Flowers have special significance in India. They just do not adore our gardens or homes, but are an essential part of our rituals, culture and heritage. They are much more than decorative instruments or simple symbols of love. They carry on their delicate petals a responsibility that is hard to imagine. Here is taking a look at the different ways in which flowers in India are used and woven into the social and everyday life of the people here.
- Weddings – Let’s start off on a happy note. Weddings in India are incomplete without usage of flowers in different forms. Flowers such as, marigold, jasmine, lilies and roses are used to decorate the mandap, reception halls and so on. They are also given as gifts to the couple or family. However, the ‘varmala’ which is a long necklace strewn with flowers is exchanged where each couple garlands the other and is an important ritual of the marriage ceremony. And who can forget the flower laden bedroom for the newly married couple! Photo by YL Tan
- Religious needs – Flowers in India are used by almost all religions for various purposes. Hindus use it as an offering to Gods and during various pujas. In fact, specific flowers are garlanded on different deities, for ex. the red hibiscus for the Goddess Kaali or the Goddess Lakshmi who sits on a lotus throne holding a lotus in her hand. Muslims use the ‘phool chaadar’ on graves, Christian’s also put flowers on the graves of their loved ones.
- Rituals relating to death – Flowers are one of the best ways to manifest our loves for the deceased. With strings of flowers decorating the hearse to a few petals sprinkled on the body, flowers are used as means to shower respect, love and adoration for the lost person.
- Head ornaments – Now, many women in India like putting a flower or a few to adorn their hairstyles. It is very common to find women gently placing a flower at the beginning of a plait or on top of a bun. The famous ‘gajra’ is a household commodity and so much a part of our lives that Bollywood has dedicated songs to this charming ornament. Besides, the fact that it looks really pretty, the flower helps to keep the mind cool and calm and is considered as a symbol of good fortune. Photo by Takuya Photography
- Announcing ‘This is new’ – A new car, a new television, a new home or better a gifted bike or vehicle will always be strung with a garland of flowers. It is the easiest way to spot the new arrivals. Photo by frans16611
- Sign of welcome – Garlanding a new family member on the railway station or welcoming guest with flowers at the airport are common practices in India. Especially, if the guest are invitees for a wedding or grand celebration in the family. Homes and doorways are also often adorned with flowers while welcoming special guests. And yes, many times the really loved ones are sprinkled with flower petals from above as a form of welcome.
- On photographs – Pictures of deities or God’s usually are garlanded with a string of flowers. So are photographs of deceased family members.
- As Food- Rose water and rose petals are often used in preparation of sweets and desserts. Besides, sunflower seeds are used to make refined oil, whereas, many other flowers such as, carnations, chrysanthemums and jasmine are incorporated in various ways into our foods and drinks for both flavor as well as medicinal properties.
- Occasions – Certain festivals and celebrations ensure that not only homes, but shops, vehicles, roads and cities be decorated with flowers, such as, in Dussehra people put garlands on their work tools.
- The universal language of love – Flowers are the beacons of love and affections. It could be as simple as handing a rose to express your love, or presenting a bouquet to your colleague on their last working day, or giving them to your favorite teacher on Teacher’s Day, flowers communicate when words may not be enough.
- Form of livelihood – Flower boutiques and shops are of course a worldwide occupation and scores of people making a living out of it. However, in India, flower picking and selling seeps into all levels of society. In South India, especially, women with white jasmine flowers are constantly seen threading them into garlands. You see them in buses and on roads, their hands mechanically looping the flowers onto the thick thread that binds them. Women are the main flower pickers on the fields and though they are seen mostly outside temples selling their picks, it is not uncommon to see them in other places too.
Flowers are so intricately woven into our social and cultural lives, that many a times, we take them for granted. The national flower of India, which also happens to be a sacred flower according to the Hindu mythology, the lotus, is a symbol of how to bloom even in muck, the rose a symbol of love, the jasmine a symbol of good fortune and so on. Flowers, hence, make our lives more fragrant, our occasions more colorful and our relations more warm and soft.