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Lotus

Botanical Name Nelumbo nucifera
Common NameIndian Lotus, Kamal (Hindi), Tamarai (Tamil), Pankajam (Sanskrit)

Distribution

Throughout India

A lotus flower emerging from Lord Vishnu’s navel


Religious association

The flower bears great significance in the spiritual life of India. It is particularly sacred to the Hindus. Almost all Gods and Goddesses of Hindu pantheon are depicted sitting on lotuses or holding the flower.

Lord Vishnu is represented with a lotus emergning from his navel (hence the name Padmanabha meaning lotus naveled) on which Lord Brahma sits. Lord Brahma is depicted siting on the flower. Goddess Lakshmi is also known to be closely associated with flower. Her many names including Padmapriya (one who likes lotus), Padmakshi (one whose eyes are as beautiful as lotus), Padmahastam (one who holds a lotus) are connected with flower.

Borrowing from Hinduism, in Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of body, speech andmind, floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. The Buddha is often depicted sitting on a giant lotus leaf or blossom.

The internation Bahai community also adopted the lotus symbolism in the design of the Bahai temple, popularly known as the Lotus temple at New Delhi.

Bahai house of worship (Lotus temple), New Delhi


Uses

Lotus is a wholly edible species and is cultivated widely for its crisp rhizome (Kamal Kakdi in Hindi) and seeds, though the flowers and leaves are also eaten in some parts. The plant also possesses medicinal properties. Due to its astringent qualities, lotus has been widely used in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery and piles. Many traditional texts also report its use for skin conditions, notable ringworm and leprosy. The flowers are commended as cardio tonic, liver, urinary and veneral disorders. The seeds are highly valued in conception, blood disorders and as cooling medicine.

Lotus leaves are used as plates in rural areas for serving food. Lotus seeds are strung together to make rosaries, while lotus leaf stalks are used to make wicks for temple lamps. The main use of the plant however comes from flowers, which are used for ornamental and religious purposes.

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