Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Snail Martyrs and Dragon Fruit

There are two bits of information that I have been meaning to share -- both totally amazing to me.

The first is about the curls on the Buddha's head -- some of you will know immediately what I mean -- you know, the small round bumps that are often shown covering the head of a statue of the Buddha in a seated meditation pose. I probably first saw an image of the Buddha (I mean in a conscious sense) when I was a child of maybe 10 and I remember asking about the bumps. I was told they were "curls". Not much later, my parents and I went to Thailand, and we spent three years there. All that time and ever since, I have believed that those bumps were "curls" -- even though it always bothered me that such curls were in direct contrast to the very smooth skinned, straight-haired type of person the Enlightened One was in every other sense (and in all other representations of him). The curls were an anomaly that were not explained by any other phenomena.

Well -- and now I know the true story: the "curls" are actually meant to represent 108 snails!! They are known formally as "Snail Martyrs" and they climbed up onto the Buddha's head when they saw that he was in deep meditation under the burning sun, to offer him the protection of their little bodies. Isn't that beautiful? My opinion of snails has shot up a thousand-fold! You can read more about it here.

The second astounding new fragment of general truth is that a fruit I was introduced to in Singapore some years ago, by my friend and host there Ela Ghose, turns out to belong to that amazing flower known as the Night Blooming Cereus. The fruit is called Dragon Fruit. The reason I find it so amazing is in part because I was introduced to the flower in my sister's home in Pennsylvania in the US -- it's a weirdly beautiful bloom that flowers only at night, producing one huge (like maybe 10 inches across) display in an astonishingly theatrical manner. I mean, you can practically see the thing opening up and people sometimes come over for Night Blooming Cereus evenings!

No-one speaks about the flower as being a fruit-producer. It is usually admired just for itself. So it was entirely by chance, while browsing the net for something else (that exotic spider lily I featured on this blog some posts ago), I suddenly chanced upon this item about the NBC and its Dragon Fruit.

The second reason it so amazes me that fruit and flower belong to the same plant (a cactus. Very likely, the one that produces the fruit is a different subspecies to the creature that lives in my sister's home -- hers has never shown the slightest sign of productivity. Of course, the poor thing is never exposed to any wasps/moths or whatever it is that pollinates it) is that the NBC is native to the US, while the fruit is best known in Southeast Asia. I saw a few in a wonderful farmers market near Irvine, CA, where I visited last year. But it's not well known.

Okay and that's my show-and-tell for the month!


Heretic said...

Am so happy to read about those curls. Thanks! Show and tell was well worth it. :-)

Marginalien said...

Thanks, heretic! Glad the curls got through to you too.

Mir fayaz said...

i have read your book kleptomania, that book has been well written by you.and i liked the richness of the language in the book. but when i read your blog, i two posts one about the Buddhas curly hair and one about your memories about your father.unlike in the book i found in these posts language not so well premediated and rich. hard to beleive that these posts are from the same writer who has wrtitten Klemptomani.
meanwhile i too try to write sometimes. i write poems . can i send u some to comment on.]
it is my pleasure to communicate with a writer like you

Marginalien said...

Sorry to be a disappointing bloggist, mir fayaz!

ivangohome said...

Loved your story.. ❤