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How was Lakshmi born? Is it true that she was born in Samudra Manthan? If yes, did Vishnu not have a wife before that?

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Lakshmi emerged from the ocean during the Samudra Manthan. From Vishnu Purana 1.2:

Thus the churning went on. And wonderful were the things that emerged out of the ocean as a result of the churning. The first to come out was the cow Surabhi, worshipped by the gods. Next the goddess Varuni emerged. Followed by the fragrant tree known as parijata. Out came the apsaras (dancers of heaven). And the moon, which Mahadeva accepted as an adornment for his head. There were bad things as well. The poison that came out was accepted by the snakes. And dressed all in white, the god Dhanvantari came out with the pot of amrita in his hands. At the sight of the amrita, the gods, the demons and the sages were delighted. But there was more to come. There emerged a lotus flower with the shining form of the goddess Lakshmi. She held another lotus in her hand.

However, it cannot necessarily be said that she was born in the Samudra Manthan.

According to Vishnu Purana 1.8, Lakshmi is eternal, and (to put it simply) she is the complementary manifestation of Vishnu; even before she was 'born,' she was still the consort of Vishnu.

MAITREYA: It is commonly said that the goddess Śrí was born from the sea of milk, when it was churned for ambrosia; how then can you say that she was the daughter of Bhrigu by Khyáti?

PARÁŚARA.--Śrí, the bride of Vishńu, the mother of the world, is eternal, imperishable; in like manner as he is all-pervading, so also is she, oh best of Brahmans, omnipresent. Vishńu is meaning; she is speech. Hari is polity (Naya); she is prudence (Níti). Vishńu is understanding; she is intellect. He is righteousness; she is devotion. He is the creator; she is creation. Śrí is the earth; Hari the support of it. The deity is content; the eternal Lakshmí is resignation. He is desire; Śrí is wish. He is sacrifice; she is sacrificial donation (Dakshiná). The goddess is the invocation which attends the oblation; Janárddana is the oblation. Lakshmí is the chamber where the females are present (at a religious ceremony); Madhusúdana the apartment of the males of the family. Lakshmí is the altar; Hari the stake (to which the victim is bound). Śrí is the fuel; Hari the holy grass (Kuśa). He is the personified Sáma veda; the goddess, lotus-throned, is the tone of its chanting. Lakshmí is the prayer of oblation (Swáhá); Vásudeva, the lord of the world, is the sacrificial fire. Saurí (Vishńu) is Śankara (Śiva); and Śrí is the bride of Śiva (Gaurí). Keśava, oh Maitreya, is the sun; and his radiance is the lotus-seated goddess. Vishńu is the tribe of progenitors (Pitrigana); Padma. is their bride (Swadhá), the eternal bestower of nutriment. Śrí is the heavens; Vishńu, who is one with all things, is wide extended space. The lord of Śrí is the moon; she is his unfading light. She is called the moving principle of the world; he, the wind which bloweth every where. Govinda is the ocean; Lakshmí its shore. Lakshmí is the consort of Indra (Indrání); Madhusúdana is Devendra. The holder of the discus (Vishńu) is Yama (the regent of Tartarus); the lotus-throned goddess is his dusky spouse (Dhúmorná). Śrí is wealth; Śridhara (Vishńu) is himself the god of riches (Kuvera). Lakshmí, illustrious Brahman, is Gaurí; and Keśava, is the deity of ocean (Varuna). Śrí is the host of heaven (Devasená); the deity of war, her lord, is Hari. The wielder of the mace is resistance; the power to oppose is Śrí. Lakshmí is the Kásht́há and the Kalá; Hari the Nimesha and the Muhúrtta. Lakshmí is the light; and Hari, who is all, and lord of all, the lamp. She, the mother of the world, is the creeping vine; and Vishńu the tree round which she clings. She is the night; the god who is armed with the mace and discus is the day. He, the bestower of blessings, is the bridegroom; the lotus-throned goddess is the bride.

(It's the part in bold that really matters, the rest of the passage simply details the various facets in which they mirror each other.)

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    i think you should add details from sacred-texts.com/hin/vp/vp042.htm to answer 2nd part and to clarify that in samudra manthan the goddess just re appeared after some time..
    – YDS
    May 18, 2023 at 3:26
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    @YDS - thanks for the link, I've done so..
    – CDR
    May 18, 2023 at 12:36

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