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A kalash is a common sight in the Indian household, at the altar. Any auspicious function has the kalash in place too.

What is a kalash?

An earthen or brass pot is a pot with an opening at one end and is blocked to hold things, usually water. A pot is empty, but has the potential to contain many a thing! The pot thus represents the inert body, which when filled with the water of wisdom becomes a fully functioning body, capable of fulfilling life’s needs!

A Kalash is a pot which contains water, on which a few sprigs of mango leaves are placed at the mouth and finally a full coconut also placed, with its head into the mouth and the conical part of the coconut springing out. Sometimes, this coconut is placed on a cloth containing rice. A pot is tied with a thread across its length and breath to form   small diamond shaped pattern.

The Poornakumbha

The kumbha (pot) when filled with rice representing fertility and prosperity is called the poorna kumbha, signifies completeness. It also could mean that water and food that are needed to nourish our body.

It is decorated with a symbol of swastika and filled with water too. The ‘swastika’ a Sanskrit word literally translates as swasti meaning the well-being of all and ‘ka’ meaning symbol. The swastika symbol that looks alike from all directions, also represents the Sun-the life giver. When portrayed on a pot of water, the kalash automatically symbolizes power, the water being the water of wisdom.

Water means prosperity, wisdom and divine consciousness, as it is the waters of the seas that brings down the rain, plants need water, and it is in the seas that in days of yore, people conducted trades. A ship laden with goods, even today is considered a fortunate symbol. Thus, the kalash with water in it and the swastika symbol decorated outside symbolizes the importance of both sun and rains for a good yield of crops! The coconut placed at the mouth of the kalash represents the vegetation that grows with the help of sunlight and water. Although some kalash contain a lotus flower, most have a coconut.

Numerous coconut trees dot the sea-shore and coastal areas are incomplete without these trees. Coconut also known as the Kalpa Vruksha is a tree whose every part is used by humans. Tender coconut water is as sweet as nectar to the parched throat and the shells in ancient days were used to produce fire. The leaves are still used to cover roofs in huts. The fine stalk in between the many leaves is collected and toed around to form a broom! Need there be any mention of the famed coconut oil? Little wonder then why coconut is placed at the mouth of the kalash!

Mango leaves

Many times, instead of mango leaves, the leaves of peepal tree (bodhi-ficus religiosa), jackfruit leaves are also placed. While the Bodhi or peepal tree is associated with Buddha’s enlightenment, the mango is a very sweet and rare fruit and jackfruit also a prosperous tree.

The thread across the pot

The length and breath of the poorna kumbha is tied with a thread, to form a diamond shaped pattern. This thread is the common thread of love that binds all beings across the world. A smile is a universal symbol of love, compassion, acceptance and happiness. A smile and love, is the thread binding the universe.

The wisdom of the four Vedas, the waters from holy rivers and the blessings of all deities are invoked when anything auspicious is undertaken. Thus, the couple united in wedlock, the young Brahmachari boy, whose spiritual journey begins with the tying of the sacred thread on his torso, the woman who is blessed for the smooth delivery of her progeny and the family that enters into a brand new house, all place the Kalash, seeking the wisdom of the waters, the fertility and prosperity of the leaves and rice, the omnipotence of the coconut, well-being of the swastika and the love that binds all. 


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