The Shirish Flower and a Sanskrit Verse

Kathmandu is covered in trees bearing beautiful lavender flowers.  I asked some people what they are called, and learned that the name is the shirish flower.

I recalled a verse from Kalidāsa’s Kumārasaṃbhavam when Pārvatī’s mother, Menā, comes down to convince her daughter to give up practicing austerities, and come home.  Why should Pārvatī chase after Śiva when there are so many eligible bachelor gods hanging around in her hometown?  The verse culminates by comparing Pārvatī’s body to the delicate śirīśa flower.  Now I have a mental image for this beautiful verse.

At home too there are much-sought after gods

Ah my child, such penance is alien

To your body.

A śirīśa flower cannot sustain

The delicate alighting of a bee

Let alone that of a bird!

manīṣitāḥ santi gṛhe ’pi devatās

tapaḥ kva vatse kva ca tāvakaṃ vapuḥ |

padaṃ saheta bhramarasya pelavaṃ

śirīśapuṣpaṃ na punaḥ patatriṇaḥ || 5.4 ||


3 comments on “The Shirish Flower and a Sanskrit Verse

  1. Hi, can you post a closeup of the flowers? They look very different from what I know as śirīṣa: the silk tree or Albizia.

    • lutherji says:

      Hey Daniel,

      Actually a friend of mine already said that these flowers were probably not the Sanskrit sirishas. Here’s what he wrote:

      “Tried to comment on your blog, but I don’t think it worked. We have those in California, too, though – they’re called jacaranda. Wikipedia says they’re mainly native to the Americas, so I wonder if the meaning shifted at some point or if they were spread by birds.”

      Thanks David!

  2. I was also wondering if they were jacarandas. The colour is right but the leaves don’t look the way I think I should. But then, I’m not really familiar with the jacaranda. I’m quite sure they were introduced artificially to India (Nepal), as ornamental trees.

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