Śrī Sūktam श्री सूक्तम्
Śrī Sūktam is found in Pariśiṣṭa (परिशिष्ट) of Rig Veda, under the head Khilasūkta (खिलसूक्त). Pariśiṣṭa means supplement or appendix. Khilasūkta means additional hymn appended to the regular collection. Śrī Sūktam is 11th under this category. There are 29 verses of Śrī Sūktam in the original text of Khilasūkta. There are five Ṛṣi-s for this and they are Ānanda, Kardama, Śrīda, Ciklīta and Śrīputra (आनन्द, कर्दम, श्रीद, चिक्लीत and श्रीपुत्र). It is composed in three Chandas.
Sūkta means properly rendered, wise saying or song of praise. Sūkta, also known as Vedic hymn, is different from Vedic couplets. Sūkta-s praise a single God or Goddess. For example, Puruṣasūktam is a hymn in the praise of Puruṣa, which can be interpreted as Brahman (divyaḥ puruṣaḥ amūrtaḥ) and also as Viṣṇu (Viṣṇu Sahasranāma 14 adores Viṣṇu as Puruṣa). Śrī refers to Viṣṇu’s Consort Lakṣmī. This is revealed by Goddess Lakṣmī Herself to Indra (Lakṣmī Tantra). Indra asks Śrī the ways and means of rendering Śrī Sūktam. On his request, Śrī explains the importance of Śrī Sūktam.
“I am the Power of Nārāyaṇa. I am His Supreme Śakti, free from all sorts of afflictions. I manifest as both good and bad (Brahman is both good and bad, as It is omnipresent). Both Nārāyaṇa and I thought about welfare of the world, created by us (for the purpose of peaceful sustenance), we worked on Śabdabrahman and found out two Sūkta-s. One is Puruṣasūkta and another is Śrī Sūkta. The first one contains praise for Brahman (Nirguṇabrahman); second one also is the praise for Brahman, referring to me (Sagunabrahman).If these two Sūkta-s are properly recited, it takes him to the point of Liberation. Now let me explain the rules for reciting Śrī Sūkta.”
Original Śrī Sūkta contains only 15 verses, each of the verses referring to one lunar tithi. The first verse is for Prathama tithi and 15th verse is for full moon (pūrṇimā) or new moon (amāvāsya), the 15th tithi. Sages like Śaunaka (sometimes referred as various authors) had laid down the methods of worshiping Lakṣmī with Śrī Sūkta. One should visualize Lakṣmī sitting on the left thigh of Nārāyaṇa (this form is called Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa, and is considered as the most auspicious form). His left arm around embracing Her and Her right hand on the shoulders of Nārāyaṇa.
Fifteen verses (these verses are also known as ṛc, which means a sacred verse recited in praise of a deity) are to be used as follows.
- Invoking Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa (it is said that Lakṣmī alone should not be invoked. She has to be invoked along with Her Consort Nārāyaṇa, on whose left lap, She is seated).
- Offering Them seat (āsanam).
- Offering arghya and pādya.
- Offering ācamana.
- Offering one more oblation (punar ācamana for the sake of proffering (as a mark of acceptance).
- Offering bath
- Adorning with silk clothes.
- Adorning with ornaments
- Applying sandal and other perfumes
- Adoring with garlands and flowers.
- Offering incense fumes (dhūpam)
- Offering dīpam.
- Offering madhuparka (it is the mixture of honey and milk in equal proportion. Sometimes, curd is also added. This is done to welcome Them).
- Making them ready for showering Grace.
- Salutation to Them.
She also says that one should add hrīṁ and śrīṁ (ह्रीं and श्रीं) at the beginning of each verse. Lord Brahmā worshiped Her with this mantra (om hiraṇyavarṇāyai namaḥ - ॐ हिरण्यवर्णायै नमः) and attained Her Grace. (Adding hrīṁ and śrīṁ to this mantra could produce better results - om hrīṁ śrīṁ hiraṇyavarṇāyai namaḥ - ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं हिरण्यवर्णायै नमः). Hiraṇyavarṇa means gold coloured. Lakṣmī’s complexion is hiraṇyavarṇa and Lalitāmbikā’s complexion is red. Lakṣmī has gold complexion because She represents wealth, which is in the form of gold. Lalitāmbikā’s red complexion represents compassion. Goddess Sarasvatī is white in complexion.
Lakṣmī is adored as Prakṛti (Vimarśa aspect of Nārāyaṇa, who is Prakāśa or Self-illuminating in nature). It is important to note that Lakṣmī aṣṭottaram begins with Prakṛti - ॐ प्रकृत्यै नमः om prakṛtyai namaḥ. It is also said that Śrī Sūktam subtly conveys 53 of Her names.
Apart from the 15 verses that form Śrī Sūktam, one more verse is added, which prescribes rules for chanting to attain Her Grace. This verse says that one should perform homa with these 15 verses. There are several additions to the original Śrī Sūkta. In certain instances, there are 37 verses and obviously, these additional verses are added during post Sāyaṇācarya period. There are three ṛṣi-s for Śrī Sūktam – Ānanda, Kardama and Ciklīta.
With this brief introduction, we will study the meaning of Śrī Sūkta.