- TULSI OR BASIL
THE MAHIMA OF THE HUMBLE TULSI IN OUR COURTYARD
Tulsi is Divinity
The 'tulsi' plant or Indian basil is an important symbol in the Hindu religious tradition. The tulsi plant is worshipped as a living Goddess. The name 'tulsi' connotes "the incomparable one".
A Hindu household is considered incomplete if it doesn't have a tulsi plant in the courtyard. Many families have the tulsi planted in a specially built structure, which has images of deities installed on all four sides, and an alcove for a small earthen oil lamp. Some households can even have up to a dozen tulsi plants on the verandah or in the garden forming a "tulsi-van" or "tulsivrindavan" - a miniature basil forest.
In the Padmapurana Lord Shiva tells the sage Narada about this power: "Oh Narada, wherever Tulsi grows there is no misery. She is the holiest of the holy. Wherever the breeze blows her fragrance there is purity. Vishnu showers blessing on those who worship and grow Tulsi. Tulsi is sacred because Brahma resides in the roots, Vishnu resides in the stems and leaves and Rudra resides in the flowering tops."
According to popular Indian belief, wherever Tulsi is planted, the place becomes, sanctified as a place of pilgrimage and the sepoys of Lord Yama (God of Death) dare not enter that place. It’s a venerated plant and Hindus worship it in the morning and evening. The tulsi wood is the most sacred of all wood in the Hindu tradition. I remember my grandma telling us of how the evenings would be fun in Parawoor with the girls and ladies of the house sprinkling water in the courtyard and lighting lamps in front of the Tulsi plant. I still light a lamp, burn incense sticks for the tulsi that is planted outside of my house. Since generations together, no matter which country Indians are settled in, We always would like to keep a Tulsi plant outside our house. This is one thing which hasn’t changed.
Tulsi – Holy basil
In India, the Tulsi is regarded as the most sacred plant. Tulsi grows wild in the tropics and warm regions. It has a very distinguished appearance, aroma and flavor. It is a much- branched erect bushy plant of about 4 feet height. Its leaves are aromatic and they have minute glands. The flowers are purple in small clusters and the seeds are yellow or red.
There are mainly 2 varieties of the Tulsi(holy basil) in India, The Dark Tulsi or Shyama tulsi (also known as Krishna Tulsi- since Krishna was believed to be dark in color) and the lighter colored one known as Rama tulsi. The Krishna Tulsi(Shyama Tulsi) is said to possess greater medicinal value and is commonly used for worship. It’s a miracle plant.
According to the Gandharv Tantra, places that are overgrown with Tulsi plants tend to inspire concentration and places ideal for meditation and worship.
Tulsi In Legends
A number of passages in the Puranas and other scriptures (Vedas), point to the importance of tulsi within religious worship. Tulsi is regarded as a goddess (Lakshmi) and a consort of Vishnu. A garland of tulsi leaves is the first offering to the Lord as part of the daily ritual. Tulsi is accorded the sixth place among the eight objects of worship in the ritual of the consecration of the kalasha, the container of holy water. One Hindu legend relates that Lord Vishnu spawned Tulsi from the turbulent seas in order to help all mankind. Krishna loves tulsi.
Hindu Mythological Tales narrate that Tulsi, a destitute woman, was accused of infidelity and shunned by all. Finding no shelter in the world, she turned to Vishnu for help. But the gates of Vaikuntha (Vishnu's Abode) were shut on her as Vishnu's Consort Lakshmi refused to let her in. Tulsi stood in the courtyard of Vishnu's abode, under the open sky, helpless and humiliated. Her feet turned into roots, her arms sprouted leaves, and she turned into a delicate yet wild plant, her fragrance spreading all around. Lord Vishnu said: "By not abandoning her devotion to me, despite all odds, Tulsi has become my beloved, 'Vishnupriya'. She should be treated with dignity at all times - not as an unchaste woman, but as a venerable housewife, a 'Sumangali'. No worship of Vishnu is complete without an offering of Tulsi sprigs. And so the Tulsi plant is nurtured in the courtyard of every house, and is identified as Vishnu's Vrinda or Krishna's Radha, women whose devotion for the Lord, though unrequited, never waned. Thus, Tulsi is seen as Lakshmi's co-wife for her unconditional devotion to Vishnu, but as Laksmi is very jealous of her, she resides in the home whereas Tulsi remains in the courtyard.
