Although much is not said about the various incarnations of Lakshmi, the mythology brings into light the various legends where Lakshmi has been born in various names. More than avatars or incarnations these are mere instances when Lakshmi took various forms in order to fulfill the wishes of the one''s who worshipped her.|
A long time ago there was a king by name Rathadhwaja. In his family, worship of Lakshmi had a long tradition. The king gave up the worship of Lakshmi due to indifference. Consequently he lost the grace of Lakshmi. The enemies invaded with an army. Rathadhwaja was defeated in war and lost the kingdom.
Rathashwaja had two sons Kushadhwaja and Dharmadhwaja. They felt sorry for their father''s mistake. They observed rigorous penance, meditating for Lakshmi. When she appeared they prayed, "Bless us so that we get back our kingdom. Grant us a favor by being born as our daughter." Lakshmi granted the boons. They bravely fought, won the kingdom again and were living happily.
Malavati was the name of Kushadhwaja''s wife. Goddess Lakshmi, in fulfillment of the boon granted by her, entered the womb of Malavati in subtle form and was born as a daughter. It is said that even at the time of birth she was reciting Vedic verses clearly. Therefore, the parents named her ''Vedavati''. Kushadhwaja looked after her and brought her up with great affection. Vedavati grew up to be a beautiful, virtuous girl. She came of age. Both gods and demons came forward to wed her. She did not accept anybody. She went away to Pushkara, a place of pilgrimage and undertook a rigorous penance praying for Vishnu''s becoming her husband. The penance dragged on for a long time. One day a voice from heaven was heard: "Vedavati, you have to be born again. In your next birth, Vishnu will also be born and he will become your husband." Even then, Vedavati continued her penance without losing heart.
Ravana was in aerial chariot, PUSPAK, and in course of travel came there. Thinking that a guest had come to the hermitage, Vedavati was hospitable to him. Then Ravana asked her about her life. Vedavati said: "I am the daughter of king Kushadhwaja. My name is Vedavati. I have undertaken a penance with a view to getting Sriman Narayana himself to become my husband." On hearing this Ravana laughed derisively and said: "You, beautiful woman, should you, a young woman, observe penance? You talk about Narayana! Who is he? Has he as much wealth as I have? Is he strong? I am Ravana, king of Lanka. Marry me and be happy." Replied Vadavati, "Ravana, don''t talk so. Narayana means the king of the universe, Vishnu. Should you abuse him? A big fool you are." Realizing that she was not amenable to persuasion, Ravana caught her head and dragged her by hair. Enraged Vedavati immediately sheared her hair with her hand. Due to the influence of penance her hand itself cut her hair like a sword. She turned to Ravana and said, "You scoundrel, are you compelling me? By your touch my body became tainted. Be looking on, now itself I will give up my body. I will take birth as the daughter of another righteous person and will myself be the cause for your death." Immediately she jumped into a burning fire in the hermitage and gave up her life. Ravana returned to Lanka grief stricken.
Vedavati was later born as a daughter of king Janaka. King Janaka named her Sita. At that time Dasharatha was ruling over Ayodhya. To his wife Kausalya, Vishnu was born and became famous as Sri Rama. He came with sage Vishwamitra to Janaka''s capital and broke the bow given by Shiva. Then King Janaka, having admired Sri Rama''s valor, gave Sita in marriage to Sri Rama. When sometime passed, Sri Rama, as desired by his father, had to go to Dandakaranya with Sita and Lakshmana. While living there, Ravana deceitfully took Sita to Lanka. Sri Rama went to Lanka with Sugreeva, Hanumanta and other monkey warriors and invaded Lanka. In the terrible war that followed, Sri Rama killed Ravana. Thereafter, Sita came to Ayodhya with Sri Rama and lived a happy life. This story is told in great detail in the Ramayana.
On the other side, Lakshmi was born to Dharmadhwaja''s wife Madhavi. Her parents named her Tulasi. The child was very beautiful. She grew up to be virtuous. Later she married Vishnu. Vishnu told her: "You leave this body and stay with me. Let your body become a river by name Gandaki. I will became a Saligrama stone and will reside in Gandaki River. Let your hair grow into a plant, become famous as Tulasi and be worshipped by people. I love a garland of Tulasi petals."
Tulasi''s body flowed after becoming river Gandaki. Narayana became a stone and was residing in it. Tulasi plant was born from the hair of Tulasi and became sacred.
