- Make a scrapbook on the Plant Cultures website to collect pictures and stories about sacred plants.
- Make a painting of a landscape or garden including all the plants you've found out about. Either put notices net to each plant to say what it means or write a caption at the bottom of the picture explaining what makes this a sacred garden.
- Go to the other activity in the schools section on Mughal gardens.
- Do we have sacred plants in Britain? Think about the poppy, which is used to remember people who have died in war. Think of some others.
- What other British plants and flowers have meanings? Here are a few:
- Yew tree (symbolises life after death, because it lives so long - often planted in churchyards)
- Ivy and holly (Christmas plants because they are evergreen and can be picked in winter; holly also because it looks like the crown of thorns, with red berries for drops of blood)
- Lily (Virgin Mary, purity, peace)
- Rose (Valentine's day romance)
- Apple (Tree of Knowledge)
- Passion flower (symbol of Christ's passion)
- Laurel (Victory)
- Oak (strength)
- Rose, Daffodil, Leek, Shamrock and Thistle are also national symbols.
The Elephant and the Crocodile - a Hindu storyOn a very hot day a proud and selfish royal elephant browsed through the hills with his herd. He was becoming feverish and bad tempered in the oppressive heat and was relieved when he came to a cool lake in a valley. The king of the elephants ran ahead before his family and plunged into the water, drinking and spraying water over himself with his trunk.
Imagine his great shock when he was attacked by a huge crocodile who lived in the lake! The two fought together until the old elephant's strength began to give out. He knew that if the fight lasted much longer he would be killed. From the bank his wives and children cried out in terror.
At once the elephant closed his eyes and began to pray. He prayed to the god Vishnu, the protector, to help him. He prayed with such devotion and ardour that Vishnu suddenly appeared on the back of Garuda, his eagle. With ease he lifted the crocodile out of the lake and cut its throat, then threw it back so that its blood stained the water.The royal elephant was saved.
Later he asked Vishnu why he had helped him. Vishnu replied that in an earlier life the elephant had been a musician, and had cursed a priest who disturbed his music making. After they both died, the musician was born again as an elephant and the priest as a crocodile. Vishnu explained that only by praying to him with such devotion could the elephant change from being proud, selfish and irritable, both in his earlier life as a musician and in his present life as an elephant. The story was written down and told again many times as a lesson to everybody.
Discussion points1. Describe the elephant's character.
2. Discuss Vishnu's reasons for saving the elephant.
3. What about the crocodile? Why was he treated so badly, in both of his lives? It has to be because he only exists to improve the elephant's life and to make the story into a parable.
4. What is the story telling us about the Hindu idea of balance between good and evil, right and wrong, actions and consequences? The Hindu religion is based around a cycle of life and death, watched over by the three main gods Brahma (God of Creation), Vishnu (Protection) and Shiva (Destruction).
5. What does the story tell us about the Hindus' beliefs in reincarnation; how are they different from Christian beliefs? You could argue that Hindu reincarnation leads to a more selfless attitude to others and to nature, through the warning that selfish actions may result in our being reborn as 'lesser' beings. The Christian belief in reincarnation is more focussed on personal salvation in an afterlife, with less visible and tangible results in the world around us. Both beliefs aim to make us lead better lives but discuss which belief is more practical in reality.