The National Flower of India
Native to Southeastern Asian nations, lotus, also called Kamal or Padma in Sanskrit, is the national flower of India. The lotus is found in stationary water bodies such as lakes, ponds, and man-made pools. It blossoms slowly and marvelously one petal at a time until it attains its complete bloom under the sun’s rays, or as the Indians say, when the sun kisses the Padma. The lotus has multiple colors, such as pink, white, pink, and blue. Pervasive in Indian typography, culture, and history, the lotus is truly meaningful to the locals. The Padma is the national flower of India because it has spiritual meaning as well as cultural and philosophical significance.
The lotus has vital spiritual essence. For India, the Padma stands for spirituality, knowledge, and enlightenment. It has spiritual power because even if it grows in dirty water, the lotus still looks beautiful, apparently untouched by the impurity of its surroundings. The Padma represents the ability of people to remain spiritually pure through knowledge and how knowledge of the true and the chaste provides lasting enlightenment. In addition, the lotus has petals with overlapping proportional patterns which signify knowledge. The patterns seem like knowledge that goes beyond the physical and is captured only in the mind and soul. Furthermore, the lotus looks starkly beautiful in the midst of murky waters. It exhibits tranquility especially when people see it blossom on the waters. As it opens, it shows the process of being filled with light, thereby capturing the meaning of being enlightened.
The lotus also possesses cultural importance. Since ancient times, the Padma is known as a sacred icon for sexual purity and divinity. Hinduism connects the lotus to the gods, including Vishnu and Sarasvati who are often drawn or painted sitting on this divine plant. The Padma also represents divine beauty including Lord Vishnu’s physical countenance which is why he is called the Lotus-Eyed One. In addition, Hindus believe that the unfolding of the Padma’s petals represents the soul’s outward expansion as it holds an inner promise. Buddhism also values the lotus as a sacred symbolism for faithfulness. Indian literature is also filled with references to the lotus as a holy icon for divinity and power as well as poetry and stories on the love between the sun and the flower. Definitely, in history and literature, the lotus is everywhere with specific meanings of divinity, purity, and enlightenment.
The lotus also has significance to Indian philosophy. Swami Vivekananda talked about the essence of the Padma to spiritual detachment in the essay, “The Secret of Work.” He said that if water cannot wet the leaf of the lotus, work should mean not being focused on the results only. The idea is to do something for its sake and to be detached of expected fruits as they may not always be experienced physically or in this life. Another interpretation is related to the belief in reincarnation wherein one lives again repeatedly by being born in different forms. People should not be attached to their surroundings because life is always renewed; hence, they should appreciate the now and do their best as people in the moment without regard for the outcomes only. The lotus then signifies the Indian detachment to the material life and pursuit of inner bliss.
The national flower of India is the lotus because it has significant spiritual, cultural, and philosophical value. The Padma underlines the values of purity and enlightenment. At the same time, the lotus is the favorite topic in literature throughout Indian history and across religions as it signifies the process and outcome of divinity. Finally, the lotus says something about the Indian philosophy of detachment- let not the water muddle people with worldly concerns. Life goes on and on and nothing remains permanent; focus on the inner self where true knowledge lives and true happiness lies. The national flower then asserts to all citizens: Be like the lotus.