GLORY OF THULASI - THE DIVINE PLANT
Thulasi in brief
Thulasi the divine plant is a house hold name among Hindus regarded as the ultimate symbol of purity. Thulasi is a Sanskrit word literally means the one that has no equals, the one which has no comparison, matchless, and the one whose merits are invaluable. Thulasi is considered as very sacred and divine plant that has both physical and spiritually healing properties. It is worshipped as a Deity in Hindu religion since time immemorial. In olden days presence of Thulasi in a house was considered as a symbol of religious and spiritual bent of that family.
Thulasi in Legends and Mythology
Glory of Thulasi is mentioned in several Puranas like Padma Purana, Brahma Vaivartha Purana, Skandha Purana, Garuda Purana, Kartheeka Purana and Vishnu Dharmottara Purana etc... As per Padma Purana it is said that Thulasi came out from the joyous tears of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu that fell on the Divine Nectar (Amrutha) that emerged out during Ksheera Sagara Madhanam.
As per the popular legend, Thulasi also known as Brinda was the daughter of King Dharmadhwaja, married to Jalandhara the demon king dwelling on the ocean. Jalandhara was said to have born out of the fierce energy released from the eyes of Lord Shiva that fell into the ocean (Jala). Hence, he was named as Jalandhara. By virtue of his severe austerities Jalandhara had received boon from Lord Vishnu that he would be invincible as long as his wife is chaste and virtuous. In turn Brinda the wife of Jalandhara was a great devotee of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu and was known for her virtues and chastity. This has added further strength to Jalandhara who took advantage of his invincibility and started harassing virtue people and Deities and committing atrocities against them. Even Lord Shiva could not defeat him.
Ultimately Lord Sri Maha Vishnu in order to eliminate Jalandhara and to save the Deities and Virtuous from the atrocities of Jalandhara had to play a trick. He comes to Brinda in the guise of her husband Jalandhara when he was away in the battle field and spends time with her intimately. Due to this action Brinda loses her chastity and incidentally Jalandhara loses his invincibility and gets killed by Lord Shiva. Hearing the death of her husband, Brinda realises the trick played on her and Curses Lord Maha Vishnu to become a stone and commits her self Sati. Admiring her virtues and devotion, Lord Vishnu blessed her with immortality and made her adorable universally. Same Brinda became the immortal Thulasi the divine plant, a symbol of purity and dear to Lord Vishnu adorning him always. Lord Vishnu by virtue of the curse given by Brinda took the form of a stone called Salagrama Sila in the river Gandaki which is considered as very sacred and celestial and worshipped as a symbol of Lord Vishnu.
Religious and Spiritual significance
Entire Thulasi plant, leaves, flowers, stems, roots, seeds and even the Mrittika (clay of Thulasi roots) are all full of religious, spiritual and medicinal significance. Thulasi is also called with alternate names viz. Viswavandhya, Brunda, Pushparasa, Krishna Jeevani, Nandini, Viswapavani, Viswapoojitha, and Brundavani. It is called as Sri Lakshmi Swaroopam symbolizing Goddess Lakshmi and beloved to Lord Sri Maha Vishnu. It is said that where Thulasi is, there Lord Vishnu resides and such place is considered as a Theertha (sacred place).
It is not just a sacred plant to be worshipped. It is considered as an incarnation of Goddess Herself and is called as Thulasi Devi. Following sloka indicates the spiritual significance of Thulasi.
Yanmoole Sarva Teerthani Yanmadhye Sarva Devata
Yadagre Sarva Vedascha Tulasee Tvaam Namamyaham
That means all the sacred Theerthas reside in the roots, all the Deities reside in the middle, and all the Vedas occupy the top portion, the tip of the Thulasi plant and I am offering my obeisance and salutations to such sacred plant.
It is further said that the Trinal Lords Brahma resides in the apex of Thulasi, Vishnu in the middle and Shiva in its roots and Asta Dighpalakas in its branches. It is believed that Goddess Gayathri, Lakshmi, Saraswathi, and Sachi Devi always reside in Thulasi’s flowering springs.
Thulasi is compulsory and a must in the worship of Lord Vishnu who gets very much pleased when He is worshipped with Thulasi. In Vaishnava sampradaya Thulasi is extensively used and no religious ceremony or ritual is complete without Thulasi. Worship of Lord Maha Vishnu is incomplete without adding Thulasi leaves. We find Lord Vishnu always adorned with Thulasi garland. Thulasi is a must in any religious ceremony including performing sacred rites to fore fathers. Dried Thulasi stems are also used while performing Homas.
