India, a land of timeless heritage and a melting pot of diverse cultures, is as multifaceted as the magnificent petals of its national flower: the Lotus. Just as the country stands as a beacon of spirituality and philosophical depth, so does the Lotus, exuding an aura of purity and serenity.
As you embark on this journey through the following paragraphs, you will uncover the secrets of this mesmerizing flower, understanding its significance to the subcontinent and how it intertwines with the soul of India.
Description of The Lotus
The Lotus, botanically known as Nelumbo nucifera, belongs to the Nymphaea family. At first sight, it captivates onlookers with its majestic presence.
Characterized by its broad floating leaves and symmetrically arranged, large pink blossoms, the Lotus stands as an emblem of beauty and tranquility. Each petal, meticulously layered, paints a picture of nature’s impeccable artistry.
The flower predominantly blooms during the warmer months, from late spring to early autumn, gifting spectators with its radiant presence. Although the pink variant is the most celebrated and recognized, the Lotus also reveals itself in pristine shades of white, offering a different kind of aesthetic pleasure.
But it’s not just the flower’s appearance that’s noteworthy; its ability to emerge splendidly from muddy waters adds to its allure, symbolizing resilience and purity.
Where Does The Lotus Grow?
The Lotus, in its tranquil splendor, thrives in freshwater environments, be it serene ponds, placid lakes, or the shallow edges of expansive lagoons. These aquatic settings provide the ideal environment, with plenty of sunlight and nutritious soil, for the flower to flourish.
In India, one can often find lotuses adorning water bodies in regions from the northern plains to the southern peninsulas, making it a widespread symbol throughout the nation.
While the Lotus is emblematic of India, its beauty is not confined to this land alone. Its roots (both literal and cultural) spread across various countries. Apart from India, the Lotus graces regions in China, Japan, Vietnam, Australia, tropical America, and Egypt. Each of these areas, though diverse in climate and geography, offer the muddy, sunlit waters that the Lotus loves.
The Lotus in The Ecosystem
The Lotus is not just a symbol; it’s an ecological marvel. Playing a multifaceted role in the environment, the flower provides shelter and sustenance to numerous aquatic species. Fish often find refuge among its sturdy stems, seeking shade under its broad leaves or hunting for small insects that are attracted to the flower’s nectar.
Additionally, the Lotus serves as a food source for various animals. Birds like the Indian Spot-billed Duck relish the seeds, while larger herbivores, such as deer, are often seen nibbling on Lotus stems and leaves. Even humans have recognized the nutritional value of this aquatic plant, with its seeds and rhizomes becoming culinary delicacies in many cultures.
Beyond its role as a habitat and food source, the Lotus aids in improving water quality. Its roots absorb excess nutrients from the water, reducing algae growth, and thereby acting as a natural filter, maintaining the health and clarity of its aquatic home.
Symbolism and Meaning: Why and When Did The Lotus Become the National Flower of India?
The Lotus, with its radiant petals emerging from the mud, stands as a symbol of purity, resilience, and divine beauty. Its profound significance is deeply rooted in the ancient traditions, religions, and mythology of India.
From being associated with the ‘Lotus Feet’ of Lord Vishnu to representing the throne of various deities, this flower holds a sacred space in the Indian psyche. The Bhagavad Gita, one of India’s most revered scriptures, likens the Lotus to detachment—implying that, much like the flower which remains untouched by the muddy waters, humans should rise above their earthly attachments.
Recognizing its moral symbolism, cultural significance, and the values it imparts, the Lotus was enshrined as India’s National Flower. Although the specific date of its adoption remains elusive, the decision echoes the nation’s intent to promote ideals of purity, perseverance, and spiritual elevation.
Thomas Kintaert, in his book “On the Cultural Significance of the Indian Lotus Leaf,” encapsulated the sentiment best when he said, “There is hardly any symbolism in Indian poetry, sculpture, and painting more vast than that relating to the lotus flower and other parts of the plant.” Its recurrent depiction in Indian art, culture, and spiritual practices accentuates its timeless relevance.
Where is The Lotus Featured in India?
The Lotus holds a prideful position in various facets of Indian life. Notably, it is the official symbol of the Bharatiya Janata Party, one of India’s major political parties. Its emblematic presence can be observed during electoral processes, where it stands as a symbol of identity.
The flower’s sacred nature also makes it a staple during religious ceremonies and festivals. Devotees often offer lotus blossoms in temples, especially to deities like Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu, as a gesture of devotion, purity, and auspiciousness.
