Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ann Arbor Summer - More on Marigolds

This is a follow-up to the comments on the previous post. I thought it would be better to put the reply in here as a separate post and add some more details along with some other snaps i had taken.

And if you are a botanist reading this and find something even slightly technically incorrect, please let me know!

Types of Marigolds
If you are from India you would associate marigold with the orange flower that is used on festive occassions (and used in large quantities, may i add - among all the loose flower cultivations in India, Marigold occupies the largest cultivation area. Reference here.)

But there are many types of marigolds. What we commonly call the marigold belongs to the botanical family 'Compositae' and can belong to either of two genus:

1) Calendula
What is commonly called the 'pot marigold' : 'Calendula Officianalis'. The flower in this genus has medicinal properties. This type of marigold looks like this - very different from the following genus:

2) Tagetes
Within this genus there are two major species : Tagetes Patula (French Marigold) and Tagetes Erecta(African Marigold or Tall Marigold).

French marigolds are the smaller of the species in terms of length of the plant and are available in more shades (more orangish shades). The cultivar ('cultivated variety', see here for more info) Safari Tangerine is what we see commonly in Indian markets like here.

The African marigolds are also sometimes called American marigolds since they have been grown in the Americas for 1000s of years. In fact, one particular type of Tagetes Erecta is called the Inca series. Below is a snap of a Tagetes Erecta called Florist's magic:

In fact, there is even an African marigold variety that is white - the vanilla cultivar. See here for picture.

Significance of the name
- The genus name for marigold (Tagetes) gets its name from the Etruscan god 'Tages' - the god of wisdom.

- The common name 'marigold' comes from "Mary's gold" after Mother Mary.

- The common name used for it in many parts of India is Genda. The word Genda possibly comes from the 'Gonda', the tribe in Chhatisgarh where the flower is cultivated - my guess though, i am not sure. In fact, the Gondas even have a legend behind the origin of the flower. Read about that in this excellent site:

Use as a 'Torana' in Indian homes
'Torana' means gateway in Sanskrit. A garland made of Mango and Marigold is used a torana in Hindu homes. In other words, the garland is tied to the frame of the main door of the house. This garland is changed on every festive occasion - and given the number of Hindu festivals :) , you can be sure that the garland keeps changing frequently.

One strong reason for the use of the flower as a torana is that it has protective properties - has an unpleasant odour that keeps insects and other pests at bay (these properites have now been well documented by researchers) . So it is particularly useful in the Indian tropical climate.

But then, if it has an offensive odour, why is it used for worship? One reason straight comes from the above, in that when marigold is offered along with other pleasant smelling flowers, it performs the function of keeping insects from coming near the image that is being worshipped.

But there is more to it...

Spiritual Significance
(French marigold)

In both Christianity and Hinduism, the marigold has a lot of spiritual significance.

The flower is offered to Mother Mary on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th of every year). This is the day when the angel Gabriel came to Mother Mary to tell her of Jesus Christ's coming. On this day, in some traditions, marigold seeds are sown in pots as a symbol for auspiciousness and patience to await the divine.

In Hinduism too, the flower symbolizes auspiciousness. The saffron/orange colour signifies renunciation and hence is offered to God as a symbol of surrender. While offering the flower one should also remember that marigold is a very hardy flower and has a stout, erect stalk (hence the scientific name of 'erecta') - in fact, the Sanskrit name for marigold is Sthulapushpa which signifies this. It symbolizes a trust in the divine and a will to overcome obstacles. This is also why the flower assumes such improtance on Vijayadashami - the day Lord Rama prevalied over Ravana - a victory of good over evil.

One of the great Indian mytics of the last century, 'Mother' (Mirra Richards) of The Aurobindo Society said that the marigold signified 'Plasticity':
The spiritual significance given by the Mother to the Marigold flower is 'Plasticity'. About Plasticity the Mother says:

"When you come to the Divine, you must abandon all mental conceptions; but, instead of doing that, you throw your conceptions upon the Divine and want the Divine to obey them. The only true attitude for a Yogi is to be plastic and ready to obey the Divine command whatever it may be...


Crizzie Criz! said...

totally adore the close-ups, in this post and the last!