Another story goes that Tulsi was the paramour of Lord Vishnu. Out of Jealousy, Lakshmi cursed her into becoming a plant and the Lord transformed himself into the sacred Shalagrama Stone to keep her company. The Shalagrama is a small stone, an ammonite, a fossil genus of marine cephalopod, considered to be a natural representation of Lord Vishnu. Shalagramas are found in the Gandak river of Nepal. They are usually black or dark green coloured, round or oval in shape, striated with tree-like markings. The curves of the striations signify the various forms / reincarnations of Vishnu. The worship of Shalagrama doesn't involve elaborate prayer rituals. It is kept wrapped in a cloth, often bathed and perfumed. Its very presence in a home bestows health, wealth and happiness on its inhabitants.
By convention, the Tulsi Leaf is not offered to Shiva, just as Bel Leaves, dear to Shiva, are not offered to Vishnu. Tulsi leaves are also not offered to Goddess Lakshmi as she was once annoyed during her lovesport with Vishnu, when his attention got diverted towards Tulsi.
According to one story, Tulsi was a gopi(who was actually an incarnation of a Goddess) who fell in love with Krishna and so had a curse laid on her by his consort Radha.
Where most herbs are considered to be forms of the Goddess, Tulsi is a considered to be a Goddess herself. One legend is that a Goddess incarnated as Vrinda and, after spending a lifetime as a very close devotee of Krishna, serves to this day as the herb Tulsi, which leads to one of Tulsi's many names, Vishnupriya, the beloved one of Vishnu.
One story has it that when Krishna was weighed in gold, not even all the ornaments of His consort Satyabhama could outweigh Him. But a single tulsi leaf placed on one side by his consort Rukmini tilted the scale. Tulsi is also mentioned in the stories of Mira and Radha immortalized in Jayadeva's Gita Govinda.
Tulsi Puja and Tulsi Vivaha
Followers of Hindu traditions often keep a Tulsi plant in front of their house. On a specific day each year known as 'Kartik Shukla Dwadashi' (usually about two weeks after Diwali) there is a tradition wherein Tulsi plants will be beautifully decorated with structures made of sugarcane, mango leaves and flowers and then a puja (form of worship) is offered.
As with Diwali celebrations there are usually clay lamps lit around the Tulsi plant and the house. In some parts of India people will have also have fireworks displays to mark the occasion.
In northern India and in Gaudiya Vaishnava communities it is called the 'Tulsi vivah' or the wedding day of Goddess Tulsi with Krishna in his Sila form. In the Hindu mythology, tulsi is very dear to Lord Vishnu. Tulsi is ceremonially married to Lord Vishnu annually on the 11th bright day of the month of Kartika in the lunar calendar. This festival continues for five days and concludes on the full moon day, which falls in mid October. This ritual, called the 'Tulsi Vivaha' and this inaugurates the annual marriage season in India.
There is another celebration called Tulsi Ekadashi where Tulsi is worshipped on the Ekadasi day. In the Christian tradition it is said that Tulsi grew around the place of Crucifixion. Tulsi is also mentioned in Shiite writings.
Tulsi and Science
According to Scientists the place containing the tulsi plant becomes pollution free. The oil of the leaves is capable of destroying bacteria and insects.
According to scientists the place containing tulsi plant becomes pollution free. According to Jeevan Kulkarni, author of Historical Truths & Untruths Exposed, when Hindu women worship tulsi, they in effect pray for "less and less carbonic acid and more and more oxygen - a perfect object lesson in sanitation, art and religion". The tulsi plant is even known to purify or de-pollute the atmosphere and also works as a repellent to mosquitoes, flies and other harmful insects. Tulsi used to be a universal remedy in cases of malarial fever.
