Since the time of the Dravidians or even before them, worshiping different plants has been a part and parcel of life in India. Many herbs, shrubs and flowers are worshiped or deemed sacred for varied reasons. As per Hindu and Buddhist thoughts, the lotus flower symbolizes the unfolding of consciousness, the rose flower acts an inspiration for spreading sweet fragrance everywhere and the peepal tree is worshiped all across India and so on.
Among all, the tulsi is one such plant that is considered as the most sacred and worshiped by Hindus and Vaishnavas. As per the Christian tradition, it is believed that tulsi grew around Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified. In Greece and Rome, tulsi is valued for its medicinal use. In India, tulsi is found in almost every home and worshiped daily. As per Hindu mythology, tulsi is regarded as an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Lord Vishnu. So during puja, tulsi leaves are offered to the feet of Lord Vishnu. According to another legend, Tulsi was a gopi (cowherd girl). She fell in love with Lord Krishna. But Radha, (female counterpart of Lord Krishna) could not bear this and cursed her. The gopi then became a plant called tulsi.
As per the ancient religious text, the Skanda Purana, touching Tulsi Devi gives purity. One gets free from all sorts of desires by praying to her. By watering her, fear of Yama Raj (Death in person) gets removed.
As per the Hindu calendar, the month of Kartik (October-November) is the best month to worship tulsi as this month is loved by her. During this period, people decorate the holy basil with mango leaves, flowers and sugarcane. In this month, devotees take 365 rounds around the tulsi plant at home in case they cannot go to temple daily. Also a wedding of tulsi with shaligram (sacred lingam) is performed on any one day during this month. I have also attended the marriage of the tulsi plant and it was altogether a different experience. Also the eleventh day of the Kartik month begins the marriage season in India.
Tulsi or sacred basil or tulsai is native to India and a small perennial shrub. Sanskrit meaning of tulsai is the ‘incomparable one’ and it is also known as the queen of herbs. Tulsi is an aromatic member of the basil family (ocinum tenuiflorum or ocimum sanctum.)
There are three varieties of tulsi – a dark variety known as syama or krishna tulsi, a white variety known as rama tulsi and a very hard variety known as Fujian or Thai tulsi. Thai tulsi is the most common variety among all the three types, as it is easiest to grow but it is not considered as a tulsi by the Vaishnavas.
Medicinal Value of Tulsi
Apart from religious value, the tulsi has many medicinal properties making it a sacred plant.
- Tulsi has been mentioned in Charaka Samhita, an ancient book of ayurveda. It proves that tulsi has been used in many medicines since thousands of years. Cold, headache, heart disease, stomach infections can be cured by having an extract of tulsi. It acts as a pain killer. Almost all the ayurvedic cough syrups contain tulsi as an important ingredient, as it helps in lessening bronchitis.
- Tulsi reduces blood glucose levels and so is an effective herb for diabetes.
- Radiation poisoning as well as cataract can also be cured to certain extent by having tulsi extract.
- Tulsi acts as a stress reliever by balancing various body processes.
- It promotes longevity.
- Tulsi leaves are beneficial for nervous system and help in enhancing memory.
- Tulsi helps in strengthening kidney. Drink juice of tulsi leaves mixed in honey for six months in case of renal stones. This will expel these stones through urinary tract.
- Mouth ulcers and infections can be cured with tulsi.
- Tulsi is also very beneficial against insect bites or stings. Drinking juice of tulsi leaves after every few hours in case of bite is very beneficial. You can also apply tulsi paste to the affected parts.
Owing to immense medicinal value, tulsi is considered a sacred plant in India.