Flowers in Worship
- Flowers and leaves play a key role in ritual worship during Alankaram and Arcana.
- During Alankaram, flowers and garlands must be offered to the Lord.
- Each deity has their own preferred flowers. It is best to offer the preferred flowers and avoid the prohibited flowers.
- Only fresh, sweet-smelling flowers and leaves should be used during Alankaram and Arcana.
- It is best to pick the flowers and leaves daily. Flowers or leaves picked the day before or after sunset should not be used.
- Used flowers or leaves cannot be offered again as it is considered Nirmalyam (inauspicious) except if it is specifically permitted.
- Flowers that do not fade such as bougainvillea and kanakambaram should not be used in worship.
- In general, flowers that have strong odour or odourless, unblossomed or too old, flowers bitten by insects or mutilated are to be avoided.
- To get a fresh supply of flowers, it is advisable that each temple should have its own garden or at least some flower trees.
- Flowers grown in a temple garden (aarama) are the best, flowers collected from the forest (vana) are mediocre, and flowers bought (vikrita) are inferior.
|Sri Ganesa||Vanni leaves
Ambal (Blue Lotus)
The Temple Garden at Sri Rangam
There is a strong association of fresh flowers with temple worship. The Sangam classic, Paripadal, describes the Vishnu temple at Irundhaiyur which is surrounded by flowering trees like Indian Kino, Vakula, Indian Oak, and Asoka, so dear to the Lord. Both Periazhvar and Tondaradipodi Azhvar worked in their gardens and stringing flowers for Narayana was their Bhakti Sadhana.
Sri Ramanuja recognized the importance of flowers in the worship of the Lord and gave an important position to the gardeners of Sri Rangam temple. When he created the ten groups of temple workers (sevaks) known as Pathu-Kothu, he organised the gardeners as Dasanambis.
Sri V.N.Hari Rao, the historian of the Sri Rangam temple says:
“These were the providers of flowers and flower garlands. They laid out flower-gardens, made varieties of flower garlands and bunches called vagaccal, kilimalai, kiliccendu, tandalmalai, kollumalai, kudamalai etc., decorated the palanquins with the flowers for processions, held the torches in the divine presence near the doorway of the sanctum, and bore the Senaimudaliyar and the Dasamurtis in procession during festivals. For these services they were honoured with tirtham, prasadam, parivattam and a single garland.”
It is heartening to note that the tradition continues to this day.