Flower and their role in world religions

For centuries, flowers have been prized in different cultures worldwide for their beauty, sweet fragrance, flavors, and medicinal properties. At one time in Europe, people even went so far as to believe that flowers were magical in nature. Over time, certain flowers have been assigned various meanings or connotations.

Today we still use flowers with these meanings in mind, to give more significance to important ceremonies, including religious traditions. Apart from real world uses, flowers can also often be found in religious art to add more symbolism and decorative aspects to an image.

Islam

Flowers generally do not feature as heavily in Islamic traditions when compared to other major religions. Roses are sometimes chosen for use in marriages or funerals, along with various palm leaves. Roses have been greatly used for their heavy perfume in Arabic and Muslim culture for a very long time. To this end, rose water is also sprinkled on new graves at the end of the ceremony.

Whole white roses are sometimes used to symbolize virtue. Jasmine is sometimes also used in funerals. Islamic artwork in religious places are usually embellished with many types of flower images and winding floral patterns. Islamic gardens designed for meditation specifically include citrus trees for their pleasant-smelling orange blossoms.

Flowers and leaves from the Henna plant are especially prized for the dark dye that is extracted and used to decorate the skin and hair. Intricate, floral or geometric henna patterns are drawn on the hands and feet of brides before the wedding as a symbol of fertility and good fortune.

Christianity

In Christian culture, flowers were once linked with decadence and paganism. Since then, ideas about flowers have changed drastically. Passion flowers are primarily used to represent Christ’s suffering and sacrifice and each part of the flower represents a different aspect of the Passion of Christ.

White flowers such as white roses and lilies are used to stand for purity. They are also sometimes used in conjunction with references to the Virgin Mary for her own purity. Red roses in Christianity stand for love or as a sign of Christ’s blood. Church altars are often decorated with bouquets or vases of flowers, especially on significant days such as Easter and Christmas. Flowers play a large role at Christian funerals, baptisms and other special personal events.

Christian brides walk down the aisle with a bouquet of flowers as a token of fertility, while in earlier times it was common for them to wear a wreath or garland of flowers around their heads.

Hinduism

Flowers are considered extremely important for many reasons in Hinduism. The main Hindu prayer rites are called puja, which means “the flower act”. One of the most important flowers for Hindus is the lotus for its various associations. At the most base level, it is linked with fertility, youthfulness and beauty.

On a higher level, it is also related to divinity and piety. The Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu holy book, instructs followers to model themselves around the lotus, in order to be pure. Similarly, many other flowers also feature in other holy scripts as metaphors. Some flowers correspond to specific gods and should only be used for certain days or rituals. Special ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals often feature garlands of flowers, especially jasmine.

Where Christian weddings have a tradition of throwing rice over the newlyweds, Hindus throw fresh flower petals instead.

Buddhism

Similarly to Hinduism, Buddhism also reveres the lotus. In this religion, the lotus symbolizes the highest level that man can possibly reach in terms of spiritual elevation. More than divinity and virtue, Buddhists also regard the lotus as a metaphor for knowledge. A lot of Buddhist artwork makes use of lotus flowers to represent Buddha.

Author: Lily Calyx

Flower expert, gardening enthusiast and creative mind behind our blog.

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