Varalakshmi Puja or Varalakshmi Vratham is an important ritual observed by married women in South India and Maharashtra for the prosperity and welfare of their families. The date of Varalakshmi Vratham in 2011 is August 12. Varalakshmi Puja falls on a Friday in the month of August and the preparations for the puja begin on Thursday. All the necessary items needed for the pooja are collected by Thursday evening.
People wake up early in the morning on Friday and take a bath. Traditionally speaking the waking up time for the puja is the brahma muhurtham. Then the designated puja area and house is cleaned well and a beautiful ‘kolam’ or rangoli is drawn on the intended place of puja.
Next is the preparation of the ‘kalasham or kalash.’ A bronze or silver pot is selected and is cleaned thoroughly and a swastika symbol is drawn and is smeared with sandalwood paste. The kalasham pot is filled with raw rice or water, coins, a single whole lime, five different kinds of leaves, and beetle nut. The items used to fill the kalasham vary from region to region and includes turmeric, comb, mirror, small black bangles and black beads.
The kalasham up to the neck is sometimes covered with a cloth and mango leaves are placed on the mouth of the kalasham. Finally, a coconut smeared with turmeric is used to close the mouth of the kalasham. To this coconut, an image of Goddess Lakshmi is fixed or the image of Lakshmi is drawn using turmeric powder. Now the kalasham symbolically represents Goddess Lakshmi.
In some areas, women place a mirror behind the kalasham. Today, there are also specially made Varalakshmi pots available in the market.
The kalasham is usually placed on a bed of rice. First Lord Ganesha is worshipped. Then begins the Varalakshmi Puja. The puja consists of singing slokas dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi like the Lakshmi Sahasranamam. Arati is performed on the kalasham. Different types of sweets are offered. Some people offer pongal. In some areas women tie yellow thread on their hands.
The woman who is observing the Varalakshmi Puja abstains from eating certain kind of food and this varies from region to region. In some regions, women fast till the puja period.
Thamboolam – betel leaf, areca nut and slaked lime – is offered to women in the locality and in the evening an arati is offered.
The next day, that is on Saturday, after taking a bath the kalasham is dismantled and the water in the kalasham is sprinkled in the house. If rice is used then it is mixed with rice in the house.
There are no hard and fast rules in performing the Varalakshmi Puja and you can be flexible on the puja items. Even a simple prayer will please Goddess Lakshmi.