Feature Article

Karthigaipoo declared as National flower of Eelam Tamils

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 14 April 2004, 01:10 GMT]
"Karthigaipoo" or Gloriosa Lily (Botanical name - Liliaceae Glory lily or Gloriosa superba), which has the spectrum of colors contained in the Tamil Eelam national flag and which in November, the month of Heroes day celebrations, ubiquitously spreads, sprouts new shoots and blooms throughout the NorthEast, has been proclaimed the official national flower of Eelam Tamils. Reliable sources from Vanni said that the Karthigaipoo was designated as Tamil Eelam National flower by the LTTE administration during the Great Heros rememberence week in November 2003.

National flower

The administrative officials of NorthEast have requested the residents to wear the national flower on all occassions of national significance. They also urge everyone to grow the Karthigai vine in private homes, public places, business premises, educational institutions and other places in NorthEast.

The Karthigai flower changes colors and therefore described by two tamil names: Ven-Karnthal (white), and Chenk-Karnthal (Red). The petals are reflexed back at the tip and wavy edged. After full bloom the flower will remain fresh for seven days. Colors of the petals change from inital green to whitish yellow to yellow, then reddish yellow to scarlet, fading to red.

When the tuber is split, the ones with shoots are called Aan-Karnthal (male), and ones without are called Penn-Karnathal (female).

The tubers are used in Ayurvedic and Unani practices. The poison, colchicine, present in the tuber is the primary ingredient in the medicinal use of the plant. Colchicine is used in Western medicine also but the usage is different. In ayurvedic system a paste of the tuber is applied for skin disorders such as warts or blackheads and also for scorpian bites. It is poisonous if directly ingested.

This flowering vine which blooms in the month of November is found in India, China, Malayan Peninsula and in parts of Africa besides NorthEast of Sri Lanka.

Karthigaipoo has several names in Tamil. Because of its flame like appearance the flower is also called 'Agnisalam.' Because the tuber resembles a plowshare in appearance it is called 'Kalappai' and also 'Ilaangilee.' Because the tips of the leaves appear curled it is also called 'Thalai-surilee.' Since the leaves curl and grasp to climb it is also called 'Patee.' Because of its curling grasp it is called 'Th-ontri.' In indigenous medicine it is called 'Ven-thontri.'

Flowers distinctively symbolize nation states. States traditionally declare flowers, which are inextricably intertwined with their lore, culture and ethos, as national emblems and honor and protect them just like the respective nations' flag.

The tradition of flowers representing nations of the world has been in vogue since Vedic times. Judeo-Christian Old Testament Book "Song of Solomon" says that lotus and blue water lily represented ancient Egypt.

Flowers play a part not only in the symbolic function of a State but also in the religious beliefs of the people.

In the United States of America, each State has a flower declared as the State flower.

Hindus and Buddhists use flowers during worship. According to Islamic legend florescent white roses lined Mohamed's route to Heaven as a reflection of happiness. A Tamil poet, Arivumathi, has noted that the flower of ancient Tamil's War God, Murugan, was Karthigai flower.

In classical Greece the mastwood flower not only was offered to the God Apollo but also was the flower of choice in honoring the learned. The olive was not only the tree of the Goddess of Athens but also was used to honor athletes and warriors who had displayed bravery in the battlefield. Romans crowned their illustrious generals with wreaths fashioned out of the leaves and flowers of the scarlet exora.

Ancient Tamil kings each had a favorite flower which he adopted as his own. For the Chola's it was the ficus glomarata ("Aththipoo"), the Chera's, the Palmyrah flower, the Pandyas, the Margosa flower, which in each case was the Kingdom's flower. In "Tamil Civilization and Culture," Thadchinamoorthy mentions that these kings wore only garlands made of each one's flower on his way to war. He further mentions that smaller sovereigns also had their own emblematic flower garlands and that the more valiant of the Tamil chieftains, Aai Andiran, wore mastwood flower garlands of Karnthal, the traditional Tamil name for Karthigai.

Tamil National Flower
Tamil Eelam National Flower

Tamil Eelam National Flower
Tamil Eelam National Flower

Dimensions of flower, leaves:
The vine's stem is soft and weak. The tips of the leaves are long and curly, and grasp adjacent vegetation for support and grow to a height of 10 to 20 feet. New shoots grow out of tuber in the ground. Tuber is normally about 6" to 12" long and 1" to 1.5" thick. Each of the tuber's pit sprouts a new shoot. The leaves have no petioles. The leaves are between 3" and 6" long and 0.75" to 1.75" wide and can be in the form of alternate rows or rows in opposition. If a node fails to sprout leaves these could have a circular form.

The flowers are large. They form individually at the point where the petiole meets the stem or at the end of the branch where because of the cluster of leaves they appear in inflorescence. The large (6-7 cm Long) six petal flowers, each of which look like a flame in a dish bloom from September to January. The pedicel is 3 to 6" long. The petals measure 2.5" long and 0.3" to 0.5" wide. Filaments are 6", anthers 1.5" to 1.75" and the stigma 0.5" and can turn in different directions. The ovary has 3 chambers; the stylus is 2" long and is bent in one direction.


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