February 09, 2007
Design and interpretation
I took this picture in the Botanical Gardens. I have always been fascinated by the colour and design of this flower, and by its name...my mother used to tell me that this flower is called the Kaurava-Pandava puvvu in Telugu, and something similar in some other Indian languages. The radial filaments of the corona all around represent the 100 Kaurava brothers, and the five anthers represent the five Pandavas from the Mahabharata.
I am amazed at how different cultures have given very different interpretations to this flower. I list some below:
• In Manipuri this flower is called Radhika nachom; could this be interpreted as the dance of Krishna and Radha, in the centre and the many gopikas dancing all around?
• In Bengali, it is called Jhumkalata...does this mean a creeper (lata) with jhumkas? The flower, if turned over, would look like a jhumka (a kind of earring), wouldn’t it?
• It is called Passion Flower in English. According to Wikipedia, ‘Passion’ does not refer to love, but to the passion of Christ on the cross; in many parts of Europe, this flower is a symbol of Crucifixion: the 72 radial filaments represent the Crown of Thorns. The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles. The top three stigmata represent the three nails and the lower five anthers represent the five wounds.
• In Spain, it is known as Espina de Cristo (Christ’s Thorn).
• In Germany it was once known as Muttergottes-Schuzchen (Mother-of-God’s Star).
• In Japan, it is known as clock-faced flower, and recently has become a symbol for homosexual youths.
• In North America, it is called the Maypop, the water lemon, and the wild apricot (after its fruit). Native Americans in the Tennessee area called it ocoee, and the Ocoee river and valley are named after it.
But, as they say, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet! The Kaurava-Pandava puvvu is truly one of nature’s marvels, and whatever be the name or interpretation, let us just look at it in awe and admiration.
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