The price of red, red roses — symbol of love — will shoot up as St Valentine’s Day approaches. This in spite of the ban on the beautiful and fragrant flower by certain fundamentalist organisations that are determined not to “let western ideas corrupt our youth” in a world of rapid globalisation!
However, flowers — lotuses, roses, lilies–of-the-valley, night-blooming jasmines and others have always been an intrinsic part of the relationship between lovers and symbols of love. Indeed, love relationships are invoked through parallels in floral scents, symbols, forms and colours, the world over. And, curiously, both the lotus of the Indian subcontinent and the red rose of western civilisation carry immense significance in both sacred and erotic love.
The lotus is a representation of divine purity as it rises, like the spirit from mud and seeks Light; it is the haloed seat of Gods and Goddesses, Supreme Consciousness dawning on an individual is represented as 1,000-petal lotus blooming.
Yet, the flower is also a highly charged erotic symbol of female sexuality in frescos, paintings and verses from the Sanskrit and all other bhashas.
In poem after poem, the woman nayika is compared to a lotus plundered by the greedy sexuality of the male bee, the most sexually desirable women’s vulvas were said to be ‘lotus scented’ and so on.
Similarly, the relationship of the rose to divine love in Christianity is manifold: it symbolises God’s bounty, a rose on fire signifies the Passion of Christ, and the Virgin Mary is also referred to as the Rose of Heaven.
The fragrance of red roses is considered an aphrodisiac, its shape evoking the vulva, the rosebud an allusion to the innermost self of the woman that the man longs for and the rose in full bloom is emblematic of sexual arousal.
Lovers are substituting gifting the red rose on Valentine’s Day with other red flowers in order to escape fundamentalist moral policing. However, such elements fail to understand the deep relationship of flowers to love in all cultures. Actually, they don’t have a clue about love. Period.
(The writer’s website is www.priyawriting.com )