Fragrances and Cultures Flowers in Traditions and Ceremonies in India

Flowers in Traditions and Ceremonies in India

01/02/14 05:04:52 (25 comments)

by: Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

Flowers represent the country’s unity in the form of diversity, liveliness and generosity, providing it a rich cultural fragrance and values. A single flower or a bunch of flowers can gladden the mind and confer prosperity. In the various traditions flowers have forever been associated with the Creator, religion, worship with innumerable myths and legends across. Similarly, flowers have forever remained an integral part of culture.

In every phase of life’s celebrations, festivals and prayers, flowers hold a special position. Apart from their amazing beauty of form, color, fragrance and texture there is something more—an indefinable, subtle and mysterious quality about flowers. It is this subtle element—their soul—which has given the flowers such a special place in every culture.

A famous poet and Nobel Prize winner (in Literature, 1913), Rabindranath Tagore describes flowers in his book The Crescent Moon.  It describes the place and importance of flowers in culture and humanity and also depicts the oneness of the culture with flowers:

"The Flower-School"


When storm-clouds rumble in the sky and June showers come down.

The moist east wind comes marching over the heath to blow its

bagpipes among the bamboos.

Then crowds of flowers come out of a sudden, from nobody know
s
where, and dance upon the grass in wild glee.

Mother, I really think the flowers go to school underground.

They do their lessons with doors shut, and if they want to

come out to play before it is time, their master makes them stand
 in a corner.

When the rain comes they have their holidays.

Branches clash together in the forest, and the leaves rustle

in the wild wind, the thunder-clouds clap their giant hands and the

flower children rush out in dresses of pink and yellow and white.

Do you know, mother, their home is in the sky, where the stars are.

Haven't you see how eager they are to get there? Don't you

know why they are in such a hurry?

Of course, I can guess to whom they raise their arms; they

have their mother as I have my own.
 

In India, worship of God is called Pooja. In the Pooja/prayer, at a place of God, people offers flowers and garlands to the idols or deities to delight them and with hope they will bestow prosperity upon them. Flowers have inspired many architectural concepts and styles; they were used as templates in both religious and yogic practices, as well as ornaments, fabric designs, and motifs. Some flowers have been consumed as food and many are known for their medicinal values.

Lotus is the national flower of India and likewise, there is a lot of mythological significance and links to flowers with Indian Gods and Goddesses, more than in any other culture of the world. In Indian mythology, Goddess Lakshmi is depicted as seated on a pink lotus, and Saraswati, on a white one. Lotus is associated with Lord Brahma, the creator, who is depicted as seated on a lotus arising from the navel of Lord Vishnu. Lotus symbols are central in yantra patterns, and form part of many designs of decoration in more secular contexts. For Buddhists, the lotus symbolizes divinity, fertility, wealth, knowledge and enlightenment.  Lotus also gains significance as the national flower of India.

In the southern part of India, yuthika is the name of a beautiful Jasmine vine with fragrant, attractive white flowers. The flower has traditionally been a part of a lady’s tress—especially for one who appreciates fragrant flowers. Stories and songs of Krishna are full of reference to jasmine flowers, such as Kalita-lalita-vanamala. Kalita means "very beautiful and astonishing," and it refers to Krishna’s garland of forest flowers. That garland is made by Radha (Wife of Lord Krishna) from beli (Jasmine sambac), chameli and juhi (species of Jasmine) flowers, and also from tulsi leaves (Ocimum) and manjaris (Ocimum inflorescence).

From the recent past, flower decoration is an integral part in our celebrations of birthdays, weddings, anniversaries or any other social events. Oh, I forgot to tell about one of the most important days of flowers, which is known as Saint Valentine's Day. On this occasion people offer flowers, i.e. red roses, to their Valentine or loved one.

In Indian culture, marriage symbolizes not just the holy union of two individuals, but of the coming together of two families and the extending of the relationship between the families. Their level of involvement is so profound that typically the family decides the bride/groom. I can’t imagine that a marriage can be complete without flowers. The fragrance and beauty of flowers can only complete the bond of two love birds and one couple. In the marriage ceremony, from start to finish each step becomes full with flowers. Recently I got married, so I just want to share some beautiful pictures of my wedding ceremony. During the wedding I had a look at Indian wedding traditions and I feel that the flowers have a significant role with fragrance and beauty in the various steps of the wedding ceremony.

Traditional Indian weddings start with pre-wedding ceremonies like beautification of the bride and groom with turmeric powder mixed with essential oils like jasmine, rose and some other fragrances. This is followed by a Mehendi ceremony, during which the bride’s hands and feet are decorated with intricate patterns by the application of Henna. On a lighter note, it is believed that, deeper the color of the mehendi (henna), the stronger is the groom’s love for the bride.

The wedding is usually held at the bride’s home or a wedding hall. The arrival of the groom is an important and fun-filled event. The groom, dressed in his wedding dress, leaves his home for the wedding venue on a decorated horse or a decorated elephant, or maybe in a flower-decorated car. 

At the wedding venue, the bride waits for the groom, with a Jaimala/Varamala, which is a decorated garland. Soon after the groom arrives, the bride and groom exchange garlands.

On a lighter note, it is considered that whoever puts the garland first on their partner will have an upper hand in the marriage.

In Sothern India Onam is one of the biggest festivals and is important in the state of Kerala and somewhat of Tamil Nadu, also. It is a rice harvest festival and is celebrated with joy by people of all communities.

The festival of onam runs for ten days. However, the first day of the festival has a notable feature which is the preparation of Pokkallam or the flower carpet.

Rangoli (a decorative design made in living rooms and courtyard floors) or flower carpet is prepared in the front courtyard by the girls of the house to welcome the spirit of King Mahabali, in whose honor Onam is celebrated. Boys play a significant role and provide support and help in gathering flowers.

