Flowers used a a tradition
Offering flowers to a deity is a common practice in our society. Normally, it is done blindly. Special flowers are bought on special or important occasions. One finds several flower vendors near a place of worship and their business is brisk on religious occasions.
There were plenty of flowers in my house garden and as a young lad, I loved to offer flowers to my deity. While learning Bhagat Kabir’s Dohe (couplets) in middle school, there was one, which when literally translated means, ‘In every leaf there is life and we are making a mistake when we pluck a flower’.
I was gripped by surprise, after having understood the basic concept of Kabir. A soft corner in my heart developed for flowers and plants.
When I was a student of architecture in Chandigarh – the garden city – I dreamt of providing plants in every home and making every city, a garden city. Living abroad in green suburbs for three decades has made me a lover of plants and flowers.
Presently in India, flowers are being used mercilessly for decoration, on all sorts of functions. Recently to welcome one politician, 5 tons of flowers were spread in a Gali (lane).
On another occasion, 25 tons of rose petals were showered all along the route of a prominent politician during the recent elections. This particular practice is in India only.
Once again I refer to Kabir for greater clarity. I was highly inspired by his deep insight and the value he gave to flowers. Eventually this led me search for instructions by other Bhagats, scientists, poets and the Gurus. What they have to say is amazingly simple, practical and for our own good:
(The calf has contaminated the milk in the teats. The bumble bee has contaminated the flower and the fish the water. O mother! Where shall I find any offering for the Lord’s worship? I cannot find any other flowers worthy of the incomparable Lord. The snakes encircle the sandalwood trees. Poison and nectar dwell there together. Even with incense, lamps, offerings of food and fragrant flowers, how are Your slaves to worship You? I dedicate and offer my body and mind to You. By Guru’s Grace, I attain the immaculate Lord. I cannot worship You, nor offer You flowers. Says Ravidas, what shall my condition be hereafter?)
Bhagat Ravidas in the above hymn finds that there are no worthy flowers for worship. What else can he offer or do? He is crystal clear to offer body and mind to his deity. If we analyze, we find that we have not applied any physical labor or mind to the idea because the moment they are plucked or cut, fragrance and beauty starts fading. Practical service would be planting flowers in the vicinity for fragrance to one and all.
Bhagat Kabir is a very popular saint of the social reform movement. His works are taught in schools for simple wisdom. He explains the importance of flowers in the following hymn:
(You tear off the leaves, O gardener! But in every leaf, there is life. That stone idol, for which you tear off those leaves, is lifeless. In this, you are mistaken, O gardener! The True Guru is the Living Lord. Brahma is in the leaves, Vishnu is in the branches and Shiva is in the flowers. When you break these three gods, whose service are you performing?)
How true! Brahma – leaves, regenerate oxygen – source of life. Vishnu – branches, complete process of osmosis – life giver. Shiva – flower, procreation – seed multiplies – expands life.
Kabir is very sure that flowers are more important as compared to the lifeless idols. He advocates not to use flowers or leaves for pleasing the deity in the following simple and short statement enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib:
Guru Nanak provides us a unique and universal fundamental to save flowers and other natural resources. He composed the above hymn at the famous Jaganath Puri temple, after he saw natural resources being wasted just to please the deity.
When Guru Har Rai Accidentally Hurt a Plant in His Garden
A famous episode from the life of Guru Har Rai is worth mentioning here. While walking in a garden, the young Guru scuffed off and tore a flower with his long tunic (Kaliaan wala Kurta). His grandfather, Guru Hargobind, instructed him to be careful. Later in life, Guru Har Rai established best gardens in his city of residence – Kiratpur. A special herb was grown in his garden, which could save the life of the dying prince Dara Shikoh.
Bhai Vir Singh, the famous writer-poet has expressed his love for flowers in such simple words, which is easy to explain even to a grade VI student. This poem in plaque form is placed at the entrance of Rose Garden in Chandigarh. It should be placed at every flower bed and translated in different languages:
(Do not pluck us off our stem. We have opened a house of fragrance. Even if millions have enjoyed my fragrance, no one goes unfulfilled. If you pluck me from my source, I will be left with you only. And your joy will end in a blink of an eye. My beauty and fragrance will fade away.)
Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858-1937) was a polymath, physicist, biologist, botanist, as well as an early writer of science fiction. He pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave optics, Bose made a number of pioneering discoveries in plant physiology. Using his own invention, the crescograph, to measure plant response to various stimuli and thereby scientifically proved parallelism between animal and plant tissues. He registered extremely slight movements and power of feeling in plants, exemplified by the quivering of injured plants. His books include Response in the Living and Non-Living (1902) and The Nervous Mechanism of Plants (1926).
When we do not follow the fundamental teachings, our entire system gets disturbed. Our cities are devoid of gardens and environment is polluted, for not following Bhagat Kabir and other teachers and guides. Our money is wasted and not utilized for the real and true Sewa (selfless service). We are double losers first by spending for flowers and a few hours later after they wither and emit foul smell, we spend more to clean them. Check with your banker or any one with business sense, whether such an investment will bring any return? Instead of spending thousands of rupees on flowers, why not use that money for an ever green landscape to enjoy? Land for gardening in the temple should not be an excuse. Plant where place is available in the community, village or city. Consult landscape architects, they are growing gardens on roof-tops now-a-days. Every priest should share the message of saving flowers and plants, thereby making city environment healthy.
Bhagats Refusal to Offer Flowers to the Deity
Kabir and Ravidas refused to offer flowers to the deity but we offer them to our leaders, trucks and tools. Not only that, we decorate the stages and cars with these flowers. Saints, God-conscious persons, scientists, poets and the Gurus have never offered flowers to the deity, nor did they suggest to do so. Let us teach every child in school to save flowers and all natural resources so that they can cherish them when they grow up. Bhagats, learned teachers and the Gurus have ambitiously tried that practice publicly.
I am confident that flowers will not bring any happiness to our deities. On the contrary, the malpractice of offering flowers to them will bring destruction to nature, our surroundings and the environment as a whole.
The Western World is conscious of the greennees. In countries like Great Britain and Spain, people are growing flowers on top of the public transport. Why can’t we Indians bring similar greenery to our cities. This is definitely not impossible. Let the young Indians evaluate and understand their rituals and move up from the bottom of the pollution list:
And when we are blindfolded and don’t follow good teaching, we get worst, our life is messed up.
My experiences through these pictures prove the point.
Let us have a friendly and unpolluted environment. Grow flowers wherever possible, to spread fragrance, especially in your Temple, Gurdwara, Church or Mosque.
Grow plants, which are evergreen and need no or little maintenance.
Consult a landscape architect to grow gardens on roof tops.
Sikhi is a practical-simplified-perfect-way of life.
Guru Granth Sahib teaches us delightful way of living (good+happy).
Great for today, better for tomorrow.
This Post Via: Sikhnet
About the Author
The writer is an architect who has worked in USA for thirty five years and traveled to many cities in Europe & Japan.
Graduated-Chandigarh College of Architecture, Post-Graduate-National Institute of Design-Ahmedabad.
Won “Award of Merit”- Museum Association of America 1984 and other merits. Published a number of write ups in different news papers & magazines in India, Germany, Sweden & USA.