The lotus, born in water bodies remains untouched by the surrounding water but rises above to bloom beautifully. Found in blue, red and white colors, it is held very dear to Indians since the ancient times.
In Sanskrit the lotus is variously known as Padma, Nalina, Narasa, Pushkara, Tamarasa, Arawinda, Shatapatra,Rajiva.
Creation of lotus
Lord Brahma created a lotus with hundred petals first among the flowers. (Sk. P. VI. 221.37)
In Rig Veda we find two types of lotus Pundarika and Pushkara in which the former is white and the latter blue.
Dashchapundarikanisamudrasyagruhaime (Rg. X. 142. 8)
(O Agni, the place from where you came and where you are going, the land of that place should be covered with Durva (grass) and lakes filled with white lotuses. Such a place is called heaven.)
Ashwins, twin gods of Rig Veda are described as ‘wearing a garland of blue lotuses’ (Rg. X. 184. 2). A lotus shaped utensil is used in sacrifices too.
The Lotus in the Scriptures
Usually the lotus is a symbol of femininity, creation, knowledge, land, beauty, wealth, health, fame, purity. It is used very frequently to convey all these meanings. In Panchavinsha Brahmana it is said that the lotus is created from the luster of stars (18. 9. 6). Hence it is a symbol of fame.
Brahman literature correlated the lotus with the creation of the world. The story goes thus, ‘initially the world was in the liquid form. To expand the world, Prajapati, the creator looked here and there. He then found a lotus leaf floating on the water. To give support to that leaf he jumped into the water by taking the form of Varaha, a boar. There he found the earth at the bottom of the water. He then brought the earth and kept it on the lotus leaf (Taitiriya Brahman. 220.127.116.11). This association of lotus with water made it a symbol of purity.
Taitiriya Arnyaka reveals that Prajapati was born on the lotus leaf (1.23.1). Another version of the story says, during the time of the great flood- Mahapralaya, when Vishnu was taking rest on the leaf of abanyan tree assuming the form of a child, a lotus arose from his navel and Brahma, another form of Prajapati was born from that lotus. In Vayu Purana, earth is described in the shape of a lotus. As it is associated with the creator and creation of the world in the above mentioned stories, it is considered as the symbol of creation or life.
Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and prosperity is known as Kamalaja, born of lotus. Also it is mentioned in Samudrika Shastra that, if a king is born with a lotus symbol on the hand then he becomes a Chakravarti, an emperor. Samudrika Shastra is the science of the study of signs on the body. Association of the lotus with Lakshmi makes it a symbol of beauty, prosperity and wealth.
Association of Lotus with deities
Lord Brahma is believed to have been born of a lotus. Goddess Lakshmi is also believed to be born in a lotus, earning the epithet Kamalaja. Many other gods and goddesses are described as holding a lotus in their hand. Some examples are Ganesha, Indra and Indrani, Surya and Parvati. The lotus is a symbol of Shri, the goddess of beauty. Hence she is also known as Shri Padma.
Lotus in Buddhism
Buddha is also depicted in sculpture in Kamalasana, seated on the lotus. There is a Buddhist belief that when Buddha walked, a lotus would appear at the spot where his feet touched the ground. Another famous Jataka story narrates how the lotus was very dear to the Buddha. There was a farmer. In his lake a lotus bloomed in the winter. As it bloomed in winter it was very rare and he thought to sell it for a good price. Two merchants who were devotees of Buddha were quarrelling to buy that lotus for their Lord at a best price from him. The farmer thought that if these merchants were ready to pay such a high amount for a lotus to be given to Lord Buddha, then Lord Buddha might pay me much more for this lotus. Thinking thus he went to Lord Buddha. But seeing the serene and smiling face of Buddha he offered that lotus to him and just asked for blessings in return.
The Buddhist deity Avalokiteshwara is Padmapani, he holds a lotus in his hand.
Significance of Lotus
Padma purana narrates the anecdote of a thief Dandapani who gave a lotus to a Brahmin upon being asked to do so. Due to this he obtained punya and went to heaven. He was also born a Brahmin in the next birth.
If person sees a lotus in his dreams, it is said to indicate acquisition of wealth. One who gifts away a lotus becomes prosperous in his next birth. It is auspicious to hold or wear lotus. The Rangoli design of a lotus confers prosperity.