The Tulsi plant is a variety of the spice we know as basil. The story of Tulsi and the holiday known as Tusli Vivaha is wonderfully symbolic story that resonates even today. Tulsi Vivaha, is the mythical marriage of the tulsi plant and Krishna, is celebrated on the11th day of the bright half of the lunar month of Kartika. The festival is popular in all parts of India and particularly in the south.
In the Vedic tradition there is a rishi by the name of Narada who is the son of Brahma, the creator. He takes the role of cosmic instigator. He is always sneaking in and out of these stories, usually starting things off by making devious suggestions which his unsuspecting target eagerly agrees to. Of course there are all sorts of interesting consequences and they are what make up the core of these stories. During the time that Krishna was here on earth, the gods in heaven decided that he had been away long enough and that they missed him. They wanted him to come back to heaven. So with Narada, they hatched a plan to get Krishna to return.
While here on earth, Krishna had 2 wives; Satyabhama and Rukmini. Queen Satyabhaamaenquired of the Rishi Narada how she could ensure that she would have Krishna as her husband in her next life. Narada told the Queen, and truthfully so, that you receive in the next life that which you giveaway in this life as charity (Daan in Sanskrit). So Satyabhaama immediately gave Krishna away to Narada and they left immediately so that Krishna could go back to heaven.
But Krishna’s wives Rukmini and Satyabhama sorely missed their husband, and both requested Narada to bring Krishna back. Narada said that they would have to give the gods something equal to the weight of Krishna if he was to return from heaven. Proud of all the jewels and valuables that Krishna had given her, Satyabhama set up a large weighing balance scale. Krishna came and sat on one side. Satyabhama, who as befits a Queen, was rather arrogant and brought out all her jewels and gold and silver pots to weigh against Krishna. But the more she piled onto the balance scale, the lighter her side became. Krishna just became heavier and heavier. Reduced to angry tears, she finally gave up. Satyabhama asked Rukmini to do what she could. Rukmini removed all the gold and gems from the scale and plucked a few leaves of the wild tulsi plant growing nearby. She put them on the scale with all her love. The leaves proved to be far heavier than Krishna. With a smile, Krishna returned to earth to be with his wives.
Since that time, a tulsi leaf is added to any auspicious gift. A father also places a tulsi leaf in his daughter’s hand during the Kanaan – giving away of the daughter during a Hindu marriage ceremony. On Tulsi Vivaha the yoga tradition is for the tulsi plant to be dressed up as if it were a murti. The ceremony of Vishnu’s marriage is re-enacted in a uja called Kalyana Utsavam. A dainty wedding pavilion(mandap) is made of sugarcane stalks and the tulsi plant is decorated with a yellow bridal sari, miniature jewellery and red kumkum powder. Krishna wears a golden crown and the traditional bridegroom’s attire. The wedding is conducted with complete wedding puja and homa rites. The Tulsi plant is offered a feast of seasonal berries, new tamarind, turmeric, amla fruit and rice. Krishna is offered sweets made of milk.
You might ask why it was that Rukmini, who was really Lakshmi, offered the tulsi plant to Krishna in this story. As is frequently the case in Vedic stories, it begins with a demon that has gained too much power and is troubling the gods. Since the strength of the gods cannot always equal that of the demons, the gods have to win by some form of trickery. Of course ultimately it backfires and the gods have make amends.
In this case, there was a demon who was a famous warrior by the name of Jalandhar. By constantly annoying, fighting and defeating the gods he madehis fellow demons happy and more and more of the universe came under their control. Jalandhar had a wonderful wife by the name of Vrinda who was apure and spiritually dedicated soul and a powerful yogi in her own right. Because of her purity and spiritual strength, Jalandhar became invincible in all three worlds.
Desperately, the gods tried to find some way to defeat Jalandhar. Vishnu developed a plan and sent messengers to tell Vrinda that her husband had been killed in battle. The severed head and body of two monkeys were put in front of her, and after reciting some mantras, Vishnu, through his magical powers made her believe it was her husband’s dead body and she was plunged into grief.
Then Vishnu snuck away and took the form of sadhu and seemingly innocent, walked by Vrinda. Faking compassion, Vishnu recited some mantras and joined the head and the body together again. Vishnu quickly took the form of Vrinda’s husband who thought that her husband Jalandhar stood there in front of her. She embraced him with passion and relief. But quickly she realized her mistake and discovered that it was in fact, Vishnu. In that conservative era, she immediately lost her spiritual virtue and power for having touched the body of man who was not her husband. She was distraught at having been tricked, but it was of no use. AfterVrinda had lost her holiness and purity, Jalandhar lost the source of his power, and was killed in battle. When Vrinda came to know the full truth of her husband’s death, she was wild with anger and cursed Vishnu saying, “Your wife will be taken away from you and you will have to ask help from monkeys to recover her.” A rishi’s curse is powerful thing and not even the gods can escape intuit was after all, the result of Vishnu’s own actions coming back to him.
As we well know, this curse was realized when Vishnu took the form as Rama and Sita was taken from him only to be saved again by Hanuman, the monkey god.
After issuing her curse, Vrinda prepared the funeral pyre for her husband and jumped into the fire. Vishnu, whose job it is to protect everyone in creation, was very sorry because as a result of his deceit the poor widow had committed suicide. He remained sitting at the side of the pyre for many days, deep in depression. Worried about him because he was neglecting his cosmic duties, the gods planted three medicinal trees in the cremation ground; Tulsi, Amala, and Jasmine. Of these three trees the Tulsi was most dear to Vishnu and to this day is used in his worship rituals
Because Vrinda had for a while truly believed Vishnu to be her husband, when Vishnu appeared as Krishna, Vrinda came in the form of Rukmini and on the day which we celebrate as Tulsi Vivaha, they were married.
Importance: From this day the auspicious days begin. It is said that, this marriage is the symbol of the perfect marriage in Indian culture.
Significance of Tulsi Vivah:
The belief is that those who perform Tulsi Vivah ceremony giving away Tulsi considering them to be one’s daughters get the credit of Kanyadan which is an auspicious act in Hindu religion. Tulsi plant can help to vanish all the Architectural defects in a house. For Hindus, Tulsi is the most sacred plant. Puja offerings are considered incomplete without the Tulsi leaf. It also symbolizes Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. Women seek blessings for happy married life. The Tulsi leaf has great medicinal value as it cures various ailments, including the common cold. Performing one or four Parikramas of the plant removes the evil effects of the sins.
Guest Blog by BHARAT MARU.