The lotus of my eye

aklujkar at aklujkar at
Fri Mar 17 22:13:29 UTC 1995

<Come on, Ashok and Madhav: didn't you sit beside a tank of kumudas all
night during your youth?  What happened (to the flowers, I mean :-).>

Dear Dominik, 

I had thought that after producing all those references to the blossoming
of kumudas at night you as a specialist of plants and other realia will
give me and others THE TRUTH.  I was evidently under an illusion. Now you
are not only getting 'personal' by putting Madhav and me on the spot
(Madhav about whom Sanskrit already has the proverb sa hi
maadhava.h and  with whom I made a convenant long time ago that he would
always know more than I) but you also want us to do some 'muddy' work for

However, what particularly hurt me, Dominik, in your question was the
obvious assumption that our youth is a thing of the past. As I reckon it,
the time for me to spend an entire night outdoors beside a tank full of
kumudas is yet to come. There is so much Sanskrit literature that I have
yet to read, not to mention Pali and Ardhamagadhi. I cannot afford to be in
a stage in which youth would be an object of recollection.

Would you be satisfied if I said that I have always been an ideal young man
going to bed at 8 P.M. and getting up at 3 A.M.? How about accepting that I
spent nights by the side of lotus pools but used them to memorize

I do not personally doubt that there are flowers which bloom at night and
which could be called kumuda, kairava etc.  About seven years ago, sometime
in  July I believe, I saw,  in a neighbour s balcony in Pune, a plant
flower called (at least locally) which blossomed fully at
midnight  and began to contract a few minutes after midnight, virtually
dying at about 3 in the morning. I was told by my neighbour, who had
shouted to me and my family that we should come to our balcony (facing
hers) to watch the phenomenon, that the flower did this only once a year
(on a full-moon day, if I recall correctly).  Nature obviously imitates the
Indology network in being full of variety and surprises. I wish I had then
thought of a persistent Domink. I knew him then only as someone working on
Vyaa.di's Paribhaa.saa-suucana, which, by the way, does not speak of the
sun as an enemy of the kumudas.

Whether the moon causes the blossoming can afford to remain a moot point as
R. Hueckstedt has suggested. However, I do not think night blossoming is a
matter of stylization. I do not recall reading it in lists of
kavi-sa.mketas or kaavya-samayas.   

One strong possibility is that in unraveling the nocturnal activities of
kumuda we may be making a mistake in sticking to 'lotus  (I should atone
later for using this  phrase which contradicts Giitaa 5.10). It is likely
that Sanskrit authors treated water lillies, some other water-borne
flowers, and flowers growing in wet earth in general as a related group,
going more by general similarity of appearance and association than by
their mutual differences. 

Although poets were strongly advised to study nature closely, it  seems
inevitable that some, particularly the later ones writing in a period
marked by decimation of traditional institutions of learning  due to
political and religious onslaughts, had merely bookish knowledge of nature.
Most of my generation of Sanskritists trained in India knows the nature
recorded in Sanskrit  largely only through words. We appreciate Sanskrit 
poetry many times without  knowing directly or precisely the objets
appearing in it.  And, in this last observation, Domink,lies the real
explanation of why I cannot  be a confident source of information on

Good wishes.

Ashok Aklujkar, Professor, Department of Asian Studies, University of B.C.,
Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6T 1Z2. Tel: O: (604) 822-5185, R: (604) 274-5353.
 Fax O:
822-8937. E-mail: aklujkar at


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