The word coconut in Sanskrit is called ‘Sriphala’ or “God’s fruit”.
To an Indian community, the offering of a coconut is the most common offerings. A coconut plays a vital role in pujas in Hinduism. It is also offered on occasions such as weddings, festivals, the use of a new vehicle, bridge, house, obstacle removal rituals etc. It is also offered in the sacrificial fire ritual where the coconut is broken and placed before the deity. The marks on the coconut are thought to represent the Shiva’s 3rd eye.
The coconut is also associated with Lord Ganesha. At the beginning of any auspicious task or a journey, people smash coconuts to propitiate Ganesha – the remover of all obstacles. They also break coconuts in temples or in front of idols in fulfillment of their vows.
The association of human fertility cult with coconut is prominently manifested during wedding rituals across India. The fruit is often placed in a pot which is a metaphor for the womb, while the nut itself, a symbol or life, confers fertility on the bridal couple. In Gujarat it is customary for the bride to present the coconut to the groom at the time of the marriage. The coconut is then preserved as a precious memento by the husband throughout his life.
The members of the Prabhu caste of Maharashtra move a coconut around the head of the bridegroom several times and then throw out its pieces in all directions. This they believe will ward off evil spirits.
The Nair community of Kerala place a coconut inflorescence inside a wooden barrel filled with paddy grains as the auspicious centerpiece in the kalyanamandapam (traditional wedding podium) of the. In Kerala as well as in the other southern states, during marriages as well as during festivals such Navarathri, it is considered auspicious to distribute coconuts among married women as a part of the tambulam. Among the Tamils, the tali (an important symbol of marriage consisting of a gold ornament stung from a yellow thread) are initially tied around the coconut before it is tied around the bride’s neck by the groom. In north India, when a woman wants to conceive she would go to the temple priest and get coconut.
The Gonds and the Bhils of Rajasthan, Gujarat and M.P., a ceremony referred to as the ‘Golgothero’ is organised at the time of the Holy festival. Some jiggery and a coconut is tied on a tree at a good height and all eligible males and females dance around the tree in two separate circles. Any boy who tries to break up the inner female ring is resisted by broomstick beatings. When the boy succeeds in getting the coconut, he is at liberty to select any girl from the formation.
Fishing communities along the Indian peninsula coasts believe in appeasing the sea God (Lord Varuna) with offerings of coconut during the monsoon. On the fifteenth day of the bright fortnight of shravana, fishermen especially in Maharashtra celebrate the festival of ‘Nariyal Purnima’. On this day fishermen paint their boats and decorate them with flags. With much rejoicing they throw coconuts into the sea, with prayers for a plentiful fish catch.
This festival is an anode to Sea- god, Varun, a Vedic deity. According to the ritual, coconuts are thrown into the sea as offerings to Varun. Hence, this day has come to be known as Narial Purnima. On this day people go to the sea-shores or river-banks and offer coconuts to the Sea-god. It is believed that with the Varuna's blessings sea-trade will become fruitful and prosper. Hindu married women gather together, play games, sing and dance and put kumkum tilak (Vermilion mark) on each other’s forehead as the symbol of good luck. They eat together, enjoy the festival and then bid farewell to each other. Fisher-folk welcome this day as the heavy rains finally stop.
The coconut also symbolises selfless service this is because every part of the tree -the trunk, leaves, fruit, coir etc. All those parts are used in innumerable ways like thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap etc. It takes in even salty water from the earth and converts it into sweet nutritive water that is especially beneficial to sick people. It is used in the preparation of many Ayurvedic medicines and in other alternative medicinal systems.
A coconut can attract both benevolent and malevolent energies. If the negative energy problem is severe then it is preferable to use a coconut t o cast off the evil eye. The coconut ritual in South East Asia is obviously rooted from India. Let us explore two forms of the coconut rituals:
Ritual 1: One Coconut (Hanuman)
First, strip a coconut as below:
Then perform a prayer to Deity Maruti (Hanuman) mentioning the name of the victim of black magic while pointing the tail of the coconut at the victim:
'O Māruti may my (say full name) distress be absorbed through the tip of this coconut and may it not cause harm to (say full name of the person doing the ritual). Please absorb all the black energy in me through the tip of this coconut and destroy it'.
The victim should sit on a low stool facing East with fixed knees bent towards the chest while the palms face upwards and both ankles place on the knees.
The healer should hold the coconut in his cupped palms and stand in front of the victim with the tail of the coconut facing the victim. The victim should look at it while the chanting continues.
The coconut should be moved three times in a circle (clock-wise) from the feet to the head of the affected person. Then the person performing the ritual should circle the affected person three times in the clockwise direction.
After completing the ritual the coconut should be broken at the junction of three roads or in a temple of Deity Māruti or at any holy place while chanting 'Bajarangabali Hanuman ki jay'.
If one does not have any of the above places nearby then one can break it in any holy place or one’s back yard.
Ritual 2: Five Coconuts (Thai/Malay Magic)
If the black magic attack is very severe, five coconuts need to be used. In this case the coconut is specifically empowered with special talisman and added prayers. This ritual will pull everything protected by the ritual. Using this method one can cast off the black magic of several people at the same time by making them sit for the ritual together.
Possible observations while breaking the coconut
· If the person is affected by distressing energy the coconut becomes heavy and breaks into pieces and the water from it springs upwards even up to 1-2 metres.
· At times the coconut turns out to be rotten.
· Sometimes when one has a severe problem the coconut does not break even when struck forcefully because the distressing energy inside it does not wish to be annihilated by Deity Mârutî, as per the prayer made earlier.
· If the distressing energy is very powerful, then the coconut gets flung and cannot be found. Thus one can judge the amount of distressing energy absorbed by the coconut.