the world from the waters.
The sacred bull Apis
was wreathed with its garlands; there were niches for water, to place it among tombs; it was carved in the capitals of columns; it was represented on plates and vases; the sculptures show it in many sacred uses, even as a burnt-offering; Isis
holds it; and the god Nilus
still binds a wreath of waterlilies around the throne of Memnon
the Lotus was carried to Assyria, and Layard
found it among fir-cones and honeysuckles on the later sculptures of Nineveh
dedicated it to the nymphs, whence the name Nymphaea
. Nor did the Romans disregard it, though the Lotus to which Ovid
's nymph Lotis
was changed, servato nomine
, was a tree, and not a flower.
Still different a thing was the enchanted stem of the Lotus-caters of Herodotus
, which prosaic botanists have reduced to the Zizyphus Lotus
found by Mungo Park
, translating also the yellow Lotus-dust into a mere ‘farina, tasting like sweet gingerbread.’
But in the Lotus of Hindostan we find our flower again, and the Oriental
sacred books are cool with water-lilies.
Open the Vishnu Purana
at any page, and it is a Sortes Lilianae
. The orb of the earth is Lotus-shaped, and is upborne by the tusks of Vesava, as if he had been sporting in a lake where the leaves and blossoms float.
Brahma, first incarnation of Vishnu, creator of the world, was born from a Lotus; so was Sri or Lakshmu, the Hindoo Venus
, goddess of beauty and prosperity, protectress of womanhood, whose worship guards the house from all danger.
‘Seated on a full-blown Lotus, and holding a Lotus in her hand, the goddess Sri
, radiant with beauty, rose from the waves.’
The Lotus is the chief ornament of the subterranean Eden
, Patala, and the holy mountain Meru is thought to be shaped like its seed-vessel, larger at summit than at base.
When the heavenly Urvasi
fled from her earthly spouse, Puruvavas, he found her sporting with four nymphs of heaven, in a lake beautified with the Lotus.
When the virtuous Prahlada
was burned at the stake, he cried to his cruel father, ‘The fire burneth me not, and all around I behold the face of the sky, cool and fragrant with beds of Lotus-flowers!’
Above all, the graceful history of the transformations of Krishna is everywhere hung with these fresh chaplets.
Every successive maiden whom the deity wooes is Lotus-eyed, Lotusmouthed, or Lotus-cheeked, and the youthful hero wears always a Lotus-wreath.
Also ‘the clear sky was bright with the autumnal moon, and the air fragrant with the perfume of the wild water-lily, in whose buds the clustering bees were murmuring their song.’
Elsewhere we find fuller details.
‘In the primordial state of the world, the rudimentary universe, submerged in water, reposed on the bosom of the Eternal
Brahma, the architect of the world, poised on a Lotus-leaf, floated upon ’