As per Brahma Vaivartha Purana it is said that as soon as one gets up from the bed one should have the darshan of Thulasi plant which is equivalent to having darshan of all the sacred Theerthas in three worlds and also equivalent to having darshan of Lord Sri Lakshmi Narayana. One will get absolved from sins with the darshan and pradakshina of Thulasi plant. We find people worshipping Thulasi with the following sloka as soon as they get up from the bed.
NamasThulasi Kalyani Namoh VishnuPriye Subhe
Namo MokshaPradhe Devi Namah Sampathpradayine
Even growing, touching, watering, transplanting and fostering of Thulasi plant is said to be highly auspicious and meritorious. Lord Sri Maha Vishnu always resides where there is Thulasi, Lotus and Salagrama. It is believed that one who worships Lord Vishnu with Thulasi will not take rebirth and will attain salvation. Worshipping Lord Vishnu with Thulasi leaves helps one in getting cured of incurable diseases.
Sacred water (Theertha) given in temples by the priests is called Thulasi theertham. It is a tradition and belief that we find people giving Thulasi Theertham to the dying person in the last stages with a belief that the soul would go to Heaven. We also find people adding Thulasi branches to the funeral pyre with a belief to provide sanctity and spirituality to the departed soul. One who dies in the vicinity of Thulasi will not go to Naraka Loka. It is said that even Yama Doothas (messengers of Lord Yama) will not dare to enter the house where Thulasi is present and worshipped. Even performing sacred rites to forefathers in the shade of Thulasi plant is considered to be very sacred and meritorious.
One who lites a lamp near Thulasi regularly during Sandhya kala (Sunrise & Sunset) will have Vaikunta Prapthi. Lighting lamps with dried stems of Thulasi dipped in oil/ghee is highly meritorious. It is said that worshipping Thulasi is equivalent to taking bath in sacred river Ganges and one will get Ganga Snana Phala. Taking bath in Ganges River, having darshan of Narmada River and worshipping Thulasi are all equal in merits.
In olden days and even to day in traditional Hindu families we find women praying and circambulating the Thulasi plant, pouring water daily in the morning and evening for the welfare and well being of her husband and family.
While Thulasi is used in the worship of both Lord Vishnu as well as Lord Shiva, one exception we find is that it is not prescribed in the worship of Lord Ganapathi except on the day of Vinayaka Chaturthi.
Thulasi is a sattvik plant and it is said that by using Thulasi one will improve his Sattvik nature. We find people wearing Thulasi Mala a chain made out of Thulasi beads around their neck while performing Japa and also during divine worship as a protection from getting negative thoughts and evil influences.
While Thulasi as such can be given as charity, adding it to any other charity will enhance the merits of such charity.
Medicinal Value of Thulasi
Thulasi plant in its entirety is extensively used in Ayurveda in curing various diseases like allergy, skin infections, cold, cough and respiratory infections, heart diseases, stomach disorders, sore throat, ear ache, mouth infections, fever, head ache, sleeplessness.
It is said to be very effective in viral infections and malaria. In fact it is suggested as a good remedy for Swine Flu. It is said that Thulasi is very effective for controlling the Diabetes, kidney related disorders like kidney stones. Thulasi decoction is also used as herbal tea.
Usage of Thulasi also helps in improving memory power. It is considered as a very good Anti-Oxidant that prevents accumulation of bad cholesterol and fights with free radicals in the body. Thulasi is believed to be an antidote to Snake venom and other insect bites.
Thulasi is used liberally in the manufacture of shampoos preventing dandruff, soaps and other beauty care products. Among various varieties of Thulasi, Krishna Thulasi is considered to be full of medicinal value. Karpoora Thulasi is used in the manufacture of herbal toiletry products.
Like an Elephant, Thulasi plant is valuable both during and after its life time. Thulasi acts as an anti bacterial, anti septic, anti fungal, anti viral, anti allergic and is considered as an immuno stimulant. Considered as the Queen of herbs it is said that where Thulasi is, there welfare (Health) is.
Thulasi and Environment
Thulasi plant and its leaves with its unique and strong fragrance is said to cleanse the environment and provide a healthy and peaceful atmosphere. It is said that Thulasi plant always releases oxygen into the atmosphere. It is considered to be effective to sleep in the sacred and healthy ambience of Thulasi plant. It is believed that the presence of Thulasi will ward off the evil spirits from entering the house. During an Eclipse we find people placing Thulasi leaves in the stored water and food to prevent the food and water from getting contaminated due to the pollution caused by the Eclipse. In view of its potential properties to cleanse the atmosphere Thulasi is liberally grown in industrial areas for prevention of pollution. Fumigation with the dried Thulasi plant repels insects.
