Transcendental Flowers, Part Four


Damanaka, Artemisia vulgaris/indica

Dec 08, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — Transcendental flowers glorified throughout Vedic literature.

There are numerous pastimes in which the Lord appears to save the Vedas from the ocean of nescience, and from the demons who sought to destroy the Absolute Truth. Srimad Bhagavatam describes pastimes wherein the Lord, manifesting as Matsya Avatara or Lord Hayagriva, comes to kill a demon who has stolen the Veda. Both Matsya and Hayagriva Avatars are described as killing the demon Ajnana. But in another pastime, the demon himself was named Hayagriva, and he was slain by Matsya.

Srimad Bhagavatam 8.24.7-9:

    "O King Parīkṣit, at the end of the past millennium, at the end of Brahmā's day, because Lord Brahmā sleeps during the night, annihilation took place, and the three worlds were covered by the water of the ocean.

    At the end of Brahmā's day, when Brahmā felt sleepy and desired to lie down, the Vedas were emanating from his mouth, and the great demon named Hayagrīva stole the Vedic knowledge.

    Understanding the acts of the great demon Hayagrīva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, who is full of all opulences, assumed the form of a fish and saved the Vedas by killing the demon."

Lord Matsya's pastimes saving the Vedas take place either at the start of the Creation when the Earth planet is covered by water, or at the end of a kalpa, when the globe is under water. In the Skanda Purana there is another description of Lord Vishnu in His incarnation as Matsya, this time rescuing the Vedas by killing the demon Damanaka. And like the other demons in these transcendental dramas, the asura Damanaka was hiding himself in a conch shell on the ocean floor. Having stolen the Veda from Lord Brahma, he hid it, and himself, in the conch.

Damanaka is also mentioned in a pastime shared by both Manu and Matsya. Manu, in anxiety about saving lives, had forgotten to carry the Veda. Lord Matsya therefore plunged into the deep waters to recover it. He found the book in the hands of Damanaka, who was hiding in a conch shell, and using His mace, the Lord broke the demon's skull, giving the Veda back to Manu.

While Lord Matsya's pastimes with Hayagriva/Ajnana all appear to end in the Lord slaying the conch demon, in the case of the demon Damanaka (in at least one pastime), when he was killed and the Veda recovered, the sea demon was thrown by the Lord up onto the Earth. There, he became a plant bearing fragrant flowers, by the Lord's merciful touch. This plant is known as the Damanaka.

Damanaka, Artemisia vulgaris/indica

The Damanaka (or Damana) is known botanically as Artemisia vulgaris/indica , (or mugwort/wormwood). In sastra, the Damanaka is mentioned as a tree, plant and flower in numerous pastimes, although it is actually a shrub rather than a tree.

The Agni Purana (Ch. 52 & 80) describes a pastime in which Lord Shiva turned his parsada, Bhairava, into a Damanaka tree because the asura powered over the devas. And the Padma Purana describes a fight between Dasaratha's son Shatrughna and King Pratapagrya, who pierced Damana's heart with an arrow in a battle over a challenge-horse. It appears to be this pastime, primarily, that is memorialized by the Damanaka Ropana Dvadasi festival.

Damanaka-ropana-dvadasi is famously celebrated on the thirteenth and fourteenth days of the bright fortnight of Chaitra (April) in Jagannath Puri dham. Deities of Sri Krsna and Lord Rama are taken out on procession to the Jagannath Ballava math, where the Deities are offered Damanaka (Dayana) leaves from the gardens. On the fourteenth, the leaves are offered to Lord Jagannath, Lady Subhadra and Lord Balarama. In Orissa, the flowers are known as daana. Along with Champaka, they are said to be Lord Jagannath's two favourite flowers. Damanaka trees are also planted and worshipped on this occasion. This festival is also known as Damanaka-chaturdasi -- when Their Lordships go into the garden to pick the tender Damanaka, unnoticed by anyone.

Lord Caitanya is also worshipped with Damanaka flowers:

    "I meditate on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who bears the name Caitanya. He wears a garland of fully blossomed damanaka flowers. He pleases everyone. He enjoys pastimes in a secluded garden. He continually chants the holy names of Lord Krsna. He is the abode of compassion. His fair complexion is as effulgent as gold."

    (Stuti-mukhe vastu-nirdesa-rupa-mangalacaranam by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Chapter One, verse 69)


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