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Goddesses hold key place of power
In the Vaishnavaite tradition, a woman holds ultimate power, but that should not come as a surprise to anyone. In the Hindu pantheon, goddesses are given the high altar.
They are decision makers, and power houses. In fact, all the crucial departments are held by women. Education lies with Saraswati, wealth with Mahalakshmi and warfare is Durga’s forte.
Power-sharing is exemplified by the way the Gods give pride of place to their consorts. Brahma holds Saraswathi in his tongue, Siva has given Sakti half his body while Vishnu holds Mahalakshmi in his heart. By virtue of her position in Vishnu’s heart, Mahalakshmi is privy to His thoughts and is strategically positioned to intervene on behalf of devotees. In fact, any devotee whose pleas reach her ears can be sure of full realisation, provided it is a virtuous one.
Her virtues are celebrated in the Vaishnavite preceptor Vedanta Desikan’s incomparable work Sri Stuthi. Mahalakshmi is referred to as Sri, signifying six traits. She is capable of negating the ill-effects of dosha; She is liked by all because of her kind and firm nature; She reaches out to Vishnu to save us; She is very attentive to the cries of her devotees; Not only is She an attentive listener, She also ensures that Vishnu listens to Her. She intercedes on behalf of devotees to Vishnu often.
Vedanta Desikan says that a mere fraction of Her sight is enough to set-off of an array of blessings. The sloka, “Yasyam yasyam,” Desikan says even before her eye can complete the action of falling on a devotee, the devas representing wealth, prosperity and contentment get into a race to reach the devotee ahead of Her, ready to carry out Her wises.
Regularly reciting Sri Stuti will fetch one all the benefits of this world and the next. Sri is a personification of prosperity since She emerged from the Milky Ocean with Chintamani, Kamadhenu and various other things that are coveted by everyone. However, She is also one who thinks independently. It is said that when She emerged from the churning of the Ocean, all the Gods fought for Her hand. However, She chose Vishnu since He gave Her the room to be Herself and held Himself back. He respected Her psychology. She chooses who to bless and whom to raise up in life.
She personifies all that a woman wants to achieve in life and Sri is celebrated every day. She does not require elaborate rituals, but is happy with true devotion. However, chanting of Sri Stuthi everyday will make one a stronger, better person.
Some things need not be mandated, but followed by example. For example, the festival of Holi is not a religious one. However, it is followed everywhere. It is like what Andal says in the Thiruppavai , ‘Male Manivanna,’ where she says, ‘Melaiyar seivanaigal’ (meaning, what our ancestors did) — traditional practices are holy in nature and holi in spirit.
—The writer gives discourses on devotion