Today marks the start of several auspicious periods according to the Hindu calendar. Today is the Amavasya, or the New Moon day, which is a good time to start new activities. Today is also the day Gudi Padwa and Ugadi are celebrated across different parts of India to herald the New Year.
And today is also the first day of the 9 day Chaitra Navratri, a celebration of the 9 aspects of the divine Feminine. Therefore we thought it would be appropriate to do a short post on some of the sacred flowers in Ayurveda and how they are used in the worship of the divine Feminine.
The opportunities that sacred festivals give us:
To us, immersing ourselves in divinity and worship shows us the path to treat ourselves with reverence. When we decide to wake up at a specific time, bathe well and cook in an atmosphere of love and reverence and offer this food as Prasad, we show ourselves higher standards of living. Eventually these rituals become part of our life as we treat our lives with care and reverence, mirroring how we worship our deities every day.
Apart from daily worship, festival times also give us a rare spiritual opportunity. The ancient texts tell us that when we worship at a common time or during a collective festival, the power of collective worship gives us access to a great deal of positive, spiritual and divine energy.
Worshipping the divine Feminine in the week:
At Krya, we advise a Tuesday and Friday abhyanga routine for Women. Friday is considered the day the Divine Feminine Energy is strongest in the week. We worship her in different forms like Devi Lakshmi, Devi Saraswathi, Maa Durga, Devi Meenakshi, etc.
To receive the divine feminine energy and invite the Goddess into your home, a Friday abhyanga by women is considered extremely auspicious – the benefits of this Abhyanga are twofold.
At a physical level, this abhyanga helps cleanse your body extremely thoroughly and activates the major srotas / channels within the skin. This aids release of toxins, and calms down vitiated doshas. Internally it also helps the working of the bones and joints, settles the stomach and leaves your body in a state of tridoshic balance.
On a spiritual level, the Friday abhyanga is said to increase the Sattvic energy in your body. This helps you attract the divine Sattvic energy of the divine Feminine and helps its manifestation in your home, workplace and in every area of your life.
Navratri: 9 days of worshipping the divine feminine, 4 times every year
Navratri means “9 nights” and is a period during which the Divine Feminine is said to be readily accessible to this world and is willing to grace our home if we invite her. Traditionally, the Navratri period falls 4 times in the Hindu year. Each Navratri falls at the beginning of a specific season as per the Hindu calendar.
The most popular Navratri is Sharad Navratri which is held in the Sharad / autumn season falling in September / October ,post monsoon season. This 9 day festival ends in Vijayadasami or Dusshera.
The second Navratri celebrated in India is Chaitra Navratri which begins today. This 9 day worshipping of the divine Feminine ends in Rama Navami, which celebrates the birth of Lord Rama.
The third Navratri period is Magh Navratri which is celebrated in winter in January – February. The fifth day of this Navratri festival is celebrated as Vasant Panchami where Goddess Saraswati is revered through music, poetry, different forms of art, and also kite flying.
The fourth Navratri period is Ashadh Navratri which marks the beginning of Monsoons in India in June – July.
Sacred Flowers to worship the Divine Feminine and their properties according to Ayurveda:
The Divine Feminine is revered in religions across the world. She is seen as the source of creativity, and in Hindu philosophy, metaphysical reality is considered a manifestation of the divine Feminine. Creation is considered the divine play of the Goddess and she is considered the fount of beauty, compassion, self realisation, love and protection.
We have written before about how Ayurveda and the use of herbs have deep cultural and religious symbolism. The worship of Gods and Goddesses, for example, involves the use of specific herbs that suit the divine energies attributed to these Gods and Goddesses.
Today, at the start of this 9 day Divine Feminine period, we will look at 3 sacred flowers that are used to worship the Divine Goddess and their medicinal properties
Sacred flowers in India and their Ayurvedic properties:
Japa (Hibiscus rosa sinensis) for Goddess Parvati:
The Tripurasundari ashtakam is a beautiful 8 stanza shloka to the Goddess Tripura Sundari and was composed by Acharya Adi Sankaracharya. The entire shloka is dedicated to Goddess Tripurasundari, the beauty of the 3 worlds and the consort of the Three Eyed One (Lord Shiva). One of the stanzas says this:
“Vidambhitha japa ruchim vikhacha chandra choodamanim,
Trilochana kudumbhineem tripurasundarim asraye “
In the paragraph above, Adi Sankara mentions that the Goddess likes the fully bloomed Japa flower. The Japa flower finds atleast 2 more mentions in this Shloka, which is of deep significance to students of Ayurveda.
