Marigolds: their Symbolism and Importance in India and Mexico
It's the season for marigolds; here at home, as autumn decor, but also in India, as well as in Mexico and Latin America. Throughout the festival season in these locations, marigolds are used as colorful and spiritual offerings and adornments.
Marigolds in Indian Culture
As a foreigner in India, one of the things that struck me as so beautiful on my first visit, and continues to still my heart on subsequent visits, is the prevalence of marigold garlands hanging on all things sacred and beloved. in India, Marigolds are used at Hindu weddings and other celebratory events, and this tradition is even more prominent during Divali season, when celebrants drape marigold garlands across the doorways of their houses and on tables and at altars.
Photo of a flower seller in Pune, India,
photo © Carter Seibels
A statue of Krishna with a marigold garland, photo © Carter Seibels
Marigolds: Day of the Dead
Interestingly, the marigold is also the Mexican national symbol for Day of the Day festival. Natively called cempasúchil, it features prominently in altars and in houses during this celebration meant to remind observers of the brevity of life, and allow them an opportunity to celebrate and connect with deceased loved ones.
Day of the Dead image from Flavors of the Sun Blog
Marigold Uses in India
I've often wondered how the marigold became such a soulful icon in India, and recently I stumbled upon this article from National Geographic that gives a lot of insight. Though if you google it, I think you'll also find that the answer seems to be steeped in lore as much as fact (like many things in Indian culture 😉), and hard to get to the bottom of. According to the article, Spanish and Portuguese traders first brought marigolds to India more than 350 years ago. Before they arrived in India, these glowing yellow and orange blossoms had a rich and important history in the Americas and Mexico, dating back to pre-Colombian times. They were believed by the Aztecs to have magical and medicinal properties; and it has been scientifically proven that their strong odour helps to keep pests away. From a practical perspective, this is why they are used to make torana, or door garlands, as they help keep bugs out of a home.
Faux Marigold Torana in Chandni Chowk, Delhi. photo © Carter Seibels
Their saffron/orange color makes them auspicious in Indian culture; in Hinduism, this color represents renunciation, courage, and sacrifice, which is why they are used as offerings to God. They are frequently used to honor Laxmi and Ganesh, specifically.
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