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History Channel


Passion Flower, Coorg


There are paintings and sculptures on the one hand, and books and poems on the other, that have captured the epochal moments of recorded history or mythology and rendered them into timeless epics. Throughout the age of man, the records of our times have been kept on stone tablets, rock faces, papyrus, parchment and the like, but never has our collective imagination flowered so much as in the case of a simple flower. Did we just say simple? Perish the thought…the Passion Flower is not just a pretty garden ornament but a testament to human faith. The ‘passion’ in Passion Flower, refers to the Passion of Jesus in Christian theology, with roots in the Spanish religious movement of the 15th century. Missionaries of the age adopted the unique structure of the flower, known locally as Espina de Christo (or Christ’s Thorns) as a symbol of Christ’s last days, especially his crucifixion: the pointed tips of the leaves represented the holy lance, the tendrils stood for the whip used in the flagellation, the ten petals and sepals represented the faithful apostles (excluding Peter the denier and Judas the betrayer), the radial filaments represented the crown of thorns, and the chalice shaped ovary, with its receptacle, stood for the Holy Grail. Outside of Christendom, in India, the blue Passion Flower is considered a living tapestry depicting the epic Mahabharata. Known in most of North India as ‘Paanch Pandav‘, the flower’s shape is interpreted as the five Pandavas with the divine Lord Krishna at the center, with the radial filaments being the hundred Kauravas that opposed them. So whether it is the last days of Christ or the seminal war of Hindu mythology, this is a classic example of how to tell two stories with one flower!


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