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Arka Plant In Hinduism

Arka plant (giant milkweed or bowstring hemp) in Hinduism is associated with Surya, sun god, and Hanuman. The plant is known as akanda in Bengali, chuvannaerikk in Malayalam, erukku in Tamil and malaiyeruku in Telugu. Arka means anything that radiates.

Arka leaves are offered to Surya, Hanuman, Ganesha.

Arka has been given all the names that are attributed to the sun. Traditionally, the leaves of the arka plant are used for bathing ritual on Ratha Saptami (February) when the sun’s rays change direction before the onset of summer.

The leaves of the arka plant are place on the shoulders and the thighs during bathing on the day of Ratha Saptami and it is believed that the water flowing over the leaves of the arka plant will sanctify the body. Whatever may be the reason for this belief, the fact is that arka is a medicinally valuable plant.

The plant is a perennial climber with greenish white woody stems. It is found all over India in the plains and low hills, especially in the tropical and subtropical regions. The plant has very gigantic leaves, pale green inflated flowers with lobes : base narrowed down into a cylindrical tube terminating into a funnel shaped simple mouth. The roots are normally collected in autumn and generally sun dried.

Botanically arka (calatropis giganeta) belongs to the family Asclepiadaceae of Dicotyledonous Angisperms. Its equivalent in English is milkweed.

This perennial shrub has latex glands all over, which yield thick milky latex. The leaves are large, leathery and full of woolly outgrowth.

 There are two varieties of arka:
One with light pink flowers; and
One with white flowers.

The roots of both variety is worshipped as people believe that the root of this plant assumes the shape of Lord Ganesha after about twenty five years of growth.

Medicinal Uses Of Arka Plant
  • A number of diseases may be cured by using various parts of the arka plant (white variety).
  • The root bark is an expectorant and emetic and the paste obtained from the root is applied in the case of elephantiasis.
  • Dried and powdered flowers are used in the cure of colds, coughs, asthma and indigestion.
  • Some studies have confirmed that the root bark is effective against malaria and even cholera.
  • The dried roots and rhizomes are recommended in atomic types of dyspepsia and bowel trouble in children.
  • The chloroform extract of the roots exhibit antispermatogenic effect in mice.
  • Aristolochic acids have demonstrated a potent anti-fertility activity. In short, it enhances immune functions. The drug contains a number of phenanthrene derivatives such as Aristolochic acid.
  • Aristolochic acid is the one that shows potential anti-cancer activity.
  • There are several proprietary preparations containing aristolochic acid in Germany. In India, Aristolochia Indica and Aristolochia bracteata are found. The latter is called kianari in the vernacular. Ayurveda uses arka in many preparations for general improvement of vitality. It has a great potential for improving the immune system of the body.