Nature in India

Lotus flowers – of many layers of cultural significance and purity of perception

Just like roses are heavily overused in western culture, lotus flowers are rather cliched in the the east. It’s difficult to keep one’s perception pure when something is coated with so many layers of cultural significance. However, when I see carefully placed tender petals of a lotus flower, I can’t help admiring it, and my admiration is nothing more than genuine appreciation of its beauty.

But of course, just like with anything else in life, the rule of the golden mean is applicable here as well – there is no need to reject the culture that nurture a person for the sake of expressing their individuality.

It doesn’t matter whether one admires a flower just because it’s beautiful or because it’s a symbol of purity in Buddhism. What matters is whether a person really likes it or whether they were taught to think they like it.

A beautiful lotus from the Dadar flower market
A beautiful lotus from the Dadar flower market

Anyway, the cultural significance of the lotus is interesting indeed. The fact that the lotus flowers rise from the muddy water and their delicate blooms are untouched by the substance they grew from has had a strong influence on the art forms and religious believes of different nations for thousands years. In ancient Egypt they used to symbolize a rebirth of the sun. Many Hindu gods, including Shiva and Brahma, are often represented seated on a giant lotus flower. According to a legend, lotuses bloomed wherever the Buddha walked. In China a good relationship is compared to the stem of a lotus, because it bends easily but is hard to break.

Almost every part of the lotus plant is used in a number of Asian cuisines. The crunchy roots can be fried, boiled or marinated. They have a pleasant taste and a host of health benefits. The leaves are edible when young, and when they mature, people usually use them as food wrappers or improvised plates. The seeds are rich in proteins and carbohydrates and can be either roasted or ground into flour. Or even popped like popcorn. The stamens are used for some exotic tea recipes, and petals – for garnishing stews and soups.
Lotus is known not only for the beauty and purity of its petals, but also for the hardiness and longevity of its seeds. A dry and well preserved seed an be germinated even after hundreds of years. So, there is very little chance my descendents won’t be able to see a flower as beautiful as the one we saw in a little pond in the Nerul Rock Garden:
Lotus 1
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