Lakshmi or Mahalakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of wealth, fortune, love and beauty, the lotus flower and fertility. Representations of Mahalakshmi (or Shri) are found in Jain and Buddhist monuments, in addition to Hindu temples. Generally thought of as the personification of material fortune and prosperity, she is somewhat analogous to the Greco-Roman Aphrodite or Venus, as she also represents eroticism and is similarly thought to have originally “borne of the sea” in her most famous myth, as did those love goddesses.
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.