lakshmi abandon you.” With such powerful utterance, Goddess Lakshmi dissolved herself in the ocean of milk. The three lokhas were shattered by the absence of Mother Lakshmi. “Instantly, a pall of gloom descended upon the three worlds: cows stopped giving milk, plants did
not bear flower or fruit. The sun did not shine, gems did not sparkle. There was death and Alakshmi throughout the universe.”
Lord Vishnu, the Preserver had to act to bring normalcy. Mother Lakshmi was finally churned out of the
ocean. The Samudra manthan was an enterprise of cosmic proportions. Both Devas and asuras participated to become a single force and counterforce to churn for thousands of years. Mount Meru served as spindle. Ananthasesha was the churning rope and the turtle Akupura was the steady base. There is no result without
effort, before Mother Lakshmi could be churned out. But with Lakshmi, her shadow Alakshmi also came in the form of halahala poison. Lord Shiva comes to counter that and swallows the poison and thus takes the name Nilakanthan being, blue-throat caused by the poison.
The concept of Lakshmi is very easy to understand if we are receptive and open. The same is very difficult to
discern when we become slaves to ego and power. In Indian philosophy, dharma is upheld as the prime responsibility that a person is entrusted with. Sunlight, lamp or light is representative of ‘dharma’. Thus the tradition of lighting and decorating and cleaning of houses during Diwali festival arose along with the
worship of Goddess Lakshmi. Lakshmi is fickle and she will leave us the moment she will discover dirt and filth in our surroundings and in our heart , and Alakshmi will take her place instead. Diwali literally means a series of lamps or Deepam. By lighting lamps, devotees embrace dharma and demonstrate their devotion. Lakshmi is said to visit and bestow her gifts to a household that is resplendent in lights. On the same day, gifts are exchanged between people which is symbolic of movement of wealth.
But Alakshmi is not to be reviled or abused. One is to respect her also. Afterall she teaches a lesson
or two. She may even be a necessary evil. The Atharva Veda refers to two both Lakshmis. It also provides spells and incantations to drive away the former.
“ Go away, go away Papi LakshmiGo and attach yourself to my enemies.
Oh! Savitar, Use your golden handsAnd pluck away this unenjoyable goddessWho clings like a parasite to a tree”
Om Namo Narayana
Yogi Ananda Saraswathi