Calotropis procera (Linn.) R. Br.
Common Name: Giant Milkweed / Swallow Wort, Madaar (Hindi), Vellai Erukku (Tamil), Arka (Sanskrit)
Distribution: Throughout India, in dry places
In Religion and Mythology
The Arka plant is considered very special to Lord Ganesha
The Arka plant is considered very special to Lord Ganesha. The leaves and the flowers are offered to the deity, especially during Ganesh Chaturthi. Ganapathi carved from the Arka, also known as Arka-Ganapathi is worshipped by some Hindu households.
The plant is closely associated with Suryadeva (Hindu Sun God). In fact, ‘Arka’ is one of the 108 names of the Sun God. According to the some ancient scriptures, the Gods were performing a sacrificial ritual to the Sun God, when they spilled milk. From this emerged a plant, which the Gods named ‘Arka’, after Lord Surya. On Rathasapthami, (traditionally regarded as the day when the chariot of Suryadeva is turned to North by his charioteer, Aruna), devout Hindus place arka leaves on their head while taking snanam, (sacred bath)
The plant is also sacred to Lord Shiva and also to some village deities. One of these is Arkamma, named after the plant.