INDIA: On the Frangipani•Plumeria

A ccording to the Hindus, Buddhists and the Muslims, the tree is an emblem of immortality, because of its extraordinary capacity of continuing to produce flowers and leaves even after it has been uprooted. For this reason the tree is frequently planted near temples by the Hindus and the Buddhists. The Muslims plant it near the graveyards, where daily, the fresh creamy blossoms fall upon the tombs. The flowers are offered at the temples by the Hindus and Buddhists.

PLUMERIA ACUTIFOLIA

Family Apocynaceae
Hindi: Champa
English: Temple tree, Pagoda tree, Frangipani

The Latin name of the plant is derived from a legend: Plumeria, a Frenchman in search of means of getting rich quickly. A sooth Sayer once told him to look for a tree whose flowers were the color of a frail new moon; whose fragrance overwhelmed the soul at night and which grew near the graveyards and temples. Plumeria traveled far and wide in search of such a tree and finally reached India, where on making inquiries about such a tree, he was advised to go to a certain temple in South India at mid-night on a full moon night and when the scent of the flowers would steal over the garden, shake the tree and it would shed gold coins in plenty.

Plumeria did as he was advised. He shook the branches of the tree and soon the flowers fell in a heap, glistening like gold coins in the moonlight and the sweet scent of the flowers wafted his thoughts to heaven. He then realized the wisdom of real riches in life: the beauty of sweet smelling flowers; the moonlit nights; the immortal skies. So he gave up the idea of amassing earthly riches.

Here the official story:

The name, Frangipani, comes from the Italian nobleman, Marquis Frangipani, who created a perfume used to scent gloves in the 16th century. When the frangipani flower was discovered its natural perfume reminded people of the scented gloves, and so the flower was called frangipani. Another version has it that the name, frangipani, is from the French frangipanier which is a type of coagulated milk that the Plumeria milk resembles.

The name, Plumeria, is attributed to Charles Plumier, a 17th Century French botanist who travelled to the New World documenting many plant and animal species, although according to author Peter Loewer (The Evening Garden: Flowers and Fragrance from Dusk Till Dawn; Timber Press, 2002) Plumier was not the first to describe Plumeria. That honor goes to Francisco de Mendoza, a Spanish priest who did so in 1522.

In the dialect of Kannada, spoken in the Old Mysore region of Karnataka of southern India, the flower is called Devaga Nagale. The local people use a cream colored plumeria in weddings. The groom and bride exchange plumeria garlands at the wedding. It is alternatively called devaganagalu or devakanagalu (God’s Plumeria).

Frangipani pattern, Mughal and Rajput style, on harem window. Amer Fort, Rajasthan. India.

The Champa tree in flower is a favorite motif in temple and non religious sculpture, floral ornaments are often Champa flowers. Frangipani is used on jewellery too.

In Hindu culture, the flower means also loyalty. Hindu women put a flower in their hair on their wedding days to show their loyalty to their husbands.

Frangipani- Use

*essential oil –  cures infections, digestive diseases and is used as anti-inflammatory

*Warming oils –  such as those from frangipani are said to have a calming influence on those suffering from fear, anxiety, insomnia or tremors, according to the principles of Ayurveda.

*leaves –  used as poultices (a healing wrap) for bruises and ulcers.

*latex (sap)–  used as a liniment for rheumatism.

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REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING