Tulsi also known as Holy Basil is a scared plant in Hinduism. We have always had a Tulsi in our home and my mum would use the leaves during Pooja’s. I have to say, they are not the easier plant to keep alive… but then again I am useless with plants! Mum would also grind the leaves and give it us with honey when we had a cough. To this day Tulsi leaves are still used for its medicinal properties.
Tulsi symbolises purity. The humble Tulsi also has its own festival. This is called Tulsi Vivah, (Tulsi is the plant and Vivah means marriage) and this year is celebrated on the 26th November 2020. It has been interesting writing this blog, as I have never grown up celebrating Tulsi Vivah. A few years ago when I lived in London, I had gone to the temple and its was super busy. Ladies were dressed in their finest sarees the temple was full of music and laughter. It seemed a wedding was happening…I thought I had gate crashed a wedding!, when I asked someone what was happening they said “Today is Tulsi Vivah”. So why is Tulsi Vivah celebrated?
So my thoughts were right… Tulsi Vivah is actually related to a wedding. It is believed that Tulsi is an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. So why did a plant marry one of the Trimurti-Lord Vishnu? The Tulsi wedding symbolises the end of the monsoon and the beginning of the Hindu wedding season.
There was a King named Kushadvaj, he had two daughters. They belonged to the demon clan. His daughter Vrinda was devoted to Lord Vishnu. Vrinda married the demon Jalandhar. She was very devoted to her husband and served him with a true love, and carried out all her duties as a wife.
A fierce battle broke out between gods and demons. When Jalandhar was leaving for the battle field Vrinda took an oath. She promised she would continue to worship Lord Vishnu for her husband’s safe return and victory. Due to Vrinda’s devotion Jalandhar became more powerful and invincible during the battle. The gods found it difficult to overcome him. The gods went to Lord Vishnu for help to defeat Jalandhar.
Vishnu took the form of Jalandhar and went to his palace. Vrinda was so happy to see her husband return safely from the battle field, that she left her prayers incomplete and greeted him with respect by touching his feet. As she had left her prayers incomplete, the oath was broken and the gods were able to kill Jalandhar. When Vrinda found out about Lord Vishnu’s deception she was enraged and cursed him and turned him into a stone. All the gods pleaded for her to revert the curse. Due to her devotion she withdrew her curse. Vrinda went to “Sati”, to be cremated with her husband on the funeral pyre.
A Tulsi plant was born out of the ashes, at the place where Vrinda went to Sati. Vishnu realised what he had done, and respecting her curse created another form of himself as a stone. This form of Vishnu is known as Shaligram. He declared from that day onwards whenever offerings were made to him it would be offered with Tulsi leaves, without which he wouldn’t accept the offerings. In order to preserve the devotion, sanctity and dignity of Vrinda, all the gods got Tulsi and Shaligram married. From this day onwards the festival of Tulsi Vivah celebrates the marriage of Tulsi and Shaligram. Which marks the start of the wedding season.