Lotus Flower

Decorative lotus at the lobby 0f a hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Lotus – Nelumbo nucifera, the flower always looks so clean and pure against the background of the dirty pond. Because of this character, the lotus flower to be associated with purity and beauty in the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism respectively; the ancient Egyptians scholars observed that in the night-time the lotus closed its flowers and sank into the water, and came up with a different association with the flower related to rebirth and the Sun; in actual fact the Lotus slowly emerges from a pond over a three day period and then blooms in the morning until mid-afternoon.

Lotus flower meaning is different between cultures, though in fact they share many similarities

Beautiful white lotus flower about to bloom

In ancient Egypt there were two main types of lotus that grew, the white, and the blue. Another type, the pink lotus flower was introduced into Egypt in later period of their civilization. If one is to observe the many hieroglyphics, it is easy to see that the blue Lotus flower is the most commonly portrayed.

Lotus flower is known to be associated with rebirth. This is a consequence of it supposedly retracting into the water at the night, and emerging a fresh in the Sun the next day. The Egyptians associated the lotus flower with the sun which also disappeared in the night, only to re-emerge in the morning. Therefore the lotus came to symbolize the Sun and the creation. In many hieroglyphics works the lotus is depicted as emerging from Nun (the primordial water) bearing the Sun God.

Khmer woman peddling lotus plant with the seeds still in it. Every part of the plant has its use.  As seen at the riverside of Tonle Sap in Phnom Penh

In Buddhism the lotus flower is associated with purity, spiritual awakening and faithfulness. The flower is considered pure as it is able to emerge from murky waters in the morning and be perfectly clean. Therefore in common with Egyptian mythology the lotus is seen as a sign of rebirth, but additionally it is associated with purity. The breaking of the surface every morning is also suggestive of desire, this leads to it being associated with spiritual enlightenment.

As Buddhism stems from a different part of the world to Egyptology, there are many more colors of lotus to be seen. So it is not too surprising that the many different colors have come to be associated with different aspects of Buddhism. The main symbolism of the lotus flower and their meanings are given here.

  1. Blue Lotus: The blue Lotus is associated with a victory of the spirit over that of wisdom, intelligence and knowledge. It is always depicted as being partially open and the centre is never observed
  2. White Lotus: this color lotus is known to symbolize Bodhi (being awakened), and represents a state of mental purity, and that of spiritual perfection; it is also associated with the pacification of one’s nature. This lotus is considered to be the womb of the world.
  3. Purple Lotus: known to be Mystic and is associated with esoteric sects. It can be shown depicted as either an open flower or as a bud. The eight petals of the purple Lotus are representative of the noble eightfold path; one of the principal teachings of the Buddha. Following this path is thought to lead to self awakening, and is considered one of the noble truths.
  4. Pink lotus: this is the supreme lotus and is considered to be the true lotus of Buddha.
  5. Red lotus: this is related to the heart, and the Lotus flower meaning is associated with that of love and compassion

    A khmer woman and lotus plant

    White lotus – this deceptive calmness is, however, teeming with busy life!  a hive of insect activity.

    Perhaps one of the strongest associations of the lotus flower with religion is that that is observed in Hinduism; lotus flower is associated with beauty, fertility, prosperity, spirituality, and eternity.

    The most common form seen in Hinduism is the white lotus flower. Many of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism are linked to the flower, for example the goddess of prosperity, Laxmi, is usually depicted as being seated atop a fully opened lotus flower. Likewise Brahma, the god of creation is depicted as emerging from a lotus that crawls from the Naval of the sustainer Lord Vishnu.

    Pink lotus – this is the supreme lotus and is considered to be the true lotus of Buddha

    Now we have a better understanding of the lotus flower meaning across the three major cultures in which it is known to play a major role. It is no wonder that these civilizations, have found wonderment in such a beautiful flower


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