The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is a flower of deep historical, cultural, and spiritual significance. It is a sacred flower in many religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and ancient Egyptian religions.
The lotus flower’s meanings and symbolism vary from religion to religion. It represents spiritual awakening and enlightenment in Hinduism and Buddhism. In ancient Egyptian traditions, it represents the path from death to rebirth in the afterlife. In Christianity, it represents purity, creation, and the ascent of Christ to heaven.
In this guide:
- Origin of lotus flower meaning and symbolism
- Meaning of the lotus flower: What does a lotus flower symbolize?
- Religious lotus flower meaning and symbolism: What do lotus flowers symbolize for various religions?
- Lotus flower meaning in tattoos
- Lotus flower gift ideas
- Final Thoughts: What do lotus flowers symbolize for you?
The lotus flower is often called the Flower of Life. This is because of its association with life, death, and rebirth across multiple cultures. The lotus flower is also the national flower of India and Sri Lanka.
Origin of lotus flower meaning and symbolism
While the lotus flower meanings and symbolism vary from religion to religion, in all cases, the meaning is derived from the way the lotus flower grows in nature.
The lotus plant grows best in slow-moving water. Adult lotus plants release thousands of seeds every year, littering the bottom of the pond. Most of these seeds will get eaten by fish and other pond animals. Some of these seeds will sprout and grow. However, some seeds won’t get a chance to grow especially when the pond dries out.
These seeds don’t dry out and die, though. Instead, they’ll sit dormant for long periods of time. When conditions become favorable, for example, if a flood creates another pond at that location, the seeds will rehydrate and grow. The oldest lotus seeds that germinated were 1300 years old!
This begins to explain why to many cultures, the lotus symbolizes patience, longevity, and perseverance.
Meaning of the lotus flower: What does a lotus flower symbolize?
The lotus as a symbol of spiritual enlightenment
According to some Eastern cultures, the life cycle of the lotus is an analogy of a human being’s spiritual life cycle. We are born into a world of suffering and we must learn to overcome several obstacles. When we overcome these obstacles and hardships, we become better people, and eventually, we’ll attain enlightenment.
- The lotus seed symbolizes the human soul/spirit. We all start our lives from a single seed.
- The muddy waters symbolize the struggles we go through in life.
- The growth of the lotus from a seed to a budding plant represents our journey through life, overcoming obstacles along the way.
- The lotus bud represents a person that has not reached their full potential
- The lotus flower blossoming above the water represents a person who has finally achieved enlightenment. They have reached nirvana and let go of the suffering and obstacles of the world.
The lotus as a symbol of purity
When a lotus flower blossoms, it emerges out of the muddy waters and becomes perfectly clean, beautiful, and pure. In this way, it is also a symbol of hope and strength: no matter what you are going through in life, you can still rise above it all and become something beautiful and amazing despite it all.
No matter what your start in life was like, and no matter the struggles you are going through right now, as long as you are still hopeful, you can overcome all the negativity and emerge victorious.
The lotus flower and its journey from the bottom of the murky pond symbolize the resilience of the human soul. No matter what unpleasantness we go through, nothing will ever taint our souls.
- The bud pushes through the water all the way to the top but the flower petals inside remain untouched.
The lotus as a symbol of personal progress
A lotus flower has many petals. When a lotus flower blossoms, it does so gradually, revealing more and more vibrant petals inside. It will finally reach full bloom, during which all the petal layers will be revealed.
Different lotus flowers have different colors in bloom. However, the center of the flower is always a beautiful yellow color.
- The lotus blooming represents the journey of personal progress one makes as one goes through life. Eventually, the innermost petals will be revealed, symbolizing self-actualization and spiritual enlightenment.
- The center petals represent the achievement of one’s goals and reaching enlightenment.
- Some faiths believe the lotus flower also symbolizes the seven chakras.
Religious lotus flower meaning and symbolism: What do lotus flowers symbolize for various religions?
Lotus flower meaning in Buddhism
In Buddhism, the meaning of the lotus flower comes from its life cycle. Human beings are born into a life of struggle and have to overcome obstacles to reach enlightenment. This also ties to the core Buddhist belief of reincarnation. In this way, the lotus flower meaning in Buddhism is also a new beginning and rebirth.
- The murky waters symbolize the struggle in the world
- The blossoming lotus symbolizes attaining enlightenment
The lotus flower also stands for the purity of the mind, body, and spirit. The soul (flower) blossoms above the murky waters and moves freely above them. This represents triumph over the struggles of life and our attachment to worldly things.
The lotus flower meaning in Buddhism also stands for detachment. Once the soul reaches enlightenment, it cannot be touched by any unpleasantness, just like how water easily rolls off the lotus flower petals.
Different lotus flower color meanings in Buddhism:
Lotus flowers come in 6 colors: white, blue, pink, yellow, red, and purple. Lotus flower meanings in Buddhism vary depending on the color in Buddhist faith:
- White lotus flower meaning: The white lotus flower in Buddhism symbolizes purity of mind and soul. Outside of Buddhism, they symbolize beauty, purity, grace, faith, fertility, wealth, and knowledge. Today, the widely popular white lotus flower is often called the Womb of the World.
- The blue lotus flower meaning: The meaning of the blue lotus flower in Buddhism is wisdom, knowledge, common sense, and the power of the mind. Outside of Buddhism, they represent rare qualities like control over ones emotions, wisdom, and knowledge because they are so hard to find.
