The Lotus flower’s beauty is undeniable but its importance in religion has made it a well-recognized symbol in Hindu, Buddhism and the ancient Egyptian religion. Ancient Egyptian artists created hieroglyphics featuring the flower. Many times, the hieroglyphics show an image of the lotus emerging from the primordial water, Nun, bringing forth the sun god. Also, the four sons of Horus are often depicted standing on a lotus flower with Osiris behind them. Buddha is often portrayed in art sitting on the lotus, as is the Hindu goddess of prosperity, Laxmi. There are also paintings portraying Lord Vishnu with a lotus growing from his navel. The God of creation, Brahma is emerging from the flower. The associations with other gods and goddesses in the Hindu religion shows an even greater importance of the lotus flower.
Though important in each religion, what the lotus symbolizes in each is different. To the Ancient Egyptians, the flower was a symbol of rebirth because of its withdrawal into the water at night and its emergence during the day. Because of this, the flower was also associated with the sun and symbolized creation. It was often used as a symbol of the unity of upper and lower Egypt by picturing the Lotus which was a symbol of lower Egypt intertwined with papyrus reeds, a symbol of upper Egypt. In the Hindu religion, the lotus represents many things including beauty, eternity, prosperity, spirituality and fertility. Because a lotus can emerge from muddy waters with its beauty unscathed, it symbolizes wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. In Hindu, it is believed people should be like the lotus flower. They should stand on their own without attachment and dedicate their lives to God without material things being a distraction. It is believed that the lotus holds the soul and it lives deep in the heart. It is something that humans strive to reach but can only be reached at a higher consciousness free of wealth and material things. In Buddhism, the lotus is seen as a symbol of rebirth, faithfulness, spiritual awakening and purity. Because the lotus emerges from the water clean, it is considered pure but this is also why it is a symbol of rebirth. Since it breaks through the surface every morning, it symbolizes enlightenment. The level of enlightenment is also symbolized by how open the lotus is. If it is closed, it represents the time before enlightenment. A partially opened bud means enlightenment is far away and a fully open bud means it is time for enlightenment. The color of the lotus flower also symbolizes things in Buddhism. A blue lotus represents the victory of the soul over wisdom and knowledge while white often called the womb of the world symbolizes being awakened, mental purity and spiritual perfection. The purple lotus represents mysticism. The pink lotus is the true lotus of Buddha while the red symbolizes love and compassion.
The importance of the lotus in religion is great and will continue with its symbolism in paintings, sculptures and in the religions themselves.