Why is a coconut used in all Hindu religious ceremonies?
Amongst Hindus at all religious ceremonies, auspicious functions and activities the coconut plays an important part. The coconut is considered auspicious, symbolic of wealth, honour, progress and good fortune. Therefore it is customary to offer a coconut to all gods and goddesses.
It is customary to mark the coconut with five red dots and place it on a water vessel (kalash) or offer it in prayer. Some cover it partially with a red cloth. It is also customary amongst many people that when a person is honoured, along with a gift a coconut is offered as a symbol of purity. In many places on the occasion of Sharad Purnima (full moon), a coconut is offered to God Varun.
Customs vary about offering the coconut whole or broken during the ceremony. Most people offer the whole coconut at the beginning of the ceremony, and later break it and offer this as prasad. Many consider a coconut the favourite fruit of Lord Shiva because the three eyes in a coconut are symbolic of the three eyes of Lord Shiva.
It is said that offering a coconut is equivalent to the offering of a human to God, as the coconut resembles a human head. The offering of a coconut has also been equated with offering blood to God. The coconut is important even during tantric rituals.
It is believed that the Hindu triad - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh - reside within the coconut. Religious texts explain that a person should be like a coconut - hard and tough from outside, soft and generous from inside.