Sharon gardening at templeBrisbanite Sharon Bath, who volunteers at the Shree Laxminarayan Mandir in Burbank as a sevadar (volunteer), gets asked by the resident priest to create a new flower garden around the back of temple. She narrates her experience and describes some of the sacred plants used.

In January last year a friend invited me to attend the Lohri festival at Shree Laxminarayan Mandir (Hindu Temple) at Burbank in Brisbane. The atmosphere that evening was extraordinary — warm and uplifting, and I felt blissfully happy. Later when lining up for the delicious vegetarian food, I noticed the garden needed some care. Wasting no time, I was with Subash Chand, the committee president, volunteering to tend to the garden. I started my garden seva at the temple the following week.

The resident priest, Aacharya Harihar Adhikari Shastri Ji is a very sincere and devoted soul. He was pleased with my initial garden seva and asked me if I could create a new flower garden in a crescent shape around the back of the temple. The work proceeded quickly; the grass was dug up and flowers and tulsi were planted. Some temple devotees offered their help along the way. I remember at one stage the ground was very hard, and just as I wondered, “How can I possibly dig in this?” some young people (originally from Gujrat) turned up and offered their services. I met people from all parts of India, Nepal, and Fiji, and everyone was so welcoming and friendly. I must add that we had some really interesting discussions.

In my heart, I wanted to finish the garden before the Shivratri festival. I experienced many a sweet moments in the lead up to this extremely sacred time. The temple’s atmosphere was very pure and I thoroughly enjoyed working there; to do seva at a place of worship is truly a great privilege. Devotees from the temple and friends donated garden tools as well as cow manure and gypsum to break up the clay and soil. All this was rather encouraging. I had in mind to plant flowers and plants that were sacred to the divine, like tulsi. As their growth went on, I was actually in awe of how well the flowers and tulsi grew. Each day Pundit Ji lovingly watered the tulsi and flower beds during the dry hot summer months that seemed to go on forever.

My passion for growing sacred plants was one of the reasons I volunteered at the temple. I donated hundreds of home-grown tulsi plants and many other plants too. As I wanted, the garden was completed for Shivratri, and then I expanded the garden bed once again; this work was finished around Navratri. During Navratri two beautiful garlands made from temple-grown flowers were offered to Goddess Durga and Lord Ganesh. Ram Naumi was celebrated in grand style at Shree Laxminarayan Mandir.

 Flowers planted in the new garden at Shree Laxminarayan Mandir

These were the flowers planted by me.

MarigoldMarigolds: These very popular flowers are used extensively for offerings and garland making. They are auspicious in all respects. Marigolds were sacred to the Aztecs, later they were offered to Lord Jesus’ Mother Mary – and named after her. The flowers were called Mary’s-gold because the early Christians offered golden flowers instead of gold coins to her altar. Marigolds are offered to Shree Laxmi, Lord Vishnu and Lord Ganesh. They are hardy flowers and come in a range of colours: copper red, yellow and orange. They are symbols of the sun and creativity. Marigolds will happily self-seed.

 Zinnias: The colours of zinnia flowers come in bright combinations that Indian people are not afraid to mix: hot pink, orange, yellow and white. Zinnias are grown as annuals, they are an easy flower to grow in Brisbane, and they will put up with hot sun, and readily self-seed. Zinnias come in two sizes a miniature variety and a larger variety. Originally they are from North and South America and Mexico.

 Petunias: These flowers are originally from South America. They come in many attractive colours, deep purple, blue, red, and pink and many other shades. There is also a striped variety. They will put up with hot and harsh conditions. Shree Laxmi is said to love all these bright, attractive colours.

 Madagascar or Rosy Periwinkles: These sweet flowers are a charming sight, most commonly they come in shades of pink. There are two white varieties planted at the temple, along with red and pink shades. Periwinkles are an easy to grow evergreen plant; however they tend to look a little sad in cold weather. Rosy periwinkles will happily self-seed and will even take over your garden if you let them. The hot pink rosy periwinkles blend nicely with yellow, orange and rusty red marigolds.

 Salvia: We have a few varieties of salvia planted at the temple. Salvias are easy to grow in Brisbane. Their blooms are long-lasting and will attract bees and butterflies. Salvias enjoy a sunny spot in the garden. The colours of salvias planted at the temple are red for Mahadevi and blue for Lord Krishna.

 Tulsi: Tulsi is beloved of Lord Vishnu; the holiest of all plants and where Tulsi plants are grown it is known as Vrindavan (Grove of Tulsi). Going to such a place is true pilgrimage. Every part of the Tulsi plant is sacred. Pundit Ji loves Shyama Tulsi so we have planted several; if you go by there, you may notice that there are two types of Shyama Tulsi planted in the temple garden. Along with the green Krishna Tulsi and Rama Tulsi too. There is also a wild Tulsi growing called Vana Tulsi, this Tulsi is not used for worship, however it is used in Ayurveda and called “the Mother medicine of Nature”.

 Jasmine: Jasmine is the Queen of flowers. There are a variety of jasmines planted at the temple, both single flowers and double flowers. Along with a baby water jasmine (jasmine religiosa) which a small tree often grown at temples. Lord Vishnu likes the sweet white, fragrant blossoms and they are also offered to Lord Shiva. In fact jasmine flowers are offered to all the Deities. Jasmine grows well in Brisbane, they are generous bloomers and have a lovely perfume. White flowers look charming with the backdrop of a dark sky, stars and moonlight and in years to come when one walks around the temple in the evening the fragrance of jasmine will fill the air at Shree Laxminarayan Mandir.

For more information about Shree Laxminarayan Mandir: http://www.laxminarayan.com.au/

 As their growth went on, I was actually in awe of how well the flowers and tulsi grew. Each day Pundit Ji lovingly watered the tulsi and flower beds during the dry hot summer months that seemed to go on forever.

The flower sweetens the air with its perfume;

Yet its last service is to offer itself to thee. — Rabindranath Tagore

Some guidelines for the use of plants in worship:

  1. Always express gratitude to the plant. You may repeat a mantra while plucking its bloom.
  2. Flower buds should not be offered. Buds of champa and lotus are two exceptions.
  3. Flowers found on the ground should not be offered. There are two exceptions, fallen Parijataflowers (coral jasmine) and Bakula flowers (Elengi tree); these may be offered.
  4. 4. Pick the flowers after your bath and before sunset. Never pick a flower at night.
  5. 5. Never offer stale flowers, or flowers eaten by insects or smelt (enjoyed) by anyone.
  6. Red flowers are preferable for worshipping the Goddess, however in the case of roses, lotus and kaner(oleander flowers) all colours are all considered to be of equal value.
  7. Fragrant Screw Pine and Champa are not offered to Lord Shiva. Ketaki flowers and Tulsi leaves are not offered to Lord Ganesh. Poisonous plants are not offered to Lord Vishnu.

Response from resident temple priest after giving his blessings for the publication of this article

Sharon Ji,

For what you did for the Mandir including planting the flowers with great seva bhavna I hope God will give you everything that you wish for, that’s the only thing I pray for you. Thanks.

Aacharya Harihar Adhikari Shastri