Floral Traditions in India - from Garden of Eden Flower Shop
Posted on April 01 2021
With the advent of flowers blooming in April, we turn to a country where flowers occupy every aspect of life: India! Many Westerners associate the lotus flower and colorful marigold mala garlands with India, but India’s flower culture is so much more.
For events and holidays such as weddings and the Festival of Light, Diwali, colorful floral carpets called rangolis are outlined and filled in with bright flower petals. The designs are meant to be walked over and disturbed, to show that beauty is impermanent and to enjoy it in the present. Popular rangoli designs include paisley and mandalas, and vary from region to region.
Bright orange and yellow strings of threaded African marigold heads, or mala, are a beautiful decoration on the mandap for weddings. A mandap is a canopy, not unlike a chuppah, and is sure to be as loaded as possible with flowers. Flowers that bedeck the lovers Krishna and Radha in every image of the pair are mirrored in the wedding flowers evidenced in profusion. In Kashmir, the groom’s family sends the bride phoolon ka gehna – floral jewelry made from blooms such as orchids. It is sent two days before the wedding, for the bride to wear to signify her advent into married womanhood.
Flowers also figure prominently in Ayurveda, one of the world's oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Lotus, basil, night-blooming jasmine, hisbicus, blue pea, and marigold are just a few of the myriad flowers and herbs used in ayurvedic medicine and aromatherapy. Incense, which is a fixture in public and home shrines, is mostly floral or resin-based. Nag champa is a fragrance of Indian origin. It is made from a combination of sandalwood and either champaka or frangipani. When frangipani is used, the fragrance is usually referred to simply as champa. Nag champa is commonly used in incense, soap, perfume oil, essential oils, candles, and personal toiletries.
Funeral traditions vary by region and religion. For example, in Hinduism, flowers adorn the body but do not surround it. It is not customary in Hinduism to send sympathy flowers to a grieving family, so they typically do not expect any. Flowers should be sent directly to the family after the funeral and cremation of the body has taken place. In fact, you may want to wait a day or two after the proceedings just to give the family time to recover.
Since Hindus don't have a tradition involving sympathy flowers, there isn't an associated list of recommended flowers you should send. As noted previously, however, flowers have spiritual significance in the religion, so sending a bouquet of culturally relevant flowers may be more meaningful than simply ordering a vase of calla lilies.
For instance, the hibiscus is associated with the goddess Kali and Lord Ganesh. The red color is a representation of Kali's tongue, while the flower's petals are believed to emit divine consciousness and is associated with the Ganesh principle. Overall, it is thought the hibiscus will bring wealth to the family home and eliminate their enemies. Sending a bouquet of these flowers could be a way to wish the family good fortune.
The lotus flower also has great meaning in Hinduism, being linked to many major gods, such as Vishnu However, at the most basic level, the lotus flower represents wisdom and spiritual enlightenment because of its ability to blossom in muddy waters. Therefore, a bouquet of these flowers during a time of pain and suffering may help remind the family that they will pull through.
This is only a small part of the vibrant flower culture of India! Do yourself a favor and look up images of “flowers in India” – you’ll not be sorry!
Next month, we head to Africa and the country of Ethiopia! Thanks for traveling with us!