Nature, light, water, spirit
Hindus associate the lotus blossom with creation mythology, and with the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and Lakshmi. From ancient times the lotus has been a divine symbol in Hindu tradition. It is often used as an example of divine beauty, for example Sri Krishna is often described as the 'Lotus-Eyed One'. Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. Recall that both Brahma and Lakshmi, the Divinities of potence and Wealth, have the lotus symbol associated with them as their seats. (...)
The lotus flower is quoted exstensively within Puranic and Vedic literature, for example.One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water. Bhagavad Gita 5.10
Borrowing from Hinduism, in Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of body, speech, and mind, floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. The Buddha is often depicted sitting on a giant lotus leaf or blossom.
The concept of spriritual beauty rising from dirt fits well with Andersen's – and romanticism's – ideals and philosophy. Cf. the destiny of the ugly duckling or the little mermaid, not to mention Andersen's autobiographies.
The Chinese Wall will soon fall. The railways of Europe open old Asia's tightly sealed culture archives, and the opposing streams of human culture meet, mayhap with a thunderous crash. The oldsters of our days will tremble at that sound and hear in it a judgment, the fall of ancient gods, forgetting that times and peoples must pass from the earth, and only a tiny image, sealed in a word casket, remain of each, floating like a lotus flower on the stream of eternity, and telling us that all were flesh of our flesh, dressed in different attire. The Jewish image shines radiant from the Bible; the Greek from the Iliad and the Odyssey; and ours? Ask it of the coming Goddess, at judgment time, when the new heaven is lifted to light and sight at the judgment day.