There was a king by name Bhishmaka in the kingdom of Vidharbha. He had five sons by name Rukmi, Rukmaratha, Rukmabahu, Rukmakesha and Rukmamali. Sriman Narayana was born for killing Kansa and with a view to establishing righteousness. When he was thus born as Krishna, Lakshmi was born as Rukmini, daughter of Bhismaka. She was beautiful and virtuous. Father Bhishmaka was not only god-fearing but had also great respect for Sri Krishna. He thought of giving Rukmini in marriage to Sri Krishna.
But Bhishmaks''s first son Rukmi did not agree to it. He had joined a gang of wicked men formed by Shishupala and others. He brought pressure on his father to give sister Rukmini in marriage to Shishupala. As Rukmi hated Sri Krishna he did not agree to have the relationship. Bhishmaka was not bold enough to ignore his advice.
Rukmini''s marriage with Shishupala was fixed. But Rukmini, having heard of Sri Krishna''s good character and greatness, had mentally accepted him as her husband. She sent a messenger to Dwaraka with the message that she would marry Krishna; and if not possible, she would give her life. Sri Krishna had already heard of Rukmini''s character, virtue and beauty. He wished to marry her. Therefore, he immediately boarded a chariot and came to Bhishmaka''s town. Balarama came to know that Sri Krishna went alone. Instantly he followed with a large army to help his brother.
In the capital of Vidarbha all arrangements were being made for Rukmini''s marriage. Shishupala had arrived with his friends Jarasandha, Salva, Paundraka and others. Balarama and Krishna also joined. Balarama had stationed his army far away outside the city.
After sometime the marriage rituals commenced. Rukmini went with her entourage to the temple to worship Gowri. She worshipped Gowri and prayed: "Let only Sri Krishna become my husband." She was not aware of Sri Krishna''s having come to the town. She was worried about what would happen. Rukmini completed worship of Gowri and came out of the temple. Instantly Sri Krishna brought his chariot, made her mount it and drove away towards Dwaraka. Jarasandha and others, when they came to know of this incident became angry and went after Sri Krishna. A terrible war was fought. Krishna and Balarama defeated all and set out to Dwaraka.
Thereafter the marriage of Sri Krishna and Rukmini was celebrated grandly at Dwaraka. Rukmini was the senior queen. Pradyumna is Rukmini''s son.
Once the great sage Bhrigu went to heaven. Vishnu was sleeping on Adisesha. The sage became angry and kicked at Vishnu''s chest. Then Vishnu got up and said: "O sage, welcome to you. Excuse me. I am sure your foot must be hurting because it touched my hard chest." He massaged his leg and comforted him. Sage Bhrigu was pleased. Saying, "You have comforted me without losing your temper even when kicked. You possess good nature, you are the best," he left.
However, Narayana''s wife Lakshmi was dissatisfied. "The sage kicked at the chest in which I reside. It means dishonoring me. Without punishing him my husband comforts him. I cannot reside in this chest any more," she decided, and in disgust went to Kolhapur and settled there. Even to this day the temple of Mahalakshmi at Kolhapur is famous.
As Lakshmi left, Vishnu became sad. He went from Vaikuntha to Tirupati and settled in Venkatadri under the name of Venkatesha.
Akasharaja, the king of Chola country, had no children. His teacher told him to perform a religious function to get children. The king agreed to it and he himself began ploughing the earth to level the ground to set up the ritual stage. When the plough split the ground, a lotus with many petals came into view. A female child was lying in it. A voice was heard from heaven saying, "O King, this girl is very fortunate. Bring her up considering her as your daughter." With pleasure the king gave the child to his queen Dharanidevi. The child was named ''Padmavati''. She was brought up with great affection. She grew up into a woman bright as the moon in the first phase of the month. One day when Padmavati was enjoying herself in the garden with her friends, sage Narada came there. Looking at Padmavati he said, "O Mother, I know who you are. You are truly Lakshmi. As you could not bear the separation from Vishnu, you have been born thus and come here. He, in the form of Venkatesha, is suffering due to the separation from you and living in Tirupati. Within a few days you two will be married," and went away. Venkatesha attracted Padmavati, one day when she was amusing herself in the garden Venkatesha came there and saw her. They became acquainted and love grew between them. When Akasharaja came to know of this, he gladly agreed to their marriage. As desired by Venkatesha, Brahma and other gods attended the wedding. The marriage was celebrated magnificently. Because ''Sri'' (Lakshmi) permanently settled down in Tirupati on Venkatesha''s chest, he got the name ''Srinivasa'' (the one in whom sri resides).