Prof Shrinivas Tilak, who teaches Religion at Concordia University, Montreal has made this historical citation: In a letter written to The Times, London, dated May 2, 1903 Dr George Birdwood, Professor of Anatomy, Grant Medical College, Bombay said, "When the Victoria Gardens were established in Bombay, the men employed on those works were pestered by mosquitoes. At the recommendation of the Hindu managers, the whole boundary of the gardens was planted with holy basil, on which the plague of mosquitos was at once abated, and fever altogether disappeared from among the resident gardeners."
Condensing his years of labour into a 100-page book, therefore, has not been easy. But that is what Dr. Singh has attempted to do now with a well-researched book on Tulsi brought out recently. Along with his co-authors, Yamuna Hoiette and Ralph Miller, he argues forcefully that Tulsi -- the pillar of the traditional Ayurvedic holistic health system will emerge as a forerunner in the growing field of herbal supplements and medicines worldwide. Dr. Singh recalls how as a young doctor in the Army, he was drawn to investigating the properties of Tulsi and Ashwagandha -- two of the plants which were part and parcel of the domestic environment in which he grew up. "People call me the father of Tulsi abroad. But I am not much known in my own country," he points out, adding that "modern science has been accumulating evidence in support of the traditional health promotion and disease treatment uses of Tulsi". Joining the King George's Medical College, Lucknow, in the early Sixties, Dr. Singh conducted systematic research on the various properties of Tulsi, confirming many of the observations made by ancient seers. "Our research has shown that Tulsi protects against and reduces stress, enhances stamina and endurance, increases the body's efficient use of oxygen, boosts the immune system, slows down aging and provides a rich supply of anti-oxidants and other nutrients."
Dr. Singh, who himself has been using Tulsi and other herbs in treating persons afflicted with various ailments, says Ayurveda and modern medicine were complimentary in nature. "I use Tulsi and Ashwagandha to enhance the immune system of my patients," he says, adding it was also being grown organically in farms in and around Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh which has been his experimental bed all these years. Currently the director of the International Institute of Herbal Medicine, Dr. Singh has also been the driving force behind the launch of "Tulsi Tea", which is being exported by a Lucknow based pharmaceutical firm. "Tulsi can readily be brewed and taken as a particularly good-tasting herbal tea," says Dr. Singh, who has as many as 28 patents against his name. "We have also confirmed the anti-radiation effect of Tulsi. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, it will be the only saviour."
Tulsi In Cooking
Tulsi or basil originated in India, where it is regarded as a sacred herb, and is another plant which continues to enjoy popularity in Trinidad after being passed from generation to generation of East Indians. Tulsi is used in cooking for its flavorful foliate. In fact, it is often used to flavor Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. The fresh or dried leaves add a distinctive flavor to many foods, such as pasta, rice and salads and its purple colour makes it an excellent garnish.
Tulsi As An Elixir
Besides being used as a culinary herb, tulsi has medicinal and cosmetic uses too. Essential oil extracted from karpoora tulsi is mostly used for medicinal purposes though of late it is used in the manufacture of herbal toiletry. The essential oils may be extracted from leaves and flowers and used for fragrance in perfumes and soaps.
Though with time, a number of herbal medicines have developed, the role of Tulsi cannot be ignored since it has played an important role in maintaining its doctrine and value in every household. Chemically, Tulsi contains alkaloids, carbohydrates, proteins glycosides, phenols, spooning, tannins and terrene. Consumption of Tulsi in its raw form is more effective as, then, instead of providing selective ingredients, it provides us with its entire constitution. The Padampuranas and Tulsi Kavacham describe Tulsi as a protector of life accompanying the human being form birth till death.
Apart from its religious significance it is of great medicinal significance, and is a prime herb in Ayurvedic treatment. Ayurveda looks at disease with a holistic viewpoint and disturbance of normal physiological functions of the body. According to Ayurveda, tulsi plays a very important role, as it contains multiple bioactive substances as well as minerals and vitamins, normalizing the disturbed physiological functions of the body by harmonizing the different imbalances relating to the Tridoshas of vatta, pitta and kapha, literally meaning ‘wind, bile and phlegm'. Ayurvedic texts describe it as destroyer of kapha and vata. It has a predominantly Kapha reducing effect on the doshas, but can be used to pacify Vata and Pitta as well. In severely overheated individuals, Tulsi can have a mildly Pitta aggravating effect.
