Kusha grass
Elephant grass (Desmostachya bipinnata), with long, sharp-edged blades.

It usually grows near water, and is found in abundance near the Ganga. Because it grows near water, kusha grass is also considered a purifier, since water is a natural purifier.

kusha_grassKusha is an important component in all-religious ceremonies and has special significance in three of the 12 major sanskaras. In the Simantonayana (see Sanskara) or hair-parting ceremony, the pregnant woman's hair is parted centrally from her forehead to her crown with three stalks of kusha grass tied together, while the Gayatri Mantra is recited.

In the Chudakarana ceremony, the father of the child inserts three stalks of kusha grass seven times each into the child's hair, praying for his protection.

In Shradha, the grass is sprinkled on the spot where the body lay in the house, to purify the area. Apart from the sanskaras, kusha grass is also offered in worship to many deities. Kusha grass is considered to be Vishnu, according to the Vishnu Purana.

The origin of kusha grass is described in the Ramayana. After Sita was banished from Ayodhya by Rama, she went to live in Sage Valmiki's hermitage. There, she gave birth to twin sons, Luv and Kusha. When the boys grew up and met their father Rama, he realised the injustice he had done Sita. He went to Valmiki's hermitage to bring her back, but stipulated yet another ordeal by fire as a public proof of virtue. Sita was so humiliated that she refused to return. Instead she called upon her mother, the Earth, to prove her chastity and take her back into her arms. Instantly, the Earth parted under her feet to accept her. Seeing his mother disappearing underground, Kusha ran to stop her. He could however, only grasp a lock of her hair, which came off in his hands. Sita's hair thus became kusha grass.

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