Wealth is an essential commodity in any society! Everyone seeks it for comfort and security. In brief, the capitalists have been right. However, there is a ugly face to capitalism. In other words, there is an ugly face to wealth itself. The Vedic texts remind us of a succinct distinction between two means to wealth. Lakshmi represents wealth and its pursuit in a responsible. On the other hand, Jyeshta, the elder sister of Lakshmi is the Devi of wealth from gambling and speculation. Is Capitalism controlled by Jyeshta today?
The Rishis conveyed an important distinction through the story of Jyeshta Devi. The story of the churning of the milky ocean has several mini teachings. One among them is the emergence of Jyeshta Devi. The Devas and their rivals, the Asuras, churned the legendary milky ocean for Amrita, the nectar of immortality. Initially, their efforts remained futile. Later, the ocean began to yield gifts; some nice and some terrible. One of the most terrifying gifts was the Poison capable of destroying anything in existence. Another grotesque looking gift was Jyeshta Devi, the deity of untamed capitalism.
Jyeshta Devi and Lakshmi
The Devas and the Asuras vied for the desirable gifts, such as legendary flying horse, the flying elephant, rare gems, intoxicants and the wish fulfilling tree. However, they held back when Jyeshta Devi arose. In summary, Jyeshta was both wise and sensitive. She understood the ways of the world after sensing this cold reception. Lakshmi arose immediately after Jyeshta Devi.
A somewhat dejected Jyeshta Devi approached Shiva who had gladly accepted the poison which arose before her. She sought the purpose behind her existence. Shiva blessed her to be a giver of boons. She thus recognized her role with respect to wealth. Together with her younger sister, she began to rule over the instinct towards wealth. She married the dreaded Shani, the harbinger of the results of past Karmas and tough times. Their son Kuligan is revered as a remover of Karmic obstacles.
Jyeshta Devi and Gamblers
In the past. Jyeshta Devi held a position of respect in Shiva temples. She is often depicted with a broom and her two children in her hands. On the other hand, Lakshmi is always depicted holding a lotus in her hands. Jyeshta was the family deity of the Kings of the Pallava and Chola dynasties. Villagers too worshipped and sought her protection. The Kings sought her help in keeping a check on the gambling and other speculative tendencies in society. The villagers sought her help in keeping the gamblers and the wicked beyond the bounds of the village.
The worship tradition of Jyeshta Devi declined as a new breed of greedy rulers took over. A few remember the significance of honoring Jyeshta Devi today. Yet, her domain of influence is huge today where global leaders are unable to quell the ugly head of unbound capitalism.
Jyeshta refers to the first born. Jyeshta Devi was born before Lakshmi. Mooththa Devi refers to the elder sister in Tamil. Over time, this word became Moodevi. It is unfortunate that people fear Moodevi, of late. The purpose behind distinguishing Lakshmi from Mooththa Devi is to stay vigilant against negative tendencies linked to wealth.
An interesting paper on gambling in ancient India found its way to NIH (National Institute of Health) archive. Read it here.