Tulasi is a plant most sacred to Krishna. Tulasi, also known as ‘holy basil’ is auspicious in all respects. She is a pure and great devotee of the Lord, and most dear to Lord Krishna. It is stated in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana that Tulasi, in her last birth was Vrinda devi married to an asura (a person with demonic qualities) named Jalandhar. To gain victory over Jalandhar, Lord Vishnu had persuaded Vrinda devi to give up devotion towards her husband. After being pleased with her, Lord Vishnu blessed her as Tulasi; one who can be worshipped by people all over the universe.
Vrinda devi has thus appeared in this material world as a plant, Tulasi. She was born on the lunar day of the full moon in the month of Karthik. Simply by seeing, simply by touching, simply by praying to, simply by bowing before, simply by sowing, or simply by hearing about the Tulasi plant, auspiciousness is awakened.
Tulasi Maharani is the expansion of Vrinda devi in the form of a tree. Of all trees and plants, Tulasi is the topmost; she is auspicious, the fulfiller of all desires, most dear to Lord Krishna and the topmost devotee. Just as the Ganges river purifies all who bathe in it, Tulasi purifies the three worlds. For the welfare of all conditioned souls, Lord Krishna brought Vrinda devi in her form of a tree (Tulasi) and planted her in the material world. Vrinda devi is a goddess of Vrindavan, who has been given the role of arranging all of Lord Krishna and Srimati Radharani’s Vrindavana lilas (pastimes). Vrinda devi decides which flowers will bloom, which songs will be sung, which food will be served, which musical instruments will be played – she may be likened to a director or choreographer of Lord Krishna and Srimati Radharani’s pastimes.
Tulasi is Krishna’s favourite plant. Every part of the Tulasi plant, the leaves, flowers, fruits, roots, twigs, skin and even the soil around the plant is holy. In the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, it is stated that Lord Hari is not so pleased after being bathed with thousands of pots filled with celestial nectar, as He is when a single leaf of Tulasi is offered to Him. Thus, the Tulasi leaf is very dear to Lord Krishna and essential for worshipping Him.
In Kali Yuga, when Tulasi is planted, glorified, bathed, given in charity, prayed to, remembered, offered to Lord Krishna, and also when the remnants of her offered leaves are eaten, all sins are burnt away. Tulasi Maharani is not only the remover of sins, but also the giver of spiritual qualities. With her blessings, one can cultivate bhakti and make steady progress in devotional service. Tulasi Maharani increases our service attitude and gives us increased attachment for devotional service.
Below are examples of the glories of Tulasi Maharani from the various Puranas:
“To bring auspiciousness to the world and to benefit the gopis, Lord Krishna planted you and cared for you on the shore of the Gomati River.”
“Upon touching her, impurities are liberated. Upon offering prayers to her, all diseases are cast out. Upon watering her, all fears come to an end. Upon being in her proximity, devotion for Krishna is implanted in the heart. Upon casting oneself at her feet, the fruit of the greatest liberation is attained.”
“If one holds on his/her head the water that has washed a Tulasi leaf, one attains the result of bathing in the Ganges or the result of giving ten cows in charity.”
“The chaste Tulasi, the best of flowers, adorable and lovely, destroys the fuel of sins like a flame of fire. O Muni, she is most sacred of all goddesses.
“Whoever gives Tulasi leaves cut in reverence to Vishnu in the month of Karthik will reap the fruits secured by the gift of ten million cows.”
“O Narada, whatever merit one receives by offering all kinds of flowers and leaves to Lord Hari, that same merit one can attain by just offering one Tulasi leaf alone to Him.”
“By offering flowers equipped with pearls and gold, one does not even achieve one sixteenth of the merit which can be achieved by offering just one Tulasi leaf to Lord Hari.”
“In any house where Tulasi Maharani is very carefully protected and watered, the messengers of Yamaraja give up that house from a distance.”
