'Puja' Flowers and other things used in 'puja' (Hindu Worship).: Arhul ke phool, the Hibiscus !

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Arhul ke phool, the Hibiscus !

Java Kusum

"Ekahari Arhul" (Hibiscus with a Single layer of petals)
The favorite flower of Goddess Kali

Hibiscus is a well-known flower all over the world. It is known by different names in different regions. In Hindi speaking regions it is known by the name "Arhul/ Adhul" (अड़हुल) While in Bengali and Sanskrit it is known by "Java Kusum". There are several hundred varieties of this flower and it is widely used in offerings to gods and goddesses in Hindu religion. In the eastern part of India where Goddess "Kali" is widely worshiped, the flower of hibiscus has great importance. In the rural part of Bengali speaking Hindu villages, almost every house has a hibiscus tree and it is mostly the single-layered petal variety. This variety of flowers which is red in color is used in preparing the garland that may be seen in the neck of the idol of Goddess Kali, Tara, and her other avatars. The hibiscus tree is actually a shrub and I have seen it planted as a hedge at many places but if planted separately it grows a woody stem after many years that may be more than one and a half feet in girth. This type of tree
A flowering Arhul/hibiscus shrub on a roof-top garden
when flowered, looks beautiful and attractive. The single-layered red hibiscus is an integral part of Bengali culture. It can be seen in carvings and pictures there. Hindus generally worship idols or images of God and Goddesses. But in Bengal in addition to these images/idols, they worship the feet of Goddess.
Goddess Kali's feet (Charan)
with hibiscus flowers on the top
These feet may be made of metal like brass or maybe of terracotta. Here too one can see the flower of hibiscus made on the upper part of the feet. If you ever visit the main temple at "Tarapeeth" in Rampurhat of W.Bengal, you can see such a "Goddess feet" made of brass near the idol. Goddess "Kali's" favorite color is red, so She likes red clothes, red bangles, vermilion, blood, and red flower. Most of the hibiscus flowers are red so this is the most liked flower of Kali, Durga, and her avatars.  

Chilly Hibiscus (Mirchi Arhul) in a flower-pot on the rooftop
       In addition to red, hibiscus has a wide range of colors. Some of them are quite attractive while some are high in simplicity like the white one. A common variety of hibiscus is called "Chilly hibiscus" (मिर्ची अड़हुल). It remains in a bud shape till falls down and never comes to bloom. It resembles a red chilly and that is why it got its name. Though it is not as attractive as other blooming variety it is so popular due to numerous flowering. Other big varieties have less number of flowers in its comparison.
            Hibiscus flower is also offered to Lord "Ganesha". "Ganesha" is the son of Goddess "Parvathi" who herself is "Aadishakti". "Aadishakti" means the power which is always there even before the universe came into being. All the Goddesses like 'Kali', 'Durga', 'Tara' ... are avatars of "Aadishakti". So hibiscus is liked by "Ganesha" too. The head of 'Ganesha' is the elephant's head. Another reason for hibiscus offering may be that the long pistil of the hibiscus flower is like the trunk of 'Ganesha'.
      Arhul flower can be easily grown in flower-pots (गमला) too in small areas like rooftop garden. Though most of the hibiscus flowers fall down completely after a day or more if not plucked - no fruits or seeds behind, even then it can be easily propagated by the cutting method. In the rainy season, if you cut a foot long, pencil-thick branch of the hibiscus tree and insert in wet and drained soil 5" down, it will start to grow after one and half month.
            In addition to use in worship, this flower has medicinal value too. The dried petals of hibiscus flowers if used as a tea it helps reduce the blood pressure because it acts as diuretics. In fact, the hibiscus tea is a part of the culture in some societies. 
          Hibiscus flower is part of the study in botany at school level due to a clear and defining structure like male and female parts of the flower. If a red flower is rubbed on a white paper it leaves a blue patch and if a drop of lemon juice is put over it the color changes to red again. This experiment resembles the 'litmus paper test'. 
           Hibiscus is important not only in India but in other Asian nations too. It is national flower of South Korea and Malaysia though of different varieties. 
             Different types of Hibiscus products are available at Amazon at THIS LINK.


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