Tulasi

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Tulasi literally means ‘holy basil’.

The tulasi is a small plant considered extremely sacred by the devotees, especially by the Vaiṣṇavas[1] Its botanical name is Ocymurn sanctum. Three major varieties of this plant are:

  1. Rāmatulasī
  2. Kṛṣṇatulasī
  3. Śrītulasī

Classification of Tulasi

According to another classification, there are six varieties:

  1. Śrītulasī
  2. Kṣudra-patratulasī
  3. Raktatulasī
  4. Bilvagandhatu-lasi
  5. Kṛṣnātulasi
  6. Varvaritulasi

Origin of Tulasi

Only experts in the field can recognize them. Tulasī is said to have been born out of the tears of bliss of Viṣṇu at the time of the emerging of the amṛtakalaśa[2] from the ocean which had been churned by the devas[3] and the dānavas.[4]

Usage of Tulasi

  • The tulasī leaves are extensively used in the ritualistic worship of Viṣṇu and deities associated with Viṣṇu.
  • The dried wood of the plant is shaped into beads and rosaries are prepared out of them to be used in japa.[5]
  • The dried sticks of this plant are also used in homas.[6]
  • While cremating a dead body, a few dried wood pieces are also used along with the fuel. It is believed that the soul of the deceased will go to higher regions by this holy act.
  • Almost every house has a bṛndāvana with a tulasī plant. It is worshiped daily by married women and unmarried girls.
  • Tulasī leaves and the juice extracted out of them have many curative properties. Tulasī is also one of the goddesses considered as a consort of Viṣṇu.

References

  1. Vaiṣṇavas are the followers of the Viṣṇu sect.
  2. Amṛtakalaśa means pot of nectar.
  3. Devas means gods.
  4. Dānavas means demons.
  5. Japa means repetition of the divine name.
  6. Homas means fire-sacrifices.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore