The History and Significance of Camphor – Bring in Luck and Wealth

The word, camphor is derived from the French word camphre, itself derived from Medieval Latin camfora, linked from the Arabic kafur and also associated with the Malay kapur Barus, meaning “Barus chalk.” While the Indian and Middle East merchants would buy camphor from the Malay traders and call it Kapooram, a word from the ancient holy language, Sanskrit, other Indian languages like Tamil Kannada and Malayalam also chose to refer to camphor using this term.

Nature of Camphor

Camphor, or Kapooram, is a white transparent, waxy and crystalline solid, which has a penetrating, pungent and aromatic odor. It is found in wood of the camphor laurel tree found in Asia and other related trees in the laurel family but can also be synthetically produced from oil of turpentine.

Uses of Camphor

Camphor has been around for thousands of years, used extensively in India, China, Arabia and South America for different reasons. While camphor is regarded highly in the Orient due to its use for pious purposes in the daily ritual worship, referred to as Puja, it has also been widely utilized for its scent, as an embalming fluid and for medicinal purposes.

Significance of camphor: Why light camphor?

The Hindus have great faith in light as the supreme symbol of God who dispels darkness, which is associated with evil, fear and ignorance. Camphor is mainly used to light the ritual lamp during worship service and since light dispels darkness, symbolizing the victory of good (light representing knowledge and truth) over evil (darkness, lack of knowledge, possible wrong deeds), camphor too plays an active part in bringing new life to virtue by burning up and leaving no trace.

When the camphor in the aarti (prayer lamp) burns itself out, it makes way for peace and redemption, so the worship can proceed for freeing the ego, which is also offered up along with mental, physical and economical elements (tan, man and dhan) that keep one from focusing on the Divine One.

Religious texts refer to the significance of the camphor lamp as being instrumental in bringing enlightenment, illumination that cleanses body and spirit to make room for prosperity and piety in our daily lives. The ritual of aarti (lighting of a prayer lamp in India) is completed by putting one’s hands over the camphor flame and then gently touching the eyes and the top of the head. Camphor, which leaves no trace of its being, represents our inherent tendencies (vaasanas) that also leave our bodies when so we can connect with the Supreme spirit and ennobles us.

So, light a camphor lamp, illuminate your lives!

Mary J. Gibson

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