|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Other Scriptures by Acharyas > Tulasi Worship > Tulasi Devi Worship|
by Amala-bhakta dasa
All Rights Reserved
Retold by Amala-bhakta dasa
(c) 2001 Tulasi story, How to Care for Tulasi Devi - Krishna Productions, Inc.
Narada Muni asked Lord Narayana, "O Bhagavan! How did the pure, chaste Tulasi Devi become Your wife? Where was she born? Who was she in her previous birth? What family did she come from? And what austerities did she perform to get You as her husband-You, who are above the material energy, not subject to change, the Cosmic Self, the Supreme God, the Lord of all, omniscient, the cause of all, omnipresent, container and preserver of all. And how did Tulasi Devi, Your chief goddess, become a tree? O You who resolve all doubts, my mind is curious to know all about these points; therefore, it compels me to ask you these questions. Kindly remove these doubts from my mind."
Lord Narayana then related the following account....
Manu Daksha Savarni was a partial expansion of Lord Vishnu. He was extremely virtuous, devoted to the Lord, and very famous for his good deeds. Daksha Savarni's son, Dharma Savarni, was also extremely virtuous. Dharma Savarni's pious son was called Vishnu Savarni, and his son, who was a great Vaishnava, was known as Raja Savarni.
However, Raja Savarni's son, Vrishadhvaja, was fanatically devoted to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva lived in Vrishadhvaja's house for three celestial yugas (ages) and loved him more than his own sons. Vrishadhvaja did not revere Lord Narayana, Goddess Lakshmi or any of the demigods. He abolished the worship of Lakshmi in the month of Bhadra (Aug., Sept.) and the worship of Sarasvati in the month of Magha (Jan., Feb.). He did not participate in the sacrifice and worship performed out of respect for Lord Vishnu (Narayana) and criticized them rather severely.
The demigods did not curse him because they feared Lord Shiva. However, Surya, the sun god, no longer able to restrain his wrath, cursed him: "O King, just as you are completely devoted to Lord Shiva and only to Lord Shiva, and just as you do not recognize any of the other demigods, I declare that you will now lose your wealth and prosperity!"
When Lord Shiva heard this curse, he became angry. Seizing his trident, he ran after Lord Surya. Afraid, the sun god went with his father, Kashyapa Muni, to Brahmaloka, the highest material planet, to take shelter of Lord Brahma. But Lord Shiva pursued him there. Lord Brahma, also afraid of Lord Shiva, took Lord Surya and Kashyapa Muni to the region of Vaikuntha, the spiritual or eternal world. There, with throats parched due to anxiety, they took refuge of Lord Narayana, the Lord of all. They offered obeisances to Him and praised Him repeatedly and finally explained why they were so apprehensive.
Lord Narayana bestowed His mercy on them and granted them the power to be fearless. He said, "O fearful ones, be consoled. How can you be afraid of anyone while I am here? If anyone remembers Me when he is in danger, wherever he may be, I hurry to him with my Sudarshana disc in my hand and save him. O demigods! I am always the creator, preserver and destroyer of this universe. In the form of Vishnu, I am the preserver; in the form of Brahma, the creator; and in the form of Shiva, the destroyer. I am Shiva, I am you, and I am Surya. I assume numerous forms and preserve the universe. So go back to your respective places. You have nothing to be afraid of. All will be well.
"From this day on, you have nothing to fear from Lord Shiva. He is the shelter of the pious, is easily pleased, is the servant and lord of his devotees, and is great minded. Lord Shiva and the Sudarshana-cakra are dearer to Me than My life. In the world of valor, they excel all. Lord Shiva can easily create ten million Suryas and ten million Brahmas. For him, nothing is impossible. He is not conscious of the external world. Meditating on Me, his heart centered, he is absorbed day and night. From his five faces he repeats My mantra with devotion, and he always sings My glories. Day and night, I also always think of his welfare. To whatever degree one worships Me, to that degree I favor one. The nature of Shiva is all-auspiciousness."
While Lord Narayana was speaking, Lord Shiva arrived. His eyes red, he was sitting on his bull carrier holding his trident. He dismounted quickly and humbly offered obeisances with devotion to the Lord of Lakshmi, the tranquil Supreme Being.
Lord Narayana, Vishnu, was sitting on His jewel-studded throne. He was decorated with a crown, earrings, and a garland, and was holding His disc. His form was extremely beautiful, and His complexion like a fresh blue rain cloud. Each of His attendants had four arms and was fanning Him with four hands. His body was anointed with sandal paste and He was wearing a yellow garment. Lord Vishnu, who shows kindness to His devotees, was chewing betel nut that had been offered to Him by His wife Lakshmi. Smiling, He was watching and listening to the dancing and singing of the Vidyadharis.
After Lord Shiva bowed down to Lord Narayana, he bowed to Lord Brahma. Lord Surya and Kashyapa Muni respectfully saluted Lord Shiva. Then Lord Shiva worshiped Lord Vishnu, the Lord of all, and seated himself on a throne. The attendants of Lord Narayana began to fan Lord Shiva with white whisks to relieve him of the fatigue of his journey. Lord Shiva, because of being in contact with Lord Vishnu's virtues, then assumed a cheerful disposition and adored the Eternal Being with his five mouths.
Lord Narayana was highly gratified. With sweet, nectarean words, He said, "O Lord Shiva, you are the symbol of all good and welfare. Thus, to ask about your welfare would be foolish. I would ask you only out of respect for the rules of society and the method prescribed in the Vedas. One who yields fruits of devotion and gives all prosperity should not be asked about his austerities or material prosperity. Since you preside over knowledge, it would be useless to ask if you are increasing in knowledge. It would be equally useless to ask a conqueror of death if he is free from all danger. But you have come to my residence for a reason. What is it? Have you become angry over something?"
"O Lord Vishnu!" Lord Shiva began. "King Vrishadhvaja is my great devotee. Lord Surya has cursed him and that has made me angry. Out of affection for my son, the king, I was about to kill Surya. But Surya sought shelter of Lord Brahma, and now both of them have sought Your protection. Those who are distressed and take shelter of You, either by speaking about You or by remembering You, become completely safe and free from danger. They overcome death and old age. What to speak of those who come personally to You and take shelter. When one remembers You, his dangers disappear. All good comes to him. O Lord of the world! What will become of my foolish devotee who, by the curse of Lord Surya, has lost his fortune and prosperity?"
Lord Vishnu replied, "O Lord Shiva! A half hour has elapsed here in Vaikuntha. In that time, twenty-one celestial yugas have passed away. Therefore, King Vrishadhvaja, through the revolution of irresistible and dreadful time, is dead. His son, Hamsadhvaja, in the course of time, also died. Hamsadhvaja begot two noble sons named Dharmadhvaja and Kushadhvaja. They are both great Vaishnavas but, because of Lord Surya's curse, they have become luckless. They lost their kingdoms, including all property and prosperity. But they are now engaged in worshiping Goddess Lakshmi, who is pleased with their efforts. Therefore, She has agreed to descend to Earth and expand Herself partially by taking birth from the wives of those two kings. Then, by the favor of Goddess Lakshmi, Dharmadhvaja and Kushadhvaja will become prosperous, mighty kings. O Lord Shiva! Your devotee Vrishadhvaja is dead, so return to your abode. O Lord Brahma, