According to Buddhist legend, the Udumbara flower, also known as Youtan Poluo, blooms once every 3,000 years. Its name in Sanskrit translates to an auspicious flower from heaven. Such a cluster of tiny, white flowers was found in the home of a Chinese nun, in of all places, under her washing machine!
This unique bloom measures just one millimeter in diameter. When Miao Wei, aged 50, was cleaning her home, she first believed the tiny stems were worm eggs, as the pattern the eggs form is similar to that of a flower, and the shape is used for divination in Asian fortune telling.
Within the span of barely a day, however, the stems had blossomed into 18 fragrant flowers.
Steeped in legend, the Udumbara tree is known as a “strangling fig” because it grows parasitically on the branches of a host tree. The flowers from the tree are encased within the fruit and hidden from view, which is generally the case with all figs.
Because of its clandestine nature, a Buddhist legend evolved around the flower, relegating its appearance to every 3000 years and explaining the lack of a visual flower by declaring it a symbol of rare events.
Allusions to this symbolism can be found in Buddhist texts such as Theravada and the Lotus Sutra. Some claim the appearance of the Udumbara flower signals the imminent birth of a king.
The sudden appearance of these rare flowers is the stuff of legends. Consider the story of the Youtan Polu blooming on steel in a Chinese vegetable garden.
Although a picture is worth a thousand words as the old saying goes, ultimately it is personal belief that keeps this legend alive.
Is it based on truth?
Who’s to say?
No one from 3,000 years ago is around today to verify when the flower last bloomed but then again, does that really matter?
What do YOU think about this?