The Traditional Flower of Thailand
17th Aug 2017
By Wellness Expert and Spa Director, Lina Lotto.
The lotus, (Bua in Thai) is revered in Thai culture for its beauty and its association with matters spiritual. It is an exquisite flower, sold in many a market place for offerings at the temple or the spirit house or as an ancestral offering. From bud to full flower and finally pod it is unrivalled.
As the lotus grows in mud and emerges above the water in all its glory it is seen to symbolise the human condition being born of ignorance and evolving towards consciousness and enlightenment.
The lotus is closely aligned with Buddhism which arose in India and shares its roots in Brahmanism. Lord Brahma is a leading god in Buddhism and is said to have been born of a lotus flower.
It is arguably estimated that 94% of 64 million Thais are Buddhist. In fact a large number of the male population temporarily become monks from anything from 1 week to 3 months. This is seen as a way of making merit and it is especially honouring of the initiate’s family as monks are highly esteemed in Thai culture. It may also explain why Thai people are in the main calm, self-possessed and concerned for others, at least that is how I experienced most of those I met when I lived there.
Lotus flowers come in different colours and each one embodies an aspect of spirituality. White and pink are most common in Thailand and they respectively signify purity and the Buddha himself, whilst red denotes compassion and love. Blue means wisdom and purple symbolises spirituality and finally the gold represents enlightenment.
Not only is it a spiritual symbol but in matters mundane it excels as it is particularly delicious. The lotus is a truly versatile plant. Practically all of it can be eaten – its seeds, petals, shoots, stems and roots, though roots are more common in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. The leaves can be used to wrap around rice to impart a subtle flavour. I ate this wonderful starter at Ledu, an excellent restaurant in Bangkok that I highly recommend. The pink bits are lotus petals. Delicious!
The lotus appears extensively in architecture, art forms and craft, such as in this beautifully carved wooden wall panel. Thai people have a particular way of folding the petals. I do not know how this craft arose but it is especially Thai.
Finally the tantalising scent is used in perfumery and beauty cosmetics. It is described by Fragrantica as ‘floral note with watery, aqueous qualities, light and ethereal with lightly sweetish tonality’, though this of course depends on the variety.
You can see why this is a truly amazing plant.
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