Lotus Lakshmi

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 6 01:30:14 UTC 2001

Dear List,

In the sangam poetry, the lotus flower (tAmarai) is used as
a metaphor for Para-strI/gaNikA all the time. OTOH,
kuvaLai (black/blue water-lily) is used for the Wife
of the chieftain, probably the cross-cousin and legitimate
manager of the household.

The color semiotics using flower symbolism for contrasting
red vs. black in sangam times is interesting.
"red" -> active and "black" -> passive states!
These red vs. black can be seen in other things as well:
a) Murukan (Skanda) 'red' vs. Maal-Narayana 'black'
b) the new moon 'black' (pure state of Cit/Knowledge) vs.
rising sun (Enlightened Knowledge)
c) Black tilakam (during mensuration) vs. Red tilakam during weddings
and so on. In India, black is sometimes portrayed as bad
but many times as good though mysterious and hence awe-evoking.

Given that red lotus, ruby (mANikya), cULAmaNi/cUDAmaNi
implicitly refer to prostitutes, was Sriilakshmi, the red lotus
goddess, ever compared with gaNikA women in Sanskrit epics or later

I haven't seen L. Sternbach's book on courtesans.
Manimekalai and Kamban explicitly compare vezyas with Lakshmi
saying that both leave men once they aren't rich enough.

N. Ganesan

PS: There is another aspect: "White" lotus of Sarasvati with
Veena, - Maatangi. She more closely resembles viRali minstrels
receiving gold lotus, gold garlands. The great dancer,
T. Balasarasvati's grandmother VeeNai Dhanammal used to
play the instrument seated under a jasmine pavilion,
Devadasi streets had a Sarasvato temple. Sarasvati/VAc is
no wonder married to the most-abstracted god Brahma,
white colored and with a white swan vaahana. Brahma is the
bard par excellence reciting veda orally.

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