Breaking a coconut for Gods and Goddesses is indeed a very common practice in India and hence holds a lot of importance in Hinduism. The coconut fruit is an essential offering in almost all rituals of Hinduism and is a part of almost Hindu ceremonies. Hindus start all new ventures by breaking a coconut in front of an idol. Whether it is a wedding, a festival or an important puja ritual, a coconut is always a must-have on the list.
The coconut in Sanskrit is referred to as Sriphala or “the God’s fruit”. The coconut is the only fruit that is used to symbolize ‘God’. In the Hindu religion, the coconut is one of the most common offerings in a temple. And it also plays an essential role in all pujas. The coconut is a satvic fruit, ie, it is sacred, pure, and health-giving, and is also endowed with several properties. It is also offered on occasions like buying a new vehicle, house etc. People also offer it in the sacrificial fire whilst performing homa or the havan. The coconut is broken and placed before God and is later distributed as prasada.
The three eye-like marks on the coconut are thought to represent the three-eyed Lord Shiva and are considered to be a way to fulfill one’s desires. The breaking of a coconut is symbolic of breaking one’s ego and humbling oneself before God. The shell of ego and ignorance is smashed which paves the way to inner peace and knowledge which is represented by the white part of the coconut.
Let’s see why coconut is an essential item in every Hindu ritual.
There was a time when human and animal sacrifices were very common in Hinduism. At the time, Adi Shankaracharya stepped in, he debated to discontinue this inhuman ritual and replaced it with the offering of coconuts. The coconut resembles a human head in a lot of ways. The coir on the outside of the coconut is comparable to human hair, the hard shell is like a human skull, the water inside resembles human blood and the white kernel is the mental space of a human brain.
The offering of a coconut has more meaning than just presenting. The tender white kernel of a coconut is covered by layers of fiber. By stripping the fiber, we devoid ourselves of desires. By breaking the coconut we are also breaking our ego or Ahankara, as God expects his devotees to be egoless and pure. The soft white kernel within represents our brain which is filled with juice. This is symbolic of the nature of our brain which is sometimes selfish, jealous, and egoist. Before it is offered to God, the inner juice is poured out, which means that we should remove our vaasanas or selfish thoughts. Hence, breaking a coconut represents our utmost dedication and complete surrender to God.
Coconut in Hindu Mythology
In Hindu mythology, it is believed that coconut fruit was perhaps created by Sage Vishwamitra to aid King Satyavrata who was trying to enter heaven or swargaloka as a mortal but was thrown out by the Gods.
The coconut is also associated with Lord Ganesha. It is said that one day as a child when Lord Ganesha was playing he was attracted by his father’s third eye and he went to touch it. Lord Shiva told him not to touch him and gave him a special ball to play with which was a coconut. That is how coconut came on earth. The coconut is thus very special to Lord Ganesha and is offered to him.
Coconut is also an important part of the Poorna Kumba or the Kalasha.