Thulasi - Dos and Don’ts
Plucking of Thulasi is prohibited on the days of Dwadasi, Sravana star, Pournami, Amavasya, Tuesday, Friday, during afternoon, evening, night, during mourning days, days of Jataasoucham (birth time) and on the days of Sun Transit (Sankramana). Generally during mourning days it is said that one should not go nearer to Thulasi plant. In such cases where Thulasi is required to be used for worshiping on those specific days, it should be plucked on the previous day. Thulasi has so much of purity and sanctity that plucked Thulasi leaves can be used for pooja even if they become dry. Only thing is, ensure that the leaves have not become rotten.
Thulasi is a sacred plant and hence its surroundings also should be kept clean always. They should be plucked only in the day time in the early hours. While plucking Thulasi leaves it should be ensured that it is plucked in pairs as a combination of four leaves called Thulasi Dala. Single leaves should not be plucked. Thulasi Dalas should be plucked after taking bath and with the right hand. They should not be plucked with nails. They should be plucked with fingers by using index finger and thumb.
At the time of plucking Thulasi leaves the following sloka should be recited.
Thulasi AmruthaJanmani Sadatwaam Kesavapriye
Kesavaartham lunaami thwam Varada bhava shobane
That means Oh' Thulasi one who is born out of the sacred Nectar in the ocean of milk, the one who is dear to Sri Maha Vishnu, I am plucking your leaves for the sake of worshipping Lord Sri ManNarayana and I am offering my salutations to you.
While women can always worship Thulasi they are prohibited from plucking Thulasi leaves. It is said that generation of Rajo/Tamo frequencies in women are high compared to men that will reduce the Sattvik quality of Thulasi. It is believed to be so pure that, slightest pollution can cause destruction to Thulasi plant. One should approach and touch a Thulasi plant only when one is physically and spiritually clean. Therefore, women are not supposed to touch the Thulasi plant while they are menstruating. Another reason that we find is that women are forbidden from the study of Vedic scripts and Thulasi being a symbol of Vedas (Goddess Gayathri resides in Thulasi) its leaves cannot be plucked by women. They are only entitled to worship and perform pooja. Perhaps these are some of the spiritual reasons and there may be other reasons also.
Kartheeka Sukla Dwadasi also known as Uttana Dwadasi is celebrated as a festival of Goddess Thulasi when Thulasi plant is symbolically married to a Salagrama Shila (Lord Vishnu) called Thulasi Damodara Vivaha with all grandeur. On this day while worshipping we find people keeping a branch of Amla tree (Amalakki) besides the Thulasi plant. This day also marks the end of Chaturmasam the day on which Lord Sri Maha Vishnu gets up from His Yoganidra. If that day is missed out it is generally celebrated on the Full Moon day, Kartheeka Pournami.
Types of Thulasi
There are many varieties of Thulasi viz. Krishna Thulasi, Rama Thulasi, Lakshmi Thulasi, Vana Thulasi, Karpoora Thulasi, Rudrajada Thulasi, etc… Krishna Thulasi is sacred for pooja and worshipping while Rama Thulasi that is green in colour is suitable for offering to Sri Maha Vishnu. Thulasi is not a seasonal plant it is a perennial plant whose flowers are available throughout the year. Generally Thulasi plant will be in green or light red colour and emanates pleasant fragrance, astringent in taste and grows up to 100 cm height. We find generally Thulasi as an indoor plant which also grows extensively in forests and we find people growing Thulasi as a garden. Botanical name of Thulasi is Oscimum Sanctum and is known as Holy Basil in English. Even in this botanical name we find sanctity in the word Sanctum.
Perhaps it may not be an exaggeration that no Hindu house would be without a Thulasi plant in their courtyard. We find people constructing a small structure around Thulasi plant called Thulasi Brindavana. The name Thulasi is so popular that we find Hindus even baptize their children with Thulasi. It is spelled as Tulsi or Tulasi or Thulasi. The great saint and composer who scripted the Thulasi Ramayana (Sri Rama Charitha Manas) had his name as Tulsidas. Thulasi Manasa Mandir is a famous place to visit in Benares.
Thulasi, the perennial symbol of Hindu philosophy, tradition, culture and heritage is a Nature’s gift to the mankind that is associated with man’s day to day life. It is referred to as Kalpa Vruksha of Bhoo Loka. Blessed are those hands who pluck Thulasi Dalas for the pooja and worship of Lord Vishnu. For those who have fallen in the midst of this materialistic world Thulasi seva is durlabha.
Praseeda ThulasiDevi, Praseeda HariVallabhe
Ksheerodha Madanodbhuthe Thulasithwaam Namamyaham