The lost flower
Long told story
Flower is an integral part of Indian culture and tradition. They are used in almost every occasion not only in India but all over the world. They are also integral part of our folklore, our folk tales. In Assamese community in India, which I belong has a rich history of folklores as well as folk songs, One of such folk songs are called Bihu songs which are sung during the Assamese New Year celebration during Mid-April. The main theme of these songs are love, love for our beloved ones, love for Nature. The mention of various natural features, flowers are common in Bihu songs. Such a flower is Keteki (Pandanus fascicularis) which is synonymous to love for Assamese people. It is believed that if a boy gifts a keteki flower to a girl, there is nothing that can seperate them from each other. It is the greatest of all gifts, a token of deep love as finding a keteki is very difficult task.
Sacred yet cursed..
The keteki or Screw Pine is a thorny shrub which bears flowers that have a divine smile. The flower is used to make fragrances, aromatic oil and to add flavor in foods. But it is not used in worshipping the gods. Why? There is an Indian mythological story behind it.
At the beginning of time in Cosmos, Vishnu and Brahma approached a huge Shivalinga and set out to find its beginning and end. Vishnu advanced to seek the end and Brahma the beginning. Taking the form of a boar, Vishnu began digging downwards into the earth while Brahma took the form of a swan and began flying upwards. However, no one was able to find his appointed destination. Vishnu, satisfied, came up to Shiva and bowed down to him as a swarupa of Brahman. But Brahma did not give up so easily. As he was going up, he saw a ketaki flower, dear to Shiva, floating down. Ketaki told Shiva that she had been placed at the top of the Shiva linga. Brahma's ego forced him to ask the flower to bear false witness about Brahmā's discovery of Shiva's beginning. When Brahmā told his tale, Shiva, the all-knowing, was angered by the former's ego. Shiva thus cursed him that no being in the three worlds will worship him. The flower of Ketaki, for bearing false witness, was cursed to be never used for the worship of Shiva.
The cursed fate is still with this flower as it is fighting with near extinction as a result of over exploitation. The pride of every Assamese boy and desire of every Assamese girl who are in love is nowhere to find. Even myself have not seen it till this April.
As a part of his gardening hobby as well as love for nature, my husband searched and found a keteki sapling many years ago. He planted in his garden and every year during spring, he searched for any bud in that shrub, much to his dismay. When we got married last year, he told me about that plant and we were both eagerly expecting a miracle to happen. Last Sunday when we reached our in-laws house to spend the Bihu vacation i.e. our Assamese New Year celebration, we were full of hope to see a keteki flower. Next morning when my husband was in his garden, he cried my name aloud. When I reached there I discovered a divine smell and there it was. After 13 years of planting, finally my husband found the joy of having his own keteki plant that bears a flower. It was a rare feeling to see that my man actually revive a near extinct plant in his garden. Kudos to my man, for whom I can actually touch and feel the rarest of rare keteki.
And Life goes on
Now the whole household and the surrounding is filled with the scent of the flower. There are people who came to experience of having seen a keteki flower. And me? I was gifted with the best gift an Assamese can ever have…a keteki, synonymous to love by my love.