Why was it made a national symbol?
“There is hardly any symbolism in Indian poetry, sculpture and painting more extensive than that belonging to the lotus flower and other parts of the plant,” writes Thomas Kintaert in On the Cultural Significance of the Leaf of the Indian Lotus. The lotus was chosen as the national flower because it enjoyed a significant presence in ancient traditions, scriptures and mythology. The Bhagavad Gita considers it a metaphor for detachment: Just as the lotus remains untouched by the muddy waters in which it grows, human beings should rise above worldly attachments. The lotus also symbolises knowledge and beauty as Saraswati, the goddess of learning, is depicted as seated on it.
The lotus is one of the most widely available flowers in India, growing in ponds, lakes, gardens and even homes. According to the National Botanical Research Institute, there is a rise in the commercial cultivation of aquatic plants, especially lotus, and this can lead to a highly profitable floriculture industry. Besides, the lotus continues to be an integral part of Hindu rituals and ceremonies. A lotus imprint lies at the centre of the Government of India’s Padma awards medallions. It is also the symbol of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
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(This story appears in the 22 August, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)