Ashok अशोक (Saraca indica)
-- Sita Ashok
`Ashok' is a Sanskrit word meaning without grief or that which gives no grief.
Ashoka, a herald of spring, has scarlet or crimson bunches of
flowers in early March. It is said to flower upon being touched by a
beautiful woman's feet. In the Ramayana, Sita spent her sorrowful days
under an Ashoka tree in Ravana's garden after being abducted by him.
According to mythology, Pārijāta is a heavenly tree
brought to earth by lord Krishna. A quarrel over it ensued between
Satyabhama and Rukmini, Krishna's wives. But Krishna planted the tree in
Satyabhama's courtyard in a way that when the tree flowered, the flowers
fell in Rukmini's courtyard.
Pārijāt पारिजात (Nyctanthes arbor-tristis)
Lord Vishnu's heavenly throne is placed under a flowering Parijata tree, and
Hanuman lives under its shade.
Another romantic story woven around the tree is about princess Pārijāta
who fell in love with the sun. When he deserted her she
committed suicide and a tree sprung from the ashes. Unable to stand the
sight of the lover who left her, the tree flowers only at night and
sheds them like tear-drops before the sun rises.
Kadamba trees and flowers are also a universal favourite among the Gods.
Krishna loved to sport in Kadamba forests, and the Mother Goddess Durga
resides in a Kadamba forest (Kadamba vana vāsinī).
Kadamb कदम्ब (Neolamarckia cadamba)
The goddess Lakshmi sits on a red Lotus, and Sarasvati, on a white one.
The Lotus is associated with Lord Brahma, who was created sitting on a lotus arising from the navel of Lord Vishnu.
The lotus has esoteric and sacred significance in spirituality.
The Mother Goddess (Devi) is called Kamalāmba or "Lotus Mother":
she resides in a thousand-petalled lotus said to be located in the
Sahasrāra Chakra in the head. Raising the serpent power kundalini
to this place leads to Realization, which is the aim of the practitioners
of "Sri Vidya Upasana".
Lotus symbols are central in yantra patterns, and form part of many
designs of decoration in more secular contexts.
The lotus blooms at day and closes at night: so the sun is referred to
as the "Friend of the Lotus".
Kamal कमल (Nelumbo nucifera)
The (red) lotus has pride of place in Indian literature. The national floweris another universal favourite of the Gods, and its beauty is often used in in
similes for the beauty of heros/heroines:
"face as beautiful as a blooming lotus" or "eyes shaped like lotus petals".
A woman's beauty may be compared to that of a pond full of blooming lotuses
(Nalinī, padminī) or her slender frame to that of a lotus stem.
A famous couplet ascribed to Kalidasa describes a woman's face as a miracle
of flower blooming within a flower: her beautiful eyes are like dark
blue lotuses blooming in the pink lotus of her face!
This golden-hued flower has a beautiful tassel-like form which makes it look
very ornamental. It has an intense fragrance, perceptible even from a great
distance while it is on the tree. The fragrance starts fading the moment it
The golden pendant flowers of the Karnikara adorn the ears of Sri Krishna in the Bhagavatam (karnayoh karnikāram).
Karnikār कर्णिकार (Pterospermum acerifolium)
-- Kanak Champā
A very small, yellowish and fragrant flower used for garlands and other
ornaments. The milkmaids of Vrindavan are allured by Krishna playing his
flute under a Bakula tree on the
banks of the Yamuna. This tree is said to blossoms when sprinkled with
nectar from the mouth of lovely women.
Vakul वकुल (Mimusops elengi)
Mālatī is a vine with very fragrant white jasmine-like flowers. This
flowers is frequently confused with jasmine. Ancient Hindu mythological
stories are full of references to Mālatī flowers, as in the braids of women,
or in overhanging bowers under which lovers meet.
Malati flowers routinely drop from the hair of women!
Mālatī मालती (AgAganosma heynei)
In stories of Krishna, Madhavi-lata is found every where in Vrindavan, and
creates a wonderful atmosphere with its fragrance and the three-colored
Mādhavī Latā माधवी लता (Hiptage benghalensis)
"This forest has Atimukta-trees, therefore the chariot makers resort
to it (chariots are made of the wood), the makers of Madhavi-garlands
like it (Atimukta means Madhavi flower) and those who desire liberation
come here (to Vrindavana; (Atimukta means completely liberated).
huge pillar of light. The contestants decided that the question would be
settled by the one who first found the limit of this awesome cosmic pillar.
