Lakshmi Purana

By: Er. Bijaya Ketan Sahu

First Thursday of Indian month ‘Margashir’. In Odishan holy culture, all the Thursdays of Margashir month is dedicated to Goddess mother Lakshmi.

The very internal purpose of Lakshmi puja in Odishan house is that every daughter and daughter-in-law of family should be like mother Lakshmi. In 16th century the Odishan devotional poet Pandit Balaram Das composed “Lakshmi Purana” for glorification of holy Mother Maha-Lakshmi (concort of Lord Jagannath). In this original composition in Odia, the poet not only described a mythological story but through this story he had depicted many philosophical culture in a very practical social reforming way like Lord Jagannath is for whole universe, so the lower caste persons of society should be allowed to the temple. Brahmin and lower caste people are same in devotion. A Brahman and a lower caste person should have equal rights in serving Lord Jagannath’s eating remnants (Mahaprashad). 550 years before, the great poet had raised his voice against the bad practice of untouchability through his writes-up. The influence of poet is so powerful that inside Jagannath temple there is no sense of untouchability, even a sudra (lower caste person) can embrace lord Jagannath in Rathayatra and can eat Mahaprashad together with Brahmins.

Most important part is that, in Lakshmi Purana the holy poet Balaram Das talks about woman empowerment. In 16th century itself no poet in India before Balaram Das has talked about woman empowerment. There should be gender equality in performing holy rituals and social works by men and women. A women should be respected in a family and society. Although the poet have started a feminine movement (Nari-Jagaran) through his holy composition Lakshmi Purana, but he has not forgotten to talk about divine qualities that a woman should essentially have like Swami Bhakti (devotion to her husband), service to her father-in-law and mother-in-law, taking care of children in a devotional way, service attitude of a woman to everyone like a mother etc. These divine attributes makes a lady into a divine woman. In this holy Lakshmi Purana, the poet have drawn a picture of “Utkaliya Badhu” or “Khanti Odia bohu” (A true daughter-in-law of an Odia family) through his great literary creation (poetry).

Lakshmi Purana by Balaram Dash is so famous in whole over Odisha. Not only in Odisha, the adjacent district to Odisha of the state West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh also observe “Margashir-Gurubar” Lakshmi Puja being influenced by Lakshmi Purana composed by Balaram Dash. This holy festival being observed in other states vouches that these areas were parts of great Kalinga (Odisha) empire in the past.

Photograph: Jhoti or Chitta (Rangoli)  is traditional white art drawn by means raw-rice paste and water in houses of Odisha during Laxmi Puja. At center of the picture, the holy lotus feet Goddess Mahalaxmi Maa is drawn. This is just one design of art out of many.

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