Anybody who has ever observed a Lotus flower emerging from a murky pond cannot fail to see the beauty of this exquisite plant.
The flower always looks so clean and pure against the background of the dirty pond.
Because of this the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) has come to be associated with purity and beauty in the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism respectively; the ancient Egyptians scholars observed that in the night-time the lotus closed its flowers and sank into the water, and came up with a different association with the flower related to rebirth and the Sun; in actual fact the Lotus slowly emerges from a pond over a three day period and then blooms in the morning until mid-afternoon.
It can therefore be assumed that the lotus flower meaning is different between cultures, though in fact they share many similarities.
I would like to explain how some of these associations came about, and I will therefore split up this article into three main sections, based upon the three main groups, that is to say that of the ancient Egyptians, the Buddhists, and Hinduism.
Anybody who has taken a look at Egyptian culture cannot fail to have noticed the significance of the meaning of the Lotus flower in their culture.
In ancient Egypt there were two main types of lotus that grew, the white, and the blue (scientifically a waterlily (Nymphaea caerulea), but symbolically a lotus).
Further to this another type, the pink lotus flower was introduced into Egypt sometime during the late period of their civilization. If one is to observe the many hieroglyphics, it is easy to see that the blue Lotus flower is the most commonly portrayed.
This Egyptian artwork shows the Priest Nebsini holding a blue lotus flower
As mentioned in the introduction above about the meanings of the lotus flower, this plant has a strong association with rebirth.
This is a consequence of it supposedly retracting into the water at the night, and emerging a fresh in the Sun the next day (see the introduction for how this beautiful plant actually comes into bloom).
The Egyptians therefore associated the lotus flower with the sun which also disappeared in the night, only to re-emerge in the morning. Therefore the lotus came to symbolize the Sun and the creation. In many hieroglyphics works the lotus is depicted as emerging from Nun (the primordial water) bearing the Sun God.
As something that is associated with rebirth, it is no surprise that the lotus flower is also associated with death, and the famous Egyptian book of the dead is known to include spells that are able to transform a person into a lotus, thus allowing for resurrection.
Another interesting fact about the lotus flower meaning to the Egyptians was the way that it was used as a symbol for the Unification of the Two Egyptian kingdoms, that is to say the bonding of upper and lower Egypt.
For a long time the Lotus had been used in the hieroglyphics and art of upper Egypt, whereas in lower Egypt the Papyrus plant was notably in its abundance. Therefore pictures of Lotus and Papyrus that had grown up together and become inter-wound with each other came to be a symbol of the bringing together of the two kingdoms.
In Buddhism the lotus is known to be associated with purity, spiritual awakening and faithfulness.
The flower is considered pure as it is able to emerge from murky waters in the morning and be perfectly clean.
Therefore in common with Egyptian mythology the lotus is seen as a sign of rebirth, but additionally it is associated with purity.
The breaking of the surface every morning is also suggestive of desire, this leads to it being associated with spiritual enlightenment.
Buddha atop a Lotus Flower.
As Buddhism stems from a different part of the world to Egyptology, there are many more colors of lotus to be seen in the wild. So it is not too surprising that the many different colors have come to be associated with different aspects of Buddhism. The main symbolism of the lotus flower and their meanings are given here.
Perhaps one of the strongest associations of the lotus flower with religion is that that is observed in Hinduism.
In this religion the lotus flower meaning is associated with beauty, fertility, prosperity, spirituality, and eternity.
The most common Lotus form seen in Hinduism is the white lotus flower.
The beautiful white lotus flower has special significance in Hinduism, where its meaning is strongly associated with Laxmi and Brahma. Image by Matze_ott.
Many of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism are linked to the flower, for example the goddess of prosperity, Laxmi, is usually depicted as being seated atop a fully opened lotus flower.
Likewise Brahma, the God of creation, is depicted as emerging from a Lotus that crawls from the Naval of the sustainer Lord Vishnu.
As a lotus is able to emerge from Muddy Waters un-spoilt and pure it is considered to represent a wise and spiritually enlightened quality in a person; it is representative of somebody who carries out their tasks with little concern for any reward, and with a full liberation from attachment.