Vishnu set off towards its base but was unable to find it and
admitted defeat. Whereas Brahma on his journey upwards came across
ketaki flower floating down slowly.
Inquiring from the flower from where she had come from, ketaki replied that
she had been placed at the top of the pillar of light.
Unable to find the uppermost limits Brahma decided to take the flower back
to Vishnu to bear witness that he had reached the top of the pillar.
This infuriated Shiva. Brahma was
punished for lying and the creator was banned from being worshipped.
Similarly, ketaki was also cursed that she would never again be used in
worship of Shiva. Thus, ketaki is debarred forever from being offered in
Ketakī केतकी (Pandanus odoratissimus )
-- Kewdā केवड़ा
A fragrant flower used in making perfume and aromatic oil,
Ketaki is not used in worship: it is supposedly cursed by Lord Shiva
for bearing false witness of Lord Brahma. According to a Puranic
legend, Vishnu and Brahma were arguing hotly as to which of them
was supreme. Lord Shiva interceded, appearing amidst them in the form of a
The dark complexion of Krishna is compared to that of Neelkamal. For this
reason, the Blue Waterlily is also called Krishna Kamal.
Neel Kamal नील कमल (Nymphaea nouchali)
-- Blue Waterlily
In the 'Ramayana', as it goes, Rama went to 'Lanka' to rescue his
abducted wife, Sita, from the grip of Ravana, the king of the Demons in
Lanka. Before starting for his battle with Ravana, Rama wanted the
blessings of Devi Durga . He came to know that the Goddess would be
pleased only if she is worshipped with one hundred 'NeelKamal' or blue
lotuses. Rama, after travelling the whole world, could gather only
ninety nine of them. He finally decided to offer one of his eyes, which
resembled blue lotuses. Durga, being pleased with the devotion of Rama,
appeared before him and blessed him.
mythological stories is 'white as kunda'. Also, beautiful white teeth are often
compared to Kunda buds. It is held to be especially sacred to Vishnu.
Kund कुंद (Jasminum multiflorum/pubescens)
-- Star jasmine
In Indian mythology, Kund is known for its whiteness. So, instead of the
common western phrase 'white as snow', what often appears in Hindu
In Manipur, Kundo flowers are used in worship, and are an essential part
of a marriage ceremony. The bride garlands the groom with two Kundo
flower garlands. The groom then takes one of the two and garlands the
Akund अकुंद (Calotropis gigantea)
-- Crown flower
A pretty purple coloured, and slightly scented flower, having a sweet and
agreeable smell. It is called Arca in Sanscrit, and has two varieties, both
of which are held to be sacred to Shiva. It forms one of the five darts with
which the Indian God of Love is supposed to pierce the hearts of young
mortals. Sir William Jones refers to it in his Hymn to Kama Deva. It
possesses medicinal properties.
This beautiful, delightfully scented cream-yellow flower is used often in
worship. The tree is grown in temple precincts and is considered particularly
sacred to Krishna. It forms one of the five flower-darts of Kamadeva (Cupid).
Champaka flowers along with Ashoka and Punnaaga adorn the locks of the Mother Goddess Lalitambika.
Rabindranath Tagore immortalised this flower in one of his poems too
Champak चम्पक (Michelia champaca)
Yuthika is a beautiful Jasmine vine with fragrant, attractive white flowers.
Stories of Krishna are full of reference to yuthika flowers, like this one:
Yuthikā यूथिका (Jasminum auriculatum/molle)
"And look! The Yuthika-flowers in this forest smile very proudly when they
attract the restless honeybees to themselves from the laps of the best
housewives, the jasmine-flowers, with their fragrance ...
The White waterlily is another romantic favourite. The moon is her friend (since
she blooms at night) and the sun is her enemy. A woman's face is compared
to her cool white beauty. A pond full of lilies (kumudini) is also a favourite
simile for beauty.
Kumud कुमुद (Nymphaea lotus var. pubescens)
The glory of the rising sun is often compared to this resplendently
beautiful flower. A famous couplet in praise of the Sun God
begins `japaa kusuma sankaasam'. The glowing complexion of
the orange-skinned Hanuman is also compared to this flower.
