Why Goddess Laxmi is depicted as sitting next to Lord Vishnu’s feet?
The posture gives a wrong message to society about women’s status in Hinduism. There is an interesting story behind this posture of Goddess Laxmi and Lord Vishnu. The picture is just a symbolic representation of cleanliness, order, preserving and has nothing to do with the relationship of man/woman. Vishnu is the keeper or lord of the house and Laxmi is the one who ensures that the keeper is guarded from misfortune.
Alaxmi is the older sister of Laxmi. Laxmi is the goddess of prosperity while Alaxmi is the goddess of misfortune. Alaxmi follows Laxmi wherever she goes.
Alaxmi does not have a husband. She is extremely jealous of Laxmi. Her sole intention in life is to capture Vishnu. She is described as being cow-repelling, antelope-footed and bull-toothed. She has a wrinkled body, thick lips, and small, globular, glittering eyes. She sometimes takes the form of an owl that is depicted accompanying Laxmi.
One day Laxmi went enraged and asked Alakhsmi – “Why do you want my husband? Please leave me alone and let me enjoy his company”.
To this alakhsmi had said – “I do not have a husband and I am not worshipped. I will follow you wherever you go”.
Laxmi then said – “Mrityu, god of death, decay, and degeneration will be your husband and she will dwell wherever there is dirt, ugliness, sloth, gluttony, envy, rage, hypocrisy, greed and lust.”
So it is Laxmi who is cleaning Vishnu’s dirty feet, because if it is dirty, Alaxmi will come and drive her out and claim her husband.
The symbolic representation
Indian mythology is mostly symbolic and subjective. Here is the subjective meaning:
Fortune and misfortune go hand in hand, just like Laxmi and Alaxmi. When good fortune showers on you, misfortune sits quietly next to the entrance, waiting for an opportunity to come inside. That is alaksmi, waiting for an opportunity to enter your house and drive out the laxmi.
Whenever your house is dirty, there is fight among parents, there is lust, hypocrisy among brothers, gluttony among women, greed between son and father, women are dressed in dirty clothes. It is a sign of Alaxmi entering the house and driving Laxmi away.
Hence, the laxmi in the house must wake up and prevent alaxmi from entering. This is why you see the house is cleaned every morning, agarbatties (Incense sticks) are lighted, people wear fresh new clothes in festivals. This is done to prevent misfortune (Alaxmi) from entering the house.