Coconut has great significance in India. It has religious and social connotations. One of the most common offerings in a temple is a coconut.
Various names of coconut
Coconut is known as Narikela in Sanskrit. It is known as Shrifala, auspicious fruit. It is also known Mahafala, great fruit which is to be offered to god.
Origin of coconut
We don’t find the reference of coconut in Vedic literature. Mainly the citations of coconut start appearing in the period of epic and puranas. It is originally from Indonesia and was brought to India around 1st century.
When is it used
In India Coconut is used during various auspicious occasions, it is tied as torana at the door of homes during all auspicious functions, it is given to a bride before she leaves for her in law’s place, it is also gifted to people when they visit one another. Coconut is very auspicious and the symbol of fertility. Hence it is said that a lady who wishes to get a child should plant a coconut tree or offer coconuts to gods or goddesses.
It is also used in occasions like weddings, festivals, the use of a new vehicle, bridge, house etc. A pot (kalasha) full of water, adorned with mango leaves and a coconut on top is worshipped on important occasions and used to receive revered guests.
It is offered in the sacrificial fire whilst performing homa. The coconut is broken and placed before the Lord. It is later distributed as prasaada. It is offered to please the Lord or to fulfill our desires.
In South India coconut tree is considered auspicious like neem tree or bilva tree in north India. People from South India believe that, the one who destroys a coconut tree will himself get destroyed.
Coconut is revered as a symbol of a Brahmin hence it is advised not to remove the Shikha from it.
Why is it offered to god
There is a custom of placing coconut in front of god during all auspicious functions.
In Ancient times there was a custom of offering a person to god. It still continues in the modern period too at some places. After this due to the violence involved in the act the practice was done away. And it was replaced by breaking or offering a coconut in lieu of a person. It is given instead of Narabali. Coconut is offered instead of the head.
The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a human being. The coconut is broken, symbolizing the breaking of the ego. Then in later period it became so prevalent and the custom of offering coconut became a regular part of worship.
Tender coconut water is used in abhisbeka rituals and is believed to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker.