“Come said the muse,
sing me a song no poet has yet chanted,
Sing me the universal.
In this broad earth of ours,
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
Enclosed and safe within its central heart,
Nestles the seed of perfection.
By every life a share or more or less,
None born but it is born, conceal’d or unconcealed the seed is.”
Lotus – the principal seat of many Jain, Hindu and Buddhist deities.
What is so special about lotus? Why this flower is so revered in oriental religions. The lotus blooms in mud with its petals remaining unspoiled and pure, symbolizing a divine personality that remains unperturbed and unaffected by all the tribulations of life among all the dirt and mess around it. Swami Vivekananda also referred to this property of lotus in his essays “Secret of Work”, and suggested that we must remember this aspect of the lotus as it dictates how humans ought to live in this world – work incessantly but be not attached to the work and to the surroundings; reiterating the message of Gita, “One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results onto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water.”
The thousand petal lotus hanging from the ceilings of Meghnad Mandap in the temple of Ranakpur ignites all these thoughts in me about what makes the lotus so special in oriental religions. It hangs like crystal chandelier with sparkle in its lacy details. The filigree carvings on the concentric ceiling pattern and the grace of goddesses who form the supporting brackets is amazing.
My thoughts wander again, in all ancient Indian religions why universe is conceived as a many petaled lotus in the centre of which sits the deity. There is more about Lotus than what I wrote in the above paragraph.
Lotus is a plant with remarkable history. Oldest lotus fossils are discovered in Japan’s Kyoto area that are estimated to be around ten-thousand to twenty-thousand years old and they appear remarkably close to the current appearance of the flower. Lotus seeds have very long life. In a peat deposit in Japan some two-thousand old seeds were discovered. When those seeds were sown they successfully germinated, symbolizing the eternity of life. Also, Lotus blooms and bear fruit at the same time, thus symbolizing the ability to transcend the limitations of time.
In case of Buddha it is believed that as a new born child he took seven steps to announce his spiritual sovereignty over earth. His seven steps are represented in art by seven lotuses. By the beginning of Gupta period, lotus become the principal seat for most of the deities. The significance of the lotus as divine attribute depends on who is holding it. Lotus was given in the hands of Surya – the Sun God as the flower blooms everyday with the dawn and closes its petals at dusk, symbolizing a disciplined life and starting each day with a fresh start. In Vishnu’s navel it symbolizes earth with its stalk representing the cosmic mountain Meru, the axis of universe. In Vishnu’s hand it symbolizes water, in Sri-lakshmi’s hand it symbolizes wealth, in Parvati’s hand detachment and in Indra’s hand it symbolized prosperity. Lotus is epithet for Buddhist saviour God Avlokiteshvara. It was given to him long before it was given to Lord Vishnu.
Can anybody deny its beauty? In classic literature of the ancient times the eyes of the nayika are invariably compared to this beautiful flower, implying that even creative mind could not think of anything more beautiful than this flower to define nayika’s beautiful eyes.
I still remembers when we were kids, we were moving around the Kamal Talai in Udaipur’s Gulab-baagh. A stranger stopped and handed over a lotus flower wrapped in a news-paper to us. It was so sudden that we could not understand what he handed over to us and why. As we reached home, and opened the packet we saw a lotus flower in it. We kept it in a bottle filled with water. The sight of the flower delighted us for several days, with its purity, softness and loveliness.
The kamal talai has no Lotus these days, not a single one; though every-time I visit gulab-bag my eyes long to see that water-body filled with it. Recently on our trip to Varkala in Kerala we accidentally discovered a big area around the sea that was filled with blooming lotuses, Thamra in Malayalam. Wow! what a sight to behold.