Erukku Plant (Calotropis gigantea) in Hinduism!(Post No.3216)


Arka/Erukku:-Picture taken from wikipedia;thanks

Complied by London Swaminathan

Date: 3 October 2016

Time uploaded in London: 20-51

Post No.3216

Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.




Tamils are very familiar with this Erukkam Pu (Calotropis gigantea)  plant because it is the most sought after plant during Ganesh Chaturthy. No other day they use it to worship god. It grows on its own in dilapidated building sites and road side bushes.


There is no reference to Lord Ganesh in Sangam Tamil literature (except an appendix verse in Tiru Murukaatrup padai). Neither Kalidasa nor the Tamil saint Manikkavasagar mentioned Ganesh, because they lived in the early centuries of common era or before that. But Tamils must have known Lord Ganesh because Kapilar mentioned Erukku and grass for gods in verse 106 of Purananuru. Both these are offered to Lord Ganesh only in Tamil Nadu and the very name Kapila is the one of the important 16 names of Lord Ganapathy.

Erukkam pu is offered to Lord Siva in certain parts of India. Maharashtrians also use it as one of the five plants (Pancha Pallava).


Adi parva of Mahabharata has a reference to this lant. Upamanya, disciple of seer Ayoda Dhaumya, became blind after eating the Erukkam leaves. This plant and its latex are poisonous.


Cambodians use it in funeral service. Probably this is the reason for an Indian curse, “May the Arka/Erukku grow at your door”.


Erukku Marriage

A brahmin marries second wife when his first wife is dead or sick or separated. But he is very superstitious about marrying a third wife. If he marries for the third time, it is believed that she will become a widow.  To avoid this, he marries the arka (Erukku) plant. Indians believe that this is the oldest plant. After marrying himself to the plant and goes for a new wife, who will be his fourth wife. The bridegroom will go to the place where the Erukku grows, with a friend and a priest, on an auspicious day. The accompanying friend acts like the father in law and the plant is addressed with Mantras. After the marriage the plant is cut down.


The plant is named Arka in Sanskrit which is one of the names of the sun. The plant is supposed to catch some property from the sun. Some people used to apply the leaves to their foreheads when the sun is in a certain position. A person suffering from some illness ties a lock of his hair or a rag from his clothing on to the plant, and it takes on his ailment and withers.

Tying rags to trees and marrying with the trees happen in other parts of the world as well.


Allegorical marriage of trees is practised in India. All the rituals that are performed in an actual wedding are done to the trees. Big feast is also given to everyone.  Aswatta Tree (peepal tree) is the symbol of Vishnu. First, Lord Vishnu is invoked into the tree. Some years later, a mate is chosen for the tree, and with all the pomp and ceremony of a Brahmin wedding,  a bride, in the shape of a neem tree, is brought and legally married to the Aswatta tree.

In the fruit growing districts of the country it is supposed to be extremely unlucky for the owner of a plantation, or his wife to tatse any of their own fruits until one of the trees has been legally married to another of a different species. An owner of a mango grove will marry one of his trees, preferably to a tamarind tree. If it is not possible, jasmine plant will be the bride.


Brahma from Thialand

The origin of these tree marriages centres around an old legend, where Brahma of the four faces, induced a certain prince Indramena to restore the temple of Jagannath that was buried under the sand. After some time, the king was able to discover the buried temple but could not restore it. Then Brahma allowed him to build a new temple in a new site. Brahma also told him that Vishnu would come to the king  in the shape of a tree, which would be washed by the sea. Then the trunk of an Aswatta tree was washed up on the shore. A wood carver Visvakarma,  was allowed to carve the figure of Krishna. Half way through it, the king peeped into the room , violating the stipulated condition and so the Viswakarma left it without completing it.



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