A vendor sells lotus near Kutchery Chowk in Ranchi on Sunday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
The auspicious lotus, which had become a blue moon in the capital markets in recent years, made a blooming comeback in Ranchi this autumn, much to the joy of Durga devotees as the flower is an integral part of her worship.
The recent rains have filled lakes and ponds in and around the city to the brim, making conditions conducive for lotuses (Nelumbo nucifera) to bloom.
Earlier, a bulk of lotuses were procured from Calcutta.
The lotus, named the evocative pankaja — born of mud — in Sanskrit, has a spiritual meaning hidden in its whorls.
It stands for the purity of devotees amid the worldly mud of greed.
The lotus the 10-armed warrior goddess Durga holds in one hand is half-blooming, symbolising the certainty of success but not its finality.
Also, when Lord Rama prays to Durga for success in his epic battle against Ravana and needs 108 blue lotuses to worship her with but finds one flower short, he decides to offer her one of his eyes.
Durga, pleased by his devotion, stops him from this self-sacrifice and blesses him.
Even today, across the country, devotees offer the goddess 108 lotuses during Sandhi Puja (rituals during the transition between Ashtami and Navami during Durga Puja).
Ranchi florists have expressed their capability to provide lotuses to all big and small Puja organisers on all days.
Florist Ramswarup Malakar of Shahid Chowk said: “Usually, we procured consignments of lotuses from the Calcutta market. As the flower needed to be imported, we could supply lotus to Puja organisers only for Sandhi Puja. But this year, lotuses have grown abundantly here. We will be able to supply the locally grown lotus on all days of Durga Puja.”
Prashant Kumar, horticulture expert associated with Birsa Agriculture University (BAU), agreed.
“The lotus, which thrives in water, received favourable weather conditions to grow just before the festive season. Ponds and water bodies are brimming, the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold. It is a good time for the aquatic perennial flower to bloom,” he said.
Florists have tied up with local residents from Pithoria, Nagri, Hatia and other nearby areas on city outskirts to get their supply of lotuses.
Just one word of caution.
As Pujas come closer, many people may sell the similar looking water lilies of the Nymphaea family as sacred lotuses.
The petals and the centre of both the species are completely different.
Even florists — who are not botanists but know flowers as well as any — are asking devotees to be alert and pick right.