Atamari, CC BY-SA 3.0
Temple Flower “Araliya”
Atamari, CC BY-SA 3.0
General Description / Cultural Significance
In Sri Lanka, the scent of the Temple Flower is found in abundance. Having been naturalized in Sri Lanka, the flower has been a symbol of Sri Lankan culture for centuries. Over 70% of the country’s population identifies as Buddhist, and on days of religious significance, the Temple Flower, referred to as “Araliya,” is the most important flower brought to the temple alters. Often grown on temple grounds, the flowers are gathered in baskets and then washed and arranged before being presented to Buddha. The flower blossoms in a range of colors which include white, deep red, dark purple, and a golden yellow reminiscent of Buddhist monks’ robes.
It is a tradition that the beautiful fragrant blossoms of the Temple Flower be woven into garlands and given to visiting dignitaries to honor them. Across the country, the seductive scent of Araliya is the most powerful at night and discerned in the humid air as it lulls minds to sleep, becoming a cultural gift to long-term memory. Plumeria also has bioactive healing properties, which have made it an excellent medicinal herb. Its leaves, bark, flower, and oil continue to be used to treat a range of conditions that include rheumatism, inflammation, and swelling.
Climate Change / Conservation Status
The impact of surging temperatures, sea level rise, and unpredictable rainfall is causing hunger and economic crises in Sri Lanka. The country is most prone to droughts, floods, cyclones, and coastal erosion. In the future, sweltering heat waves and excessive humidity will be worse and the coral bleaching more extreme. Wildfires are expected to be more frequent and widespread, increasing the challenge of everyday living.
Fish make up 50% of Sri Lankans’ animal protein intake. Unfortunately, pollution, ocean acidification, rising temperatures, and sea levels threaten the livelihood of over a million fishermen across Sri Lanka, contributing to growing food and economic insecurity. Agricultural yields also face pressure due to increasing temperature, particularly staples such as rice. Additionally, drinkable water is at risk of extreme shortages. Sri Lanka intends to revive its village tank cascade system that effectively shares water across landscapes. Efficient water management would help Sri Lanka adapt to the effects of climate change.
Even though the Temple flower flourishes in heat, the plant is threatened by heavy rainfall, flooding, and landslides that have worsened in recent years. During 2022, low-lying areas of the Colombo district were submerged, walls collapsed, and roads were blocked because of heavy flooding, and this is far from an isolated event. These climate changes are causing growing levels of displacement and loss of life. In 2022, over 82,000 Sri Lankans were affected by extreme weather.
Abrahams, N. 2017. Araliya – the Temple Tree, Sri Lanka. The Cultural Me. Available from https://thecultural.me/araliya-the-temple-tree-sri-lanka-12342
Bastians, D. 2017. Floods in Sri Lanka Displace Half a Million. The New York Times. Available from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/28/world/asia/sri-lanka-floods-mudslides.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FSriLanka&_r=0
De Silva, S. 2023. What International Climate Justice Means for Sri Lanka. The Equation. Available from https://blog.ucsusa.org/sanjali-desilva/what-international-climate-justice-means-for-sri-lanka/#:~:text=But%20sea%20level%20rise%20and,crisis%2C%20and%20a%20political%20crisis.
Inoon, A. 2010. Shades of Araliya. Serndib. Available from http://www.serendib.btoptions.lk/article.php?issue=10&id=214
Nisbet, B. 6.23.2023. Flowers from Sri Lanka. Flower Experts. Available from http://www.flowerexperts.com/sri_lanka_flowers.asp
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations. This statement can be found on the World Sensorium original website.
Rodrigo, M. 2023. Sweltering heat wave hits Sri Lanka; climate change will likely bring more. Mongabay. Available from https://news.mongabay.com/2023/05/sweltering-heat-wave-hits-sri-lanka-climate-change-will-likely-bring-more/
Rodrigo, M. 2023. Sri Lanka aims to restore ancient irrigation tanks in climate change plan. Mongabay. Available from https://news.mongabay.com/2023/04/sri-lanka-aims-to-restore-ancient-irrigation-tanks-in-climate-change-plan/
2020. Climate Risk Country Profile – Sri Lanka. ReliefWeb. Available from https://reliefweb.int/report/sri-lanka/climate-risk-country-profile-sri-lanka