The World of Flowers

Date Added: 23-09-2008
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Meena Sharma

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orchid
Common name: Acampe orchid, Maravasha (Marathi), Taliyamaravada (Malayalam)
Botanical name: Acampe praemorsa    Family: Orchidaceae (orchid family)

Acampe is a genus of seven orchid species distributed from tropical Africa to India, eastwards to China and southwards to Malaya, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Guinea. The name Acampe was derived from the Greek word akampas, meaning "rigid", referring to the little, brittle, inflexible flowers. These species produce slowgrowing, mediumsized vines that form very large vegetative masses in nature. They are noted for their thick, leathery, distichous leaves. They produce fragrant small to mediumsized yellow flowers, barred with brown stripes, in a few to manyflowered racemose inflorescence. The brittle sepals and petals look alike. The earshaped, fringed, white labellum (lip) is saccate (sacshaped) or has a spur, and has red markings at its base. The fleshy column is short and has two waxy pollinia. Due to their large size and small flowers, they are rarely cultivated. Acampe praemorsa is native to India and Srilanka.

Air yam

Common name: Aerial yam, Air potato, Air yam, Bitter yam, Cheeky yam, Potato yam, Wild yam,  Zimikand (Hindi), Kukuralu (Bengali), Pannu pilangu (Tamil), Kadukaranda (Marathi)
Botanical name: Dioscorea bulbifera    Family: Dioscoreaceae (yam family)

Air yam is found in both Africa and Asia with slight differences between those found in the two places. It is a large vine 20 ft or more in length. It produces tubers; however the bulbils which grow at the base of its leaves are the more important food product. They are about the size of potatoes (hence the name air potato) weighing from 0.5 to 2 kg. Some varieties can be eaten raw while some require soaking or boiling for detoxification before eating. It is not grown much commercially since the flavor of other yams is preferred by most people. However it is popular in home vegetable gardens because it produces a crop after only 4 months of growth and continues for the life of the vine, as long as two years. Also the bulbils are easy to harvest and cook. Male flowers on pendent inflorescence, from bracteate (rarely leafy) stems, up to 50 (even 100) cm long; whitish or pinkish; female flowers on pendent axillary inflorescences.
 

Flowers in ancient literature

Ashok (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.

Parijat (Nyctanthes arbortristis)  HarSingar
 According to mythology, Parijata 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.
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 Parijata 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 teardrops before the sun rises.

Kadamb (Neolamarckia cadamba)  Kadamb
 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 vasini).

Kamal  (Nelumbo nucifera)  Lotus
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 (Nalini, padmini) 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! 
  
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 Kamalamba or "Lotus Mother": she resides in a thousandpetalled lotus said to be located in the Sahasrara 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".

Karnikar(Pterospermum acerifolium)  Kanak Champa
This goldenhued flower has a beautiful tassellike 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 is plucked. The golden pendant flowers of the Karnikara adorn the ears of Sri Krishna in the Bhagavatam (karnayoh karnikaram).

Vakul (Mimusops elengi)  Maulsari
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.

Malati (Aganosma dichotoma)  Malati
Malati is a vine with very fragrant white jasminelike flowers. This flowers is frequently confused with jasmine. Ancient Hindu mythological stories are full of references to Malati flowers, as in the braids of women, or in overhanging bowers under which lovers meet. Malati flowers routinely drop from the hair of women!

Madhavi Lata  (Hiptage benghalensis)  Madhavi
In stories of Krishna, Madhavilata is found every where in Vrindavan, and creates a wonderful atmosphere with its fragrance and the threecolored flowers:"This forest has Atimuktatrees, therefore the chariot makers resort to it (chariots are made of the wood), the makers of Madhavigarlands like it (Atimukta means Madhavi flower) and those who desire liberation come here (to Vrindavana; (Atimukta means completely liberated).

Ketaki (Pandanus odoratissimus )  Kewda
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  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 worship.

Neel Kamal  (Nymphaea nouchali/stellata)  Blue Waterlily
The dark complexion of Krishna is compared to that of Neelkamal. For this reason, the Blue Waterlily is also called Krishna Kamal.
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.

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