Last but not the least, a flower is a reproductive organ of the plant. After pollination and fertilization, it becomes fruit and provides fruit/grain/seeds, etc. Thus, flowers are also known as a connecting link between two generations.

Pictures by Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

 

 

Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

Dr. Chandra Shekhar is a botanist, plant pathologist and nature-loving person. Dr. Shekkar works as an Assistant Scientific Officer at the National Institute of Plant Health Management, Ministry of Agriculture, Hyderabad, India.

A Fragrantica writer since 2011, Dr. Shekhar contributes educational content about raw materials (plants).

 

 

 



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ReHan
ReHan

yay for dr chandra

Mar
17
2014
juheeshukla
juheeshukla

dr gupta badhai

Jan
04
2014
Deppaholic
Deppaholic

Rarely read articles, only reviews on fragrances, but we have many people from India in our studio. They are lovely people. We have some dear dear friends from there also. Loved this article. Congrats too! My daughter has really long hair, and I remember our friend saying "never cut your hair". She just did, sigh....but not too short. I love the colors, never attended such a ceremony, but it smells divine! Don't you all throw flowers in the Ganges river also? Flowers are a beautiful gift from God.

Jan
04
2014
cshekhar
cshekhar

Thank you so much for your blessings and wishes !

It is my pleasure to share my marriage ceremony traditions and moments with the whole world. I am also thankful to Fragrantica for providinf platform to share this article.

Jan
03
2014
kasiawlochy
kasiawlochy

Very interesting .....I learned this with a big pleasure and attention....Tnanks for your great job dr Gupta .

Jan
03
2014
chayaruchama
chayaruchama

I love this column, in so many ways !!!
Many blessings to you both.

Jan
03
2014
Coutureguru
Coutureguru

For a glimpse into the wonderful fragrance culture of India, one need look no further than the exquisite fragrances by Neela Vermeire Creations. Congratulations on your nuptials Dr. Shekhar!!

Jan
03
2014
watcharyn
watcharyn

Congratulations! A great couple! ^_^

Jan
03
2014
stahlvivek
stahlvivek

Hey chands,congratulations on ur marriage!!..Wishing a fragrant fun filled prosperous married life!!..

Jan
03
2014
goldpoint
goldpoint

Congratulations!Interesting article,I read it with pleasure.Pictures are great!Wish you all the best!

Jan
03
2014
Ferril
Ferril

Absolutely fascinating, and congratulations!

Jan
03
2014
Scatje
Scatje

Congratulations for your wedding, thank you for sharing. Love the pictures (such a beautiful colours) and the article you've have written

Jan
03
2014
nazza28
nazza28

Congratulations on your recent wedding Dr. Gupta and thank you so much for sharing these beautiful photos with us all. I too would be interested to know if there are certain fragrances which are chosen for a traditional Indian wedding. I adore the colours of the wedding attire and the henna tattooing, it is so very beautiful, vibrant and full of meaning.

Jan
02
2014
Jitterbug Perfume Lover
Jitterbug Perfume Lover

Thank you for such a wonderful article and such beautiful pictures! Your bride is stunning and you look so happy together. My prayers for a lifetime of joy and prosperity together for both of you and your families. Congratulations!

Could you please also comment on if there are any traditional perfumes that brides wear during each of the three days ceremony? Is it customary to wear perfume or is it unnecessary with all the flowers? What fragrance did you wear too?

Jan
02
2014
Jillmcshaw1
Jillmcshaw1

Thank you for this piece on history and culture. The pictures of your wedding are lovely, many congratulations.

Jan
02
2014
Aafridi
Aafridi

Congratulations on your wedding, Dr. Sahib. We all members are honored by sharing the wedding photos and I personally appreciate it.
Best wishes and blessings on wedding and Happy New Year.

Jan
02
2014
Labaloo
Labaloo

Many, many blessings to you and your wife, Dr. Gupta- may your lives be filled with happiness, peace, and prosperity!

Jan
02
2014
naheed
naheed

What a wonderful and traditional read, Dr. Gupta! I so love the tradition of flowers in weddings. We too have a tradition of adorning the bride and the groom with intricately made rose and jasmine garlands. I love rangoli and those decorated with marigold, lotus, jasmine and roses are so amazing.

Jan
02
2014
aLmoravado
aLmoravado

Congratulations, Dr. Gupta! I have attended many Indian weddings in the past, and I can clearly see that less and less flowers are being used nowadays. The bride AND the groom used to be covered in flowers.

Jan
02
2014
patxaran
patxaran

Congratulations on your wedding, may you live a long and happy life together. Thank you for sharing these moments with us and giving an insight into your traditions.

Jan
02
2014
ChouliGaloria
ChouliGaloria

Love all that color! Congratulations on the wedding.

Jan
02
2014
TillyWave
TillyWave

Thank you so much for sharing your wedding photographs with us! Beautiful colors and flowers, congratulations! My father was born in Southern India and seeing those pics, colors, and Indian faces always reminds me of my grandparents, bring many good memories.

Jan
02
2014
aura2424
aura2424

Congratulations and blessings to the bride and groom ! Just attended my nephews wedding, lots and lots of flowers everywhere.I grew my hair just so i could adorn it with lovely jasmine garlands ! Love your wife's wedding outfit.

Jan
02
2014
craniumbash
craniumbash

Just attended an engagement a couple of days back, to foreigners it seemed there were too many flowers but for us locals its normal. Looking nice in that sherwani :)

Jan
02
2014
NebraskaLovesScent
NebraskaLovesScent

Congratulations on your wedding, Dr. Gupta! The photos of you and your beautiful bride are absolutely breathtaking! Thank you for sharing them with us and telling us a little more about flowers in Indian culture!

Jan
02
2014

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