Tulsi

(Ocimum tenuiflorum) This is the tulasi, or tulsi, the sacred basil of India, the most sacred in Hindu religion (Pandey), a protector from all misfortunes and disease (Folkard), sacred to Vishnu (Brouk), and Krishna (Pandey), and a goddess in its own right, as Vishnu's beloved, hence Hindus call the plant tulsi-mata, "mother tulsi". It is grown in Hindu houses as a symbol of what O'Neill called "the divine Universetree". It is perceived as the place where heaven and earth meet (Simoons). Flowers and rice are offered to it, and a pot of it is also put at the foot of the village Pipul-tree. The care and worship of tulsi plants have long been regarded as religious duties. Salvation is assured to the person who waters and cares for the plant daily. The responsibility rests with women, for often their ritual activities as Hindus relate entirely to the tulsi plant. A string of beads or a necklace made from the stems or roots of this plant is an important symbol of initiation into the cult of Vishnu, and it places the wearer under the god's protection. It is a sacrilege to boil its leaves in hot water, because it torments the soul of the plant (Upadhyaya). But tulsi is one of the fuels used in a Hindu funeral pyre. The Puranas say that even persons guilty of many sins are absolved if they are cremated with tulsi twigs (Simoons). According to Gubernatis, one of the Sanskrit names for it was Apetorakshasi, "la plante qui éloigne les monstres". It is repellent of dangerous organisms. It can drive away mosquitoes, and other insects as well as poisonous reptiles, and is an antidote to snake bites and scorpion stings. It is believed to purify the air, and so has been used against respiratory illnesses, from colds to tuberculosis (Simoons).

It "grants children to the childless, wealth to the needy, and opens the gates of heaven to the devout worshipper" (Simoons). Girls may worship the tulsi in order to get a good husband , and a plant may be put on their marriage altar. It may be used, too, to make certain that a pregnant woman does not suffer a miscarriage. For example, the Kol, a central Indian tribe, put tulsi leaves on a pregnant woman's abdomen, to pray that she remain safe during that time of danger when evil forces can cause a miscarriage. But tulsi seed is thought to quell sexual desire.

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