Hindu FAQ : In Hindu dharma and culture, why do we . . . :
Why do we consider Tulsi sacred?
|Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum, belongs to the family of Labiatae. The classical name, basilicum, from which "basil" is derived, means "royal or princely." Hindus know the plant as Tulasi and Surasah in Sanskrit, and Tulsi in Hindi. Other commonly used names are Haripriya, dear to Vishnu, and Bhutagni, destroyer of demons.
Tulsi is Divinity. It is regarded not merely as a utilitarian God-send, as most sacred plants are viewed to be, but as an incarnation of the Goddess Herself. Thus, when one bows before Tulsi, one bows before the Goddess. Of course, denominations differ in their approach. Generally, worshipers of Vishnu will envision Tulsi as Lakshmi or Vrinda; devotees of Rama may view Tulsi as Sita; while Krishna bhaktas revere Her as Vrinda, Radha or Rukmani.
A plethora of Puranic legends and village stories relate how Tulsi came to grow and be worshiped on Earth. The classic Hindu myth, Samudramathana, the "Churning of the Cosmic Ocean," explains that Vishnu spawned Tulsi from the turbulent seas as a vital aid for all mankind. More common are legends that describe how the Goddess Herself came to reside on Earth as Tulsi. A complex legend in Orissa views the plant as the fourth incarnation of the Goddess who appeared as Tulsi at the beginning of our present age, the Kali yuga. The tale continues with intrigue and deception among the Gods, typical of the Puranic stories, culminating in Vishnu's transforming the Goddess Tulsi into a basil bush to be worshiped morning and evening by men and women in every household in the world.
The Tulsi is the most sacred. In Sanskrit that which is incomparable is called Tulasi. Impressed by her devotion and adherence to righteousness, Tulasi the wife of a celestial being was blessed by Lord Krishna that she would be worshipped by all, offerings would be incomplete without the offering of Tulasi. She also symbolises Goddess Lakshmi. Those who wish a righteous life also worship Tulasi. It symbolises,
1)Kalyani - Normally poisonous snakes and mosquitos do not come close to it due to some smell that it emits. That explains why it is a must in every house. The leaves as well roots are a cure for several diseases like malaria, cold, fever. The wood of this plant is used for Mala, ie a rosary for worship of Lord Vishnu and when worn in the neck it prevents diseases of the throat.
2) Visnu Priye - Tulsi has been described as the beloved of Lord Vishnu since he is the creator and Tulsi helps the health of human beings and animals, prevents soil erosion.
3) Moksa - prade - By keeping the body healthy, it keeps the mind healthy and free of worries enabling us to concentrate on worship of the Ultimate Reality in comfort.
Tusli, along with all other species of basil, possesses remarkable physical and spiritually healing properties, as author Stephen P. Huyler summarizes, "Aside from its religious merits, Tulsi has been praised in Indian scriptures and lore since the time of the early Vedas as an herb that cures blood and skin diseases. Ancient treatises extol it as an antidote for poisons, a curative for kidney disease and arthritis, a preventative for mosquito and insect bites, and a purifier of polluted air. Generally prepared in medicinal teas and poultices, Tulsi's widespread contemporary use in India as an aid to internal and external organs suggests these traditions are based upon practical efficacy." One finds descriptions of basil's health benefits in any of the books on herbs and ayurveda readily available today.
Tulsi is also extensively used to maintain ritual purity, to purify if polluted and to ward off evil. A leaf is kept in the mouth of the dying to insure passage to heavenly realms. During an eclipse, leaves are ingested and also placed in cooked food and stored water to ward off psychic pollution. Funeral pyres often contain tulsi wood to protect the spirit of the dead--as Bhutagni, destroyer of demons. tulsi leaves and sprigs are hung in the entryways of homes to keep away troublesome spirits, and the mere presence of the Tulsi shrine is said to keep the entire home pure, peaceful and harmonious.
Sources : http://www.hinduism-today.com/1997/3/
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