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LEXICON

 

 

lotus

A pink, white (fig.) or pink-and-white flower of the family of water lilies (fig.), and sacred among the Hindus. The flower is associated with the divine birth of the Buddha and used symbolically in Hindu and Buddhist art, often represented in gold or gilded (fig.). The lotus is praised in the sacred mantra Aum mani padma hum. According to legend Brahma comes from the golden lotus that emerges from the navel of Vishnu, and the Buddha took seven steps immediately after his birth causing lotus flowers to bloom wherever he touched the earth (fig.). They are a metaphor for Enlightenment because they rise from the mud towards light, like Buddhism raises itself above depravity, and the petals symbolize the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path that the Buddha revealed to the world. When opened they unveil the hard core with its seeds, an allegory for new life. Pedestals (fig.) used as the base for Buddha images (tahnphraphuttarup) are usually in the form of a lotus (fig.) and in the wai, the Thai greeting, the hands are brought together in the flame-like shape of a closed lotus flower (fig.) to pay respect. The use of lotus flowers in art is not always connected to religious beliefs, e.g. in China, art works with fat babies dancing whilst holding lotus leaves or lotus flowers are used in the hope that one would give birth to several boys in succession, since the character lián (連) meaning successively is a homonym for the character lián (莲) which means lotus. Since lotus leaves provide protection for any fish under them, it also symbolize abundance, as in Chinese, fish are called yú (), a word with the same sound as yú () meaning ‘to exceed’ and yú (), meaning ‘surplus’. A fat boy depicted in Chinese art holding a lotus and a goldfish, expresses the hope that one would prosper year after year, as goldfish are symbol for ‘surplus of money’ or ‘gold in excess’, and the lotus for sequence (fig.). In addition, the shape of the ruyi, an ancient Chinese scepter-like tool and symbol of power (fig.), is believed to have derived from the stalk and leave of the lotus. Some parts of the lotus flower are fit for human consumption, such as its root and its seeds (fig.). There are two kinds of lotus root available in Thailand, that is a Chinese variety (fig.) and a Thai lotus root (fig.). The former is rather bulbous, with about three to four separate segments and hollow tube-like canals on the inside, and when cut up, the slices are circular with holes, whereas the latter is much thinner and not segmented. From the root a sweet and aromatic, brown coloured health drink called nahm rahk bua (น้ำรากบัว) is made which is said to be refreshing and a cure against oral blisters caused by dehydration. The seeds are acorn-shaped and sit in a large cup-like seed head (fig.). This calyx is called fak bua (ฝักบัว) in Thai which is the same word as for a shower head, which shape it resembles. However, before consumption the green skin of the seeds should be peeled off and the tiny yellow-green shoot that sits in the centre of the seed should be removed as it tastes quite bitter. Lotus seeds and seed heads can be found on Thai markets nationwide, while peeled creamy white lotus seeds with their distinctive brownish top can be found in bulk above all in Bangkok's Chinatown. In summertime, the calyxes are widely sold as a snack on the streets near popular tourist spots all over China (fig.). The giant leaves of the lotus are completely water-repellent and its surface structure has been imitated in certain technical applications (fig.). In Myanmar, lotus stems are partially cut and then pulled apart (fig.), generating thin fibers in between the pieces, which are then spun into threads (fig.), which are typically woven into Buddhist monks' robes. Lotus plants are often used as ornamental plants in ponds or pots, especially in temple gardens or at temple buildings (fig.). The lotus is one of the eight auspicious symbols or Ashtamangala. The lotus flower has also inspired architectural designs, such as that of the Lotus Temple in Delhi (fig.) and that of the Tram Huong Tower in Nha Trang (fig.). In Thai, the lotus is called bua luang or just bua, and in Sankrit padma, i.e. for the pink lotus (fig.), whereas the white (fig.), red and blue lotus are called pundarika, kamala, and utpala, respectively. Also known as Indian lotus, sacred lotus, bean of India, and by the botanical name Nelumbo nucifera. See also pathum and proverbs. See also POSTAGE STAMPS (1), (2), (3), (4) and (5).