Explication of “The Lotus”
Toru Dutt was an educated young woman who had traveled to Britain and France during her childhood. British literature and culture influenced her and is demonstrated in various work by Toru, including “The Lotus”. In the poem, Toru presents the idea that the lotus is the most beautiful of all flowers in order to establish superiority of the Hindu religion over other world religions.
“The Lotus”, begins with a conflict between the rose and the lily flower. The goddess of love, Aphrodite, approached the flower goddess, Flora to create a flower who would undisputedly be the queenliest of all flowers. Both the lily and the rose, used their “bards of power” in their fight over the queenliest flower title. Bards is associated with Gaelic spiritual power traditions of England, Scotland and Ireland. Toru uses Greek and Roman mythology as support for her Hindu beliefs and to establish her stand. The rose is described as never reaching the level of the lily flower, because the lily has a strong willed demeanor.
In line 8 of the poem, we reach the climax where all the flower groups form cliques in a bitter conflict within the soul’s essence. The goddess Flora is given a task of creating a flower as “delicious as the rose” and “stately as the lily in her pride” (Dutt, 82) Lines 9-14 of the poem, describes the solution to the problem of finding the queenliest flower of all. Toru has Flora create a flower that is both red as a rose and white as a lily. As a result, Flora creates a flower with the characteristics of a rose and a lily combined and created the beautiful lotus flower.
Why did Toru chose the lotus flower as the queenliest of all flowers? The lotus is a national symbol of India and the Hindu faith. The overall theme of the poem is the pride of India’s culture and Hindu religion. The idea of Hindu being the ultimate religion of the world is the main focus of “The Lotus”. Hinduism is polytheistic in nature and beliefs are practiced through idol worship. The idols can be human, animal or natural, such as the Sun God. Each idol has a form of symbolism, which represents knowledge, wealth, and strength among a few things (Mullatti) Toru wanted to acknowledge her Indian background for others to understand her love for her native country India.
Although she had traveled and received her education abroad during her childhood, she still believes India to be her home. Indian tradition explains the lotus flower springs not from the earth but from the surface of the water and will remain pure and unblemished, not matter the impurity of the water. The purity of the lotus expresses the idea of supernatural birth and the appearance of the first created entity from the ancient waters of chaos, thus the lotus is observed as the medium of the Hindu creator Narayana and his second being God Brahma (Mitra & Kaporr, 126). Toru uses the idea of Greek and Roman goddesses to create a western understanding of Hinduism and its divine faith of the lotus.
Toru had an ability to excel in her writing at a young age and is one of the most famous Indo-Anglican poets of India. She mastered “The Lotus” in a Petrarchan style by separating the poem into two divisions, the Octave and the Sestet. Toru was able to present the problem of searching for the queenliest flower in the octave, which was composed of the first 8 lines and resolved the issue by creating the lotus in the sestet, which consists of the last 6 lines. She uses the rose and the lily in the poem to describe the West and the East.
The “lily” is a representation of the white race and the “rose” depicting the reddish skin tone of the eastern race, such as her native India. Thus the poem “The Lotus” indicates a fusion between the West and East (Dutt, 82). Although Toru herself was raised as a Christian with western ideology, she was able to relate herself back to her Eastern roots of India in the sonnet. The lotus is a representation of Toru and her cultural encounters living in Western Europe (Dutt, 82). She interlaces her Western experience and education in order to create herself as her beautiful native Indian lotus flower.