Perhaps the most seductive aromatic ethereal flower of the isle is the Frangipani (Balinese: Bunga Jepun. Sanskrit: Kshirachampa or Milky Champa).
The flower is made up of five petals representing the Panca Datu, (five elements of earth, wind, fire, water and ether) and the Panca Shrada (belief in God, Atman, Karma, Rebirth and Moksha). These five petals are believed to represent Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (Divine Order).The yellow in the middle is the divine power of Lord Siwa, which radiates out to the world.
The Bunga Jepun tree is eternal. Part of the tree can be cut and replanted. There is a spiritual life that exists in the white sticky sap that flows within. This is why it is considered sacred for it represents both life and death…associated with Lord Siwa and his Tandava dance – the endless dance of creation and destruction of life.
It is known as the Tree of Power, Tree of Love, Tree of Spirits and Tree of Cemeteries.
In Bali the Bunga Jepun is used in all religious ceremonies and sacred floral tributes. The placement of the flowers in the palms of the worshipper and on the ears is submission to the absolute power of Lord Siwa. In South India it is called Devaga Nagale – God’s flower for its immortality. Buddhists and Muslims plant this tree in their cemeteries so that the flowers fall on the graves of the dearly departed… a blessing from the Divine.
For Indian Hindus the tree is associated with Kamadeva, the God of Love, and therefore it is forbidden to cut it.
The flower has many medicinal properties and is used in essential and warming oils for calming the nerves. Its leaves are used as healing wraps for bruises and the sap as a liniment for rheumatism.
This flower was previously thought to have come from China. Perhaps this is why it is called Gulechin or Flower of China.
The word frangipani perhaps originated from frangipanier (a type of coagulated milk much like the Plumeria sap) or from Marquis Frangipani, an Italian nobleman who created perfume for gloves in the 16th century.
Bunga Jepun erroneously got its botanical name, Plumeria, after the French Botanist, Charles Plumier (17th century) when in fact it was Francisco de Mendoza, a Spanish priest who ‘discovered’ the flower in 1522, which comes in a variety of colours and has numerous religious interpretations.
Here is a legend associated with the Champa Tree (Bunga Jepun).
Long ago there was a king with two wives. The older wife was unable to bear children and conspired to kill all the children borne by the younger wife. She substituted a monkey for the new-born children and over the years seven sons and a daughter met the same fate. All of them were buried outside the palace wall and the younger queen was banished from the palace.
As the years passed seven handsome trees with beautiful fragrant flowers grew outside the palace walls. Along with these seven there was one smaller, delicate tree. The fame of the trees grew within the kingdom and it was said that only the younger queen could pluck their flowers.
The King heard about this and asked his gardener to bring him some flowers and when the gardener returned empty handed the King along with the older Queen went to see the trees. As the older Queen approached the branches of the trees drew back sharply and the cry ‘Murderer’ was heard. Astounded the King went up to the trees, and their leaves nuzzled his face and they asked him to bring their mother to them. When the King enquired about their mother he was told the truth. The older Queen was banished from the kingdom and the younger Queen reinstated. The trees were brought up as their children. The large tree was the Champa and the delicate one Parul. (Mythology of Indian plants)