The appearance of goddess Lakshmi is related to an ancient story. Durvasa the short-tempered sage once presented Indra, the king of the gods (devas) with a garland of flowers which would never wilt. Indra gave this garland to his elephant Airavata. Sage Durvasa saw the elephant trampling the divine garland and cursed Indra, for he had shown disrespect to the sage. The sage cursed Indra that he and all the gods would lose their power because it had made them so proud and vain. Due to the curse, the demons vanquished the gods out of the heavens.
The defeated gods then went to seek refuge to the Creator Lord Brahma who asked them to churn the ocean of milk, Ksheersagar, to obtain the nectar of immortality. The gods then went to Lord Vishnu, to seek his assistance. Lord Vishnu took the Avatar Kurma (Tortoise) and supported the Manthara Parvata (mountain) as a churning rod, while the king of the serpents, Vasuki, became the churning rope. The gods and the demons (under the leadership of the pious and wise King Bali Chakravarti) both helped each other in churning the ocean of milk.
Amongst the host of divine gifts which appeared from the ocean, goddess Lakshmi appeared and then chose Shri Vishnu as her consort, as only He had the power to control Maya illusion. Because of this, Lakshmi is also called the daughter of the sea; since the moon also appeared from the ocean during the churning, the moon is called her brother. Alakshmi, the goddess of misfortune, is Lakshmi's older sister. She is said to have also arisen from the sea of milk.
According to the Vishnu Purana, Lakshmi is the daughter of Bhrigu and Khyaati and resided in Swarga but due to the curse of Durvasa, she left Swarga and made Ksheersagara her home. The reappearance of Lakshmi after Samudra manthan and her marriage to Vishnu thereafter, remain the same. Lakshmi is the power and Maya of Lord Vishnu. This is consonant with the basic philosophy of "Sri-Vaishnavism" which honours Sri (Lakshmi) as the "Iswarigm sarva bhootanam" i.e. the Supreme goddess and not just the goddess of wealth. In some places She is seen in two forms, Bhudevi and Sridevi, both either side of Vishnu. Bhudevi is the fertility form in which She is Mother Earth. Sridevi is the wealth and knowledge of Her which is seen with Narayan. Most people are mistaken that they are separate beings although they are one, Lakshmi.
Lakshmi has many names. She is known to be very closely associated with the Lotus, and her many epithets are connected to the flower, such as:
* Padma: lotus dweller. * Kamala: lotus dweller. * Padmapriya: One who likes lotuses * Padmamaladhara devi: One who wears a garland of lotuses * Padmamukhi: One whose face is as beautiful as a lotus * Padmakshi: One whose eyes are as beautiful as a lotus * Padmahasta: One who holds a lotus * Padmasundari: One who is as beautiful as a lotus
Her other names include:
Out of these names, the two most popular names are Rama and Indira.