You might not know this, but India is a country full of colours. Colours play an important part in every Indian household. For example, all the colourful and rich spices which they use for cooking, their clothing such as saree and suits are very colourful, even their Gods wear colour attire such as lord Shiva, Krishna and so on, their festivals includes a lot of colours such as Holi and even the flowers which they use of prayers (also known as “pooja”) and also for cooking are of wide range and colourful. Yes! Flowers can be used for cooking which you will get to know as you read this article.
Let me specifically tell you how flowers, something most of us tend to associate with gifts, florists and romance only which seems very underrated in most of the countries, play a significant role in the Indian Cultures.
A flower called “Banana Blossoms” is very common in the south-eastern parts of India such as Kerala and Malabar. It is used since ages in cooking food times. Usually this flower is said to be rich in fibre and iron and is used in a lot of South-Indian dishes (also known as “sabzi”). During the initial stages of cooking, it is mixed along with other spices and then fried in coconut oil which increases the flavour of any dish.
Mint flowers are also used in the Indian desserts across the country such as in custard, lemonade drink. Sometimes they are also used in Garnishing a dish.
This way we can see that flowers are used everywhere in India, from preparing any normal dishes to desserts and garnishing purposes.
Many Indian women prefer to wear a chain of Jasmine flower on their hair when they tie bun which they often call as “Mogre ki Mala” in Hindi. This trend among Indian women is due to their religious beliefs which we will further discuss in this article.
This chain of Jasmine Flower gives good fragrance which also acts as a substitute of perfume and makes the women look prettier.
- INDIAN DEITIES
In India there are more than 33 million Gods! Yes, that is right, 33 million. Each God is for its own special purposes such as Goddess “Laxmi” is for the wealth and fortune, Lord “Shiva” is for making his followers walk on the path of modesty and Lord “Krishna” is for divine joy and happiness and is also the one who talks about Yoga in “Gita” (Holy Hindu book) However, what is more surprising is how each flower is significant to each God. Off course, I can not just go on and talk about all the 33 million Gods and how each flower is significant to them but I can surely talk about the most famous of them.
Jasmine- as discussed in the article above, Jasmine flower is worn but Indian women due to their religious belief and that belief is in the most popular gods of all “Lord Hanuman”. Lord Hanuman is worshipped in many parts of India and many people talk about his bravery and how he saved the world which really ignites a desire to worship him among many people. People in India occasionally keep rituals for Lord Hanuman and call a lot of family and friends to their house for prayers. In the ritual, at least 5 Jasmine flowers must be placed near the Hanuman statue (called “murti”) to please him. This way they believe that they are getting his blessing which will help them to be happy and enlightened.
Red Hibiscus- there is a Goddess name “Maa Kali” in India. This Goddess is specially worshipped a lot in one of the states of India called West Bengal. A special ceremony is held throughout the country called “Kali Pooja” and leave is offered during that day in that particular state. For the prayer, a garland of 108 Red Hibiscus flower is specially made for her. The flower’s shape represents Maa Kali’s tongue and the red colour represent her fierceness.
Lotus- Lotus flower usually represents wealth and fortune in many Indian families. This is because of a Goddess called “Laxmi” who is referred to as a Goddess of wealth and prosperity sits on Lotus and also holds lotus flowers in her two of her hands. It is often believed that if you offer her with Lotus flowers, in return she will give you good amount of wealth and fortune.
Basil leaves/Tulsi- Tulsi/ Basil leave are connected to “Lord Krishna” who is also worshipped in so many households. Tulsi is a flower and also a leaf used for herbal medicines in India. We can often see these leaves around the feet of Lord Krishna’s Statue in the temple placed there by a lot of his followers.
There are a lot of flower festivals in different parts of India such as;
Tulip festival- This festival is held in one of the Indian states called “Srinagar” since 2007. A lot of Tulips in different colours and shapes are grown together which attracts a lot of tourists from India and overseas to be its part and enjoy the activities related to it.
International Flower Festival- In one of the North-Eastern states of India called “Sikkim” holds one of the largest flower festivals including more than 600 different ranges of orchids many rarely seen around the world, more than 50 varieties of rhododendrons and also includes roses and, gladioli! I know those are a lot of Flowers….!
Lalbagh Flower Show- This mega show is held twice in a year, once in January during the Republic Day of India and one in august, during the Independence Day of India in the Southern state called “Bangalore”. Bangalore is known to be rich in Flora and Fauna as it consists of many Botanical Gardens. In this show, you can see elephants, soldiers and big palaces shown using just the unique arrangement of flowers. It is crazy to know how much creativity can be done just by using flowers in this show!
