Flowers usage in different festivals of India


India’s diverse culture boasts of a rich heritage of unique festivals of which flowers are an intrinsic part.  Here is a look at some Indian festivals where flowers form an integral part of the rituals and traditions.

It is not an understatement to say that India is a land of festivals and given its diversity in terms of faith, culture and rituals, our country celebrates a wide variety of festivals.  Each festival has its own distinctive customs and based on where it is celebrated, festivals are nation wide or state specific.  Irrespective of the region, flowers are a significant aspect of every celebration.  They add colour, life and an element of vivaciousness to the festivities.  No celebration is complete without the mention of flowers and they form one of the most important components of festival preparation.  Local flower markets are abuzz with tremendous activity as a run up to important festivals.  There is frenzied bargaining and buying as flower rates typically spike a couple of days prior to the festival.  Flowers are not just required for the puja and rituals but for decoration too.   

Ganesh Chaturthi: arguably one of the most auspicious festivals of India, this one is dedicated to the Lord of Beginnings aka Lord Ganapati.  Flowers are a key aspect of the celebration and the Lord is worshipped with some of His favourite flowers which include the red hibiscus, marigold and crown flower (Calotropis gigantea).  In coastal Karnataka, the Mangalore jasmine which is a slender, sweet smelling native variety is considered highly auspicious as is the inflorescence of the areca nut palm.  These flowers are especially sourced for the festival and offered to the God.  Twenty-one is considered a sacred number and 21 varieties of flowers and leaves are used for the puja ritual.

Dussehra aka Navratri: celebrated with pomp and gaiety across the country, Dasara is a ten-day long festival dedicated to Goddess Durga.  Houses are decorated with marigolds, asters and dahlias and the Goddess is decked up in the choicest of flowers including roses and jasmine.  In West Bengal, pandals hosting the idol of Maa Durga are decorated in path breaking themes and exotic flowers like orchids, anthuriums and stargazer lilies are used.  The pandals are a picture of resplendent beauty and flowers form the soul of the decoration.  As part of this festival, tools, vehicles, shops and business establishments are decorated with flowers of all kinds and worshipped.  Jasmine, asters, sunflowers and marigolds are extensively used.  

Diwali aka Deepawali: a festival that is celebrated by millions across India and the world, Deepwali is arguably the most popular festival of our country.  A festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil and light over darkness, Deepawali is symbolic of hope, progress and prosperity and also an ode to Goddess Lakshmi who is the Goddess of wealth.  The festivities start with the deep cleaning of homes after which they are decked with flowers of many kinds.  Red is the colour associated with Goddess Lakshmi and therefore red roses, chrysanthemums and gerberas rule the roost.  These flowers bring in vibrancy, positive and refreshing vibes.  Front doors are decorated with rangoli which is embellished with flowers and diyas.  Flowers and flower petals are floated in large “urlis” filled with water with candles placed in between to give a stunning look.  

Onam: celebrated across Kerala, Onam is a 10-day harvest festival and the homecoming of King Mahabali.  One of the highlights of this festival is the Pookalam which is derived from the words “Poov” meaning flower and “Kalam” meaning kolam or rangoli.  This auspicious arrangement of flower petals in the form of a rangoli is also known as Athapookalam or Onapookalam. The pattern usually consists of ten round rings which signifies ten different deities.  Several flowers are used in the preparation of Pookalam and this includes Thumba or Ceylon Slitwort, Chethi or Flame Of The Woods, hibiscus, Sankhupushpam or Butterfly Pea, lantana and marigold.  Chethi or Flame Of The Woods is in fact known as the official Onam flower.  It is interesting to note that on the first day a single flower is used, the second day two colours are used, third day three colors and so on, until the Pookalam of the last day contains a magnificent ten colours.

Christmas: the festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Jesus is also intrinsically associated with flowers including roses and poinsettia.  Red is the colour of the festival and hence red roses, gladioli and gerberas are used to decorate homes and front doors.  Holly, ivy and mistletoe are other flowers used in Christmas celebrations.

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