Laxmi (or Lakshmi) is a Hindu goddess of prosperity and good fortune, worshipped from around 300 BCE to the present.

She is often portrayed sitting cross-legged on a pink lotus with four arms while gold coins fall from one of her right palms and also from a jar on her left thigh.

However, artistic depictions vary from the popular to the sublime, with symbolic details differing in each instance.

Laxmi is Vishnu’s partner and, as such, fills him with sacred energy (shakti). As the incarnation of Sita she is the wife of the hero Rama and also of Krishna, taking the form of Radha.

In her honor, all Indian businesses close and local merchants shutter their shops one day every year in October.

Likewise, students petition Laxmi for good grades in examinations. I remember thinking this a bit weird while doing my M.A. in India. For me, the prayer is about trying to understand and actually do God’s will, not about asking for special favors. This is the ideal of the Bhagavad Gita too. “Action without fruit.” That is, doing the right thing regardless of whether or not it pays off with worldly rewards.

Back then, one of my professors picked up on my incredulity and smiled apologetically as her students prayed for good marks.

To be fair, however, these days I also ask God that I do my best in life, and this could include exams. I guess I’ve softened a bit in my old age.

Wikipedia fleshes out some of the complexities of Laxmi. Hindu myth and religion is rarely cut and dried. It bends, shapes, and extends into various other religions, to include Jainism and Buddhism:

Lakshmi (/ˈlʌksmi/Sanskrit: लक्ष्मी, IASTlakṣmī) or Laxmi, is the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity.[1][3] She is the wife and shakti (energy) of Vishnu, one of the principal deities of Hinduism and the Supreme Being in the Vaishnavism Tradition.[2] With Parvati and Saraswati, she forms Tridevi, the holy trinity. Lakshmi is also an important deity in Jainism and found in Jain temples.[4] Lakshmi has also been a goddess of abundance and fortune for Buddhists, and was represented on the oldest surviving stupas and cave temples of Buddhism.[5][6] In Buddhist sects of TibetNepal and Southeast Asia, goddess Vasudhara mirrors the characteristics and attributes of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi with minor iconographic differences.[7]*