Ganesha, who is also called Ganapati and Vinayaka, is one of the most popular deities in Hinduism. He can remove obstacles, and he is the patron of arts and sciences. He is also the God of knowledge and wisdom. Being the deity of auspicious beginnings, he is worshipped first during Hindu rituals and ceremonies.
‘Om Oshadi Pataye Namaha’ is one of Ganesha’s 1000 names. It means that he is the owner of all medicines and their powers. Hence, during Ganesh Pooja, he is worshipped with 21 sacred leaves or patras. Supposedly, this pleases him.
When pleased, Ganesha bestows many blessings like wealth, long life, wisdom, and prosperity on his devotees. For this reason, 21 Patra Pooja or 21 Sacred leaves worship is a key part of Ganesh Pooja. This is also unique to Ganesha worship. Many devotees perform this unique and special Pooja during Ganesha Chaturthi, as it is Ganesha’s birthday.
Through this Pooja, supposedly, we offer our body of 21 elements comprising the Pancha Bhutas, Pancha Tanmatras, Pancha Karmendriyas, and Pancha Jnanendriyas to Lord Ganesha.
All the 21 leaves carry associations with 21 names of Lord Ganesha, and each patra is offered while chanting a specific name Mantra of Ganesha. So, the 21 Patra Pooja is also called Eka Vimshanthi Pooja.
All the leaves are holy and have medicinal properties.
Names and Significance of the 21 Leaves used in Ganesh Pooja
Machi pathram (Artmesia vulgaris)
This is found all over the globe. These leaves have medicinal properties as they can cure nerve-related problems, stomach problems, and headaches. It can ease dry mouth syndrome and increases one’s appetite.
Bruhathi Patram (Solanum xanthocarpum)
This plant grows only in the wild or open lands. It has thorny leaves and bitter fruits. Its flowers are white and yellow. The leaves are good for cough, heavy breathing, and mucus. The fruits are helpful in tooth infections. They are consumed like a vegetable.
Bilva Patram (Aegle marmelos)
These leaves are also common in Shiva worship. The leaves resemble his trident. The fruits were used instead of coconuts earlier. The essential oil of the Bilva tree is effective against 21 kinds of bacteria. It enables smooth bowel movement. People who have constipation and other gastrointestinal issues can benefit from it.
Dhurvayugmam (Aruham pul) – Cynodon dactylon
The common name for Durvayugmam is ‘Garika’ or ‘Bermuda Grass’. The Jaimaneya Bharatham says that this grass was formed from the body hair of King Prajapathi. Devotees make garlands with this grass and offer them to Ganesha.
This grass is good for digestion and can cure stomach ailments. Dogs with stomach problems often eat this grass. Hence it got the name ‘Dogs’ tooth grass. The grass has lots of chlorophyll, which is alkaline. It also has many nutrients and minerals. It is also used to control pests and treat skin diseases.
Durthaara(Umathai) – Datura metel
Datura metel is a perennial herb. Its common name is devil’s trumpet. Other names are ‘ Ummetta’, ‘Unmatta’, and ‘Kanaka’. All parts of this plant have dangerous levels of tropane alkaloids (highly toxic). It can be fatal if ingested by humans or animals.
Badhari (Ilandai) – Zizyphus jujuba
Another name for it is ‘Regu’. Its fruit is tasty and boosts appetite. It also helps the body heal quickly from cuts and bruises. A thorny tree, it grows in dry areas. Its fruits are very nutritious. Snakes generally avoid this tree due to its thorns. Hence birds like sparrows, etc., build their nests in it as it is free of snakes or other reptiles. The fruit finds mention in the Ramayana. Shabari offered them to Lord Rama after tasting them.
Apaamaarga (Nayuruvi) – Achyranthes aspera
This plant has medicinal properties and is an ingredient in some tooth powders, etc. The dried stems are used as Samith or sticks for Sudarshana Homa. The leaves can cure stomach pain, indigestion, and eczema.
Tulasi – Ocimum sanctum
Tulasi is very sacred to Hindus. Many Hindus households grow Tulasi in their backyards. It has many medicinal properties.
