‘If nature wanted you to drink coconut water in non-coastal areas it would not have grown coconuts in the coastal areas’ is a common naturopathic saying. Coconut water is the treatment for most humidity-related illnesses in coastal areas. It is sterile water and has been used in surgical practice as a sterile fluid. It is also used as a replacement for oral rehydration solution. Hence, because of its many uses, it is regarded as the ‘Tree of Life’.

Coconut is one of the most common offerings in a temple, weddings, and festivals. It is offered in all sacrificial fires whilst performing the Homa(fire rituals). The coconut is usually split and placed before the Lord and is later distributed as Prasadam. The fibrous outer covering of the dried coconut is removed except for a tuft on the top.

The marks on the coconut make it look like a human head. The splitting of a coconut symbolizes the conquest of the ego. The outer covering represents the body, the juice within, one’s inner tendencies (vasanas) and the white kernel, the mind. Be as firm as the outer shell of the coconut but at the same time be as soft like the inner fruit of the coconut.

Also, a coconut – Sriphala(fruit of the gods) – is the only fruit used to symbolize God while worshipping any deity. It is used in the making of a Purna-Kumbha (‘purna’ = full, ‘kumbha’ = pot or kalash), an independent object of worship. The earthen pot full of water and with fresh mango leaves and a coconut on top is placed in front of the main deity or by the side of the deity before starting any Pooja. The pot symbolizes Mother Earth; water, the life-giver; the leaves, life (air); and the coconut, divine consciousness (space). All religious rituals start with the worship of the kalash with coconut as symbol of Lord Ganesha. The coconut is also worshipped as symbol of the Godhead – the three eyes are symbolic of the eyes of Lord Shiva (Trayambaka – Rudra). Sage Vishwamitra grew the first coconut tree on this earth by the power of his tapa.

The hard shell inspires one to have tolerance and work hard for attaining success.

The coconut also symbolizes selfless service. Every part of the tree, whether it is the trunk, leaves, fruit, or coir,is used to make thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap, etc.

Coconut water is used in the preparation of many Ayurveda drugs. The kernel is used to gain strength and improve eyesight. Its water is nourishing. Coconut oil is used to nourish the hair. It has glucose, phosphorous and carbohydrates. Germs cannot penetrate its hard kernel. Ancient Indian healers burnt its outer shell to prepare tooth powder, eyebrow creams and ointments for burns. Coconut milk is made by grating the endocarp and mixing it with warm water. This produces a thick, white liquid called coconut milk which is extensively used in Asian cooking, for example, in curries. Water from the unripe coconut is drunk fresh as a refreshing drink.

Tender coconut water is used in the rituals of abhishek, since it is believed to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker.

On the auspicious occasion of Rakhi Purnima (Rakshabandhan), coconuts are thrown into the sea as offerings to Varuna, God of the Sea. In western India, this festival is called Nariyal Purnima (Coconut Full Moon).

The Chhandogya Upanishad by Swami Krishnananda (78) talks about another quality of the coconut that has a spiritual resonance: “The coconut that is raw sticks to the shell. That is the condition of the bound soul. Consciousness sticks to the shell of this body. But in the case of the liberated soul, it is inside the body, no doubt, but is not sticking to the body, even as the dry coconut is not touching the shell. It makes a sound inside if we shake it. It is detached from the shell, though it is there tentatively. Even so, consciousness is not confined to the body, even though it is inside.”

In the Chidakasha Gita by ParamahansaNityananda, the coconut tree is described as a state of meditation: “At another time all feeling comes to a standstill. Sometime the body becomes quite motionless like a coconut tree”.

Ganesha’s favorite food is made up of a sweet core of candied coconut pulp covered with a layer made of white flour. The insipid outer shell is said to represent the gross physical body, the sweet inside stands for the resplendent soul.

When the Asuras and the Devas churned the milky ocean, Lord Dhanwantri appeared bearing the pot of nectar, which blessed one with everlasting life. Thus, the kalasha also symbolizes immortality.