Nelumbo nucifera is known by a number of common names, including sacred lotus, Indian lotus and sacred water-lily. This plant is an aquatic perennial, native to southern Asia and Australia, most commonly cultivated in water gardens. It is the National Flower of India.
The roots of Nelumbo nucifera are planted in the soil of the pond or river bottom, while the leaves float on top of the water surface. The flowers are usually found on thick stems rising several centimeters above the water. The plant normally grows up to a height of about 150 cm and a horizontal spread of up to 3 meters, but some unverified reports place the height as high as over 5 meters. The leaves may be as large as 60 cm in diameter, while the showy flowers can be up to 20 cm in diameter.
There are a number of different cultivars, the flower colours varying from snow white to yellow to a light pink. It is hardy to USDA Zone 5. The plant can be propagated from seeds or rhizomes.
The flowers, seeds, young leaves and rhizomes are all edible. In Asia, the petals are sometimes used for garnish, while the large leaves are used as a wrap for food. The rhizome (called 藕 in Chinese; pinyin: ǒu) is a common soup or stir-fry ingredient and is the part most commonly consumed. Petals, leaves, and rhizome can also all be eaten raw, though transmission of parasites should be concerned (e.g. Fasciolopsis buski).
The stamens can be dried and made into a fragrant herbal tea.The seeds or nuts are quite versatile, and can be eaten raw or dried and popped like popcorn. They can also be boiled down until soft and made into a paste. Combined with sugar, lotus seed paste is a common ingredient in pastries such as mooncakes, daifuku and rice flour pudding.
Various parts of the sacred lotus are also used in traditional Asian herbal medicine.
Hindus associate the lotus blossom with creation mythology, and with the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and Lakshmi. From ancient times the lotus has been a divine symbol in Hindu tradition. It is often used as an example of divine beauty, for example Sri Krishna is often described as the ‘Lotus-Eyed One’. Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. Recall that both Brahma and Lakshmi, the Divinities of potence and Wealth, have the lotus symbol associated with them as their seats. In Hindi it is called कमल (Kamal) which is also a popular name for women and at times as prefix for males in India.
The lotus flower is quoted exstensively within Puranic and Vedic literature, for example.
One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water.Bhagavad Gita 5.10
Borrowing from Hinduism, in Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of body, speech, and mind, floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. The Buddha is often depicted sitting on a giant lotus leaf or blossom.
- Lotus Position
|Nelumbo nucifera flower and leaves|