In Hindu religion, the Mother Goddess is considered the fount of expressive energy, the womb of the entire world and the Supreme One which gives form to thought. This creative force is represented as a rush of heat and energy which manifests in everything we see around us.
It is therefore no wonder that the divine heat of the Goddess is adorned with the cool red Japa flower, or the Hibiscus flower. The Japa flower is used to reduce and balance the Pitta energy of the Goddess.
Many Mother Goddesses are worshipped with the Japa flower, especially the forms which are considered high in creative energy and the energy of destruction. For example, Goddess Kali in Kalighat Temple of Calcutta (one of the primary shaktipeeths in India) is also adorned with red Japa flower. Similarly, Goddess Tripura Sundari in Tripura, the playful Goddess of creation is also adorned with Japa flower.
Japa in Ayurveda:
Ayurveda considers Japa as a pre-eminent hair herb, and this is because of its pitta balancing property. Just like it is used to cool and balance the Mother Goddesses’ fiery creative energy, it is used in Ayurveda to soothe and cool the head and the scalp which are heated by the workings of the eyes and the brain.
Japa is used extensively in hair formulations as the head is considered one of the seats of Pitta.
In order for optimal working of the brain and the eyes, Ayurveda says that this region has to be kept cool (so you literally and figuratively maintain a cool head). Therefore oils meant for the head are always prepared with cooling and pitta balancing herbs like Japa, Bhringa, Mandukaparni, etc.
Japa in Krya
Japa goes into many of Krya’s Hair Oils, hair washes and hair masks, especially the products meant for pitta type hair. The Krya Classic hair range extensively uses Japa flower. Japa while cooling, is not suitable for use in body wash and oil formulations as it can trigger vata dosha.
Kamala (The Lotus) – Nelumbo nucifera for Goddess Mahalakshmi:
The lotus is associated with purity and beauty in Hinduism, Buddhism and in Ancient Egypt as well. Egyptian scholars associated the Lotus flower with re-birth as they observed that the flower closed at Night and re-opened its petals with the arrival of the sun.
In Hinduism, the Lotus is associated Goddess Lakshmi and her divine consort Maha Vishnu.
Acharya Adi Sankaracharya has composed a beautiful stotra called the Kanakadhara Stotram in praise of Mahalakshmi. Legend has it that Adi Sankaracharya was begging one day for alms. A poor woman who wanted to offer the young sanyasi some food, could find nothing in her home except an amla fruit. In her generosity, she gave this amla fruit to Adi Sankaracharya. Moved by her compassion, Adi Sankaracharya composed the Kanakadhara Stotram requesting Goddess Mahalakshmi to shower wealth on the generous woman.
Legend says that the single amla given generously away to this boy was converted by the Goddess Mahalakshmi into a shower of amlas made of pure gold that rained from the roof of the poor woman’s home.
Such is the generosity and compassion of Goddess Mahalakshmi who is moved when she sees similar qualities of generosity, compassion and sharing of wealth and food. It is said that rather than mantras and rituals, Goddess Mahalakshmi graces a home which is filled with a charitable attitude, soft speech and generous hearts.
Just like a lotus rises from the mud, Goddess Mahalakshmi is said to have risen from the Ocean of Nectar when it was churned by the auras and divas. She is depicted sitting on a fully blossomed Lotus (Kamala), showering wealth, riches and prosperity with grace and compassion on all her devotees.
Incidentally, the Amla (Phyllanthus emblica) is the favourite tree of Goddess Mahalakshmi, as is evident even in the Kanakadhara Stotram where she blesses her devotee with golden amlas.
Kamala in Ayurveda
Kamala is a revered flower in Ayurveda and is extensively used in pitta and rakta pitta disorders. It is considered nourishing and comforting to the dhatus and is said to relieve illusions, hallucinations, and physical and mental agony brought on by jwara (fevers).
Kamala is indicated in Ayurveda in thirst, burning sensation of the body, certain cardiac ailments, vomiting and unconsciousness. Flowers of the Kamala are considered diuretic, astringent and a cardio tonic.
Kamala in Krya
When available, Kamala goes into our specialised pitta formulations like the Krya Sensitive skin bodywash. This bodywash powder is used for skin conditions like acute dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis where there is severe itching and inflammation. Both these are indicative of pitta imbalance, so Kamala flower is used in this formulation.
