A friend asked: “Why do we worship Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha together on a Diwali night?” Or for that matter, on any other day. I understood that in her opinion there was absolutely no reason why Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi couldn’t be worshipped alone as a single deity. She also wanted to know if Lakshmi and Ganesha were anyhow ‘related’. My explanation was as follows:
First of all we should understand that all different gods and goddesses in Hinduism are different aspects of the same God. Goddess Lakshmi is the Goddess of all wealth, money and richness. Lord Ganesha is considered God of wisdom, intelligence, success and prosperity. Ganesha is considered extremely intelligent: we remember the legend how when asked to make a round of this world, he just made a circle of his parents saying what he did was equivalent to what was asked; while his brother Kartikeya actually went and made rounds of the world and came back. (Btw, doesn’t this episode prove that people in ancient India knew that earth was round and if one starts from a point, one would reach the same place after one rotation?) Symbolism of Ganesha also proves how he represents wisdom. Ganesha is also considered remover of all obstacles on the righteous path, and hence he is worshipped at the beginning of any auspicious work like opening a new factory, entering a new house, or before starting on any great work. Now see his characteristics along with those of Goddess Lakshmi. What is wealth without prosperity? What is money without the wisdom to use it properly? Will all the material gains in the world be permanent without intelligence? Also, can anyone achieve any great affluence without removing the obstacles on the path? Qualities of Ganesha are so complementary, if I use the term, to those of Goddess Lakshmi, that our custom requires us to worship both of them together. This also reminds us that we don’t have to aim only for material wealth but also have to aim for prudence and wisdom.
Also, in Hinduism, there is no excessive focus on necessity of being poor to reach God. In Hinduism we aim for prosperity and wealth along with intelligence and wisdom – thus maintaining a very fine balance between both material and spiritual needs.
What a wonderful idea to worship Lakshmi and Ganesha together! Isn’t it so?
Note: Many times, Lakshmi, Ganesha and Saraswati (Goddess of learning) are worshipped together, again highlighting symbolically why Lakshmi (wealth) alone is not our aim. Also, in most images or sculptures, Lakshmi is placed on the right hand side of Ganesha, as in Hindus there is a custom that husband sits right of wife, and this particular gesture is to mark that there is no such relationship between the two deities. Often Lakshmi and Ganesh are worshipped by the merchant community and they mark the puja place with written words “Shubh-Laabh” (Prosperous Gain) – which again points out that we only aim for gain/profits which are prosperous and righteous.