Marigold Flower is a Symbol of CELEBRATION.
The Marigold is said to have derived its name from “Mary’s Gold”, taken from the fact that early Christians placed flowers instead of coins on Mary’s altar as an offering. This flower is often used in festivities honoring Mary.
The marigold is likewise associated with the sun - being vibrant yellow and gold in color. The flowers are open when the sun is out. The marigold is also called the “herb of the sun”, representing passion and even creativity.
The common name used for it in many parts of India is ‘Genda’. The word Genda possibly comes from the ‘Gonda’, the tribe in Chhatisgarh where the flower is cultivated in abundance - it’s just a guess, may not be a truth . In fact, the Gondas even have a legend behind the origin of the flower.
‘Torana’ means gateway in Sanskrit. A garland made of Mango and Marigold is used a toranain Hindu homes. In other words, the garland is tied to the frame of the main door of the house. This garland is changed on every festive occasion - and given the number of Hindu festivals , you can be sure that the garland keeps changing frequently.
One strong reason for the use of the flower as a torana is that it has protective properties - has a piercing odour that keeps insects and other pests at bay (these properites have now been well documented by researchers) . So it is particularly useful in the Indian tropical climate.
But then, when it has not so pleasant odour as the other exquisite flowers with sweet and lovely fragrance , then why is it used for worship so commonly ? One reason straight comes from the above, in that when marigold is offered along with other pleasant smelling flowers, it performs the function of keeping insects from coming near the image that is being worshipped.
In both Christianity and Hinduism, the marigold has a lot of spiritual significance.
The flower is offered to Mother Mary on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th of every year). This is the day when the angel Gabriel came to Mother Mary to tell her of Jesus Christ’s coming. On this day, in some traditions, marigold seeds are sown in pots as a symbol for auspiciousness and patience to await the divine.
In Hinduism too, the flower symbolizes auspiciousness. The saffron/orange colour signifies renunciation and hence is offered to God as a symbol of surrender. While offering the flower one should also remember that marigold is a very hardy flower and has a stout, erect stalk (hence the scientific name of ‘erecta’) - in fact, the Sanskrit name for marigold is Sthulapushpa which signifies this. It symbolizes a trust in the divine and a will to overcome obstacles.
This is also why the flower assumes such improtance on Vijayadashami - the day Lord Rama prevalied over Ravana - a victory of good over evil.
In Indian life, colours always hold an especial importance which makes the displaying of marigolds even more significant. White is widely accepted as the color of peace and purity. Yellow symbolizes sanctity. Saffron, a soft orange color, is considered an auspicious and sacred color and orange represents courage and sacrifice (hence why it is one of the colours of the Indian flag).