Amla in Ayurveda and Krya:
Though not a flower, we have already mentioned how the Amla is associated with both Mahalakshmi and Mahavishnu. The Amla is a revered herb in Ayurveda and is used to balance all 3 doshas.
In Krya, Amla is used across our entire range of our skin and hair care formulations for its pitta pacifying, and rasayana (rejuvenative) and healing properties.
Palash (Butea monosperma )– for Goddess Saraswati:
Goddess Saraswati is the third facet of the divine Feminine in Hinduism. She is revered as the patron Goddess of learning, knowledge, music and the arts. Goddess Saraswati is known by many powerful synonyms in ancient Hindu Literature.
She is called “Brahmani” – the goddess with the power of Brahma, i.e. to create. She is also referred to as “Brahmi” which is the Goddess of all sciences. So a company like Krya owes its lineage to Goddess Saraswati. She is referred to as “Bharadi” which is the Goddess of History.
She is also referred to as both “Vani” and “Vachi” – the goddess who is the patron of both music and melodious speech or “vak”. Just like Goddess Mahalakshmi who believes in the flow of wealth through generosity and compassion, Goddess Saraswati indicates to us that true music and art flow from the sweetness of our daily speech.
Goddess Saraswati is also Varneshwari – the goddess of akshara or letters and Kavijihvagravasini – the Goddess who dwells in the tongue of poets.
The mount of Goddess Saraswati is the white Hamsa or the swan. In Hindu mythology, the Hamsa is said to be the bird when offered a mixture of milk and water is able to separate the milk from the mixture and drink it alone. Therefore, with the Hamsa as her vahana, the Goddess Saraswati symbolises the ability to discriminate and choose wisely.
Palash flowers in Ayurveda and popular culture:
Just under a month ago India celebrated Holi. Today, Holi is a festival replete with commercial advertising and synthetic, toxic colours.
Traditionally, Holi was an important cultural festival to mark the onset of spring. One of the meanings behind Holi was that the ritual symbolically depicted the dance and playfulness between Krishna and his Gopis.
In Ayurveda, Holi was a festival that came just before the onset of summer. Summer is usually characterised by pitta based disorders like measles, chickenpox, etc. The traditional Holi gulal therefore used water based extracts of Palash, and other flowers which were designed to cool down excess pitta and keep skin infections at bay.
Palash is an important sacred flower in India. It is a favourite of Goddess Saraswati. It is commercially important because of its hardy wood and the resin exuded by the tree called Gum Kino. The flower itself is extremely pitta pacifying and helps prevent and cure pitta based eruptions like measles, prickly heat, chickenpox etc. It is soothing and healing on skin.
Palash in Krya:
Happily, Krya will be shortly receiving its first shipment of wild harvested, pesticide free Palash flowers, just in time for our scorching summer season.
We plan to use Palash in our Classic and Anti Acne skin care formulations and also sparingly in our Moisture Plus and Sensitive skin formulations. Palash will also go into our hair colour range to see how it works in our reddish – brown series of natural hair colour.
The Sacred in the Everyday:
We hope this post gave you an appreciation of a few of the sacred flowers in Indian and Ayurvedic tradition and how these flowers are used to celebrate and worship different aspects of the Divine Feminine.
We have always seen the Krya Blog as a celebration of Ayurveda, Indian medicinal tradition and a place to discuss how we can safely and effectively care for ourselves and our families without resorting to the use of harmful and polluting synthetics.
Sacred festivals and spiritually charged times like Navratri always help us to re-focus our energies at Krya. we find that these times give us a new appreciation of what we are doing, help us appreciate the wonderful herbs, grains, lentils and flowers that we use even more, seek more divine energy as we make our products and help us re-affirm our commitment to what we are doing.
Often we are bogged down by the demands of our daily life and do not put proper care, attention and reverence into how we care for ourselves. We are tempted to skip our yoga practice, or postpone our abhyanga as we are late for work. Or we decide to open a packet of processed ready to eat noodles and eat this for dinner instead of lovingly cooking a meal for ourselves with real ingredients.
It is our hope that as you read this post, you are inspired to take the long-cut for yourself – and you develop a fresh appreciation for the Dinacharya that you need to do for yourself. Because when we worship the sacred and immerse ourselves into the divine, we carry a small part of that Divinity into us and everything we do.
A happy Chaitra Navratri to you from us at Krya.