Marked by its strong aroma and a stringent taste, tusli is a kind of "the elixir of life" as it promotes longevity. The plant's extracts can be used to prevent and cure many illnesses and common ailments like common cold, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning and malaria. It is said that tulsi, when taken internally, can relieve gas and reduce stomach cramps and nausea, headaches, fevers, colds and anxiety.
The essential oil of basil is also excellent for headaches, mental fatigue, migraines and fever. Tulsi (essential oil) is also said to be anti-spasmodic and may boost the immune system. It is anti-pyretic, anti-allergic, carminative, a blood-purifier and heart tonic. Besides, tulsi is also diuretic, anti-oxidant and kills abdominal worms. Its oil is rich in vitamin C, carotene, calcium and phosphorus.
Applied externally, (essential oil), it may be beneficial for tension, cuts, wounds, abrasions, bites and stings and as a face wash for acne. Some use it in their hair rinse for shine.
Its leaves contain a volatile oil whose odor resembles the odor of clove. Inhaling the essential oil is supposed to refresh the mind and stimulate a sense of smell that has been dulled by a viral infection.
In massage oils it is a nerve tonic and eases overworked muscles. Basil should be avoided on sensitive skin and during pregnancy, according to Ayurveda.
Tulsi is not only effective on human beings but also on animals, experimental studies on animals have shown anti-stress activity with tulsi extract.
Tulsi As Medicine
Since ancient times tulsi is respected in Indian homes. Religious beliefs apart, it is an easily available household remedy for many health problems. Tulsi or basil is a herbal remedy for a lot of common ailments. Tulsi is both a 'first-reach' herb in most cases of cough, colds, flu and fever, as well as a 'last-resort' when nothing else seems to work. Here's a list of some medicinal uses of tulsi –
Tulsi for Fever
-The juice of tulsi leaves can be used to bring down fever. Extract of tulsi leaves in fresh water should be given every 2 to 3 hours. In between, one can keep giving sips of cool water. In children, it is every effective in bringing down the temperature.
-Tulsi leaves are specific for many fevers. In the case of malaria and of other tropical infections, a decoction of Tulsi leaves boiled with powdered cardamom in a cup of water and strengthened with sugar and milk brings down the temperature.
-For children, one or two leaves steeped in hot water with honey is enough to help fever.
-For chronic fever ancient Ayurvedic texts have extolled the use of tulsi leaves and its seeds. Regular use of its leaves during the season of viral fever acts as a good preventive medicine
Tulsi for Cough & Cold
-Tulsi is an important constituent of many Ayurvedic cough syrups and expectorants.
-In acute cough and cold, taking half a teaspoonful of dried leaves of Tulsi and black pepper, added with a little of honey, works well.
-Chewing tulsi leaves relieves cold and flu, the decoction of the leaves cures common cold.
-Due to its kapha removing properties, it is an excellent medicine for common cold. Tea made from leaves of tulsi controls nasal catarrh, cures body-ache and gives a refreshing feeling. Similarly, taking a few leaves mixed with a teaspoonful of ginger juice and honey immediately controls bouts of dry cough and removes any bronchial spasm.
-To make basil tea, take five leaves of basil or half a teaspoon if using dried and some grated ginger in a glass of hot water. Add a teaspoon of honey and lemon juice. Drink this three to four times a day to relieve cough and infection. Tulsi for Respiratory disorders
-In bronchitis and asthma, Tulsi juice is used as a medium of the intake of the medicine -The juice of the leaves cures bronchitis. It helps to mobilize mucus in bronchitis and asthma.
Tulsi for Headache
-The pounded leaves of Tulsi, mixed with sandalwood paste, is a famous home remedy for headache.
-It is also said to help relieve migraine headaches, fatigue, insomnia and arthritis.
-It is one of the ingredients of Asmita's Vata-Balance Ayurvedic Aromatherapy oil. When massaged on the forehead and temple, the vata oil helps relieve migraines, headaches, mental fatigue and disperses depressive moods
Tulsi for Earache
For earache a few drops of tulsi extract, if instilled, relieves the symptoms promptly.
