Ocimum Sanctum or commonly known as Tulsi, considered one of the most sacred plants of the Hindus, forms part of every Hindu home. There is Sri Tulsi, the common green type and Krishna Tulsi having purple leaves. It is planted on a little pedestal called Brindavanam which has four sides representing four directions. Tulsi is held in great veneration as it is believed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and is worshipped by every Hindu woman, particularly by the Vaisnavites (devotees of Vishnu). A festival called Tulsi Vivaha (wedding) is performed annually during Karthik, (between oct-nov.) like any Hindu marriage by a priest before the sacred fire joining the Tulsi bush with the Salagrama stone, (an ammonite) representing Lord Vishnu or Krishna. A legend explains the reason behind Tulsi turning into a bush andKrishnainto a Saligrama found in river Gandaki.
Tulsi in her former birth was Vrinda, the daughter of a giant Kalanemi and is married to a demon, Jalandhar (jala is water). Jalandhar receives a boon from Brahma (Creator) that he would not die as long as his wife Vrinda remained virtuous because Vrinda was renowned for her faithfulness and chastity. Feeling invincible, Jalandhar declared a war on the Gods who rushed to Vishnu for help. Vishnu disguises as Jalandhar to entice Vrinda, who is filled with remorse once she knows of the deception. Due to her curse Vishnu turns into a Saligrama and she into a Tulsi shrub because of Vishnu’s curse. Soon Jalandhar is killed. Vishnu won over by Vrinda’s unimpeachable chastity vows to marry her every year. Another slight deviation in Tulsi’s story is that when Vrinda discovered she was deceived, she built a funeral pyre and immolated herself. But Vishnu admiring her chastity and feeling sorry for the wrong done to her, was inconsolable till the Gods planted a Tulsi shrub and summoned her spirit into it. Since then she is believed to come into the shrub every evening and leave it in the morning. This is the reason why Tulsi leaves are not plucked after sunset. Another festival is Rathasapthami which falls during end January performed to seek the blessings of the Sun God (rath means chariot and saptami is the seventh day of the month in the Hindu calender) which signifies the Sun moving from the South to the North i.e. when Uttarayan commences. A chariot is drawn on a plank on which all kinds of cereals and pulses are placed and prayers are offered to Tulsi plant and the Rath.
Tulsi worship is not limited to one’s spiritual aspirations alone because the plant possesses many medicinal and curative properties and it is widely used in Ayurveda system of medicine and in granny’s remedies.
n.meera raghavendra rao