Why Do We Offer Coconut?
It is offered in the sacrificial fire while performing hom. The coconut is broken and placed before the Lord. It is later distributed as prasad. It is offered to please the Lord or to fulfill our desires.
There was a time when animal sacrifice (bali) was practiced, symbolizing the offering of our animalistic tendencies to the Lord. Slowly this practice faded and the coconut was offered instead. The fiber covering of the fried coconut is removed except for the tuft on the top. The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a human being. The coconut is broken, symbolizing the breaking of the ego. The juice within representing the inner tendencies (vaasanas) if offered along with the white kernel - the mind, to the Lord. A mind thus purified by the touch of the Lord is used as prasad (a holy offering).
In the traditional, abhishekh ritual done in all temples and many homes, several materials are poured over the deity like milk, curd, honey, tender coconut water, sandal paste, holy ash etc. Each material has a specific significance of bestowing certain benefits on worshippers. Tender coconut water is used since it is believed to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker.
The coconut also symbolizes selfless service. Every part of the coconut tree - the truck, leaves, fruit, coir etc. is used in innumerable ways like thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil etc. It takes in salty water and converts it into sweet nutritive water that is especially beneficial to the sick people. It is also used in the preparation of many ayurvedic medicines and applications.
The marks on the coconut are even thought to represent the three-eyed Lord Shiva and therefore it is considered to be a means to fulfill our desires.