Moreover, the Lotus is a recurrent theme in Indian art, sculpture, and architecture. Ancient temples, frescoes, and coins showcase intricate lotus motifs, emphasizing its historical and cultural prominence. Although not explicitly represented on the national flag or banknotes, its spiritual and cultural essence is felt throughout the subcontinent, making it an emblem of Indian identity.
Names of The Lotus
The Lotus, scientifically known as Nelumbo nucifera, is known by several names in India, reflecting the diverse languages and cultures of the subcontinent. Some of the most common names include:
- Kamal or Kanwal in Hindi
- Tamarai in Tamil
- Tamara in Telugu
- Kamala in Sanskrit
- Padma in Bengali
- Thaamara in Malayalam
In different parts of the world, it might be referred to as the “Indian Lotus”, “Sacred Lotus”, or “Bean of India”. Vietnam, another country where the lotus holds cultural significance, names it Sen.
Interesting Facts About The Lotus
- The Lotus flower opens in the morning and closes in the evening, symbolizing rebirth and revival.
- It plays a vital role in Ayurvedic medicine. The seeds, stems, and leaves have various medicinal properties and are used to treat ailments like fever, diarrhea, and skin issues.
- The Lotus seeds can remain viable for many years, and there are instances where seeds as old as 1,300 years have germinated!
- Every part of the Lotus plant is edible. Its seeds are used in desserts, stems are consumed as vegetables, and leaves are often used to wrap food.
- The Lotus holds significance not only in Hinduism but also in Buddhism, where it represents purity of the body, speech, and mind.
- It has been featured in countless literary works, from ancient scriptures to modern poems, signifying beauty, purity, and transcendence.
How to Grow The Lotus
Growing a lotus flower might seem daunting, but with the right steps, it can be a rewarding experience.
- Soil: Opt for clayey loam soil. Avoid using potting mix or soils rich in organic matter.
- Sunlight: Lotus plants love sunlight. Ensure they get at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
- Water: Begin by planting your lotus in a pond or a large container. The water should be at least 12 inches deep for the plant to thrive. As the plant grows, you may need to adjust the water level.
- Temperature: Lotus plants prefer warm temperatures and are best grown in temperatures between 75-87°F (24-31°C).
- Planting: Use tubers to plant the lotus. Ensure that the tuber is not broken and plant it gently in the soil without burying it completely. In a few weeks, you’ll witness the first sprouts.
- Fertilizing: Once the lotus has at least 6 leaves floating on the water, you can start fertilizing. Use a water-soluble aquatic fertilizer to ensure healthy blooms.
- Care: Ensure the water remains clean. Periodically remove dead leaves and flowers to prevent rot.
Other Beautiful Flowers Native To India
India, with its diverse climate and topography, is home to a plethora of enchanting flowers. Here are five native and significant flowers of India:
- Marigold (Tagetes): Recognized for their vibrant yellow and orange hues, marigolds hold cultural and religious significance in India, especially during festivals like Diwali.
- Jasmine (Jasminum): With its intoxicating fragrance, jasmine, or “mogra” is a symbol of love and purity. It’s also woven into garlands and used in religious ceremonies.
- Roses (Rosa): India boasts several indigenous varieties of roses. They are a symbol of love and beauty and have been a part of Indian poetry and folklore for centuries.
- Rhododendron: This magnificent flower mainly grows in the Himalayan region. The state of Sikkim, in particular, has adopted the rhododendron as its state tree, and the flowers are often used to make local beverages.
- Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis): Also known as “gudhal” in Hindi, this flower is considered sacred and is often seen in Hindu rituals. Apart from its religious significance, hibiscus also has medicinal properties.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why was the lotus chosen as the national flower of India?
The lotus was chosen due to its deep-rooted significance in Indian culture, religion, and art. It symbolizes purity, beauty, wealth, and promise.
Are there any other national symbols associated with flora in India?
Yes, the Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) is recognized as the national tree of India.
How is the lotus flower used in Indian cuisine?
Almost every part of the lotus is edible. Its seeds are used in desserts, stems are consumed as vegetables, and leaves are often used to wrap food.
Can the lotus flower be grown in any part of India?
While the lotus thrives in freshwater bodies across India, it particularly flourishes in areas with warm temperatures and ample sunlight.
Are there any festivals in India dedicated to the lotus flower?
While there isn’t a specific festival solely dedicated to the lotus, it plays a crucial role in various religious ceremonies and is prominently featured during major festivals like Diwali and Durga Puja.