Purna Kumbha with mango leaves, Coconut and rice.
Research writer:-- London Swaminathan
Post No:--1184; Dated 20th July 2014.
*Vedic Index mentions about 74 different plants.
*Valmiki Ramayana Index gives a list of about 170 plants.
Hindus use a lot plants in their day to day religious rituals in their houses as well as temples. They have got an amazing variety of plants .This article is about the plants used only for “religious rituals”. Hindus will comfortably beat any community or race in the world. I can’t list all the plants here. This is only a sample survey.
If it is a medical treatise like Charaka in Sanskrit or Agastya in Tamil I would not be surprised. In 2000 year old Sangam Tamil Literature a Brahmin poet by name Kabilar gives a long list of 99 plants of the Tamil landscape at one go in Kurinjippattu. But it is not a religious literature. But the same poet sings about offering Patram,Pushpam, water to god in Purananuru verse 106.
Following is the list of some important plants. The numbers within brackets are used for counting:--
Tulsi (1) and Bilva (2) are used in the houses and temples every day.
Peepal (3)tree (Ficus religiosa) and Sami (4)tree(Prosopis cineraria) are used to produce fire. In Vedic days there was no match box. Either they used the fire from the permanent fireplace in the houses or used an Arani wood. It is made up of Peepal and Sami Trees. A churning device made up of strong peepal wood will churn the sami wood to kindle fire. This has been used from the Vedic days.
Banyan (5)tree( Vata Vrksa) and Fig (6)tree (Udumbara) are mentioned in Vishnu Sahasranamam along with the Peepal tree. Neem (7) tree also known as Margosa tree is used in all the village goddess temples in Tamil Nadu. It has got anti viral and anti bacterial properties. South Indians use it on the new year day.
Vedic equipment to kindle fire (arani)
Two plants (8)Mango tree and (9)Plantain Tree (banana tree) are considered very auspicious. No religious function or festival is celebrated without these two. Mango leaves are used as festoons in weddings and Holy Pots are decorated with the leaves. Mango fruits are God’s favourite fruits. All parts of plantain tree are used in temple and home rituals and food. Plantain leaf cups are used (Donnai) in Vedic ceremonies. Coconut (10) is the most important ingredient in the temple offerings. Copra is offered in the homam.
In the Fire Ceremonies known as Homams, Havans, Yagas and Yajnas in Sanskrit, a lot of special woods or sticks are burnt with butter/ghee. The most important of these plants are Soma plant (11) and the peepal sticks. No one knew the identity of the soma plant yet. But foreign “scholars” have competed with one another in bluffing and fooling the Hindus (See my earlier article). Drug addicts described it as a narcotic and drunkards described it as an intoxicant. This is because they don’t see drinking or using drugs as a sin and they have been using it for long. In short their interpretations reflected their culture.
The wood or sticks used for Navagraha Homam or any Household are Arka/Erukku/ calatropis procera (12)Purasu (13), Karunkali (14), Arasu/Peepal, Aththi/Udumbara/Fig, Vanni/Sami,Nayuruvi (15)and Arukam (Durva) Pul grass (16).
Yaga spoons made up of Palasa wood
No Hindu priest will walk out of his hose without (17) Dharba grass in his Puja/ceremony pack. Hindus believe that Dharba is the most powerful and the holiest of all the grasses. All the ceremonies must be performed by wearing this as a ring (Pavitram) in the ring finger.
In the Homam to propitiate nine Planets (Nava Grahas), Hindus use nine different pulses or grains. Rice plays the most important part in the funeral rites as well as the wedding rites. If it is a funeral ritual, cooked white rice balls are used. Uncooked yellow coloured rice is used in all the auspicious functions. This shows Hindus did not migrate from any cold countries. They originated in the Indus -Ganges plains where (18) paddy was grown. Other ingredients used: Bamboo rice (19), Black gram (20)Horse gram(21), Lima Bean seeds (22), Millets (23), White Mustards (24),Black mustard (25) Sesame (26), Sugar Cane (27), Wheat (28), Green Gram (29), Karamani pulses/Cow peas(30).
I have written an article about use of sesame seeds from Vedas to Indus valley. I have written another article about Sugar cane Dynasty (Ikshwaku Dynasty and Indus Valley)
No funeral ceremony can be conducted without white rice and sesame seeds. This shows Hindus originated in the tropical India. Rice mixed with jaggery (unrefined sugar) is offered to God.
Homa Dravyas (pulses and grains)
Plant from the Heaven
The one thing which I couldn’t explain scientifically is the Samudra Manthan (Churning of the Milky Ocean with the help of a mountain and a snake) in Hindu mythology. Though some people have given some explanations, they don’t justify all the 14 products that came from the ocean! One of the fourteen is (31) Parijatha tree (Coral Jasmine), the flowers of which are offered to the god. I How come this tropical plant came from the heaven? Or Have we identified it wrongly?
Hindus use the (32) cloves (33)cardamom and (34) saffron to add fragrance to all their religious drinks. Turmeric (35) is the most auspicious colouring product that Hindus use.
Garlands made up of (36)Rudraksha seeds and Tulsi seeds are worn by devotees. 10 to 15 types of flowers are used in the temple offerings. It differs from region to region. 37.Jasmine, 38.Marigold, 39.Lotus, 40.Hibiscus rosasinensis, 41.Nerium odorum, 42.Champak/Shenpakam and 43.Chrysanthemum dominate. 44.Roses are late arrivals in Hindu offering.
Probably India is the only country in the world named after a tree- (45)Jambu tree (Jambu dweepa). There are other dweepas (islands/continents) named after plants among the Sapta dweepas. But they are not used now. Orthodox Hindus in India do the Sankalpa ( religious vow) everyday in the name of Jambudweepa. Black coloured berries (Syzigium cumini) are offered to Lord Ganesh with (46) wood apple.
Yaga spoons are made up of Palasa (47) wood. Sandal (48) wood is offered in Homa and sandal paste is a must for all religious ceremonies.
((I have a B.Sc. in Botany with Zoology and Chemistry as ancillary subjects. I have two M.A.s in Literature and History. So whenever I study any literature I always look for botanical references. What amazed me was the reference of innumerable plants in religious literature. Of course Bible also has references to many plants and there are some books on this topic. But the big difference between Hindus and other religions is that Hindus are still using innumerable plants in their day today life for religious rituals)).
List of Plants used by the Hindus:---
1.Tulsi plant 2.Bilva Tree 3.Peepul (Ficus religiosa) 4.Sami tree 5.Banyan tree (Ficus Indica) 6. Fig Tree 7.Neem Tree (Azadirachta Indica) 8.Mango Tree 9.Plantain Tree 10. Coconut Tree 11. Soma creeper (somalatha) 12.Erukku 13.Purasu 14.Karunkali 15.Nayuruvi 16.Arukampul grass 17.Dharba grass 18.Paddy 19.Bamboo rice 20.Black gram 21.Horse gram 22.Country Bean seeds 23.Millets 24.White Mustards 25.Black mustard 26. Sesame 27. Sugar Cane 28. Wheat 29. Green Gram 30. Karamani/Cow peas 31.Parijatham 32.Cloves 33.Cardamom 34.Saffron 35.Turmeric 36.Rudraksha Tree 37.Jasmine 38.Marigold 39.Lotus and its root 40.Hibiscus rosasinensis 41.Nerium odorum 42.Shenpakam /Champak 43.Chrysanthemum dominate. 44.Roses 45.Jambu Tree 46.Wood Apple 47.Plasa wood 48.Sandal wood
Pavithram made up of Dharba grass.
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