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Lotus flower cultivation is a refreshing sight for visitors to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand
During my tour of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand during April-May this year, lotus flower was seen being sold at the florist shops, vegetable shops and in floating markets. The flower has a great religious significance in these Buddhist countries and its sale is big business in the region.

Since the plant is so common in this region, it is one of the most refreshing sights that would not pass unnoticed while travelling and visiting various temples, lakes, parks, markets and country side ponds.

The lotus flowers in these Buddhist countries come in a range of sizes, colours and varieties depending on where they are grown. Those grown in lakes and ponds are big in size and those which are grown in small water bodies and big bowls are of smaller size. The most common colours of lotus flowers are red, pink, yellow, and white.

The lotus is called 'bua' in Thai language. Three kinds of lotus flowers or buas are common. The first is, bua luang or pathum (Nelumbo nucifera), which is the common variety of the lotus; second is, bua sai or ubon (Nymphaea lotus) or water-lily whose leaves float on the water surface and its stem being edible; and thirdly, fragrant bua kradong (Victoria sp.), whose floating huge round leaves turn upwards at the edges.

Lotus flowers as aquatic plants that represent both beauty, purity and values, and they are available in a range of sizes and colors in the three tropical countries of my recent visit. The lotus occupies a very special place in Thailand since it is the traditional flower of Buddhism.

The legend in Thailand is that Lord Buddha was able to walk on his birth and when he took his first seven steps in this mortal world, lotus blooms opened up from underneath to support his tender feet.

In murals, paintings and Buddhist temples in these countries, Buddha is portrayed with one or more lotus flowers beneath him. Lotus is seen as the Buddhist symbol of purity of the body, speech, and mind.

In these three countries, lotus plants are cultivated from seeds or tubers for both tropical and the perennial temperate varieties. However, the lotus flowers of perennial varieties go dormant during the cooler months and re-shoot in spring.

The usual offering in a Buddhist temple here consists of a candle, a lotus and three incense sticks. The three incense sticks represent Buddha, his teachings and the monastic order. These offerings can be brought with you or purchased at the temple or wat.

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