- Pink lotus flower meaning: The pink lotus flower in Buddhism is used as an earthly symbol of Buddha. It symbolizes the essence of Buddha, as well as history and remembrance.
- The red lotus flower meaning: The meaning of the red lotus flower in Buddhism symbolizes love, connection, the heart, and its connections to the root chakra. Outside of Buddhism, it holds a similar meaning to other red flowers: it is a symbol of selfless love, sympathy, and compassion. They also represent passion and generousity.
- The purple lotus flower meaning: Purple lotus flowers symbolize mystery and spiritualism. It has eight petals that represent the Eightfold Path in Buddhism and the final result, which is self-awakening.
- Gold lotus flower meaning: The gold lotus flower (or the yellow lotus flower) symbolizes the attainment of true spiritual enlightenment
Lotus flower meaning in Hinduism
The lotus flower is considered to be a sacred plant in Hinduism. Many Hindu gods are shown holding lotus flowers in their hands or standing in a lotus blossom. Because of this, the lotus flower meaning in Hinduism is of purity and divinity.
The lotus flower can be traced back to around 1400BC through Vedic texts. It related to the Padma lotus and its associations with Hindu gods like Vishnu, Lakshmi, and Brahma.
In Hinduism, the process of a lotus flower blossoming represents the progress you make in your journey towards attaining a spiritual mind. The petals opening up represents the expansion of your soul in your journey.
In Hinduism, it is believed that the Padma is a part of everyone’s soul. It feels like a pull that tugs you towards spiritual enlightenment just like the lotus rises from the water to blossom at the top.
Lotus flower meaning in Christianity
In Christianity, the lotus flower represents purity, creation, and the resurrection of Jesus.
Some lotus flowers close their buds for 3 days at a time before blossoming again. There are also species of lotus whose roots can reach up to 6 feet deep. These qualities, combined with the fact that some seeds can stay dormant for years before being “resurrected”, all tie together to relate to the Christian story of the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection.
In Asia, especially in India, some churches often display an empty cross on a lotus flower. This is called the cross of Saint Thomas. According to some Christians, Thomas the doubting disciple of Jesus was the one who spread the good news of Christianity to the people of Asia. In this way, the lotus flower is also a symbol of the spread of Christianity across the world.
The lotus flower is also mentioned in the Bible. The book of Job 40:21-22 reads, “Under the lotus plant it lies, hidden among the reeds in the marsh.” This is in relation to the mythical behemoth that hides under the water. Christians interpret this to mean that God can tame the beast of sin inside a person just like the lotus flower hides the behemoth.
Lotus flower meaning in ancient Egypt
The lotus flower, known as “seshen” in ancient Egypt, was associated with the gods. It was cultivated in the precious life-giving ponds because it was a sacred plant.
Ancient Egyptians believed the meaning of the lotus flower was creation, rebirth, and because of its shape, a symbol of the sun. They also believed that the lotus flower was a symbol of power and strength.
Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs contain some of the earliest depictions of lotus cultivation by man.
The remains of lotus flowers have been found in several Egyptian pharaoh tombs, especially that of Ramesses II. Egyptian women also wore lotus flower amulets with depictions of Heqet, the Egyptian goddess of fertility, during childbirth.
The lotus flower closes its petals at night and blooms again in the morning. For this reason, it symbolized rebirth to the ancient Egyptians. They believed this is how the dead would enter the underworld. The Egyptian god Osiris was reborn from a lotus after he was killed. The Egyptians believed this would happen to them as well, so they decorated tombs and mummy cases with lotus flowers.
Lotus flower meaning in ancient Greece and Rome
Among the ancient Greeks and Romans, the lotus symbolized modesty, purity, and innocence.
Because of the longevity of its seeds and how it grows from the depths of the water to blossom above it, the lotus flower was also a symbol of regeneration. This symbolism made it a popular funerary flower among the Greeks and Romans.
The Greeks and Romans also believed that the lotus symbolized the past, present, and future. This is because, on the lotus plant, the seedpods (past), flowers (present), and buds (future) are all visible at the same time.
Lotus flower meaning in tattoos
Tattoos are a deeply personal choice. However, lotus flowers are a very common choice. This could be because of one of three reasons; their vibrant colors, their religious associations, or simply because the person getting the tattoo likes them.
At the end of the day, though, lotus flower tattoos have more or less the same meanings. They symbolize rebirth, triumph over obstacles, or rising above vices or temptations like alcoholism. Some people also get lotus tattoos to mean spiritual awakening or enlightenment. They can also represent love, purity, or beauty.
Lotus flower gift ideas
Looking for the perfect lotus flower gifts that embody the meaning and symbolism of this beautiful flower of life? Well, here are a few lotus flower gift ideas that would be perfect for any occasion or holiday:
Final Thoughts: What do lotus flowers symbolize for you?
So, there you have it; all the different meanings and symbolism of lotus flowers. At the end of the day, though, just like any other symbol, lotus flower meanings may be deeply personal and completely subjective to a person. What do lotus flowers mean to you? Let us know in the comments below!
We also have other guides to meanings behind symbols that you can check out. Here are some of them: Meaning of mandalas, Meaning of the Dharma Wheel, Meaning of the Flower of Life, Meaning of the Tree of Life, Meaning of elephants, Meaning of the evil eye, Meaning of the Hamsa hand, Meaning of Dreamcatchers.