The ‘tulsi’ Indian or plant basil is a significant symbol in the Hindu religious tradition. The title’tulsi’ connotes”the incomparable one”. Tulsi is a venerated plant and Hindus worship it at the morning and evening. Tulsi grows wild in the tropics and warm areas. Dark or Shyama tulsi and mild or Rama tulsi are the two chief kinds of basil, the former possessing greater medicinal value. Of the many varieties, the Krishna or Shyama tulsi is widely used for worship.
Tulsi As a Deity
The existence of tulsi plant symbolizes the spiritual bent of a Hindu family. A Hindu household is deemed incomplete if it does not have a tulsi plant in the courtyard. Many households have the tulsi implanted in a specially built structure, which has pictures of deities installed on all four sides, and an alcove for a tiny earthen oil lamp. Some households may also have up to a dozen tulsi plants around the verandah or in the backyard forming a “tulsi-van” or “tulsivrindavan” – a tiny lava woods.
The Holy Herb
Places that often inspire concentration and areas ideal for worship, according to the ‘Gandharv Tantra,’ include “grounds overgrown with tulsi plants”. The Tulsi Manas Mandir in Varanasi is one such famous temple, where tulsi is worshiped and other Hindu gods and goddesses. Vaishnavites or Fans of Lord Vishnu worship the tulsi leaf since it’s the one which pleases Lord Vishnu the most. They also wear beaded necklaces made from tulsi stems. The production of these tulsi bracelets is a cottage industry in pilgrimages and temple cities.
Tulsi as an Elixir
Apart from its religious significance it’s of great medicinal importance and is a prime herb in Ayurvedic therapy. Marked by its powerful aroma and astringent taste, tulsi is a sort of “the elixir of life” because it promotes longevity. The plant’s extracts may be used to prevent and cure many illnesses and common ailments like common cold, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, various types of poisoning and malaria. Essential oil extracted from karpoora tulsi is mostly used for medicinal purposes though of late it’s employed in the production of herbal toiletry.
A Herbal Remedy
Based on Jeevan Kulkarni, author of’Historical Truths & Untruths Exposed,’ if Hindu women worship tulsi, they in effect peeled for”less and less carbonic acid and an increasing number of oxygen – a perfect object lesson in sanitation, art, and faith”. The tulsi plant is known to purify or de-pollute the air and also works as a repellent to mosquitoes, flies and other insects that are harmful. Tulsi was a universal remedy in cases of malarial fever.
Tulsi in History
In a letter written to ‘The Times,’ London, dated May 2, 1903 Dr George Birdwood, Professor of Anatomy, Grant Medical College, Mumbai said,”When the Victoria Gardens were created in Bombay, the men employed on these functions were pestered by mosquitoes. At the recommendation of the Hindu managers, the entire border of the gardens was planted with holy basil, where the plague of mosquitoes was at once abated, and congestion completely disappeared from one of the resident anglers”
Tulsi in Legends
A number of myths and legends found in the Puranas or early scriptures point to the origin of the significance of tulsi in spiritual rituals. Although tulsi is seen as female, in no folklore is she described as the consort the Lord. Yet a garland solely made from tulsi leaves is the first offering to the Lord as part of the daily ritual. The plant is accorded the sixth place among the eight objects of worship in the ritual of the consecration of the Kalasha, the container of holy water.
According to a legend, Tulsi was the incarnation of a princess who fell in love with Lord Krishna, and so had a curse laid on her by his consort Radha. Tulsi is also mentioned in the tales of Meera and of Radha immortalized in Jayadev’s Gita Govinda. The story of Lord Krishna has it that when Krishna was weighed in gold, not even all of the decorations of Satyabhama could outweigh him. But a single tulsi leaf put by Rukmani on the pan tilted the scale.
In the Hindu mythology, tulsi is very dear to Lord Vishnu. Tulsi is ceremonially married to Lord Vishnu yearly on the 11th bright day of the month of Karttika from the lunar calendar. This festival lasts for five days and finishes on the full moon day, which falls in mid-October. This ritual, called the’Tulsi Vivaha’ inaugurates the yearly wedding season in India.