In Hinduism, coconuts are considered to be sattvic (pure and auspicious). The coconut in Sanskrit is referred to as Sriphala or “the God’s fruit”.
In India, one of the most common offerings in temples is coconut. coconut is also offered on occasions like weddings, festivals, use of a new vehicle, bridge, house, etc. It is offered in the sacrificial fire while the homa is performed. The coconut is broken and placed before the Lord. Later, it is distributed as Prasada.
The fiber coverage of the dried coconut is removed with the exception of a plume at the top. The marks on the coconut look like the head of a human being. The coconut is broken, symbolizing the breaking of the ego. The inner juice, which represents internal tendencies (vaasanas), is offered with the white grain: the spirit, for the Lord.
A mind so purified by the touch of the Lord is used as prasadam (a sacred gift). In the traditional abhisheka ritual done in all the temples and many houses, various materials are poured on divinity such as milk, curd, honey, tender coconut water, sandalwood paste, sacred ash etc. Each material has a specific meaning to grant certain benefits to the worshippers. The tender water of coconut is used in abhisheka rituals because it is thought to give spiritual growth to the seeker.
The coconut also symbolizes selfless service. Each part of the tree – the trunk, leaves, fruit, coir etc. – is used in countless ways such as thatched roofs, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap, etc. Take salty water from the land and convert it into fresh, nutritious water, especially beneficial for sick people. It is used in the preparation of many Ayurvedic medicines and other alternative medicinal systems.
It is even thought that the marks on the coconut represent Lord Shiva with three eyes and, therefore, it is considered a means of satisfying our desires.
Breaking Coconuts in Temples:
The outer shell is hard and symbolizes a person’s negativity and ego. The inner fruit symbolizes positive qualities. Therefore, breaking a coconut in a mandir is humbling yourself before God by breaking your ego.
Coconuts are an important offering in pujas, weddings, festivals and the beginning of any new occasions. They are also an integral part of Kalasha which is used in festivities and symbolizes creation.
Why Do We Offer Coconuts to God?
Coconut has great significance in India. It has religious and social connotations. One of the most common offerings in a temple is a coconut.
Different Names of Coconut:
Coconut is known as Narikela in Sanskrit. It is known as Shrifala, auspicious fruit. It is also known as Mahafala, great fruit which is to be offered to god.
Origin of Coconut:
We don’t find the reference of coconut in Vedic literature. Mainly the citations of coconut start appearing in the period of epic and puranas. It is originally from Indonesia and was brought to India around the 1st century.
When is it Used:
In India Coconut is used during various auspicious occasions, it is tied as torana at the door of homes during all auspicious functions, it is given to a bride before she leaves for her in-law’s place, it is also gifted to people when they visit one another. Coconut is very auspicious and the symbol of fertility. Hence it is said that a lady who wishes to get a child should plant a coconut tree or offer coconuts to gods or goddesses.
It is also used in occasions like weddings, festivals, the use of a new vehicle, bridge, house etc. A pot (kalasha) full of water, adorned with mango leaves and a coconut on top is worshipped on important occasions and used to receive revered guests.
It is offered in the sacrificial fire whilst performing homa. The coconut is broken and placed before the Lord. It is later distributed as Prasada. It is offered to please the Lord or to fulfill our desires.
In South India, coconut tree is considered auspicious like the neem tree or bilva tree in north India. People from South India believe that the one who destroys a coconut tree will himself get destroyed.
Coconut is revered as a symbol of a Brahmin hence it is advised not to remove the Shikha from it.
Why Coconut is offered to God:
There is a custom of placing coconut in front of god during all auspicious functions.
In ancient times there was a custom of offering a person to god. It still continues in the modern period too in some places. After this, due to the violence involved in the act, the practice was done away. And it was replaced by breaking or offering a coconut in lieu of a person. It is given instead of Narabali. Coconut is offered instead of the head.
The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a human being. The coconut is broken, symbolizing the breaking of the ego. Then in a later period, it became so prevalent and the custom of offering coconut became a regular part of worship.
Tender coconut water is used in abhisheka rituals and is believed to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker.