• afzalhakim 25w

    The great poets and writers of the old have always found a compelling urge to personify human beauty with fragrant, soft and aesthetically mesmerising flowers. Had it not been for William Wordsworth, daffodils could never appeal to us the way they did, from the gaze of a "lonely", "solitary" and "observant" young cloud just floating over the margin of a bay. Had it not been for Shakespeare and his romantic epics like "A midsummer night's dream" or "A winter's tale", we would have never felt the same way about the various types of wild flowers and herbs like the "nodding" violets or the "luscious" woodbine or even the red blood that "reigns" in the winter's pale.

    These wild flowers acquire this invaluable place in a writer's journal because of two predominant reasons. One is that they are scientifically hard for the human eye to miss. A lot of these flowers grow in the wild where all you can see is either the green of the shrubs and leaves or the brown of the tree bark and soil. In such a visually constrained environment should you chance upon something that is fairy white or blood red, it is natural for you to be attracted to them. The second reason is that their visual manifestation is complimented by the other attributes they emanate. So, flowers can be extremely fragrant and have the most intricate of designs, something you have never seen before in life.

    In this particular context, if you deconstruct the writings of poets and writers, particularly those writing a romantic piece, you will realise that the personification of the counterpart is often very similar. She is a rare beauty, standing out in a crowd of people so elegantly dressed, she has a charm about her and an aura that is rather inexplicable. As she offers you her hand, it is soft and delicate and the skin is smooth to touch. Her scent throws you completely off-guard and it engulfs you like a wilted flower engulfs the anthers inside of its bough. However, the emphasis here often lies in the fact that she attracts you the most because you find her traits to be rare and that is exactly the case with some of the flowers in the world.

    One such flower is the Epiphyllum Oxypetalum, an extremely rare breed of cacti flowers found growing in the tropical jungles of India, Sri Lanka, China and even Japan. This beautiful white and yellow coloured rare flower goes by many names in these regions. While it is known as Kadupul or Kadupul Mal (The flower from the heaven) in Sri Lanka, it is known as Gekka Bijin (Beauty under the moon) in Japan and in India it goes by the name Brahma Kamalam, after the God Brahma himself. But, why "beauty under the night" or "Queen of the night". The answer lies in the very nature of this flower as it blooms only at a particular hour at the night and wilts back before dawn and also it blooms only once in a year. So, imagine this, you're looking for an extremely rare flower, which blooms only around midnight for just a couple of hours and only on one specific night of the year.

    It is because of this exceptional quality that this flower is known to be World's most expensive flower. However, there is no price tag upon it and does not sell anywhere in the market because of a very short life cycle and also because it just blooms once in its entire life cycle. What I found interesting about this flower though is that in many different societies there is a lot of folklore and stories that surround its discovery. In the Chinese tradition for example, it is believed that whosoever chances upon Tan Hua (it is a Chinese four character idiom meaning - impressive but brief moment of glory) in its bloom, he/she will be blessed with perpetual and unceasing luck. This myth has found its way down to the Indonesian community as well and each year, people go into the wild looking for this flower to watch it bloom, in the hopes that their lives will turn around for good.

    Similarly, in Sri Lanka, this flower is known to bloom around the Sri Pada season, which has a huge religious reverence, not just among locals but believers around the world. People throng to the Holy Mountain Sri Pada for devotion and it is said that the presence of these flowers in their bloom releases such tantalising fragrance in the air that it is almost considered as part of the divine miracle. It is believed that Kadupul is the legendary flower of the celestial Nagas. Each year around the time that they bloom, the Nagas descend down from their celestial abodes to offer these flowers to Lord Buddha at the mountain.

    A very interesting thing about this flower is that it first found its reference into popular culture through a movie adaptation of the book "Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan, where the grandmother of the protagonist is seen celebrating the blooming of this flower. It is believed that the flower actually originates from Guatemala and it was in early 1600s that it was first brought to China. While reading more upon it, I encountered a very strange tale that took me back down nostalgia lane. Many years ago, my mother narrated to me a story of an enchanted flower called "Gul-e-Bakawali" (rose of the fairy named Bakawali), which apparently has been drawn from the magical tales in the "Arabian Nights" and adapted on screen in a pre-partition Bollywood film by the same title. It turns out that the story is talking about this very same flower which I had to dig up a lot of online literature to find out.

    According to this story, there once was a very wealthy king Zayn ul Mulk who just had a baby boy. However, his astrologers foretold that if the king glances upon this baby, he will lose his eyesight. So, the king sends aways his wife and his new born son to a distant land while he remarries and has four other children. As this forgotten child, now named Taj ul Mulk grows older, he chances upon the king in the forest while hunting. Impressed by the young boy's skills, the king wishes to have a look at his face and as soon as he does, he goes blind. The astrologers share with the sons the only remedy that can bring back the king's sight, but warn them that this journey is going to be treacherous. They are to visit the fabled realm of Paristan (fairyland) and get hold of a very rare white flower that blooms only at night on a very specific night.

    As the story progresses, the young Taj ul Mulk faces many perils, including the courtesans who can honey trap people forever (much like lotus-eaters from the Greek Mythology) and a Djinni whom he helps escape and in turn befriends. At the end of his journey, with the flower in sight, he encounters the fairy Bakawali, who is the keeper of the flower and can only allow a virtuous and smart person to take it because in her own version of the prophecy, whoever is able to secure it from her will be the person she is to marry. With his wits and his charms, Taj manages to win the flower and also win the heart of fairy Bakawali. However, on his way to treat his father, he encounters his brothers who thug him and take away the flower, returning gloriously with a cure to their father's loss of sight.

    Meanwhile, Bakawali and Taj build for themselves a palace of enormous wealth and the tale of their wealth and fortunes spread across lands, reaching these greedy brothers as well. The father gets to know about their ploy and is disappointed. He ends up visiting his son and apologising to him, seeking his forgiveness for everything. They go on to live happily ever after.

    I never imagined that while reading about the Epiphyllum Oxypetalum flower, I will chance upon this very old story. What's really fascinating is how one small rare flower has the power to bring so many different cultures together. How many other such stories are hiding in the most unexpected places and unassuming objects of the world. It took a literary tool like a pathetic fallacy for me to find out about such a thing. What is to say that such tools were not developed specifically because the writer observed such uniformities across diverse cultures?

    #patheticfallacy #wod #lores #myth #flowers

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    Epiphyllum Oxypetalum (Queen of the Night)