For centuries the lotus flower has represented ideals of beauty, enlightenment, and purity. The wetlands flower begins life as a seed in muddy riverbeds, and must rise through muck before blossoming in the sunlight – a journey said to embody man’s path to enlightenment.
Present in art, literature, and mythology in a wide range of cultures, the lotus can be seen as a global symbol of all that humanity aspires to be:
The lotus flower featured prominently in Egyptian lore (seen in hieroglyphics) as a symbol of rebirth; supposedly the flower retreated into the water at night, emerging whole again with each new sunrise.
Roman and Greek Iconography
In Roman and Greek religious iconography, the archangel Gabriel was often depicted surrounded by lotus flowers – symbolizing divine grace and wisdom.
The lotus in Buddhism symbolizes purity and non-attachment – a serene flower floating peacefully above the waters of desire.
In Hinduism, the lotus is considered a sacred feminine element of beauty, fertility, and prosperity of the soul. The unopened and opened petals represent various stages of one’s spiritual “unfolding” in life. Additionally, a lotus flower with eight petals represents cosmic harmony (used often in mandala art) and a thousand-petaled lotus represents spiritual illumination.
In Chinese literature the lotus is symbolic of rising above worldly chaos. The Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi wrote: “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.”
Other Asian Countries
In other Asian countries the strong fibers of the lotus stalk represent the unbreakable bonds of family and loved ones that help the individual remain above water.
Native Americans also encountered the lotus flower in certain climates, eating its “sacred beans” and using the flower to symbolize the sun’s power to turn plants into food.