Tulsi for Backache
-Basil tea can also be helpful to nursing mothers in improving lactation or for easing backache.
-Tea prepared with a little of ginger and leaves of Tulsi, while allaying bodyache, also gives a refreshing feeling.
-The juice of fresh leaves, flower tops and slender roots is a very good antidote for snake and scorpion bite.
-The leaves are mosquito-repellent and soothe insect bites.
Tulsi for the Skin
-Skin diseases- Applied locally, tulsi juice is beneficial in the treatment of ringworm and other minor skin diseases. Tulsi has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. The paste of the tulsi leaves cures almost all skin diseases.
-It is used to treat ringworm of the skin. Tulsi leaves crushed with a little salt and rubbed over the affected part works very effectively on ringworms.
-Tulsi seeds are used in anti-leucoderma preparations.
-References are also found where the juice of tulsi leaves is be applied for minor skin infections.
-Above all, holy basil promotes a beautiful skin and heals acne and other skin conditions.
Tulsi for Stress management
Taking the lead from the recent studies that Tulsi has stress-busting and antioxidant properties, more and more pharmaceutical companies are coming up with its preparations. However, a healthy person can take up to 10 leaves of Tulsi in a day. According to Ayurveda, holy basil restores mental function and spirit by rebalancing the vata, or air and ether element, which controls the nervous energy.
-Tulsi possesses anti- stress or adaptogenic properties having a staminator effect. Basil is also an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety herb which works best as tea. It can also be mixed with chamomile and ginger
Tulsi for the Stomach
-Its anti-spasmodic property can be utilized to relieve abdominal colic. The extracts arealso helpful in digestive disorders.
-Tulsi is said to have the power to expel worms in the stomach and kids who usually getsworms in the stomach can be given Tulsi leaves everyday morning.
-The extracts of Tulsi leaf also helps in inhibiting the enzyme of filarial worm, anti-tubercular, anti-fungal, anti-viral function as It possess the hypocholoestromic activity.
-An infusion aids digestion and is antibacterial.
-Tusli seeds are known for their killer action on abdominal worms. Children suffering from roundworm infection can be safely given a quarter of a teaspoon of crushed tulsiseeds at bed time for at least three consecutive days.
-Basil leaves or juice can help digestion and flatulence. A decoction of 10 to 20 leaves taken along with a pinch of rock salt abates digestive problems like flatulence and anorexia.
-In chronic dysentery when a patient passes stool mixed with mucous, tulsi leaves offer great help. Taking them twice a day after mixing with a pinch of rock salt and half a teaspoon of roasted jeera powder in a bowl of curd acts as a good digestive. This treatment if continued for a week or 10 days also helps to dispel persistent wind and abdominal distension.
-One of Tulsi's traditional uses has been in the treatment of digestive disorders ranging from heartburn to bloating. Studies in animals have suggested that there is a scientific basis to these longstanding claims. Holy basil has been shown to have significant anti- ulcer activity. It reduces the effect of peptic acid or irritating drugs on the stomach lining and increases the production of protective stomach mucous.
-Its seeds are given in chronic urinary infections and with their mucilagenous action they are also helpful in treating diarrhea, habitual constipation and piles. The dose of Tulsi juice is 10 to 20 ml whereas the seed powder can be taken from one to three gm twice a day. In a cup of tea around is five to 10 leaves can be added. The juice of its leaves can be taken up to 10 ml whereas the powder of its seeds can be taken in varying doses of 1 gram to 3 grams in a day.
Other Medicinal uses
-In diabetics it helps in lowering the blood sugar level. Studies have shown holy basil to have substantial blood sugar lowering effects, similar to standard oral diabetes medications.
-It also appears capable of lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
-Ayurvedic tulsi preparations have significantly reduced the symptoms of viral hepatitis.
-Oil of tulsi has been used as a potent anti-malarial drug. It also has mosquito repellent properties.
-Tulsi leaves have properties similar to the currently available anti-TB drugs like Streptomycin and Isoniazide.
-When massaged on feet in reflexology, it helps relieve body-ache, fatigue and promotes good sleep. By massaging it in to the calves and legs, it helps circulation, aches and cramps.
