The lotus plant, so celebrated in the religions of Egypt and Asia, is a species of Nymphaea, or water-lily, which grows abundantly on the banks of streams in warm climates. Although more familiarly known as the Lotus of the Nile, it was not indigenous to Egypt, but was probably introduced into that country from the East, among whose people it was everywhere consecrated as a sacred symbol.
The Brahmanical deities were almost always represented as either decorated with its flowers, or holding it as a scepter, or seated on it as a throne. Coleman says (Mythology of the Hindus, page 388) that to the Hindu poets the lotus was what the rose was to the Persians. Floating on the water it is the emblem of the world, and the type also of the Mountain of Meru, the residence of the gods. Among the Egyptians, the lotus was the symbol of Osiris and Isis. It was esteemed a sacred ornament by the priests, and was placed as a coronet upola the heads of many of the gods. It was also much used in the sacred architecture of the Egyptians, being placed as an entablature upon the columns of their temples. Thence it was introduced by Solomon into Jewish architecture, being found, under the name of lily work, as a part of the ornaments of the two pillars at the porch of the Temple.
The word of almost the same sound in Arabic as in Hebrew includes many of the allied flowers and it is now generally accepted that the various biblical references to lilies (as in First Kings vii, 19; Second Chronicles iv, 5; Canticles in, 1; Hosea xiv, 5; Matthew vi, 28, and elsewhere) mean more than that one flower (see Lily and Pillars of the Porch).
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