Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Brahmakamal blooms in Mumbai

- By A. Krishnan

Have you seen a Brahmakamal flower in full bloom? If you answered 'No' to that question, I wouldn't be surprised. When the Brahmakamal blooms each year, most Mumbaites are fast asleep!
This flower, named after Brahma, the God of Creation, blooms only for one night in the entire year, somewhere between July and September. The blooming lasts only for a few hours. This year, I was lucky - I had advance warning, and knew exactly when to show up with my camera for the blooming.

My interest in the Brahmakamal started in July, when I visited my aunt in Sion. She took me to her balcony, and showed me a plant with buds.

"This is the Brahmakamal", she said. "Don't you know the story of how Brahma emerged from Vishnu's navel in a lotus flower? We are lucky it is going to bloom in our house! See the buds?"

I peered over her shoulder, and saw a rather ordinary looking plant, about 4 feet tall. And yes, there were a few buds. I noticed one very strange thing - unlike other plants, these buds actually originated from the leaf of the plant.

Over coffee, I found out more about the Brahmakamal. She told me that the flower is considered sacred, and does not bloom in all homes. So people consider themselves lucky if they are able to witness this rare event, and perform pooja and aarti at the time of blooming. It is also considered to be a good omen and a sign of prosperity for the home.

I made up my mind to see this interesting flower. Over the next two weeks, I made several visits to her house, hoping that the buds would bloom...but they remained obstinately closed. Then one day, at 8:30 p.m., my aunt called me. "Come tonight, the buds have started to open!" I hurriedly finished my dinner and took my Canon Powershot A460 digital camera to catch a few pictures.

The bud beginning to open

Half-open phase - absolutely beautiful

Brahmakamal in full bloom

The whole room was filled with a lovely fragrance, and I was ecstatic to witness to this beautiful creation of the Almighty. If you look a little closer at the photo, you'll see the central white stamen. People believe that this stamen represents Lord Krishna, while the reddish brown stalks which you can see on the closed bud represent the 100 Kauravas from the Mahabharata.

The Brahmakamal is not a lotus at all, although its petals resemble a lotus. Lotuses grow in ponds, whereas the Brahmakamal grows on the slopes of the Himalayas (it is the state flower of Uttaranchal). The botanical name for this flower is Saussurea Obvallata. There is a belief that the Brahmakamal should be gifted, and not bought in the market. To grow the plant, a leaf is planted in the soil (and not a seedling or stem). This leaf then multiplies and becomes a plant to a height of about 4 to 5 feet. The flower itself is around 4-5 inches in diameter and has a lovely fragrance. But of course, you have to wait a whole year to smell that fragrance!

(Posted by Deepa on behalf of her uncle A. Krishnan. Edits by Deepa. Here's hoping the clan continues to produce more writers!)

Note (Oct 2): It turns out this flower is not the Brahmakamal but the Dutchman's Pipe. But Indians who worship it don't make these fine botanical differentiations! In the larger scheme of things, perhaps that is a better attitude?


Sunita Mohan said...

Hi Deepa! Surprisingly there was another blog which posted about this same plant recently. (See: )
Very quirky looking flower. The bud looks like something out of a science fiction movie!

Ravi Ramakantan said...

Hi! Krishnan,
What great pictures!
My compliments to the Chef!!

I had heard of your exploits with the Brahmakamal from your sister Radha. One thing lead to another and I ended up doing some R&D on this.

And that stuff is below:

The curator at the Byculla Zoo botanical gardens says "the Brahmakamal is found only in the Himalayas" and what they have in the Zoo gardens and in many places in Bombay is the "pseudo-Brahmakamal".which looks like and behaves like Brahmakamal.

I did not understand much of all this till I Googled

Here are the links.

So, the pseudo Vs real controversy is real. But, even if it is true, it in no way takes away credit from your splendid rendezvous with the BK. :-)

BTW, could you please posts the technical details of the camera and the settings? The black-night background is gorgeous!


Anonymous said...

Hi Ravi,

Thanks for your compliments. I will definitely look into the links you have sent me. The camera used is Canpon Powershot A460. No special settings have been used and a night background setting was used.

How do you know my sister Radha?

Ravi Ramakantan said...

>>The camera used is Canpon Powershot A460
Wow. That fooled me completely. Seeing the dark background, I had assumed you had used one of those good old analog SLRs on a tripod with several seconds exposure!! Amazing what these little digital fellows do - aren't they? I am Sony fan - the one have a DSC S 85 (4.1 MP - with full manual over-ride) about 4 years old. Cost a bomb then!

