Patala

The pāṭala is another essential grīṣma flower, used to create garlands that hang around women’s necks to complement their śirīṣa earrings and mallikā-woven hair.  Summer breezes are laced with the scent of its freshly-bloomed flowers:

दलितकोमलपाटलकुड्मले निजवधूश्वसितानुविधायिनि।

मरुति वाति विलासिभिरुन्मदभ्रमदलौ मदलौल्यमुपाददे॥

As the wind blows, breaking the buds of the soft pāṭalas, posing as the breath of each man’s beloved, filled with bees wandering drunk on nectar, lovers become restless with passion.

6.23, Shishupālavadha, Māgha

Names

The Amarakośa lists several names for this tree: pātali, pātala, amoghā, kācasthālī, phaleruhā, kṛṣṇavṛṇtā and kuberākśī.  Pāṭala means pink and this is presumably how either the flower or the colour got its name.  Although by Pandanus’ definition the tree is more yellow than pink, another synonym in Monier Williams, tāmra-puṣpī (red-flowered), fits better with a pink colour.  The only other colour-related synonym is Kṛṣṇa-vṛṇtā, ‘the black-stalked one’.

Kāca-sthālī means something along the lines of ‘crystal goblet’.  Sthālī, which literally means a vessel, and kumbhī, ‘a small jar’, can also refer to the plant and seem to describe the flower’s shape. 

The synonym, amoghā (unerring), which is often used of arrows – Kāma’s included – may suggest its use in love’s battles although this idea isn’t found in the texts I have read.  Kuberākśī may refer to a link with the god of wealth, Kubera, and phaleruhā presumably refers to the fruit it produces. 

Two further names in Monier Williams, ali-vallabhā and ali-priyā, both of which mean ‘lover of the bee’, are supported by numerous references to bees being attracted by the flower’s scent.

Madhu-dūtī (spring’s messenger – a variation on madhu-duta which is used of the mango) can also refer to the pāṭala.  The flower does appear in the odd vasanta verse but is much more firmly rooted in grīṣma.

Both Monier Williams and Apte note that the name pāṭala can also refer to the red lodhra.  They both identify the plant as Bignonia suaveolens, but the Pandanus database lists it as Stereospermum colais, although it also mentions Bignonia suaveolens possibly as a secondary alternative identification.  Another source says it is the sterospermum suaveolens. Pandanus gives its English names as the Trumpet Flower Tree or the Yellow Snake Tree (because of its long thin curving fruits).

The photo at the top of this tree is of the stereospermum colais.

Modern Indian names for the tree include:

–          Hindi = pāchal, adhakapārī, ardhvibhedaka, pāḍal, pāral, parāl, pāṭar, pādrī

–          Marathi = pāḍal

–          Gujarati = pāḍal

–          Bengali = pārul-gaccha

–          Tamil = pātiri, pūmpātiri

–          Malayalam =  pūppātiri, pātiri

–          Hindi = parāl, pāṭar, pādrī

Botanical Description

The Pandanus database describes the Stereospermum colais thus:

A large deciduous tree growing throughout India, leaves imparipinnate, large, flowers yellow, tinged with red, fragrant, fruits capsules, cylindrical, seeds winged at each end.

6 Responses to “Patala”


  1. 1 Naresh June 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    ‘The only other colour-related synonym is Kṛṣṇa-vṛṇtā’

    the name kubErAkSi is also a colour related synonym. The VishnudharmOttara-purANa says that kubEra’s left eye is yellow/brown coloured. [pingala], hence the flower’s name.

    It appears that the pATala mostly refers to the red and pink varieties, while kubErAkSi and lOdhra refer to the brown / tawny flowered varieties.

    Nice post!

    • 2 Venetia Ansell June 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks Naresh I wasn’t aware of that synonym nor of the distinction between the pink and brown varieties. Interesting.

  2. 3 Ramachandran July 5, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Is this plant available in Tamil nadu?

  3. 4 gs_18 December 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Anyone growing this tree currently ?

  4. 5 Lakshmidhar Malaviya June 12, 2015 at 4:23 am

    Thanks for very useful information.
    Malaviya, Kyoto, Japan


  1. 1 Seasonal Poetry « Sanskrit Literature Trackback on October 23, 2010 at 1:54 pm

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