Adyar Gopal Parivar
Varamahalakshmi Vritha
Vaina Puja Pictures
Above: Vaina Puja set up at home
Above: Kalasha and one Vain
Above: Vaina coconuts ready
Above: Vaina coconut with lamp
                   Varamahalakshmi Vrita festival is mainly observed to promote married women's
interests. Being the wife of Lord Vishnu, Varamahalakshmi assumes powers to bless the
married woman with the boons she wishes for, such as long life for her husband, fertility
and prosperity.

                   Many men and women these days do not give importance to any one particular
deity but worship all deities equally. Therefore in the houses where Lakshmi Puja is held,
there is Gowri Puja is also held.

Vaina Puja (worship of Vaina). The main item is the Vaina. Vaina consists of a coconut
cleaned of its outer husk and fibers and then the shell polished to make it shiny. There is
one Kumbha Kalasha, which is set up for goddess Lakshmi and another for god Vishnu.
Kumbha and Kalasha are pots made of either copper or silver and containing sacred water.
The water becomes sacred as soon as it is poured into the pot. When a coconut is placed
on the pot's opening, Kumbha Kalasha becomes complete. These coconuts have to have
their stalk fibres intact. The stalk fibres are situated at one pole of the coconut shell, like a
shendi. Shendi is the tuft of hair on the top of head worn by Brahmins of yore.  
Kumbha Kalasha adds beauty to the ceremony. There are many idols of different deities
also arranged on the altar. The altar is a wooden platform or a low wooden bench. Lots of
flowers and garlands are draped to the idols. Idols of Vishnu, Lakshmi, Ganesha, Shiva,
Parvathi, Sharada, etc., are all worshipped together. In India the Varamahalakshmi Vrita is
observed separately.

                   Puja consists of waving the lighted aarathi in the face of the deities. There are
also Vaina coconuts that have to be shown the aarathi. Banana leaves form an important
part of all Puja(s) at any home. Only the end pieces of the banana leaves are used. Each
end piece is about 2 ft. in length. Such pieces of Banana leaves are used for keeping Puja
implements on them.The banana leaf pieces are spread on the floor and then heaps of raw
rice are arranged on them. The Vaina coconuts are placed on the heaps of raw rice. One
Vaina coconut is placed on each heap. The rice heap stabilizes the coconut from rolling. On
the top of the coconut a terracotta oil lamp is placed. Lamp is oiled and a cotton wick is
placed in the oil with one end sticking out, which is lighted using a matchstick. About 30
such coconuts with lighted lamps are arranged on the floor over the banana leaf pieces, in
front of the goddess Lakshmi's portrait. A priest, or a man in the house, or a married woman
may perform the Puja. The Puja begins with Sankalpa. Sankalpa is literally determination.
Here, determination to worship goddess Lakshmi and Vishnu. Next Achman is made.
Achman is to clear the throat with a sip of water. Water is taken in the palm of the hand and
sucked in the mouth, without regard to any sound that accompanies such sucking. The
sucking might sound like drawing the last drops of the drink with a straw from a bottle.

                   The third item is wearing the Pavithra. Pavithra is a ring of the Darba grass.
One end of the grass sticks out from the knot. Darba grass gives authority to the Pujari (one
who performs the Puja) to perform the Puja. After this the twelve Gana(s) are remembered
and invoked. Gana(s) are the chieftains of the universe. Ganesha is the chieftains of the
Gana(s). By paying respects to the Gana(s) and the god Ganesha, the worshippers pray for
protection from obstacles in the Puja that is yet to be performed. All these steps in the Puja
are executed while the Vedic or Puranic Manthras (verses) are chanted. Only the priests
know how to chant the Manthras. On the other hand any one who learns how to chant the
Manthras can officiate as a priest. Only the priests and priest-likes can therefore perform
the steps such as Sankalpa, Achman, wearing Pavithra and invoking the Gana(s). If the
service of a priest or a priest-like is not available then these steps are omitted.
                    Now the goddess Lakshmi is invoked by reciting her names. There is a long
list of names of Lakshmi, which have to be recited at the Puja.
Varamahalakshmi Vrita Vaina Coconuts
Adyar Gopal and Radha Bai
                    Puja performers other than the priest can recite these names by reading the book
of procedure of Puja that is available in the Vedic bookstores. Vedic book stores are book
stores that stock religious books. If the priest is attending to the Puja then he will recite
these names for us.

