New Edition of Rabindranath Lackhan’s “Plants of Religious Significance: A Hindu Perspective”

Plants of Religious Significance: The Hindu Perspective, by Rabindranath Lackhan from Trinidad and Tobago, aims to provide information about the plants and flowers used in Hindu rituals and pujas. Sri Lackhan wrote the first edition of the book while he was an undergraduate student at the University of the West Indies (UWI)-St. Augustine. Now, after many requests, he has published a revised edition of the book, trying to incorporate 25-years of new material.

He consulted with agencies such as the Caribbean Agricultural and Research Development Institute (CARDI) at UWI to update his material for the revised edition. He also reviewed Hindu texts like the Bhagavad Gita and Ramayan and consulted with pundit and psychologist Samsundar Parasram because he was intrigued by the meaning attached to specific plants associated with specific Hindu deities. He also wanted to unearth knowledge about how and why certain leaves and flowers were used in pujas. So he spoke to an expert in that area. He says, “I wanted to know why the paan leaves are placed on the bedi and then the mango leaves are used to pour water or milk.”

Regarding the inspiration for the book, the author explains, “I was landscaping the California Hindu Temple and after doing that and while at university, I began to research why I actually put down some of the plants around the temple. That’s how it developed. Besides the flowers, I then researched the entire spectrum of plants that are used by Hindus in worship; even from birth to death, the plants and flowers used in those ceremonies.”

The author explains that in their worship, Hindus use everything around them. The practice goes back to “the golden ages”, when there were a lot of plants and little concrete. “[Hindus] used the known to get to the unknown. [. . .] The Hindus try to use the environment to try to make some connection to God. They would go below the ficus religiosa and meditate, so it became a religious plant. The large crown [of the tree] would cool a body down and help one meditate better. We have basically brought along all those traditions with us from India although in India some of the worship is not done as we do it in Trinidad.”

Lackhan also emphasizes the importance of preserving the environment and he encourages people to propagate these ceremonial plants, especially those that will are slowly becoming extinct, adding that, already in some areas it has become a task to obtain once-commonplace plants, such as bamboo.

The book is available at leading bookstores and puja stores in Trinidad; it will soon be available through Amazon.

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