Forty Stanzas for the Goddess of the Basil Tree
“Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the tulasī tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases. Simply by offering obeisances to and pouring water on the tulasī tree, one can become freed from the fear of being sent to the court of Yamarāj.”—Skanda Purāṇa
“Tulasī is auspicious in all respects. Simply by seeing, simply by touching, simply by remembering, simply by praying to, simply by bowing before, simply by hearing about, or simply by sowing this tree, there is always auspiciousness. Anyone who comes in touch with the Tulasī tree in the above mentioned ways lives eternally in the spiritual world.”—Srila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion
(1) To laud Tulasī, Goddess graceful,
We chant entranced & glossy eyed!
Incarnate in the sacred basil,
Thou art Achyuta’s beauteous Bride.
(2) Śrī Lakshmī Śakti’s part expansion,
Bright gems & bangles Thee bedeck
In Vishṇu’s lush-leaved lotus mansion,
A diamond pendant ’round Thy neck.
(3) In Jewelled City Manipura
Thy face doth shine like moons in camphor;
Thy body in its golden aura
Is like a sun encased in amber.
(4) Thy bracelets are the sun god’s present;
Thine earrings are the moon god’s treasure;
The flame god’s gift Thy breastplate pleasant;
Thy nose-ring’s from the god of pleasure.
(5) Thy form champaka flower fair
Is clad in rich cærulean robes;
A jasmine wreath is in Thy hair
And shark-sharped rings adorn Thy lobes.
(6) Thou art adored in six domains,
Arrayed in sixfold opulence.
The Six Goswāmīs sing refrains
To jingling of Thine ornaments.
(7) Thy nails are bright as moons of autumn,
Thy lips like ripened bimba fruit.
The lotus markings grace the bottom
Of Thy light lissome blossom foot.
(8) O Mother in Whom is all merit;
Thou leanest on Lord Vishṇu’s bosom,
And on Thy hand is perched Thy parrot
Atop a scarlet lotus blossom.
(9) Once wife of devil Sankachuda,
Then wed to our Divine Govinda.
Gandharvas, Nārada, Garuḍa,
And heaven’s Devas praise Thee, Vrindā!
(10) Rohini, Chaya, Svaha, Rati,
And all celestial Damsels serve Thee.
I pray, O nectar-bathed Śrīmātī,
To be Thy servant, though unworthy.
(11) A little Lassie still Thou sought
To undergo austerity
In mountains of Badarināth,
There suffering with severity:
(12) At first took only fruits for fare,
Then dry leaves chewed, forsaking food,
Then fed on solely sun & air
While on a single leg Thou stood
(13) Through summer with four fires ’round,
Through pouring torrents in monsoon,
Through winter in an icy pond,
Till came Brahmā to grant the boon.
(14) Thou won as penances’ reward
To get as Groom the Cosmic Saviour
Nārāyaṇa our four armed Lord
Embracing Thee to Him forever.
(15) Yet ere to Vishṇu wert Thou wed
Struck tricky cupid Kāma’s dart:
A demon king took Thee to bed,
In wedlock held Thy hand & heart.
(16) So mighty was this demon bestial,
The son of sea & Śiva’s lightning,
He conquered all the realms celestial
And even Indra found him frightening.
(17) He laid the three worlds all to waste,
Drove Devas out from heaven’s vault;
Yet by Thy shielding virtue chaste
Unchastised went Thy spouse’s fault.
(18) To steal Thy faithful continence
The vanquished gods to Krishṇa pled.
In demon lover’s countenance
Our clever Lord took Thee to bed.
(19) Thy husband outraged at this ruse
Cursed Thee to be reborn as basil
And cursed Lord Krishṇa to transfuse
His Soul to Śaligrama fossil.
(20) And yet the curse became our cure:
For by Thy strange change to a plant,
Thy perfect leaves have made us pure,
And on Thy wood’s white beads we chant.
(21) O Best of Wish-Fulfilling Trees,
With leaves that sheen in green or purple,
All humble souls like bumblebees
Are humming ’round Thee in a circle!
(22) Thy leaves must grace cooked foods & curries
In each prasadam meal of Hari’s.
From our worst sins & worthless worries
We’re made free by Thy soft mānjāris.
(23) Thy leaf to Vishṇu of such price is
As bilva leaf to Mahādev,
A thousand fire sacrifices,
Or in Gangā’s chaste waves to lave.
(24) To tend Thy plant is merit equal
To gift of thousand elephants.
We serve Thee more than persons regal
Arrayed in glamorous elegance.
(25) Thy leaf’s worth sixty ox tail whisks
That wave as temple idol’s fans;
Thy blooms outshine the odalisks
Who for the temple idol dance.
(26) If as a bird I took rebirth
And in Thy branches perched to sing
My fate would be of greater worth
Than birth as brahmana or king.
(27) For even little bugs that swarm
Upon Thy limbs must reach Vaikunṭha
Where six limbed insects would transform
To six limbed likeness of Mukunda.
(28) Brahmā’s four blessèd mind-born sons
By breathing in Thy leaves’ aroma
Were in samādhi sunk at once
As drunk upon celestial Soma.
(29) Advaitāchārya’s sacrifice
Of basil buds in Ganges soaked
Brought Krishṇa’s vision to his eyes
He’d so devotedly invoked.
(30) When came to Haridās Thakūr
A whore to break his meditation
The stainless saint then made her pure
By sacred basil’s cultivation.
(31) Forgive if ever I made Thee wince
By picking of Thy leaves, Madonna!
Thy flowering life is death to sins
Like even murder of brahmana.
(32) Thy flowers’ flawless nectar scent
Perfumeth rude samsāra’s stenches.
No need to noisome crimes repent—
I’ll climb to heaven on Thy branches.
(33) When will my sinful soul so sordid
Prefer Thy blooms to worldly charms,
Prefer Thy leaves to bank notes hoarded,
Prefer Thy limbs to lovers’ arms?
(34) The pages of the Holy Vedas
Are summed up by Thy single leaf.
No medicine or herb is great as
Thy wood beads at relieving grief.
(35) My teacher Jagannātha dās
His Grace gave me this rosary—
Thy wooden links the bridge to cross
Samsāra’s storm-tormented sea.
(36) Thy garland is for japa-nam,
For lest my harried mind should roam
Thy beads remind me Hare Rām!
And Hare Kṛishṇa! Hari Om!
(37) To chant each day upon Thy mala
Is as to be a pilgrim often
To Jagannāth at Nīlāchala,
To Rādhā-Kunda & Vrindāvan.
(38) Devotion’s Mother, please, Śrīmātī,
Tell us a seed of easy mantra
To summon Śyāma in samādhi,
Bring Mādhava & Rāmachandra!
(39) Yoginī with Thy mind engrossed
Forever in the Oversoul,
Austerely standing there tree-posed,
Pray put our thoughts in God’s control.
(40) We chant entranced, in tears, eyes glossy,
And make to Thee a pure prostration
And dance around Thy plant, Tulasī,
In sacred circumambulation.