India Design Motifs – The Lotus, Part 24

BY: SUN STAFF - 5.8 2017

Lotus Garlands, Sridham Mayapur 
Photo by Vrindavan Lila dd

A study of the historical, spiritual and cultural elements of Vedic design.

In comparison to the great complexity of the sahasrara symbol -- the thousand-petaled lotus which illustrated a recent segment of this series, perhaps the simplest of all lotus motifs is that of the lotus bud. Beautiful, pure, holding the promise of transcendental opulence, the lotus bud is a most fitting gift to offer Sri Krsna.

There are countless references in sastra to the lotus as one of the most desirable elements of nature to beautify the places where Sri Krsna has His pastimes:

"Thus the Supreme Personality of Godhead, surrounded by hundreds of gopis and decorated with a flower garland of many colors, began to wander within the Vrndavana forest, sometimes singing to Himself and sometimes singing with the gopis. In this way, both the Lord and the gopisreached the cool sandy bank of the Yamuna where there were lilies and lotus flowers." 

(Krsna Book, Chapter 29 - The Rasa Dance, Introduction)

Along with the many descriptions of beautiful lotuses, there are likewise many images of Sri Krsna being offered lotus flowers, by the gopis and gopas, and also by Yamuna Devi, who is the emobodiment of bhakti. Such gifts of lotus flowers are many times offered in the form of a garland.

Brijbasi Print

Images such as that of Shri Yamnuna-ji, wearing mukut-kachani ka shringar, and Yamuna Devi offering a lotus garland to the Supreme Lord are particularly emphasized in the worship of Sri Krsna as Nathji by the Pushtimargs. There are similar images found of Yamuna Ma offering lotus garlands to Lord Balarama, from the pastime when Balarama dragged Yamuna onto the banks with His plow. This pastime is described in Sri Garga Samhita 8.2.9, prefaced by this description:

Sri Rama-rasa-krida (Lord Balarama's Rasa Dance)

"Cooling, gentle, delightful, lotus-pollen filled breezes pushed the Yamuna's waves and blew to the splendid shore. Then the land of Vraja became very splendid, its many forest groves and courtyards filled with the fragrant pollen of playfully and gracefully blossoming flowers, with the cooing of cuckoos and peacocks, and with the sweet humming of bees.

Decorated with tinkling ankle-bells, glittering gold and jewel necklace, armlets, belt, crown, and earrings, and with many lotus petals, dressed in blue garments, and His eyes like glittering lotus petals, Lord Balarama was splendid with the gopis in the rasa-dance circle. He was like Kuvera surrounded by a host of beautiful yakshis." 

(Sri Garga Samhita

In Buddhist culture there are also many references to garlands of lotus flowers. One describes how a brahman and a women flower seller presented seven lotus flowers to Dipamkara Buddha, when he was visiting the city of Dipavati. When the two offered their lotus flowers to the Buddha from a distance, the flowers formed a garland in the air. Accepting the offering of lotus garland, the Buddha Dipamkar prophesied that he would be born as Shakyamuni Buddha in another kalpa.

In Vaisnava sastra, lotus flowers are often mentioned in descriptions of the beauty of the sacred Yamuna River and the environs of Vrindavan. Adorned in lotus blooms, the Yamuna is glorified by Srila Rupa Goswami in his Yamunashtakam:

"May Sri Yamuna, the daughter of Suryadeva, who decorates the great Khandava forest with a stream of pleasant waters, who is filled with lotus flowers and dancing birds, and who blinds the terrible sins of they who desire to bathe in her, always purify me." 

(Yamunashtakam by Srila Rupa Goswami, Text 2)

Yamuna Devi offering Lotus Garland to Krsna

In his Vrindavana-mahimamrta, Srila Prabhodananda Sarasvati describes the Yamuna River:

"The Yamuna River is like a blue lotus flower garland, a sapphire necklace, or a blue sash worn by the goddess of Vrindavana."

Prabhodananda Sarasvati describes Sri Krsna's pastimes of swimming and splashing in the Yamuna with the gopis:

"During Their water pastimes, Radha hid in a cluster of golden lotus flowers. Krishna kissed a lotus flower mistaking it for Radha's face. Laughing and laughing, Radha could no longer hide. Krishna also laughed and embraced Radhika while Her gopi friends joined Them in laughing. Shri Krishna, Vraja's prince, violently splashed Radha and the gopis, and they splashed Him in return. Considering their great splashing intolerable, Krishna slid under the Yamuna's water, and touched their broad hips, thighs, legs and feet. Then laughing, as splendid as millions of moons, Krishna rose in a distant place."

PrabhodanandaThakur also gives this glorification of the lotus-clad holy Yamuna River in Vrindavana-mahimamrta:

"How can a person who has never seen Vrindavana's Yamuna River, which is filled with many varieties of eternally blooming lotus flowers (all filled with the sweet humming sound of bumblebees), and which displays the places where Shri-Shri Radha-Muralidhara and Their friends enjoyed transcendental pastimes, remain alive? May the Yamuna, where waters sweet as grape-sugar-milk nectar are filled with golden lotus buds and other flowers; where the shores are made of many jewels; where the water is wonderful with the splashing of playful, splendid jewel fish; where there are wonderful glistening jewel staircases; where the shores are very beautiful with groves of many kinds of wonderful flower filled trees and vines and fragrant with camphor and splendid bakula trees; where along the shores are frightened does with wide-open eyes; where the sweet fragrance of many splendid forests of kadamba and campaka trees are everywhere; where there is an abundance of pollen, flying birds, pleasant breezes, and a sweet splendor everywhere; where forest groves are reflected in the deep waters, and where Radha-Krishna's bliss increases—also increase the happiness of you all."

When the devotees are making lotus garlands for Sri Krsna, each bud that is added to the strand is an opportunity to remember and sing the glories of Sri Yamuna, Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, Lord Balarama, and all the transcendental residents of Vraj who bring pleasure to the Lord with gifts of lotus garlands.

Lotus Garlands