Radha and I were batch mates in school and following this Feb reunion, we have been in touch via e mail. BTW, my older brother R. Subrammanian (known as R1) was Jap's batchmate!!

DipG said...

Hi Krishnan,

Great pictures. I read this blog quite often and was surprised to see a post on BK same time when i am expecting BK bloom here half way around the world in Washington DC.
I fell in love with this plant around 18 years ago when i was just a 10 yr old kid. One of my dad's friend gave me a single leaf and asked me to plant it in a pot. At that time i was just amazed that the whole plant can grow from a single leaf. Anyways 3-4 years down the line we had our first flower and it was like love at first sight.

I have been in US for almost 9 years and started growing BK plant from a single leaf about 3 years ago. This month i am going to have the first flower on that plant. I am very excited about it. I will try to send you the link to the pictures.

Just thought i would share this with you. Here is more info. with the scientific name.

Priyanka Dalal said...

Your blog is really interesting!!
I came across it while searching for some pics on google, I love blogs on Mumbai.
I myself have one,
I dont get time to post enuff though...

Also I saw that you, your mom and daughter post on this, that is such a cool idea!! I was anyway thinking that my mom should get into blogging!!

Anonymous said...

This is really cool. I didn't know about the existence of this plant or flower.

A. Krishnan = Kichu mama?

annucool15 said...

love your blog, very simple and interesting

madraskaari said...

Nice. Thanks for that Mr.krishnan.

madraskaari said...

Nice. Thanks for that Mr.krishnan.

Anonymous said...

Hi ,
thank you for sharing the informations.


The Servis Of ULudag University Magazine.

by chat and sohbet

Anonymous said...

Thank you admin

Unknown said...

I have a Saussurea obvallata that was given to me by a friend that received it from a friend, LoL. His friend smuggled it through customs from Vietnam. I have a problem with it is growing such large heavy leaves I am propping them up. I am looking online to see how I am SUPPOSED to care for this plant. But I cannot find anything. Have you read how to care for this plant?

Saagar said...

The time when it grows and the place is all myth...
I stay in Vasai and I have 4 Saussurea obvallata i.e Brahma Kamal plants and they Flower all round the year however it only flowers on Pushyanakshatra..I dont know if you aware but its a auspicious day for Hindus.
There is something weird...
I have read that it grows only in Himalayas but I have them...Infact in my building there are 4 houses where it blooms

Anonymous said...

Hi Deepa & aishwarya
i came across this blog when i was looking for large flower pots for my roof garden (such as it is). lovely pictures and what a story to weave around it.
congrats on getting it to bloom.
arvind ( TCAAR +9820237155).
btw i am no longer with barclays. work for deutsche.

Unknown said...

Guys, I just hope you are not confusing Saussurea obvallata with Epiphyllum oxypetalu. But I think you are.

Unknown said...

Nice pictures. I just hope your not confusing Saussurea obvallata and Epiphyllum oxypetalum.

Anonymous said...


It was a Nice Picture.
I do have same plant since many years, but the plant had never bloomed till date.

Can u pls tell me what fertilizers do u use to put in soil, so that the flower will grow atleast this year on the plant. pls let me know.

Thanks for lovely information


Amit D.

Anonymous said...

Hey all !!@

Yesterday night Bramhakamal blooms at our house..And seriously the joy/feeling/prosperity can not be explained in words.

It is the most beautiful flower in the world. It is the sign of prosperity.

Yesterday night when the fregnance was everywhere at home. I thought for a while. We are in 21st century, living in advance science, there must be something by which we should be able to store the that wonderful fregnance.

Thanks..with Regards - Aaditya

Anonymous said...

This is definitely not a Brahma Kamal. Its an orchid. Also sometimes referred to as 'Star of Bethlehem'

SmestarZ said...

We have a Brahma kamal at your place too, it has been flowering for 3 years now, the recent flowering was 3 days ago, it gave 4 flowers, on the day of HARTALKA

do let me know if you want me to send you some pics


Unknown said...

hey...i am mehak from mumbai...last nite dere bloomed a brahma kamal at my place was beautiful..!!

bythewindowsill said...

lovely post, just stumbled on it.
cheers man!
~window siller

vemurisreekrishna said...