Flowers also play an important role in the Indian weddings. Off course wedding flowers are used in decorating the wedding venue and hall but apart from that, they are mainly used in creating a very beautiful roses, jasmine and marigold garland “Varmala”. Varmala is very big and usually exchanged by bride and groom during the ceremony. This ritual has been around since ages in Indian weddings and acts like an acceptance from both bride and groom. Long ago girls used to choose their groom by putting the Varmala around his neck which was a ceremony known as “Swayamwar”. The Varmala ceremony is very playful ritual where the family members from bride and groom side tease them by lifting them on their shoulders and then moving them around to make it difficult for them to exchange the garland.
Also, during the start of the wedding ceremony, when the bride and groom enters the hall, the family members and relatives welcome them by throwing roses on them.
Even in one of the ceremonies called “Haldi” (means a ceremony of applying turmeric paste on the bride and groom’s face by the relatives to make their skin look fresh and also relax their mind), the Haldi is mostly decorated by rose petals. In general roses play a vital role in any Indian wedding and are used for various purposes due to its immense fragrance and it’s rich pink and red colour which is a very similar to bride’s and groom’s attire. It is believed that presence of flowers in the ceremony marks a prosperous and happy married life for the newly wed couples.
Usage of flowers during funeral is very common in many religion and country. In India for funeral flowers such as Carnations, Gladioli and Roses are used and kept around the dead body and not top of it since the dead bodies are burnt in fire which is called “Chita” in Hindi.
You might not know India to be famous in the numerous amounts of spices they use in their cuisine or for the different festivals they celebrate but you might surely know India to be famous in its vast development of herbal medicines and natural remedies called “Ayurveda”. These Ayurvedic medicines were developed around 2500 and 500 BC and people in India still vastly use it for various purposes, be it for minor illnesses and to heal different types of cancers and so on. The best thing about these medicines and why people still prefer to consume is because they have very less or zero side effects due to the usage of natural products in it. Off course many flowers also play a vital role in the development of these medicines such as
Marigold- Yes! This flower is used repeatedly in India, from decorations to cooking and now also in herbal medicines. How great is that! It is used to cure immense stomach pain and, also used to build up immunity.
Sunflower- Sunflower is known to have many good effects on body such as helps maintain healthy and young skin, increases magnesium, prosphoras, and vitamins which we do not easily get just by normal intake of our food. Who knew Sunflower had so many health benefits!
Echinacea- Many people in India mix it’s herbs into a tea and drink it to maintain their oral health, boost immunity and also increase vitamin C in body. This flower can mainly be used to cure general body illnesses such as cold, flu, fever and so on.
Yarrow- This flower is used since a long time in herbal medicines to cure headaches and wounds. Back in 17th century, it leaves were mainly used in cooking and people ate it as substitute of spinach.
Here is a surprise! I have managed to discover special Yarrow Homemade Tea Recipe-
- 1 teaspoon dried yarrow
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
- Steep yarrow in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove leaves if desired.
- Add honey and/or lemon juice if desired.
- Your drink is ready to consume!
- Consume hot to enhance the taste.
Passion Flower- The roots and leaves of these flowers are used in herbal medicines to help with depression and high blood pressure. This flower grows into becoming Passion Fruit which is also known to be high in vitamin A and C, antioxidants, iron and so on.
Indian Lotus- as mentioned before, the Lotus flower is widely valued in India firstly, due to Goddess “Laxmi” sitting on it, and secondly due to all the parts of the flower are edible. Especially, its seeds and leaves are widely use in Ayurvedic medicines to cure diarrhoea, fever and cholera.
Jasmine- Jasmine flower is not only used for Lord Hanuman and for the Indian ladies to wear it on their hair but also used in Ayurvedic medicines to cure knee pain and sore throat. Not only that, it can also heal much completed illnesses such as that of liver and cancer!
These are the numerous ways in which every Indian household is related to flower. Flowers can be involved from cooking to medicines and Gods. From this article what we all can learn is the unique characteristics of each flower and how they can help differently in our life. Surely, we see flowers everywhere we go, they can be at house, at the apartment we stay or at our workplace but as I mentioned before we see them no more than just some decorative or attractive item. Now we all can understand that anything which is natural can be beneficial to us, but we just need to know how. In this modern world where we are entangled so much with our work and outside worldly things that we tend to rely more on anything which is pre-made for us such as food packages, medicines, supplements and so on. We often forgot to remind ourselves about all the harmful chemicals these pre-made thing consists such as phthalates, bisphenols and so on. All these chemicals have adverse effects on our bodies but if we all try to replace all these chemicals with natural or organic products in our life then surely, we will never come across any deadly diseases.
Beyond their elegance, beauty and fragrance, flowers truly are food for the body and soul. They have been part of our lives since time immemorial and will continue to be so for a long time to come.
Written by Lisa Mithani