God’s Own Fruit
The brown fruit might be modest in appearance, but is a symbol of vitality, fertility and prosperity. It is the purest, the most ‘satvic’ fruit that can be offered to the Lord. The coconut represents the piety of the devotees, their prayers laid at His feet in pristine form. Coconut has a special significance in many of the Hindu rituals and has several symbolic representations as well.
The practice of offering coconut to Gods can be traced back to Adi Shankara. At that point of time, human and animal sacrifices were common in Hinduism. Adi Shankaracharya replaced this ritual with the offering of coconuts. The coconut was chosen as it resembles a human head. The coir outside is akin to the human hair, the hard shell is like a skull, the water inside resembles blood and the kernel represents the mental space.
The coconut is also associated with Lord Ganesha. At the onset of any auspicious task or a journey, devotees smash coconuts to invoke Ganesha as a prayer to remove all obstacles. They also break coconuts in temples and in front of idols in fulfillment of their vows. Breaking a coconut symbolizes smashing your ego and bowing before the almighty. The shell of ignorance and ego is smashed to give way to inner enlightenment, surrendering to Him with fervent devotion and love. The coconut is also used to represent the divine consciousness and is often displayed in a copper pot called a ‘kalash’ in many of the puja rituals. The marks on the coconut are also believed to represent the three eyes of Lord Shiva. Coconut flowers are auspicious symbols and are prominent at Hindu weddings. In tantric practices, coconuts are sometimes used as substitutes for human skulls.
Coconut has been and continues to be associated with many a mythological legends as well as rituals in Hinduism. Believed to be created by the Sage Vishwamitra, the fruit is an indispensable part of Hindu tradition and culture. The coconut also symbolizes selflessness. Every part of the tree – the trunk, leaves, fruit, coir etc. is useful for mankind in innumerable ways. The humble fruit has, over the ages, by the fervent beliefs of the devotees, metamorphosed into being the Gods’ favourite fruit and his purest offering.