Lotus ,
Lotus Everywhere


        The Myanmar word, "Kyå" stands for the sacred lotus (Nelumbium speciosum) as well as the water-lily (Nymphaea spp.) .Traditional beliefs and poetic references usually number five kinds of "Kyå" although classifications enumerating seven types can be seen in various commentaries of the Buddhist scriptures. According to Buddhist cosmology, the beginning of this world witnessed a growth of five lotuses, each flower bearing a complete set of a monk’s requisites signifying that five Buddhas would attain enlightenment during this world cycle .The life history of the historic Buddha also starts with the newly born Buddha-to-be infant taking seven steps and lotus blossoms springing forth at every step so that his feet would not touch the ground.

        The lotus is to be found in many cultural aspects . At most pagodas, lotus flowers and flower buds can be bought to be used as flower offertories. On the stupa itself, band upon band of embellishments between the bulbous spire of the banana bud, which is the part below the tiered umbrella finial, and the series of plain mouldings above the inverted bowl employ the lotus motif. The uppermost band of petals is known as the matured lotus (kyå yinh), after which comes a band of upturned petals naturally called "the upturned lotus" (kyå lan). Below that is a band of petals of the smallest size known as "the delicate lotus" (kyå nuh) and after an interceding band of bosses, a band of "overturned lotus" (kyå hmauk) .

        On the pagoda platform, bargeboards and gable ends of the pavilions and on columns, running scrolls of lotus stems, leaves, buds and flowers known as "kanout" are added as trim and this motif is ubiquitous, appearing on lacquerware either in incised or moulded form, on silverware as repousse-work and on sculpture, carvings and artwork - from commemorative plaques to greeting cards.

        The lotus is also to be found on various utensils and appurtenances. Among the royal regalia, various crystal receptacles and even a portable armrest employing the lotus motif are mentioned . Sheer canopies and drapes to ward off mosquitoes from sleeping royalty appears to be at one time made from filaments drawn from the stem of the lotus as the term for it incorporates the term for lotus . And even now, special robes called "lotus robes" for Buddha images or a revered monk might be woven from such filaments, no doubt because of the association with the five lotus flowers that grace this world cycle .The stemmed salver on which food offertories are presented to the image of the Buddha is trimmed with lotus petals and is called a "kyå kalap" , that is "lotus salver". Scalloped trim ornamenting the hangings on ceremonial pavilions is known as "kyå yap", that is, "lotus fan".

        The lotus also features in terms of respect and worship. Hands, palms pressed together in an attitude of paying obeisance are termed "hands formed into the lotus bud" and the embryo of an august personage such as a future Buddha is said to gestate in "the lotus chamber" of his mother .

        However, references to the lotus are also to be found in terms dealing with the salacious side of humanity . Its incorporation in a poetic term for the mosquito net as mentioned above, has led to it being employed in a synonymic term for committing adultery which might be literally translated as "to loiter near the lotus", and the less serious sin of "flinging out the lotus" meaning, "giving a come-hither look".

        In my childhood days, however, the seedpod of the lotus was much more appreciated than the beauty of its flower. The seedpod contained many green tinged ivory seeds which although of insignificant flavour are satisfyingly succulent and crunchy and when all the seeds had been eaten, it became a handy weapon for playfights and the stem could be given to a sister who would cut it into segments and make a necklace out of it.

(Source: 'Myanmar Perspective'