Travel | The Folding Lotus

The lotus has deep symbolism in Eastern religions


The lotus is a special flower.

It is sacred to Buddhist and Hindus alike, used in the rites and rituals of both religions. The national flower of India, even Indians living abroad hold a place in their heart for this flower.

The lotus flower emerges from the depths of the mud and muck at the bottom of a pond or swamp. It slowly grows towards the water’s surface, continually moving towards the light. Once it comes to the surface of the water, the lotus begins to blossom and turns into a beautiful flower. Growing from the mud at the bottom of ponds and streams, the exquisite lotus flower rises above the water.

Lotus Cambodia Travel

The rise of this exquisite form from the mud depicts our rise from the depths into spiritual enlightenment. The Hindu Gods Vishnu, Brahma, and the goddesses Lakshmi and Sarasvati are all commonly depicted as seated or standing on a lotus flower. A wide range of Hindu scriptures speak of the importance of the lotus and its relationship to the gods.

Lotus Cambodia Travel

The lotus is usually white or pink, but can be blue, with 15 or more oval, spreading petals, and a peculiar, flat seed case at its centre.

It plays a fundamental part in our energy system, as the chakras are depicted as various-petalled lotus flowers.

In Buddhism, the lotus represents purity of body, speech, and mind, floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. Buddah is often depicted sitting on a giant lotus leaf or blossom. According to legend, he was born with the ability to walk and everywhere he stepped, lotus flowers bloomed.

Lotus Cambodia Travel

It was believed to be the seat of god in early Egypt. One legend has it that before the universe came into being, there was an infinite ocean of inert water which constituted the primeval being named Nun. Out of Nun emerged a lotus flower, together with a single mound of dry land. The lotus blossoms opened, and out stepped the self-created sun god, Atum, as a child.

A slightly different version of the creation story describes the sun god who formed himself from the chaos of Nun emerged from the lotus petals as Ra. The lotus is a flower which opens and closes each day. The petals of the lotus blossom enfolded Ra when he returned to it each night.

The ancient Egyptians also developed the art of counting to a high degree, but their system was quite different. For example, the number 1,000 was symbolised by a picture of a lotus flower, and the number 2,000 was symbolised by a picture of two lotus flowers growing out of a bush.

left stack

Did you know that lotus flowers self regulate their heat? Drs. Roger Seymour and Paul Schultze-Motel, physiologists at the University of Adelaide (i.e. here), found that the lotus flowers blooming in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens maintained a temperature of 86 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, even when the air temperature dropped to 50 degrees. They suspect the flowers may be turning up the heat for the benefit of their cold-blooded insect pollinators. The study was published in the journal Nature. (see here and here for photographs of the lotus pond in the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide, in its decay cycle. I will post more pictures of it when it is in flower again.)

In Cambodia we witnessed the folding of the lotus flower, and learned to fold lotus blossoms ourselves in an impromptu class in the middle of a market, helped by an unknown lady who gave us all her lotus blossoms and then disappeared. Folding the petals beautifully reveals the heart of the lotus flower, full of pure exquisiteness.

Lotus Cambodia Travel

Hindu scriptures say that the Atman dwells in the lotus within the heart. Here is a meditation for this week.

Visualise within yourself a lotus, centred right within the centre of your chest, right within your heart. Try to mentally feel and see the heart as a lotus flower right within you. Within the centre of the lotus, try to see a small light.

Hindu scriptures state that the Atman within the heart looks like a brilliant light about the size of your thumb–just a small light. This light is an emanation of your effulgent being. It is dwelling right within. The Self God is deeper than that. The lotus is within the heart, and the Self God dwells deep within that lotus of light. (Hinduism Today)

Lotus Cambodia Travel






12 thoughts on “Travel | The Folding Lotus”

  1. beautiful photographs!

    and I tried your cucumber salad with sesame too…turned out nicely!
    I’ll be adding you to my blogroll…..

    Hey thanks Amrita! It is great to get feedback about the food and recipes. Talimpu’s cucumber dish is great isnt it. I like it a lot.

  2. G, beautiful post…

    Hinduism states one has to be like the lotus flower, never get immersed in the dirt thats surrounding it!…wonderful to read and as usual breathtaking pictures!

    I like that a lot. Let us all be lotus flowers.

  3. A very lovely post…I just knew it as a flower..your post has showed that it means more….

    Thank you Rachel. It is a very special flower. You just have to be near it to know that.

  4. Gorgeous.

    And I’ve been on the Exotic India mailing list for years, now.

    I love their list too. So much information (as well as great things to tempt you)

  5. Beautiful pictures and blog! Delurking to say Hello.

    Best wishes,

    Thanks, Mamatha – hope you delurk more often 🙂

  6. Gosh, the idea of folding those petals is so beautiful.

    Makes me want to jump on a plane immediately.

    Where do you find them here?

    I don’t see them very often here. The pics were taken in my hotel room in Cambodia after our petal folding lesson. They are so wonderful, aren’t they.

  7. Thanks for sharing the story of Nun and Atum – will explore more now.

    I am also interested in these stories. They have some similarities to the Hindu scriptures. And the stories anyway are so beautiful.

  8. Amazing post.
    Its been ages since I saw a lotus flower.
    Not many understand and appreciate the beauty of this beutiful flower.
    I loved the way you brought the discussion of Atman in this post.

    Thank you Anjali. I hope that you get to see them again soon.

  9. so beautifully described;
    nourished by ponded water, yet unsullied by it and rising above it – verily a guide to our own lives.

    Thank you for sharing;

    and so touching to hear of the devi who showed you how to fold the leaves. the ways of life are a mystery.


    Hi Arun, Yes, I love your analogy. The other day on TAKA I read that water on a lotus leaf “balls” on the leaf, and does not spread out. Thus is is a classic metaphor for us, to live in the world, but not be “of” the world, like water on a lotus leaf.

  10. Beautiful pictures. Couple of yrs back I went to Myrtle Beach to visit Meher Baba’s Ashram and saw beautiful lotus, the whole pond was filled with lotus.

    do you know many Indians use lotus stems in cooking I never tried them but I heard it tastes really delicious.

    Hi sivapriya, ponds of lotus are a wonderous sight. Yes I have heard of lotus stems being used, and have a Chinese dish that I cook with dried lotus stem. I will see what else I can find and maybe try. I can buy them fresh at various times of the year. When you slice the stem open it is the most amazing lacy pattern.

  11. Lotus are incredible. I fell in love with the sight of lotus ponds in Taiwan, driving through the country side I’d sometimes pass a large pond with tall leaves and even taller lotus buds standing in the mud. It’s a beautiful flower at any stage- bud, open, dropping leaves, pod. We often pick up folded ones or ones with buds still closed from the market here in Bangkok to decorate the apartment. I love them.

    There is something quite incredible about lotus. To be near one – well, you can just feel it. To have them in your apartment – so special.

Welcome! I hope you are enjoying what you see here. Thank you so much for your comment and your thoughts.

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