Padma, the sacred lotus, is a native to tropical Asia and Queensland Australia and the subject of this week’s Travel Photo. Commonly found in water gardens, they are also commercially grown in farms as a food source as well as for decorations and floral arrangements. The whole plant is edible the flowers, seeds, leaves (the young tender ones) and the roots are all commonly found in southeast Asian dishes. The white lotus flower holds the tittle of the national flower of India, while the pink is the Vietnamese national flower.
Common in Asian symbology, deities are frequently depicted sitting upon lotus blooms. The Hindu religion associates the plant with both Vishnu and Brahma. The lotus is considered an example of divine beauty and purity with the unfolding pedals representing the expanding soul. In China the Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi famously stated “I love the lotus because while growing from the mud it is unstained.” Buddhists view the lotus as symbolic of purity. While rooted in the mud the plant flowers on long stalks as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. Water easily beads and falls off of the petals and leaves, a metaphor for detachment. Legend has it that when the Gautama Buddha was born he had the ability to walk, and with every step a lotus flower sprang to life in his foot prints.
Robert Lawlor, a symbologist living in India wrote:
“The lotus…symbolizes the union of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The roots are in the earth, it grows in and by means of water, its leaves are nourished by air, and it blooms through the power of the sun’s fire. The lotus is therefore the perfection of the fourfold order of the natural world.”
Additional Travel Photos of the Week with lotus: