TODAY -

What is Wrong with the Water Hyacinth Flower ?

James Oinam *



Even though the water hyacinth flower is quite beautiful, it is not offered in prayers. Why? The scientific name of water hyacinth, commonly known as kabo-kang in Manipuri, is Eichhornia crassipes. The plant is supposed to have originated in South America.

It is believed to have been introduced by the British in India (in Bengal) in 1890 (Dipanjan Ghosh, 'Water Hyacinth: Befriending the Noxious Weed'). The plant spread like wildfire in its new habitat. It was considered a weed and a nuisance for a long time.

It has a tendency to choke other plants and animals of the water body in which it grows. This may be the reason why it is considered unworthy of being offered to the gods. But I have seen the stems of this plant being used as poultry feed; although how popular the practice is I cannot say.

But the other more probable explanation could be that this religious baggage came with the plant from the West. For this, the Greek myth of Hyacinthus would fit the bill. Hyacinthus was a handsome son born to one of the Greek muses called Clio. His father was human.

He was a dear friend of the sun god Apollo. Wind god Zephyrus had also sought his friendship before Apollo, but he was no match for the sun god. So out of jealousy, the wind god deflected a discus thrown by Apollo while they were playing games.

It hit Hyacinthus hard and decapitated him. Apollo cast a spell turning his dying friend to hyacinth flower that bloomed even when other flowers faded. The blue blood of Hyacinthus coloured its petals. Also, the myth is Apollo inscribed the letter 'Alas' on the flower. Apparently, such flower would be unfit for prayers.

Major religions all over the world have perhaps influenced one another. When the mention of a Great Flood was discovered in the 'Pagan' epic of Gilgamesh, it caused quite an excitement in the Christian world. Interestingly, a great flood is also mentioned in Hindu mythology. Manu, the law-giver, populated the world again after the flood. (Some people point out similarity of the names Manu and Moses who gave the Ten Commandments.)

Coming back to the Greek mythology, the ancient Greek was very accommodating when it came to gods. Whatever territory they conquered, they assimilated the gods worshipped in the defeated territory into their own pantheon, instead of replacing or supplanting them. This is believed to be one of the reasons why the civilization flourished for so long.

There are many similarities between Greek and Hindu gods and what they did (Ronita Das, 'Did Hindu and Greek Mythology Evolve from the Same Ancestors?'). On the Chinese side also, there are speculations that some Chinese cities had Roman connection in the past (China's Ancient Roman City).

Once my mother said, Ravan wanted to make stairs that went up to the heaven. But he kept postponing the project. (There was one architect under him whose work was considered impeccable.) That was one main reason why the gods wanted to do away with Ravan, she said.

I think this belief can be 'compared' with the myth of the Tower of Babel of the West. The myth is, long time ago humanity spoke only one language. At that time, they made a plan to build a tower that touched the heaven. The gods fearing this cast a spell that made people (the workers) speak different languages. This divided the workforce and the great plan failed.

In the olden days, humans may not have travelled across the globe as modern humans do, but it seems the ideas travelled far and wide.

References

o Hyacinthus. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22693/22693-h/22693-h.htm#Page_129
o Ronita Das, 'Did Hindu and Greek Mythology Evolve from the Same Ancestors?'
Retrieved from http://passionconnect.in/articleview/articleid/Did-Hindu-And-Greek-Mythology-Evolve-From-The-Same-Ancestors-
o The Greek Myths. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0093z1k
o Gilgamesh. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b080wbrq
o Dipanjan Ghosh, 'Water Hyacinth: Befriending the Noxious Weed'.
Retrieved from http://nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/123456789/10702/1/SR%2047%2812%29%2046-48.pdf
o China's Ancient Roman City. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjXQQ_qLYeY
o Tower of Babel. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Babel


* James Oinam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The Writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on January 25, 2018.



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