Do you know that the use of coconut as offering in prayers was to save human beings from getting slaughtered? Why do you think is the coconut offered in prayers in Puja rituals? It is not that someone just started the custom out of the blue or there is some superstition associated with it. Rather it has a strong and very sensible reason which helped to save perhaps tens of thousands of lives being sacrificed in the name of prayers. Apart from that the offering has a unique symbolic representation as well as we shall see below.
The coconut occupies a place of importance in Hindu puja rituals. There are due reasons for the coconut occupying a place of importance. The Sanskrit word for coconut is ‘Sriphala’ and is used to symbolize the almighty.
In India during all Pujas one of the most common offering made is that of a coconut. It is a part of rituals carried out during everything new and happy – weddings, new constructions, festivals, havans (homa). The coconut is broken and offered to the deity being worshiped and later on distributed as parsadam to the devotees.
Saviour of Human Lives
It is said that it was Adi Shankara, the guru responsible for bringing followers of Hinduism under one umbrella. It was suggested as an alternative for human sacrifice that was dismissed as having no relevance or spiritual sanction.
Why a Coconut?
It is quite interesting but if you notice carefully the coconut resembles the human head quite closely. While the coir represents human hair, the hard nut represents the skull, the water inside the shell represents the blood and the kernel represents mental space. There are some concepts that justify coconut acquiring a place of importance in our religious and spiritual life.
Coconut – akin to Human Ego
One of the most common concept associated with the coconut is that it represents the ego of a person. You cannot offer prayer to the gods when you ego is super strong. This is exactly why a person is made to break a coconut. This ensures that he or she surrenders his ego to the dieties before they begin the puja or the prayer. The coconut is the only fruit that looks like the head of a human being. The juice inside the coconut is considered to be the desire and vasana. The traditions say that unless you get rid of desires and ego you cannot really pray to the deities with all your heart and mind.
Coconut – a selfless bestower
The coconut tree is also known as the ” Kalpavriksha”. It is considered to be a tree that gives everything. While the leaves are used for thatching and covering enclosures, the kernel is a healthy food. Coconut water is unpolluted water that has excellent re-hydrating properties that can be consumed even during serious illness. Thirst quencher, a natural antibiotic can be applied on bruises and burns, the kernel can also be used as a fuel. Ayurveda, decorations, carvings, utensils, soap, oil can be used for a variety of things.
Coconut is a symbol of selfless service to the almighty. Each and every part of the coconut is of use to mankind. Nurturing a coconut tree does not require much effort. It can grow all on its own and serves the mankind in many ways.
Why is Coconut Broken?
I hope you found the concept interesting so far. There is theory that is used to answer why coconut is broken? Well when you lift a whole coconut you will see that it has three marks on one side. These three marks are considered to be the three eyes of Lord Shiva himself. This is why the fruit is used in almost all pujas.
It is said that coconut can help to full fill all the desires of the person worshipping it. You will often notice that the coconut is placed on a pot before puja is done. This is done as some consider the three marks on coconut as the marks of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. When you place the coconut the tridevs (3 Dieties) are requested to be a part of the puja. Unless these three gods become a part of the puja, no puja can be successful. They come and they bless your household. As long as the coconut is in the house these deities bless the household.
Actually we will study about Tridevs in a separate article but they represent the three forms of nature – creator, preserver and destroyer – which completes and continues the cycle of life.
This is why the coconut use in puja is kept for a year till the next puja comes. This coconut is never distributed as prasadam. It is offered to the flowing water along with the other things that were used in the puja.
Coconut as Prasadam
The coconut that is broken in temples can be given as prasadam. This is because the traditions believe that the coconut represents the head of a man. When it touches the idol of a lord it is purified. This when taken as prasad purifies the mind of the person who is accepting it as prasad. Coconut is also offered to the sea on purnima to seek blessing of the lords. Before you start a new car or a new factory always ensure that a coconut is broken.
Symbol of Purity and Selflessness
A symbol of vitality, fertility and prosperity, the coconut has much to offer in a traditional environment. The modern mind does not want to follow traditions blindly. Basic curiosity prompts men to question the how and why and seek effective explanations and that is why we thought to write this article explaining the concepts to you.
Hence we see that the offering of the coconut had a special significance at the time the custom was made and it has several symbolic representations as well. Such customs and traditions were meant to remind the common people who did not find time for deeper study of the Vedas and scriptures that they need to keep diving within as well, in search of the creator. So hopefully you now realize the importance of offering coconut in Hindu puja rituals.