Crizzie Criz! said...

totally adore the close-ups, in this post and the last!t!

Sharan Sharma said...

Thanks, CC!

jean said...

i was reading on another sight that marigolds may have migrated from portugal to india.. and that they historically were used for psychic awareness.. what do you know of their metaphysical properties.. also how edible are they?.. i was given a beautiful fabric of ganesha from delhi by my hindu sweetheart's business partner that i will frame and as i am just learning about hindu culture i was wondering what flowers or objects i may place under the hanging.. i would appreciate your input.. your sight is lovely.. dhanyavad

Sharan Sharma said...

Hi Jean,
Thanks for dropping by and your kind comments.

You could put any flowers below the image of Ganesha. Red flowers especially Hibiscus are especially good. Avoid basil leaves ("tulsi") though.

The most important thing is to have a reverential attitude towards the image. It is true that many keep a painting or idol of Ganesha in the living room for show's sake - but even then it is important for example, not to have objects like alcohol bottles etc. near it.

If you need any clarifications on anything else feel free to ask. if i know the answer i'll definitely help

Unknown said...

Dear Sharan,

Very intersting info...

I intend to grow marigolds on commercial basis in India...about 100 kms away form Hyderbad... can you please guide me as to where I can get details on farming practices for frowing marigolds in India...Regards,


Sharan Sharma said...

Hello Hari,
You are pretty sure to get resources at the Andhra Pradesh Horticultural Institute.


Government of Andhra Pradesh
Public Gardens, Hyderabad
Ph.No.:23240124, 23234091,

Hope this helps.

Denise said...

I am an artist doing reseach on the symbolism of flowers for an installation I intend to create. The installation is based on a vivid dream I had about colorful lotus like flowers cascading from the ceiling. The dream was about transformation, being in the present moment and transcendance. I've been trying to find a flower that is both a representation of my culture US and my husbands Indian. I see the marigold as very universal not strictly Asian as the lotus seems to imply and I love the tie in with the idea that marigolds produce intense vivid dreams. I think I found my flower. Thanks for the great blog and images...I will use them for inspiration. You can see updates on my work by looking me up on flickr.com
Denise Karabinus

Sharan Sharma said...

Hi Denise,
Yes, something about marigolds...all the best with your project!

Ishrath said...


Really loved your post. I am linking your article in my post on Marigold Floral Arrangement.

And yes, Marigolds may be plenty but each flower is unique, beautiful and reflects the divine. Keep up your good work. Cheers!

Sharan Sharma said...

Thanks for your comments, Ishrath.

And you have a very cool website!

Anonymous said...

I loved the this! i'll use this info for my presentation at school... thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have a rosewood prayer table and 2 rose corner chairs on each side of table. On table I have East Indian prayer incense of various types with small ornate incense holders, a book of poetry Rumi, Tibetan temple bowl that is a bell held in palm of hand beautiful sound when struk it is dark with unusual geometric shape. 3 small tea light holders that sit in wooden box filled with polished river rocks & 3 various types off eggs, 4th egg is a chime, on table in center of buddah carved jadeite prayer beads, . also 2 small brass Kuan Yin goddess compassion 1open pose other closed pose. Decorative vases, marble box with elephant trunk up also brass Ganesh remover of obstacles. Tibetan staff worn under monks clothing given to me by monk also protection I use to strike bowl. Where you picture is above prayer table shelf collection painted small japanese bottles. I don't know what was contained in bottles but my imagination says powder as tops lift and small spoon attached, and water color painting of 2 koi old japanese man painted for me red stamp and signed. Black wooden Madonna statue stands in wooden box with tea lights, last but not least Shona drom south africa carving of 2 people standing intertwined. Creativity is the key of items that appeal to your senses. I am of Jamaican & Natchez American Ancestry. Great grandparents who loved one another to have 23 children. I am of 1 single branch of proud ancestral roots. Eclectic lover of world culture.

stephen brody said...

thank you for the religious elucidation

Sharan Sharma said...

you're welcome, stephen!

Unknown said...

wow mesmerizing collection of info and pics... team members of hanuman chalisa

Sharan Sharma said...

Thank you, Devraj!