Lotus

lat. Nelumbo nucifera

Group: Flowers

Lotus Nelumbo nucifera
Lotus Nelumbo nucifera
Lotus Nelumbo nucifera
Odor profile: floral note with watery, aqueous qualities, light and ethereal with lightly sweetish tonality



The lotus is a flower of antiquity and has long been associated with the history, culture, religion, ancient literature and arts and crafts of India.  Due to all of these characteristics, the lotus was selected as the national flower of India. It has been described in various mythological legends, epics, scriptures, Sanskrit literature and historical records.
 




Botanical Name - Nelumbo nucifera
Synonyms - Nelumbium nelumbo
                     Nelumbium speciosum
Family - Nympheaceae or Nelumbonaceae

















 


Waterlily (Nymphaea spp.) is another aquatic flower which resembles the lotus and people sometimes confuse the two.

NAMES

The family Nympheaceae has two important genera having aquatic species with beautiful and attractive flowers i.e. water lily and lotus.  The former belongs to the genera Nymphea and the latter is from Nelumbo. Moreover, the genus Nelumbo has only two species, N. nucifera (Indian lotus) and N. lutea (American lotus or yellow lotus).

Nelumbo lutea Nelumbo nucifera

Nelumbo lutea produces yellow flowers and is known as the American Lotus. In Ayurvedic nomenclature, the lotus is known as Kamala, Padma, Nalina, Arvind mahotpala, Rajeeva, Pushklara and in Unani, it is known as Nilofar, while in Siddha it is called Ambel.

DISTRIBUTION


Lotus had been introduced to Egypt by the Romans by about 50 BC. The lotus is a native to India, China and Japan and is widely distributed from tropical East Africa to North East Australia. Lotus is found growing in wetland habitats including floodplains, lagoons, marshes, swamps, rivers, lakes, ponds, pools and the backwaters of reservoirs.

BOTANY

Nelumbo nucifera is a large, perennial, aquatic, herbaceous plant. The rhizome of the plant becomes elongated, about 60 to 120 cm in length, 6 to 9 cm in diameter. It is farinaceous, white to buff-orange in color and edible. Leaves are large with a central stalk, blue-grey in color, peltate and coated with wax. The leaves of the lotus have a water repellent leaf surface and which has led to the termed the “lotus effect.” The leaves have self-cleaning capacity which is a result of dirt particles being picked up by water forms droplets due to the complex nanostructure of the leaf surface, which minimizes adhesion. Flowers are solitary, borne at or above the leaf level, single or double, fragrant, white, rosy or deep pink in color.

CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS


Nelumbo nucifera contains a number of alkaloids—roemerine, nuciferine, nornuciferine, liensinine, isoliesinine, neferine, lotusine, armepavin etc. 
 

LOTUS IN INDIAN CULTURE AND RELIGION

In the Hindu religion all the three Brahminical deities, Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Protector) and Shiva (the Destroyer) are associated with the lotus.

Three of the four arms of Lord Vishnu hold a conch, the wheel and the club while the fourth holds a lotus, which is probably the symbol of the created universe.

The Brahmana part of theTaittiriya Upanishada (before 800 BC) describes that the lotus has association with Prajapati (Brahma) in cosmogonic myths. When Brahma was sitting by the side of the waste water, he saw a solitary lotus leaf floating in the moving waters and thought it must rest on something. He then dived into the water in the form of a boar and finding earth below, broke off a fragment, brought it to the surface of the water and spread it out on the leaf, and that was the beginning of the earth.

Lakshmi

The lotus is the symbol of the goddess Lakshmi, being her divine seat. She sits on a fully opened lotus and holds up a lotus in her right hand.

All the gods and goddesses of Hinduism (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, Rama and Surya), Buddhism (Buddha and Bodhisattva) and Jainism (Mahavir and others) are associated with the sacred lotus. They are shown sitting on the divine lotus or holding a lotus in the hand.

The lotus has inspired poets, artists and sculptors of both the ancient and present periods. The lotus shape has also been used in architecture.  A great example of this is the Bahá'í House of Worship in Delhi, India popularly known as the Lotus Temple due to its lotus-like shape. It was made in 1986.

Lotus motifs are also seen in textile designs and pottery, and it is also referred to in the folk songs and dances of India.

The lotus is figured in one of the postage stamps in India. Every year on the Republic Day, the Government of India awards honors like Padamshree, Padmabhushan, Padmavibhushan to the distinguished personality of the country.

The lotus symbolizes divineness, purity, beauty of the eyes and face, kind-heartedness, fragrance, coolness, fertility and prosperity. In the classical literature of many Asian cultures the lotus is represented in figurative form, representing elegance, beauty, perfection, purity and grace, being used often in poems and songs as an allegory for ideal feminine attributes.
 

USES

Nelumbo nucifera has been in cultivation in China, Japan and India from many years, and has been grown not only for its cultural and ornamental value, but also for medicinal uses and for its edible "seeds" and rhizomes. The rhizomes are roasted, pickled, candied or sliced and fried as chips.

Lotus rhizomes

A paste made from the nutlets is used as a filling in mooncakes, a traditional Chinese  pastry. The young leaves, leaf stalks and flowers are eaten as vegetables in India.

Almost all parts of the lotus plant are edible. In India, the fresh rhizomes are consumed as a vegetable, either roasted or in curry form. The dried rhizome slices are used in making curry or fried chips. The rhizomes are also frozen and pickled.

Lotus nuts

The nuts are sweet and delicious and are eaten in different ways, like raw, roasted,    boiled, or candied. The nuts are a rich source of protein and total carbohydrates, mainly starch.

The lotus flowers are used for extraction of perfume. The lotus perfume available in the trade is a blend of patchouli, benzoin and styrax with phenylethyl and cinnamic alcohols.

The distinctive fruiting receptacles are widely sold throughout the world for decorative  purposes and for dried flower arranging.

The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), a nationalist political party of India uses the lotus as its election symbol.

In Buddhist temples, lotus is burned in powder form as ceremonial incense.
 


Author: Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

Senior Research Fellow
Plant Quarantine Division
National Bearue of Plant Genetic Resources
Pusa Campus, New Delhi

 



 

 

 

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