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Friday, August 19, 2011

Brahma Kamal - Queen of the Night

Brahma Kamal, botanical name Saussurea obvallata, also known as Epiphyllum oxypetalum plant, Queen of the Night,  Duchman's Pipe, Night blooming Cereus, is a species of flowering plant named after Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. The Brahma Kamal plant is very rare and has been declared as rare species amongst plants. It is native to the Himalayas, India, Northern Burma and South-West China. In Himalayas, it is found at an altitude of around 4500 m.

The plant is considered an herb in Tibetan medicine. Its name is 'Sah-du Goh-ghoo'. It has a bitter taste, promotes heat. Used to treat paralysis of the limbs and cerebral ischemia. The entire plant is used. It is endangered because people are cutting it down for their own use, it is found in the region of the Himalayas.
This flower is usually found at high altitudes between 3,600 and 4,500 metres, in areas like the Valley of Flowers, Uttar Pradesh. Used for religious rites. The uniqueness of this blossom is that it blooms only at night and may take a year or more for the bud to appear.  It grows from just a single leaf. The leaves themselves multiply. And the buds appear from the leaf itself. The beauty of the mildly fragrant flowers is that the buds start opening at about 10 pm and the blooms last through the night, starting to droop only at about 4.30 am.

People believe that this stamen represents Lord Krishna, while the reddish brown stalks which you can see on the closed bud represent the 100 Kauravas from the Mahabharata.

The flower is considered sacred, and does not bloom frequently. So people consider themselves lucky if they are able to witness this rare event, and perform pooja and aarti at the time of blooming. It is also considered to be a good omen and a sign of prosperity for the home. It is believed that Brahma emerged from Vishnu's navel in a lotus flower. 

The Brahmakamal is not a lotus but belongs to cactus family, although its petals resemble a lotus. Lotuses grow in ponds, whereas the Brahmakamal grows on the slopes of the Himalayas (it is the state flower of Uttaranchal).There is a belief that the Brahmakamal should be gifted, and not bought in the market. To grow the plant, a leaf is planted in the soil (and not a seedling or stem). This leaf then multiplies and becomes a plant to a height of about 4 to 5 feet. The flower itself is around 4-5 inches in diameter and has a lovely fragrance.



Though many people believe this to be a Bramha Kamla, it is not so.
The real Brahma Kamal has a paper-like exterior, is greenish-yellow in colour and resembles a cabbage and blooms only at high altitude in Himalayas at low atmospheric temperature.
The Real Brahma Kamal

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