Flowers are part of Indian daily life. What kind of species would you find here? Jasmine and marigold are decorative ones, whereas hibiscus and frangipani can’t be cut and you always see it on the trees. In Pondicherry you can have a walk into the French quarter and hide yourself from the sun under a bougainvillea tree. Then lotus and water lily have huge religious symbolism. They are part of the Hinduism religion.
Indian people are used to take refreshing drinks made with different flowers: clitoria, a little blue flower, rose or hibiscus. Those flowers are prepared in syrup, as the Egyptian people are used to have ‘karkade', a hibiscus flower infusion.
Flowers are also ornaments: you will see it everywhere! It is one of the best women’s attire. Indian ladies are famous for their dark long hair braided until their waist. With bobby pin, they fix an odorant jasmine flower garland in their hair that they bought at the market or in little street shops. Everywhere you go, you will see women sat on the floor braiding garlands of flowers: you will be surprised by their precision and speed. Flowers are also there at a key moment of the Indian woman life: her wedding. With this ceremony the bride leave her parents’ house for his husband home. This transition is represented by a necklace called taali. The husband put the taali on his bride neck, draw a symbolic red point on her hair and then they exchange huge garlands of flowers. As an offer guests throw flowers to the new married couple. In daily life home are decorated. You will see big bowls full of water. Flowers are immersed inside in lovely designs. It is sure that you will see it in Indian homes during parties. Garlands of flowers are a symbol of wealth and happiness: it is everywhere during celebrations.
Flowers and spirituality
Even in the death, the Hindu use flowers. In Indian, death is a celebration. Music is heard in the street until the funeral cortege departure. The dead one is laid on a bed of flowers on a float. Family walks throwing flowers in the street. In Indian, death is just the end of a cycle: a new life begins for the dead one so he is celebrated.
But flowers also have a more symbolic dimension: it is part of the Hinduism traditions. Lotus is the most important flower in Hinduism. It symbolizes foresight. Its roots are buried in the mud with flower blossoms above water. It refers to human being condition. Moreover flowers are part of the Hindu rite called puja. Gods are invocated and different flowers are offered: white ones for Shiva, yellow ones for Vishnu and red ones for Shakti. However, there is not only Hinduism in India. For Sri Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry, flowers are sacred. The Mother Mira Alfassa published in the early seventies a book listing more than 600 different species, which had been given different characteristics and symbols. For example, roses symbolize the love for God.
Flowers are also used in medicine for its medical properties. Marigold is a good mosquito repellent: mosquitoes hate its smell. It cures hepatic troubles too:
gallstones, jaundice… Saffron has antiemetic properties, and it is proved that it’s good for skin. It is also a sedative and helps to reduce anxiety.
So, it is a nice perspective to come and visit us in Pondicherry! Nature has such wonderful things to show us!