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All about Lotus

Kids Learning October 7, 2013

All about Lotus

A symbol of purity, fertility, eternity and the divine seat of the goddess Lakshmi, the lotus is also the National Flower of India. Here’s why this flower is so pure.

In India, the lotus is considered as a sacred flower and a lot of folklore and religious mythology is woven around it. It is also the national flower of India.

Religious and social symbolism

The lotus stands tall, clean and beautiful despite its murky surroundings. Rich in meaning and metaphor; it is considered as the foremost symbol of purity, beauty, wealth and fertility. It is also symbolic of youth and feminine beauty.

Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, and several other deities, sit on huge lotus flowers. Many gods and goddesses are also depicted holding a lotus in one of their (many) hands!

Hinduism adjures human beings to be like the lotus–to maintain the purity of the mind and body while floating on the muddy waters of sins and desires.

The seeds of the lotus have been found to be viable for germination even after thousands of years. Hence it is a symbol of a strong vital force that can withstand extremely adverse conditions.

Buddhism also attaches a lot of importance to the lotus.

The popular ‘padmasana’ in yoga means the ‘lotus position’.

Science

Moving to science, the botanical name of the lotus is Nilumbo Nucifera. Here, it is just another flower. But its peculiar properties have awed scientists. Research shows that the lotus is indeed pure -even from the scientific point of view.

You must have seen those large round lotus leaves. If you can get one them, try splashing lots of water on them. You will find that all the water rolls off the leaf. Then, if you touch the leaf it will still be dry. What is it that makes it water repellent?

Scientific research shows that the leaves of all aquatic plants secrete wax crystals. Thus the leaves are in a sense, coated with a layer of wax which repels water. This prevents the leaves from getting drenched in the water around them. Interestingly, these wax crystals also help the leaves to retain the required amount of water within them.

Further studies by scientists have led to the discovery of something more interesting. It has been called the “lotus effect”. According to this, the lotus has an amazing ability to clean itself. It can easily wash off any dirt or microorganisms such as bacteria that try to settle on it.

To understand how they do it, we must take a deeper look into the structure of the lotus leaves. Contrary to popular belief, lotus leaves are not smooth. When the leaf cells are examined under a powerful microscope, they are seen to have a bumpy surface. This means that the surface of the leaf is actually rough. These rough surfaces were found to be spotlessly clean. They did not require to be cleaned even for viewing under the microscope.

Where does the dirt go?

The dirt particles form its surroundings lodge themselves on the tip of the wax crystals on the leaf. Also, because of the roughness they cannot hold on very tightly to the surface.

Next, when water comes in contact with the surface, it forms droplets which slide off immediately. Since the dirt particles rest loosely on the miniature bumps, they stick more strongly to the water droplets than to the leaf surfaces. Therefore the water droplets carry away the dirt particles as they run off. In this way they the lotus manages to wash itself without any effort.

Had the surface been smooth, the dirt particles would have been pushed from one part of the leaf to the other. Also on a flat surface they would find a greater contact area and hence would rest more firmly.

Even if a few of the microorganisms remain on the leaf, they do not get water for survival and eventually die. Thus the lotus is able to purify itself.

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