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Basil is a herb that comes from the Mint herb family.  It is used for culinary purposes.  A native of India, the Holy Basil called Tulsi plant, is revered by Hindus as a Goddess and worshipped every day.   The leaves of this plant are also used as an offering to Vishnu, Krishna, and all the Vaishnavite Gods.

Most Hindus have a small masonry structure or pot with a Tulsi plant either in front or back of the house. The plant is worshipped daily and vermillion and turmeric are applied to it.  The plant is grown across India for its religious and medical purposes.

There are two common Tulsi Plant varieties in India – Lakshmi Tulsi and Krishna Tulsi.

Mythology


According to the mythological stories told by my elders, Vishnu had three wives. Lakshmi, Ganga and Saraswathi.  There ensued a fight between Ganga and Saraswathi out of jealousy.  Lakshmi intervened, but she was cursed to be born as a plant on earth.  Ganga and Saraswathi cursed each other to become rivers on earth.

Lakshmi was born on earth and prayed to Vishnu.  She was married to Shankhachuda who was later defeated by Shiva.  After the demon was defeated  Lakshmi returned to Vaikuntam.  Her mortal remains became the Gandaki River.  Her hair became the Holy Basil plant. Hence this avatar of Lakshmi is revered

In another legend, she is married to Jalandhara who is also killed by Shiva.  Jalandara curses Vishnu to become a Shaligram stone in river Gandaki and Vishnu turns his wife Vrinda(Tulsi) to a holy plant.

According to the third legend, Tulsi plant was supposed to be formed from Vishnu’s happy tears that fell on earth.  Vishnu shed happy tears, as he was successful in giving Amrita to Gods,  dashing immortality hopes of demons to ground during Samudra Manthan.

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Religious Beliefs surrounding Tulsi plant

These and more legends of  Hindu religion make Tulsi is the Holiest of plants on Earth.    Some of the other beliefs are as follows:

  • Tulsi plant has Brahma in its branches
  • All the Pilgrimage centers are in its roots
  • Vedas are branches on this holy plant
  • All the deities of Hinduism are said to reside on its stem
  • It is considered a Vegetable god
  • Ganga jal is supposed to flow through her roots
  • It is believed that those who pray Tulsi will please Vishnu and gain moksha
  • The person’s who are cremated with the leaves is said to reach Vaikuntam (Lord Vishnu’s abode) directly.
  • A single Tulsi stick used for a Vishnu lamp is equal to offering a lakh of lamps
  • Water mixed with a leaf of this plant is given to the dying so that they get Moksha (or redemption from circle of life and death)
  • A person who disrespects the Tulsi experiences the wrath of Lord Vishnu  according to scriptures

Traditions  and rituals surrounding Tulsi plant

Some festivals are held in honor of Tulsi plant

  1. It is a symbol of a married woman
  2. Special poojas are conducted for Tulsi plant on Tuesdays and Fridays.
  3. Tulsi Vivah or Marriage of Tulsi with Lord Vishnu is performed from Prabodhini Ekadashi and Kartik Poornima. This festival starts after the Chaturmas monsoon season when regular marriages are not held,  hence heralds the marriage season.
  4. Some offer a 100,000 leaved Garland to Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu or Hanuman in case their specific wishes are fulfilled by Lord Vishnu or Krishna
  5. Another festival is held in Orissa during the Visakha month of Hindu calendar (April-May). On the first day of the month, a small perforated vessel filled to the brim with water is placed on top of the Tulsi.  This vessel provides continuous dripping water supply to the plant during the ensuing hot months.  This ritual is performed because it is believed that this will cleanse one from all his/her sins.  This ritual is also performed with a prayer for good monsoons.
  6. Japmalas made of Tulsi wood is used by the elderly and used as a rosary
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Tulsi photoPhoto by Mayapur

Some Benefits of the Holy Herb

Tulsi leaves is often used as an ingredient in  Ayurveda and Natural remedy treatments. It finds applications as a medicine for various ailments.

  • Tulsi leaves are added to neem and turmeric to smear on pimples and acne
  • Sometimes the leaves are used for making Tea.
  • Leaves are good for people with Respiratory problems.
  • This herb improves immunity and combats viral and bacterial infections.
  • Tulsi intake will regulate the uric acid level and hence it is beneficial for people with kidney stones.
  • It is good for hair and skin disorders.
  • The leaves of the plant are rich in antioxidants that can control problems like Diabetes, Stress and blood pressure.  Stress hormone Cortisol can also be controlled by these leaves.Hence is very helpful for persons with severe stress
  • The leaves are a good source of Phyton nutrients, Vitamin C and A
  • This herb also improve dental health
  • Holy basil is a good insect repellant

Tulsi photoPhoto by दीपक

With so much utility, no doubt our ancestors accorded so much honor and respect to this plant.  Mythology is debatable, but the importance and reverence are given to Tulsi undoubtedly worth it.  Trees/plants are our only hope to combat environmental concerns.  Hence growing plants like Tulsi, right in our backyard is very important for the welfare of our future generations.

 

Photo by drsuparna

The Holy Basil – Why Is Tulsi Plant Revered In India

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