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If nature wanted you to drink coconut water in non-coastal areas it would not have grown coconuts in the coastal areas is a common naturopathic saying. Coconut water is the treatment for most humidity-related illness in coastal areas. It is sterile water and has been used in surgical practice as a sterile fluid. It is also used as a replacement for oral rehydration solution. Hence, because of its many uses it is regarded as the ‘Tree of Life’.
Coconut is one of the most common offerings in a temple, during weddings, festivals, when one acquires a new vehicle or in a Grihapravesh or the house warming ceremony etc. It is offered in all sacrificial fires whilst performing the Homa (fire rituals). The coconut is usually split and placed before the Lord and is later distributed as Prasadam. The fiber covering of the dried coconut is removed except for a tuft on the top.
The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a human being. The splitting of a coconut symbolizes the conquest of the ego. The outer covering represents the body, the juice within, one’s inner tendencies (vasanas) and the white kernel, the mind. One should be as firm as the outer shell of the coconut but the same time as soft like the inner fruit of the coconut.
A coconut or Sriphala (fruit of the gods) is the only fruit used to symbolize God while worshipping any deity. It is used in the making of a Purna-Kumbha, (‘purna’ = full, ‘kumbha’ = pot or kalash) an independent object of worship. The earthen pot full of water and with fresh mango leaves and a coconut on top is placed as the main deity or by the side of the deity before starting any Pooja. The pot symbolizes Mother Earth; water, the life-giver, the leaves, life (air) and the coconut, divine consciousness (space). All religious rituals start with the worship of the kalash with coconut as symbol of Lord Ganesha. The coconut is also worshipped as symbol of the Godhead – the three eyes symbolic of the eyes of Lord Shiva. (Trayambaka – Rudra). Sage Vishwamitra got the first coconut tree grown on this earth by the power of his tapa. Its hard shell inspires one to have tolerance and do hard work for attaining success.
The coconut also symbolizes selfless service. Every part of the tree – the trunk, leaves, fruit, coir etc. are used to make thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap etc.
Coconut water is used in the preparation of many ayurvedic drugs. The kernel is used to gain strength and improve eyesight. Its water is nourishing. Coconut oil is used to nourish the hair. It has glucose, phosphorous and carbohydrates. Germs cannot penetrate its hard kernel. Ancient Indian healers burnt its outer shell to prepare tooth powder, eyebrow creams and ointments for burns. Coconut milk is made by grating the endocarp and mixing it with warm water. This produces a thick, white liquid called coconut milk which is used extensively used in Asian cooking, for example, in curries. Coconut water from the unripe coconut, on the other hand, is drunk fresh as a refreshing drink.
Tender coconut water is used in the rituals of abhishek, since it is believed to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker.
On the auspicious occasion of Rakhi Purnima (Rakshabandhan), coconuts are thrown into the sea as offerings to Varuna, God of the Sea. In western India, this festival is called Nariyal Purnima (Coconut Full Moon).
The Chandogya Upanishad by Swami Krishnananda (78) talks about another quality of the coconut that has a spiritual resonance: “the coconut that is raw sticks to the shell. That is the condition of the bound soul. Consciousness sticks to the shell of this body. But in the case of the liberated soul, it is inside the body, no doubt, but is not sticking to the body, even as the dry coconut is not touching the shell. It makes a sound inside if we shake it. It is detached from the shell, though it is there tentatively. Even so, consciousness is not confined to the body, even though it is inside.”
In the Chidakasha Gita by Paramahansa Nityananda, the coconut tree is described as a state of meditation: “At another time all feeling comes to a standstill. Sometime the body becomes quite motionless like a coconut tree”.
Ganesha’s favorite food is made up of a sweet core of candied coconut pulp covered with a layer made of white flour. The insipid outer shell is said to represent the gross physical body, the sweet inside stands for the resplendent soul.
When the Asuras and the Devas churned the milky ocean, Lord Dhanwantri appeared bearing the pot of nectar, which blessed one with everlasting life. Thus, the kalasha also symbolizes immortality.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).