Lord Narayana and His Consort Mahalakshmi are inseparable, and it has always been so. The Goddess appeared when the milky ocean was churned. Many things appeared from the ocean and were given away. When the Goddess appeared, however, She just went up to the Lord’s chest and took up Her residence there.
So if She emerged from the ocean, and began to reside in
His chest only during His Kurma avatara, then how can we
say that the Divine Couple have always been together? What
about the time before the Kurma avatara? The Goddess appearing from the ocean is like the Lord taking many avataras, said M.A. Venkatakrishnan in a discourse.
This was just one of Her avataras. Can we say that,
because the Lord took an avatara as Rama or Krishna, He
did not exist before that? Even when He was on earth as an
avatara, He continued to remain in Sri Vaikuntha. Likewise,
although Goddess Mahalakshmi appeared from the milky
ocean, this was just a manifestation of the Goddess. It is not
as if She had not existed before that occasion. She had been
with the Lord prior to that too, and always continues to be
There are legends that tell us about how temples came
up, and sometimes we hear of the Goddess appearing on
the earth and then marrying the Lord after some years.
Again, during this period of Her sojourn on earth, She is not
separated from Him. It is just a manifestation on earth. For
example, in the Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane, the
story goes that Mahalakshmi appeared as Vedavalli and was
brought by sage Bhrigu. The Lord comes later and marries
Her, and is also worshipped in the temple as Ranganatha.
So whether it is an archa (idol) form or whether it is an
avatara, nothing stands between the Divine Couple. They always remain united.