-The leaves have mercury traces and are hence nowadays used in cancer curing Ayurvedic medicines.
-The most dreaded disease AIDS can also be regulated with its anti-AIDS properties. Tulsi is useful In AIDS and it markedly reduces cell-mediated Immunity. Tulsi also affects the Central Nervous System by prolonging the time of lost reflex.
-It raises the human body immunity by increasing the antibody production.
-Not only this, ancient texts like Susruta Samhita, Padampurana and Garudpurana, after centuries of observation in humans, also describes Tulsi as a ‘child giver' and great spermatogenic agent. They report Tulsi as a fertility Improver and enhance the chances of woman bearing progeny.
But studies from the 1970's suggested that holy basil might have a mild anti-fertility effect in animals. Although this has not been shown to occur in people, if you are pregnant or trying to be, do not take medicinal doses of holy basil without consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner. Having a leaf or two as Prasad may not affect in conception. This popular plant has many potential therapeutic applications. In addition to the uses reviewed above, Tulsi may possess useful antibiotic activity, have a blood pressure lowering effect and be effective as a birth control agent. This sacred healing plant deserves further scientific attention.
What is the Tulsi Mala
Tulsi Mala is a necklace made of Tulsi stems. You can get a very delicate one made of tulsi stems or a heavy one made with strands of beads made from the wood of the sacred tulsi plant. Tulsi wood, which is in the family of basil, is the most sacred of all wood in the Hindu tradition. Tulsi is regarded as the incarnation of supreme Goddess. The mala is used as Rosary beads for chanting mantras of Lord Vishnu, Ram and Krishna (also believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and the names of any other Hindu Gods.
The mala is made of 108 beads or stems. It’s usually worn around the neck or wrist. If worn around the neck it is called as Tulsi Kantha Mala or as Kanthi.
Vaishnavaites(Believers of Vishnu) wear a small tulsi mala on their necks as a sign of submission to Krishna and carry a larger one with which to count the Lord’s names, They usually wear 2 sets of the tulsi mala, one is for the Lord and the second one resembles Radhaji to whom Lord promised that he will never separate himself from her. Since Tulsi was Vishnupriya or Haripriya (beloved of Vishnu / Hari(Krishna)), the Vaishnavas believe that wearing the Tulsi Mala is a way to benefit from the power of her presence. Always have God with you, this includes psychic protection and spiritual nourishment. They believe that it will increase the spiritual power of prayer, devotion to the lord and increase spiritual growth. Tulsi helps to improve devotion and love in the heart. Help you to go from Atma(soul) to Paramatma(Supreme Soul). Wearing the Tulsi mala will also protect your body and bring you better health.
Since Tulsi is considered as a Goddess, a lot of care has to be taken by the people who wear the tulsi mala, after the monthly cycle ladies need to take a hair bath on the fourth day and wear a new tulsi mala. After attending a funeral you need to change the mala.
Benefits of wearing a Tulsi Mala
Other than the religious purpose a tulsi mala can be worn by anyone to avail its immense health benefits. Mental Well-being
-It is said to cure the diseases of the mind by providing a feeling of mental well being and the security that God is with you and taking care of you.
-It is said to maintain ritual purity and wards off evil.
-It gives peace of mind and reduces stress.
-Tulsi mala is worn for the purification of the body.
-It is said to cure a person from high fever.
-It relieves you from the ailment caused by disorder of the wind within the system
-According to Ayurveda, it is very useful in diseases related to throat.
Quotes Regarding Tulsi
"As by chanting the name of Ganges, one becomes free from all kinds of worldly sins, if someone chants the name of Tulasi or chants the glories of Lord Hari with devotion, he gets the same merit." - From the Brhan Naradiya Purana
"Just by touching Tulsidevi one's body becomes pure. By praying to her, all diseases practically become removed. If one waters her or makes her wet, the fear of Yamaraja (death personified) is destroyed." - From the Skanda Purana
"Tulasi is most beloved of Lord Krishna and thus her leaves and flowers are also most dear to Him." - Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura
"Tulasi leaf is very, very dear to Vishnu."- A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
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