I saw some shrivelled chillies and some lemons lying about this morning, reminding me of the very common sight, especially in north India, of a lemon strung up with seven green chillies, usually at the doorway or entrance to a building or home. Sometimes, they’re even seen hanging on street food carts and vehicle bumpers. You’ll also find decorative pieces on Amazon in metal and ceramic depicting the same objects.
That they were for good luck, or to ward off back luck, I knew, but that was all. That decided the topic of today’s post – seven chillies and a lemon.
A little digging found me reading about the sister of a revered Hindu goddess, Alakshmi, the elder sister of Lakshmi, who most of us know of. Elder, because Vishnu created her before creating Padma, or Lakshmi. At the time, Vishnu was engaged in creating a dual aspect to the universe – good and evil. Due to her being elder, Alakshmi is also known as Jyestha (the elder). 
As the story goes, she married a sage named Duhsaha, who after seeing his wife’s distressed behaviour around all that was good and virtuous, happened to meet with the great sage, Markandeya, who narrated his problem and was given a specific list of the types of places he could visit with his wife and the types of places he mustn’t visit with her. As expected one list is all those deemed pious and holy, and the second, all else. 
Also known as Nirrti , Alakshmi has mention in Hymn 10-059 of the Rigveda, where she is implored to depart. 
Per folklore, the two sisters once asked a merchant which of them was more beautiful. The merchant, not wanting to anger either, said Lakshmi was beautiful when she enters a home and Alakshmi, when she leaves it. Consequently, both are respected and acknowledged, though only Lakshmi, is welcomed. 
The sweets that Lakshmi is said to like, are placed within a house so she enters. The sour and pungent flavours that Alakshmi is said to favour are placed outside the house, so she is satiated and has no desire to enter. 
The correct number of each, is apparently seven chillies and one lemon, though I have no reference for this.
Did you know this? If you know more, please do share in the comments below.
- Linga Purana, J.L. Shastri, Chapter 6
- Rig Veda, Ralph T.H. Griffith (translation)
- Myth = Mithya: Decoding Hindu Mythology, Devdutt Pattanaik