It is very interesting how the open flower and the unopened Lotus bud forms are associated with human traits. The unopened bud is representative of a folded soul that has the ability to unfold and open itself up to the divine truth.
In addition to reality, the Lotus flower is also mentioned in the Greek Myths. In Homer's the Odyssey, Odysseus and his men stumble upon the land of the Lotus Eaters on an island off the Coast of North Africa.
On this island, the Lotus eaters survived solely on a diet of narcotic Lotus, which are thought to be of the Egyptian Blue Water Lily type of Lotus (Nymphaea); it ha also been speculated that they may have been eating poppies.
Upon arriving on the island (following a disastrous battle on Ismarus), Odysseus sends three men to look for food and to check with the peaceful locals. The Lotus-eaters offer the Lotus plant to Odysseus' men to eat. They then immediately, fall into a peaceful stupor, without a care in the world.
After a while, Odysseus became concerned for his men and sent out a search party; again these did not come back. So he decided to explore for himself and discovers his men chilling out with the native islanders.
He turns down the offer of a Lotus Flower, and carries his men back to the ship one by one. Upon waking the men who had ate the lotus started to fight as they wanted to return to the lotus eaters so they could have some more plants to eat. Odysseus immediately gave the order to sail away.
It seems that Odysseus did not learn his lessons at either Thrace or on the island of the lotus-eaters, as he repeatedly was let down by the men he trusted throughout his journey; constantly having to step in to help them out.
What do the roots of the Lotus represent?
As the roots are in the mud, they are thought to be representative of the chaos of human life. Like a Lotus Flower, one must break free from suffering in the murkiness of the mud; keeping faith to rise above it all in an enlightened and pure form.
I have heard that Lotus Flowers are one of eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism, what are the others?
In addition to the Sacred Lotus Flower, Buddhism's eight auspicious symbols are the Banner of Victory, Conch Shell, Dharma Wheel, Endless Knot, Golden Fish, and Treasure Vase.
Where can I Grow Lotus Plants
See our Growing Guide
What are the main Types of Lotus
In addition to Nelumbo nucifera (Indian Lotus) there is also the Yellow Lotus (Nelumbo lutea), which is found in North America. This flower carries no spiritual meaning, though it was used as a food source by Native Americans.
The Blue Water Lily (Egyptian Lotus; Nymphaea caerulea) has two closely related cousins: the White Egyptian Lotus (Nymphaea lotus), which is symbolic of modesty and innocence; and the Star Lotus (Nymphaea stellate), which is a symbol of virtue.
Although still beautiful, the Yellow Lotus has no spiritual or symbolic meanings as it grows in the Americas; and is thus plays no part in the Hindi or Buddhist religions. Image by Allen Gathman, CC.
In which countries is the Lotus a National Flower?
The Nelumbo genus Lotus is the National Flower of India and Vietnam, whilst from the Nymphaea genus, the Blue Lotus is the National Flower of Egypt, and the Star Lotus that of Bangladesh.
Do lotus flowers die?
Yes, of course. The plant blooms throughout the summer.
Last night I had a dream about a Lotus Flower, what can this mean?
Lucky you! If you have a Lotus Flower dream then you are likely undergoing spiritual enlightenment. The dream also symbolizes beauty, innocence and one's growth. As the flower represents hope, dreaming of it may also be showing you a way to be courageous in your everyday challenges.
What was Queen Maya's Dream
She dreamed of a Bull Elephant. It carried a White lotus in his Trunk .
What do different colored Lotus represent in Buddhism?
Pink Lotus: the supreme Lotus. White Lotus: awakening; Red Lotus: The Heart, Love and Compassion. Purple Lotus: Mystical and Wealth.
What does the Blue Lotus Represent?
In Ancient Egypt the Blue Lotus represented the Sun, and rebirth and creation.
The following video shows a timelaspe of a Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) Flower slowly opening up to display in all its glory; truly beautiful.
It is hoped that you now have a better understanding of the lotus flower meaning across the three major cultures in which it is known to play (or have played) a major role. It is no wonder that these civilizations, have found wonderment in such a beautiful flower. If you have enjoyed reading this content, then you may also like my gardening site.