Bandhuka

पर्याप्तं ते पवनचलितैर् अङ्गरागं परागैः

स्थाने कुर्युस्समसमुदयाद्बन्धवो बन्धुजीवाः।

येनान्विष्यचलतनयापादलाक्षानुषक्तं

चूडाचन्द्रं पुरविजयिनः स्वर्णदीपेन पूर्णम्॥

paryāptam te pavana-calitaiḥ aṅga-rāgam parāgaiḥ

sthāne kuryuḥ sama-samudayāt bandhavaḥ bandhu-jīvāḥ |

yena anviṣyasi a-cala-tanayā-pāda-lākṣā-anuṣaktam

cūḍā-candram pura-vijayinaḥ svarṇadī-phena-pūrṇam ||

The bandhujīva trees will powder you all over with red pollen dislodged by the wind, and appropriately so, as they are relatives of yours – they blossom at the very time you set off. Once you’ve been anointed you’ll look like the moon on Śiva’s head, smeared with the lac of Parvatī’s feet and filled with Gaṅgā’s foam.

1.12 – Haṃsasandeśa, Vedānta Deśika (the ‘you’ referred to is a white swan, a rājahaṃsa, who is to carry Rāma’s message to the imprisoned Sītā)

The bandhūka or bandhujīva has a bright red flower that is the default standard of comparison, along with the bimba (a small, and popular, vegetable that turns from green to red when very ripe), for a lady’s lips – the lower one in particular.  At times, the flower plays a more active role – eclipsing, along with the white mālatī, the moonshine of women’s bright-teethed smiles in the Ṛtusaṃhāra, and rivalling the lak-smeared lip of the dancing gopikā in the Kirātārjunīya whose forehead it adorns.

The bandhūka, though, is also an important part of śarad.  In the Ṛtusaṃhāra the departing śarad entrusts each of her best aspects to women; the blush of the bandhūka flower of course is deposited in their lower lips.  And at times, the bandhūka forms the lower lip of Ṥarad herself.

Monier Williams notes that the flower opens at midday – hence the synonym madhyāhnika (‘the noon flower’) – and withers the next morning.  Oddly though this doesn’t seem to have been picked up by the poets – who have an extravaganza with the day-blooming lotus and night-blooming lily – at least not in the kāvya that I have read.

Names

The Amarakośa lists only raktaka (‘the red one’) and bandhujīvaka as synonyms.  The literal meaning of bandhujīva(ka) is ‘one who lives with his kin’.  The word ‘bandhu’ which refers to a friend or kinsman can also refer to this plant – and the name andhūka is derived from this – hence the word-play in the verse at the top of this post with bandhavaḥ (the bahuvacana or plural of bandhu).  Does this refer to a tendency of the bandhūka to grow in clusters?  The Pandanus description specifically notes that it grows singly or in pairs.  It is not much found in the South and the one plant I have seen was indeed growing alone.

Apart from the synonym madhyāhnika, the only other Sanskrit name seems to be ‘arka-vallabha’ – lover of the sun – which we may imagine has something to do with its tendency to flower at midday.

Modern Indian names include:

–          Hindi – gul dupahariyā, dopahariyā, gojuniyāṃ

–          Marathi – dupārī

–          Bengali – bandhūka

–          Gujarati – beporiyo

–          Tamil: uccittilakam

–          Mal: uccamalari

In English it is known as the noon plant, a direct translation of madhyāhnika, and its botanical name is Pentapetes phoenicea.

Botanical Description

The Pandanus database of Indian plants describes it as:

An annual herb, 60 – 150 cm high, growing in marshy and wet places in north-western India, Bengal and Gujarat, leaves lanceolate, serrate, flowers pink or red, solitary or in pairs, fruits subglobose capsules

6 Responses to “Bandhuka”


  1. 1 Bhalchandra Pujari November 6, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Very informative post.
    However I may like to point out that the marathi name “Dupari” is for the plant Lesser Mallow white (Hibiscus hirtus). After little search I found that that the marathi name for Bandhuka is tAmbari-dupaari (तांबरीदुपारी).

    Thanks again for the post.

    • 2 Venetia Ansell February 23, 2011 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks very much. it seems to be difficult to correctly identify each flower in each language. i wish there was a comprehensive project to compile this data…

  2. 3 asha December 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    where we get this bandhuka flowers

  3. 4 sivan goren June 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Dear Venetia, it’s been a long time… thanks for this. Just wanted to say that in the Manipravalam poem Unniyati caritam, the bandhuka is compared to the lip of a man — The author of the poem himself, Damodara Chakyar.

    • 5 Venetia Ansell June 14, 2014 at 9:34 am

      Thanks Sivan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before. the notions of female and male beauty, at least as per sanskrit kavya, do seem to be less distinct than they are in modern-day western culture, where likening a man’s – as opposed to a woman’s – lips to a flower would be unusual. i wonder though if the standard object of comparison for a woman’s lips – the bimba fruit – is used in kavya with regard to men. I can’t remember any particular instance but I know that many standard female beauty marks – like the triple wrinkle on the stomach – can also be used for men.


  1. 1 Seasonal Poetry « Sanskrit Literature Trackback on December 3, 2010 at 4:57 pm

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