Japa flowers are used in the worship of Goddess Durga. Her glowing complexion
as the Mother Goddess Lalita is compared to the hibiscus in the lalitopaakhyaana.
Japā kusum जपा कुसुम (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
The banyan tree, India's National Tree, is a symbol of spiritual knowledge.
Lord Shiva in his form of Dakshinamurti the universal Teacher
sits under a Vata vrksha and illumines the minds of sages
seated at his feet.
In the great Cosmic Deluge, Pralaya, nothing survives of
the entire creation except for the Lord in the form of an infant Krishna
floating on a banyan leaf (vata-patra shaayi), sucking his toe,
a familiar theme for Tanjore paintings.
Vat वट ( Ficus bengalensis)
The dark green beauty of this tree and its leaves, and its long limbs make it
a favourite simile for the Lord Rama. The baby Krishna is compared
to a newly unfurled Tamala leaf.
The freshly blooming tamaala tree attracts hordes of bees, and Shankaracharya
compares this to the dark body of Lord Vishnu attracting the bee-like
dark eyes of his spouse Lakshmi in the kanakadhaara stotra.
Tamāl तमाल (Garcinia xanthochymus)
This flower is sacred to Lord Vishnu, forming his garland.
A fragrant flower, it adorns the hair of Goddess Lalitambika in the Lalitaa
Sahasram. The punnaga flower is used in worship of Lord Vishnu.
There are many references to the Punnaga flower in the lyrics
of Karnatic Music, as a flower for worship and as adornment of various Gods.
A raaga by the name punnaagavaraali could be named after this
Punnāg पुन्नाग (Calophyllum inophyllum)
-- Sultan Champa
Kovidara occurs frequenctly in the Ramayana. Bharata's chariot is
recognized by a flag with a kovidara ensign.
It is also called raktapushpa,
literally meaning blood-flower. It is a close cousin of the more popular
kachnar कचनार (Bauhinia variegata), and is extensively planted as an
ornamental tree today.
Kovidār कोविदार (Bauhinia purpurea)
-- Purple orchid tree
This beautiful red flower is another favourite of the Gods and
decorates the hair of Goddesses and maidens.
The ancient city of Patna was called PaaTaliputra probably after this
tree! The city was variously refered to as PaaTalipura, Kusumapura,
Pushpapura or Kusumadhvaja and certainly has reference to
Pātal पाटल (Stereospermum chelonoides)
Gunja seeds are a favourite for native jewellery. the bright red-and-black
bead-like seeds are attractive to children right from the days of mythology.
These beads have special significance to the Gaudiya sect: followers of
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Krishna worship.
The child Krishna is inseperable from his favourite gunjaa maala,
and it was said to represent Radha. Followers of Chaitanya worship Krishna in
a small stone representing Mount Govardhan, with a gunja mala around it
Children in the South still play variants of lotto with it.
Gunja seeds are bitter to taste and poisonous, but possess medicinal properties.Gunja seed extract is used to kill lice as an ingredient of hair oil.
Gunjā (Abrus precatorius)
This pretty blue flower is popular in Sanskrit literature for comparing
with the complexion of Krishna. A famous sloka in Krishna's praise goes
"atasii pushpa sankaasam haara noopura shobhitam". This flower, along
with the blue butterfly-pea flower, Aparaajita, is also popular in worship of Goddess
Durga (who is also sometimes considered an "amsha" (अंश) of Krishna).
Atasi अतसी (Linum usitatissimum)
For example, the following lines are from Surya Ashtakam (Octet to
Bandhook बंधूक (Pentapetes phoenicea)
-- Midday Flower
Bandhook is a beautiful orange-red flower which blooms at noon. In
Sanskrit literature, it is often used to symbolize glowing red color.
एकचक्रधरं देवं तं सूर्यं प्रणमाम्यहम्||
(My salutations to the Sun God,
Who is as red as the bandhook flower,
Who wears ornaments of garlands and ear rings,
And who is the god with one great Wheel.)
Another example is from the various forms of Lord Ganesha, which denote
different aspects of life. Kshipra Ganesh (क्षिप्र गणेश) is described
as glowing brilliantly like bandhook flower and holding a pot of jewels and
other usual articles.