I saw your blog.It was sent to me by my cousin.I have two Pots with the Brahmakamalam plants. I brought a small leaf from Joshimath four years ago. This year it bloomed 15 flowers two months back when there were good rains. This month on 13-11-2010 it bloomed 5 flowers. I photographed the day to day progress and prepared a file Bud to bloom.I can forward them to you if you wish.
My email id in hyderabad is

Rajendra Shinde said...

Today, on 15th dec 2010, at 10.30 pm, Epiphylum (So called Bramhakamal)has flowered at our home! What a sight!
Dr. Rajendra Shinde, St. Xavier's. Mumbai.

Alsum kajbaje said...

Today on 15th dec 2010 I had an opportunity to see brahmkamal blooming and take pictures of it. It is really a pleasure and all of us enjoyed it a lot.
Alsum subhash

simplesouls said...

hi there. i'm from philippines. My sister and my parents witnessed Brahmakamal blooms in our home. They have the same experience and catch a few pictures too.. They said it has a lovely fragrance. Like you they also waited for nights to see it blooms..

Dr. Ichha Purak said...

Botanical name of Brahma Kamal is Epiphyllum oxypetalum belongs to Family Cactaceae . It start blooming at about 8 p.m. at night and closes just before sunrise . I have got it in my garden. Flowering takes place in Rainy season from July to September.I have some photographs of the plant bearing flowers at the margin of large serrated leaves.

memumbaikar said...

Hi Friends

This year i was lucky enough i got 5 flowers in a weeks time.

Anil Bisht said...

Dr. Ichha Purak, you are wrong... Epiphyllum oxypetalum is a species of cactus ( aboriginal to Srilanka) N real Brahma Kamal (Himalaya), which I know from my childhood days is Saussurea obvallata. Brahma Kamal is a rare flower, doesn't bloom anywhere you want.
Suitable climatic condition is very narrow & specific.
for further clarification checkout

Unknown said...

Hi Deepa, First time i saw the pic frm bud to blooming. Great u r.

NAV said...

Hi Deepa,
Nice blog post about the Brahma Kamal. I saw it bloom few days ago. So posted a blog post too:

Have taken a few snippets from your post. Thank you for the info about the stamen & its meaning.
All the best, keep up the good work.

krishna said...

I had been searching about Bramhakamal in google. and i found you blog. very very interesting. i've a soft corner about Mumbai. I lived there for 4 years and i Live the city. when i saw your blog about mumbai. i couldn't resist myself to follow you blog.
my blog:

Unknown said... right link sorry

Unknown said...

Hey guys i got 7 flowers together today.. its grt...

Anonymous said...

I thank you for invite and introducing me to this Beautiful miracle plant, I had never heard. So Beautiful for the short time it blooms. What an honor to have caught the blooming... a miracle for sure. Was a pleasure to see and know that has fragance to fill the room. Knowing the history is intriguing....Thank you for share.

saineena said...

Today even v all ie.,my family members had an opportunity to c the Brahma Kamal from its bud form till its bloom.Our whole family was very very xited .

saineena said...

Today even v all ie.,my family members had an opportunity to c the Brahma Kamal from its bud form till its bloom.Our whole family was very very xited .

Unknown said...

Mrs.Manik Shrikant Kohad
On 21/08/2013,I saw beautiful BRAHMA KAMAL was bloom it was very amzing experience.As all my family members & friends are present at my place to see this beauty of that NIGHT QUEEN.

Anonymous said...

Krishna Murthy

Thank you very much to Mr.Krishnan and Deepa. I am looking for the details for the growth of Brahmakamalam for the last one year. It was amazing information been shared by you all people. Infact, when i worked in IDT, Dehradun have noticed this plant blooming with many flowers but i donot knew that it is brahmakamalam

Anonymous said...

I am very lucky I have 3 buds of bk at my house this week this year I blessed with 8 flowers hyderabad

Vijay said...

Hello Every one
I have Bramha Kamal I get three or four time flowers every year at my home at Vashi Navi Mumbai Thanks Vijay Shinde

Unknown said...

Hello everyone,
We have brahmakamal in our garden since 7 years.
It bloomed this year. I read some blogs on it and everywhere it says that this flower blooms only once in an year and that too between July - September . But this plant bloomed at our place today as well and for the third time in this year.
Can somebody tell me that wether it is a natural process or something diffrent ?

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

Hi, is it required rain water to bloom because I have brahmakamal plant which is kept at Southside with no rain water,pls suggest

Chat said...