Chootha – Mangifera indica
Its common name is Mango leaf. The leaves are tied in front of the main entrances during auspicious functions in South India. They have good antiseptic properties. People use them when making Poorna Kumbham.
Karaveera (Arali) – Nerium oleander/indicum
The scented flowers can be white, red, yellow, and pink. People offer them separately or as garlands to God. It is a very poisonous garden plant.
VishnuKrantha – Evolvulus alsinoides
Vishnukranta or Aparajita is very important in Ayurveda. It is a Medhya drug which boosts memory and intelligence. Thus, it has neuroprotective capabilities. It can also cure bladder and urethra-related diseases, bronchitis, ascites, etc.
Dhadimi(Mathulai) – Punica granatum
Its common name is Pomegranate. The seeds are compared to Lord Krishna’s teeth. The seeds of this fruit have lots of iron and other minerals/ vitamins. The fruit’s shell or membrane is very bitter. Ayurvedic healers dry and preserve this to make a tea for stomach problems.
Devadaru – Cedras deodara
Its common name is Cedar tree. It has many medicinal qualities. The trees grow in cold places like the Himalayas. It can reduce body heat and is good for skin diseases and chronic wounds. The resins find use in making aromatic smokes (Dhoopam).
Maruvaka – Origanum marjoram
Its leaves are aromatic and find use in cooking. People cut the tops as the plants begin to flower and dry them in the shade. It is a part of herb combinations. Marjoram is an ingredient in seasoning soups, stews, dressings, and sauces. People make garlands with the leaves and flowers. The essential oils are good for joint pains and reducing body odor.
Sindhuvara (Vavilaku) – Viex nigundo
Keeping the leaves under the pillow during sleep helps reduce headaches. A paste of the leaves is good for sinus problems when applied to the forehead. The flowers help control cholera and liver problems. The leaves find use in Ayurvedic medicines.
Jaji (Jaji Malli) – Jasminum grandiflorum
Jaji leaves find use as Ayurvedic herbal medicine, and its flowers adorn the hair of women. The flowers have a strong smell. Both the leaves and flowers have medicinal properties.
Gandaki – Solonum nigrum
The plant’s juice can heal mouth ulcers and skin diseases. The fruits find use as a tonic, laxative, appetite stimulant, etc. They are good for asthma and “excessive thirst“. Traditionally, people used them to cure tuberculosis. They also cook them like spinach. In Northern India, the boiled extracts of leaves and berries are also used for liver-related ailments, including jaundice. In Assam, the juice from the roots is good for asthma and whooping cough.
Shamee (Vanni) – Prosopis spicigera
The tree is common in Shiva temples. People believe that Goddess “Aparajita Devi” lives in it. As per legend, the Pandavas hid their weapons on top of this tree during their exile.
Ashwattha – Ficus religiosa
Other names are Bodhi-tree, Pippala tree, Peepal tree, Ravi tree, or Ashwattha tree. This is a sacred tree for Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists. The Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating underneath this tree.
It finds use in traditional medicine for at least 50 kinds of ailments, including diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, diarrhea, gastric problems and inflammatory disorders, infectious and sexual disorders.
Arjuna – Terminalia arjuna
Its common name is Arjuna or Arjuna tree. The leaves find use in Ayurveda as a treatment for heart disease. It can heal wounds, hemorrhages, and ulcers. It can reduce the risks of heart failure.
Arka – Calotropis gigantea
Arka means ‘Sun’. The plant’s root bark is good for cold, cough, and constipation. In the old days, people used the plant's leaves to heal poisonous snake bites. Ayurvedic physicians process the leaves with Saindhava salt to make Arka Lavana, a medicine for gastritis. Its latex is good for toothache. Ayurvedic doctors use the leaves to treat leprosy, paralysis, and 64 diseases.
When we do Pooja with these 21 medicinal leaves for 9 days in the morning and evening, our body becomes pure and healthy. Devotees immerse Ganesha’s clay idols in water bodies with all these leaves on the final day of Ganesh Chaturthi. This makes the water bodies clean, too, as the medicinal properties of the leaves purify the water.