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Flower Festivals of India
Importance of Flowers
India is a literally colorful country more beautified by the presence of thousands of amazing flower varieties. There is no region which does not respect and celebrate flowers. The reasons are different but every native has its own specialty. Indian girls are named after flowers (Mallika - Jasmine, Roja - Rose). If there is a celebration in a household flowers are actually the host of the party. Indian bridal hairstyles with flowers are world famous. Special pujas are offered in temples with special kind of flora. In the Hindu culture flower is a very sacred component and is known to represent purity and fertility. When I wanted to write an article about flowers, I could not decide which parameters to choose to portray the beauty of flowers in the Indian culture. I have attempted to capture as much fragrance about India as possible in this article.
How is it a part of my culture?
Weddings are synonymous with flowers. They welcome guests cheerfully with their bright colors. Flowers are used for decoration in the wedding halls, as welcome gifts in the entrances and as decorations for the bridal hairstyle. Flowers are even used to decorate the nuptial bed. Flowers being the reproductive symbol of the plants,they are treated with special reverence in my culture. When a married girl is received at a guest's place, they offer her flowers and the red kumkum, both symbols of a wedding. There are numerous flowers which are of different colors and texture to decorate the bride. The garland of the wedding couple is usually made of white lilies and roses and a special type of flower called Kozhikondai. Madurai is a place famous for Malligai, the most common flower of Tamil Nadu.
In Ayurveda, there are a lot of flowers which are used for their medicinal purposes. They are used to treat both physical and mental discomforts.
Indian Gods love flowers. It is true! There are different flowers for different Gods in the Hindu scriptures but we of course do not necessarily follow that. Lotus is the national flower of India and it is an eternal symbol of spirituality. When I want to visit a temple, the first thing I have to get is a string of flower for the deity. The string is the measured by the length of the vendor's forearm till the elbow. This is called 'molam' and the price is based on the variety of the flower and the number of molams purchased. Needless to say flowers are priced differently at different times of the day. They are priced higher in the morning and are priced very less towards the end of the day. There are Indian ladies who do not even see the flowers when they tie them together as a beautiful garland for sale. They are actually experts in stringing flowers while engaging themselves in the local gossip. Flowers are seldom sold as a single variety. Usually multiple varieties are present in one specific area, mostly near a temple as there is a higher probability of sales.
Image: Mumbai Magic
Traditional Flower Seller
Sikkim International Flowershow
Located in the foothills of the Himalayas, Sikkim is the smallest state of India in terms of population. But it is a rich state in terms of its flora amidst its mountainous ranges. This was exactly why the world knew Sikkim. Sikkim hosts the International flower festival every year for five days at Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.The idea is to showcase more than 5000 variety of flowers and trees. People from all over the world flock to Sikkim during this period to enjoy the majestic display of flowers and rhododendrons. These rhododendrons are very common here. Nearly 45 varieties have been identified so far. No wonder it is the official tree of the state. The most interesting and well known flower of the area is the orchid. Sikkim boasts of 500 varieties of orchids each with a unique personality. This show is a great exposure to the landscape and beauty of Sikkim. The local vendors are benefited with the footfall during this season. The show is mostly held during the summer months. The show is not only a beauty show. It is highly educational as famed botanists visit the place and important lectures on a variety of subjects are organised. Many tips about growing plants and nurturing them are shared with the audience. Organic farming is done on a large scale here. The bio diversity of the place is amazing.
Recently I was watching a Tamil song whose background had such breath taking flowers, tulips to name particularly. There were rows and rows of tulips of such color and grandeur that I thought it was some expensive foreign location. A week later one of my friends who had returned from north India tour with her family showed her travel photos. And there it was! The same location that I so fell in love with. I could not believe that it was within my own country. The photo she showed was taken in Srinagar during the Tulip festival.
The Tulip festival of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a very important festival in the country. It was named by the ex-prime minister Indira Gandhi. J&K boasts of the largest tulips of Asia with about 60 varieties. Tulips some of which are familiar, some totally unfamiliar, but all totally awesome and breathtaking. It is a great opportunity for the locals to attract the International visitors to their handicrafts as stalls are built all around the exhibition. There are also many cultural activities taking place throughout the show. People are invited to try the local cuisine. Folk music is played with such enthusiasm. The festival is hosted during April at the Indra Gandhi memorial Garden near Dal lake, when the tulips look their absolute best. Imagine multi-colored tulips swaying in the backdrop of open fields and snow covered peaks. They look brilliant. Since Tulips bloom only for fifteen days, the festival dates are adjusted accordingly. This grand event has boosted the tourism of J&K greatly with international visitors planning their vacations here.
Have you been to any of the flower festivals?
Bathukamma is a festival celebrated by the state of Telengana. This is done during the month of October at the time of Navarathri. Bathukamma resembles the Tamil Karagam and is actually made of flowers forming seven concentric circles. These flowers are seasonal flowers and have high medicinal value. This is a celebration of Goddess Gauri, the goddess of womanhood. It is celebrated in the traditional way with women wearing saris and half-saris. Each house has this flower arrangement. Towards evening, all these flowers are kept together and women go around it offering prayers through folk songs accompanied by timed claps. The festival is a symbol of prosperity and is seen as an opportunity to teach the young women good family values.
Image: Wikipedia Commons
Ooty Flower Show
While the north has many amazing flower shows, the pride of the south is the flower show of Uthagamandalam in Tamil Nadu. Known as the Queen of Hills, Ooty once served as the summer capital for the Britishers. Today it is the most sought after hill station in the south and I'm proud to say that it my native place too. Every year during the month of May, a spectacular flower show is hosted by the Tourism department in the Government Botanical Gardens of Ooty. Since Ooty is my native I have had many opportunities to experience the joy of watching exotic flowers on display. This flower show is part of the summer festival which includes dog show, fruit show, spice show, vegetable show and rose show. Cultural programs are organised during this period. The place attracts visitors from all over the world. The major attraction about this show is that this is not a typical show where flowers are lined up and displayed. Numerous structures are created out of flowers with mesmerising beauty that it is hard to believe it is done by arranging flowers. I have seen the awe on the face of a lot of tourists and can't help but feel proud about Ooty.
Onam is the major festival of Kerala. It is celebrated as the homecoming of the king Mahabali. It is also known as the harvest festival. Special pujas are performed in the temple with respect to the occasion. The ladies wear the traditional white Onam sari and offer prayers to the Almighty. The Onam feast is prepared and the relatives all come together to celebrate it. It is actually a ten-day festival in which the final day is the grandest.Dances like Thiruvathira Kali and Kathakali are performed to the traditional music by the ladies. This is the time when boat races are conducted in the state. The outstanding feature of this festival is the pookolam. The pookolam is actually zentangles made with flowers. It is similar to the Rangoli of North India. While Rangoli is made of different colors, pookolam is made by the petals of different flowers. It is difficult to master as it requires a lot of focus,patience and a good color sense. It takes time to draw one and most of the times, two or three experts come together to create one kolam. On this day, pookolam competitions are held everywhere as people get ready to show off their drawing skills.
Image: Wikipedia Commons