Saturday, January 19, 2013

Brahma Kamal; Gods are not obliged

Does the elusive magical flower of the Gods really exist?
Yes it does.
Although stories from Hindu mythology describe this flower as a white lotus, it is actually a flowering cacti. The scientific name of this plant is Saussurea obvallata which places it firmly in the category of night flowering cactus.
The Brahma Kamal grows in the highest parts of the Himalayas.
Bhrama Kamal in Valley of Flowers

Bhram Kamal is the state flower of Uttranchal.
Bharama Kamal in Madmaheshwar Temple
20 years ago I visited Gangotri for the first time in my life. It was August and rainy season was not over yet. We arrived in Gangotry at our usual leisurely pace, some days in Uttarkashi and some days in Jhala village and some days in Harshil and so on.
At the evening aarti time I observed that priests were decorating the aarti jot thali with strange looking green leaves around the white flowers in the middle.
White flowers as well those leaves were new to me.
After aarti was over, few privileged people were given white flowers, one to each. Then there was a commotion and a small fight broke out when some people complained that they didn’t receive any Bhram-Kamal. Priests were helpless because they gave away all the flowers they had and they requested to the agitated people to wait till next day noon when more will come from the high meadows but those people were to return in the morning.
That was the first time I heard about Bhram Kamal flower and Ganga-Tulsi.
Those green leaves were Ganga-Tulsi (that’s what it is called in Ganges valley) . It is an aromatic variety of Artemisia (Artemisia Montana). Since real Tulsi is not a hardy plant and it does not survive the freezing temperatures so in Gangotry temple Ganga-Tulsi is used.
Ganga Tulsi
After the aarti it is distributed to the worshipers, there is no shortage of this and everybody gets it along with the Prasad. Ganga-tulsi grows between 7000 – 10,000 feet in some high valleys in India. Artemisia has not much use in India but in other countries has medicinal use to expel worms in the stomach, hence it is called wormwood or bitterwood or mugwort. It is bitter. It is also used in Chineese traditional therapy called Moxibustion.
Ganga Tulsi
From Wikipedia:
Moxibustion (Chinese: pinyin: jiu) is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy using moxa, or mugwort herb. It plays an important role in the traditional medical systems of China (including Tibet), Japan, Korea,Vietnam, and Mongolia. Suppliers usually age the mugwort and grind it up to a fluff; practitioners burn the fluff or process it further into a cigar-shaped stick. They can use it indirectly, with acupuncture needles, or burn it on the patient’s skin.
Moxabustion using Artemesia
Anyway I myself love Moxibustion. I place lighted moxa sticks on a coin placed on the painful part of the body. One can do this experiment with a lighted small piece of dhoop also but be careful not to burn yourself.
Moxabustion using Artemesia
Well, I again got drifted, I always get drifted. This topic is for Bhrama-Kamal and it is used in the dev-bhoomi temples.
But Bhram Kamal is not in abundance, it grows above 14000 feet. Gangotri is only 11,000 feet and not high enough for this to grow there. It takes one whole day and hard trekking and climbing to bring Bhram Kamals there.
Bharam Kamal near Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara
Last year I and one of my friend were traveling on Sri Ganga Nagar Haridwar Intercity Express to Haridwar and then to Gangotri, train just passed Ambala Cantt. Station and his cell phone rang. It was my friend’s sister.
“Gangotri jaa rahe ho, jara 2-3 Bharam Kamal lete aana.”
“Kis liye?”
“Yeh ghar main kismat late hain.”
Then another call came by her, now she wants more than 2-3 but several because many of her friends too need Bhrama Kamals. Then another call came, Gupta Jee wants some Bhram Kamals, then Sharma Ji called. Mrs. Bansal called and Mr. Arora called. Then their friends called, everybody wanted some Bhram Kamal flowers. So we have orders to bring a sack full of Bhram Kamals.
Bharama Kamals are no more at Madhmaheshwar temple area. this temple vicinity was full of Bhrama Kamal flowers but they all are gone now. To find and bring these flowers, people now walk thousands of feet higher.
We reached Gangotri but we were a bit too late of the season and all flowers were already sold or distributed to people. The beautiful temple at Sri Krishana Ashram, where I love to visit and sit for long hours, they had some flowers hanging in the perimeter of the temple. Swamiji there told us that people now steal these flowers and most are already stolen.
Everybody wants to have Bhram Kamal in their little pooja-ghar.
This poor flower will be no more; one day.
Real Gods will be deprived of this flower very soon.
This flower will be extinct soon because everybody wants this flower.
Bhrama Kamala in an alpine meadow
When this flower blooms after rains, local people go on the high altitude meadows and bring sacks full of these flowers.
Local people revere this flower and some years ago, all the harvest was brought to the temples and then from there these were distributed to all.
Now a hoard of people go over the mountains and bring this flowers in sacks full to sell.
Poor Bhrama Kamal flower is not given a chance to turn into fruit and then into seed to propagate itself. Flower is already extinct at most places and people need to walk farther and farther each year to get it.
It is vanishing due to heavy demand.
Bhrama Kamal flowers sold in Badrinath
This flower can be seen in the temples of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath. Now this is sold at these and many more places. I have seen sacks full of these flowers being sold at even Tungnath, Gangotri, Badrinath etc. etc. temples.
Now these flowers are being sold in Haridwar and Rishikesh.
Kedarnath area is already completely devoid of these flowers due to over plucking.
Hemkund Sahib area is already completely devoid of these flowers.
This is not seen in Badrinath area anymore.
I am writing this post in the interest of people to protect this beautiful innocence flower.
Please give it a chance to survive.
Please let it thrive alive in the abode of Gods.
Bhrama Kamal
Anyway, this is a very fragile flower and when dried, it does not survive long. In less than a year moths and other insects eat it away.
Please don’t bring it at your home.
Gods are not obliged.


  1. Gopalakrishna S RJune 7, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    A very fine informative article. It also gives us a warning not to pluck all the flowers so that they may grow into fruits and thus providing us its seeds for the preservation of this rare and valuable species. Thank you for publication of this article and I hope Gods certainly would oblige.

  2. Very educating and informative article and lovely pics of the beautiful flower.

    During my trek to Valley of Flowers in July 2009, I could see these flowers in great many abundance, a whole bed full of Brahm Kamals spread across and all over, one had to be very careful while stepping on the ground lest the flower could get crushed!

    It's a pity, we human-beings destroy the flora of the region till it gets on the verge of extinction...

    Your way of educating people thru' travelogue is very commendable though...

  3. Thank you for enlightening people about this wonderful flower of Gods. Human greed is root of all the mess we have created


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