Culture and Art


How did lotus become the Symbol of Buddhism and why did it become sacred?

It was a Sunday! Some say it is the beginning of the week and for some, it is the end. But for me, it is the finale. As a Buddhist, visiting the temple in my town every Sunday was my habit.
Brilliant sunshine, tender green “Bo Leaves” flutter in the wind, tender feel of golden sand is beneath. I walked along the path, which I used to walk every day. In a side there was a pond with crystal blue water and filled with white, pink and blue lotuses making the temple looks charming. Looking at all, I entered “Vihara Ge” (Shrine).

Only the sound of a wandering mind is heard but shrine keeps silent. I sat aside and focused on the beautiful wall paintings, that depicts the life stories of Lord Buddha. Being a designer in the profession, I kept focusing on the details, the designs on the paintings.
One thing I noticed was, this one specific flower kept repeating over and over again everywhere, decorating wall paintings, the ceiling, murals, doorframes, walls. Not only that people who came to worship also brought these including me. Then, suddenly my wandering mind became wondering searching for the answer.

The Lotus;

Even though there are many flowers in the world, Lotus has a more spiritual relationship with Buddhism and Buddhists from ancient time. In short, Lotus has become the symbol of Buddhism.

Lord Buddha is always seated on a lotus, which we call “Padmasana”(seat looks like a lotus). For every Buddhist, attaining “nirvana” (enlightenment) is the ultimate victory in life.

According to the stories I have heard from my grandmother and my mother, Lotus depicts that ultimate paradise of noble “nirvana” (enlightenment). How did the lotus become the Symbol of Buddhism and why did it become sacred?

Lotus has characteristics that personify Buddhist essences. Even though it grows in mud, the lotus flower always blooms clean and pure preserving the purity. This represents the Buddhist belief that every human who is able to grasp the four Nobel truths; (the eternal satisfaction of the life, the hidden cause that creates this state of mindset, the way to get out of this glitch and the state of liberation on achieving beyond the unsatisfactory) stand above all.

Here mud depicts the unpurified state of life. A Buddhist legend says that lotuses announce the birth of Buddha. It is said 07 lotuses bloomed at the birth of baby Siddhartha (later became Lord Buddha), and then the baby Siddhartha toddled his first 7 steps on the flowers.

As Ananda K. Coomaraswamy states in his book Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, the lotus was the Sinhalese’s decorating art when the rose was to mediaeval English art. The most characteristic simple lotus forms in use are the ‘rosettes’, used to fill space or as an independent ornament

It should be noticed that the lotus- the circle is always divided into 4,8,16 or more petals, never into multiples of odds. The Sinhalese artists had a good knowledge if practical geometry, enabling them to divide the circle as they wish.

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