                    In some homes a Homa (fire in which offerings are tendered) called Gana
Homa is set up. The Homa adds value to the Puja. A priest can help set up the Homa.
During the Puja, goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu are offered Naivedya (food prepared
for the feast) by placing small quantities of every item prepared for the feast in small
containers in front of the altar. The priest offers the Naivedya to the gods by waving a
flower or a Tulasi leaf to the god and then dropping it in the container. This is done with
every container.

                    A thread known as Vaina Daara (Daara=thread) with twelve knots is also
worshipped along-side goddess Lakshmi. The Puja of the thread consecrates it. The
married women put on the thread around their neck or they might tie it to their right wrists.
At last, the Mangalaarathi (Mangal=final auspicious) is waved. To play music at the time of
aarathi, someone will play the Jagate (a brass plate beaten by a drum stick.) and another
person will blow the conch to produce the appropriate music. The Mangalaarathi is the final
act in the Puja.

                    Always more than one coconut Vaina is to be worshipped so that there is at
least one coconut to distribute to a married woman-relative friend. The Vaina coconuts are
to be distributed immediately after the Mangalaarathi to those married women-relatives and
friends who attend the Puja. By presenting the pujaised Vaina, to the older married women,
a married woman will seek their blessings. To the younger women she herself gives
blessings at the time of presenting the Vaina. The practice of blessing some one younger is
a tradition in Hinduism. It is also a tradition to seek blessings of an older person. These are
good traditions but a large number of young people do not think that giving and receiving
blessings helps them in their life in any manner. The expectation is that all the women will
let her keep her married status intact and all will remain happily married without any
jealousy or ill will. The receiving woman will respond by giving back a pujaised Vaina at a
later date. She has to give a Vaina coconut that has been pujaised in her home. By
returning a Vaina the woman confirms the mutual hopes and aspirations. There are some
families that do not practice the Vaina Puja as a tradition. Women from such families can
receive the Vaina coconut but need not return the gift.

                    The Tamboola or the betel leaves and nuts play an important part in giving
and receiving gifts. Every Vaina is to be presented along with Tamboola (a pair of betel
leaves and a few cut pieces of areca nuts). An article of gift is to be accompanied by
Tamboola. A gift given with the Tamboola gets separated permanently from the giver. The
same gift item cannot be given back. If the receiver wishes to return a Vaina, then she
cannot return the same Vaina coconut back. She shall reciprocate with a newly pujaised
Vaina and Tamboola. However there is no rule that a Vaina gift has to be reciprocated.
Some of the invited guests wish to perform Archana prayer to the goddess Lakshmi. They
bring their own offerings such as the coconut, banana phonno, flowers, incense sticks etc.
Banana phonno is a cluster of 5 banana fingers. The priest will perform the Archana on
their behalf to the deities. He will break the coconuts into halves, break the tips of the
banana fingers, mount the flowers on the deities, and light the incense sticks. He will also
pray the deities to grant the wishes of the Archana aspirant.
After the Puja it is time for a grand feast which is served to all the guests.

                    Names Lakshmi and Mahalakshmi refer to the same Goddess Lakshmi.
Lakshmi or Mahalakshmi has a definite character that differs from that of Gowri. Gowri
does not indulge in financial affairs. Lakshmi on the other hand is the goddess of wealth.
Lakshmi is the favourite goddess of merchants and she is worshipped specially in the
shops and establishments on the day after Mahanavami festival during the Dassera.

(Concluded)
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