Tulsi, The Holy Basil of India
Tulsi or the holy basil is regarded with immense divinty in India.The plant is said to symbolize Goddess Laxmi. The Goddess in the form of Tulsi is revered for her righteousness. Tulsi in her previous birth was born as Vrinda. She was married to the demon King Jalandhar. Her devotion to Lord Vishnu made her husband invincible. When Lord Shiva could not defeat the demon king Jalandhar, he asked Lord Vishnu to come up with a plan. Lord Vishnu disguised himself as Jalandhar and Vrinda's chastity was destroyed. The demon king was killed. When Vrinda uncovered this plot, she cursed Lord Vishnu that he would be separated from his wife. Shamed of losing her chastity, Vrinda immolated herself on her husband's pyre. Lord Vishnu tranferred Vrinda's soul in the tulsi plant promising to socially accept her as his wife in the next birth. Thus, the Tulsi vivaha is the ceremonial marriage celebrating the wedding of Tulsi with Lord Vishnu,
Tulsi, along with all other species of basil, is praised in Indian scriptures and mythology as early as the Vedic scriptures as a purifying herb. Ancient texts laud the use of Tulasi leaves as an antidote for poisons, for curing kidney disease, arthritis, an emollient against mosquito and insect bites, in addition to its purifying attributes. Tulsi leaves are used in medicinal teas and poultices by Ayurvedic medicine to cure sore throats, remove kidney stones and reduce blood cholesterol. Being an indoor plant, a tulsi plant can be kept in a small pot in the kitchen window or at the balcony or in the center hall.
Legends and village stories narrate how Tulsi came to be worshiped on Earth. The Hindu myth, of the the "Churning of the Cosmic Ocean," states that the Tulsi was brought out by Lord Vishnu from the turbulent seas as a vital panacea for mankind. Thus, the Goddess Herself came to reside on Earth as a plant at the beginning of the present age, the Kali yuga or the Dark Age. Tulsi is described as the beloved of Lord Vishnu since he is the creator and Tulsi helps restore good health to human beings and animals alike. By keeping the body healthy, it keeps the mind healthy and free of worries enabling us to concentrate on worshipping the Ultimate Reality in comfort.
The Tulsi plant is famous as a sanctifier to ward off evil. It is believed that a leaf of tulsi placed in the mouth of the dying ensures passage of the deceased soul to heavenly realms. During an eclipse, leaves are ingested and also placed in cooked food and stored water to ward off negative energies. Funeral pyres often contain tulsi wood to protect the spirit of the dead. Tulsi leaves and sprigs are hung in doorways and entrances of homes to keep away troublesome spirits. The mere presence of the Tulsi shrine endows the home with a pure, peaceful and harmonious environment. A tulsi plant in the house brings harmony and health to the family. Its positive energy opens the heart and mind, filling in energy of love and devotion. Lord Vishnu is revered with a Tulsi garland or a puja with tulsi leaves. No other sacred flower or leaf equals this sacred leaf. A very common pooja performed in Hindu homes is the Satyanarayan pooja in which Lord Vishnu is adorned with a thousand sprigs of tulsi leaves as the thousand names of the Lord are chanted.
Watering the Tulsi Plant and drinking water that contains tulsi leaves reduces stress. Legend or mythology? I bow down to the Tulsi plant who is still worshipped at all the holy places. The Taj Mahal will witness the effects of the tulsi plant in its merit for environmental protection . It won't be long before Tulsi gardens become rampant in troubled lands of northern India restoring its peace and quiet. If reason fails then, its worth a try to give vent to faith and religious texts. Maybe the next time tourists visit the troubled northern region of India, it might be for a different reason- to validate and laud benefits of the peace promoting Tulasi.