All About Sacred Plant And Holy basil 'Tulsi'
Updated: Oct 25, 2022
Tulsi also known as Holy basil and Vrinda, is a sacred plant in Hindu belief. She is regarded as the avatar of Goddess Lakshmi, and thus the consort of the god Vishnu. The offering of its leaves is mandatory in ritualistic worship of Vishnu and his avatars like Krishna and Vithoba.
In Hindu vedas, Tulsi is known as Vaishnavi ("belonging to Vishnu"), Vishnu Vallabha ("beloved of Vishnu"), and Haripriya ("beloved of Vishnu"). The Tulsi with green leaves is called Shri-Tulsi ("fortunate Tulsi") as Shri is also a synonym for Goddess Lakshmi. This variety is also known as Rama-Tulsi ("bright Tulsi"), Rama is also one of the principal avatars of Vishnu. The Tulsi with dark green or purple leaves and purple stem is called Shyama-Tulsi or Krishna-Tulsi ("dark Tulsi").
Vaishnavas traditionally use japa malas made from Tulsi stems or roots called Tulsi malas, which are an important symbol of the initiation. Tulsi's great connection with Vaishnavas is communicated with the fact that Vaishnavas are known as "those who bear the tulsi round the neck".
Many Hindus have tulsi plants growing in front of or near their home, often in special pots or a special masonry structure known as Tulsi Vrindavanas this is related to their culture. Traditionally, Tulsi is planted in the center of the central courtyard of Hindu houses. A person who waters and cares for the Tulsi daily is believed to gain moksha (salvation) and the divine grace of Vishnu, even if he does not worship it. Though daily worship is prescribed, Tuesdays and Fridays are considered especially sacred for Tulsi worship. The Tulsi plant is often worshipped twice in a day: in the morning and in the evening, when a lamp or candle is lit near the plant.
Once upon a time, King Vrishadhvaja (a devotee of the god Shiva) banned worship of all other deities except for that of his patron god. An agitated sun god Surya cursed him that he would be abandoned by Lakshmi. Upset, Shiva pursued Surya, who fled, finally seeking shelter with Vishnu. Vishnu said to the deities that years had passed on earth. Vrishadhvaja and also his heir son were dead and his grandchildren—Dharmadhvaja and Kushadhvaja, were now worshiping Lakshmi to gain her favor. Lakshmi rewarded their efforts by being born as their daughters Tulsi to Dharmadhvaja and Vedavati to Kushadhvaja, respectively.
In time, Tulsi gave up all her royal comfort and went to Badrinath to perform penance to gain Vishnu as her husband. The god Brahma was pleased with her penance but told her that she would have to marry the demon Shankhachuda before she could marry Vishnu. Sudama, a part-incarnation of Lord Krishna was born on earth as the demon (Shankhachuda) due to a curse. Shankhachuda, who also pleased Brahma with his penance, was granted the Vishnu-Kavacha (armour of Vishnu) and blessed that as long as his wife's chastity was retained and Vishnu-Kavacha was on his body, no one could slay him. Shankhachuda and Tulsi were soon married.
Shankhachuda was filled with pride and terrorized the beings of the universe. To rescue the universe, Shiva challenged Shankhachuda to war, while Vishnu went to Tulsi to break her chastity. Vishnu assumed the form of Shankhachuda and compelled Tulsi to have coitus. With her chastity broken, Shankhachuda was killed and Sudama was freed of his curse. In middle of their lovemaking, Tulsi recognized the impersonator. Vishnu appeared in his true form and urged Tulsi to abandon her earthly body and return to his celestial abode as Lakshmi, his wife. Tulsi's mortal remains decayed and became the Gandaki River, while her hair transformed into the sacred Tulsi plant.
A variant of the legend replaces Shankhachuda with Jalandhara and the name Tulsi with Vrinda (a synonym of the Tulsi plant). It concentrates on the tale of Vishnu destroying Vrinda's chastity to lead to the death of Jalandhara by Shiva. In this legend, Tulsi is distinct from Lakshmi. The legend ends with Vrinda cursing Vishnu to become a stone, turning him the Shaligram stone (which are found only in the Kali Gandaki River of Nepal) and God Vishnu transforming Vrinda into the Tulsi plant. She gain the status of a goddess named Tulsi, while his earthly form is the Tulsi plant.
Just as Tulsi respect is rewarding, her contempt attracts the wrath of Vishnu. Precautions are taken to avoid this. It is taboo to urinate, excrete or throw waste water near the plant. Uprooting and cutting branches of the plant is prohibited. When the plant withers, the dry plant is immersed in a water body with due religious rites as is the custom for broken divine images, which are unworthy for worship. Though Tulsi leaves are necessary for Hindu worship, there are strict rules for it. A prayer of forgiveness may also be offered to Tulsi before the act.
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