“When food is offered to Lord Hari with a Tulasi leaf in it, if anybody eats that piece of Tulasi, one receives liberations from sins.”
“Any person who makes a beautiful japamala (chanting beads) or kuntimala (neck beads) out of Tulasi wood and uses them to worship Lord Krishna, his/her activities have unlimited results.”
“Just by looking at Tulasi, all sins are removed. By planting, one achieves nearness to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If someone offers Tulasi at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna, she awards liberation and devotion to Him. Therefore, I pay my humble obeisances to such a wonderful Tulasi Maharani.”
Vrinda devi has appeared in this world as the plant Tulasi to give us a chance to serve her and to beg her to bestow upon us her greatest boon – love of Lord Krishna and the privilege of devotional service to Him. Tulasi Maharani has been blessed with the benediction of always being present at the Lord’s lotus feet and on all preparations offered to Him. One who worships Lord Krishna daily with Tulasi leaves attains the results of all kinds of austerities, charities and fire sacrifices. One who sits near Tulasi Maharani and chants/recites prayers, attains results much faster. By worshipping her faithfully, one can get free from material miseries. Caring for the Tulasi plant is purifying and very pleasing to Lord Krishna. Thus, it is important to look after her with great care. Tulasi’s health depends on a sufficient and adequate supply of the following: light, water, temperature, humidity, soil, nutrients, pot size, staying pest and disease free and lots of loving devotion.
ISKCON temples have a formal worship program outlined by His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada beginning by offering obeisances to Tulasi Maharani and chanting the Tulasi – Pranama mantra three times; followed by singing of the Sri Tulasi- Puja Kirtana; and then circumambulating Tulasi whilst chanting the Sri Tulasi Pradaksina mantra. When a person circumambulates Tulasi Maharani, all the sins one may have committed are destroyed at every step, even the sin of killing a brahmana.
All parts of the Tulasi tree are purifying – the leaf, manjari, seed, roots, branches, bark and even the clay/mud of it. Mud made out from the root of Tulasi can be used to make tilak. After Tulasi leaves her body, her wood can be used to carve japamala (chanting beads) or kuntimala (neck beads). Vaishnava devotees wear tilak and neck beads made from the wood of Tulasi to show their devotion to Lord Krishna.
Yamaraja, the lord of death, has ordered the yamadutas, (fearful looking messengers of Yamaraja who come to drag people to their next bodies and/or a hellish planet depending on how much bad karma one has to pay), to not touch anyone wearing Tulasi neck beads and tilak, no matter what their karma is. Instead, the vishnudutas come to escort them to take them to the womb of their next mother so that they can continue their spiritual journey right where they left off. Tulasi neck beads also give protection from bad dreams, accidents, ghosts/evil spirits, and attacks from weapons. Sri Hari resides in the body of a person whose neck and arms are decorated with ornaments made of Tulasi.
The acharyas state that Lord Krishna worships Tulasi Maharani with her eight names on her Appearance Day (in the month of Karthik). The eight names of Tulasi Maharani are:
Vrindavani – one who first manifested in Vrindavan
Vrinda – the goddess of all plants and trees
Visvapujita – one whom the whole world and the whole universe worships
Puspasara – the topmost of all flowers, without whom Krishna does not like to look upon other flowers
Nandini – one who gives happiness to everyone
Krishna-jivani – the life of Lord Krishna
Visva-pavani – one who purifies the universe
Tulasi – one who has no comparison
Tulasi Maharani never goes back to Godhead, she is always with Godhead. Thus, she has appeared in this world to render service to Krishna by giving us a chance to serve her. Hence, devotees offer obeisances to Tulasi Maharani and look after her carefully to increase their devotion for Lord Krishna. Chant the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra every day and render service to the Tulasi plant by planting, watering, protecting, maintaining, circumambulating, seeing, bowing down to, praying to or glorifying Tulasi Maharani. In this way, be sheltered at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna eternally.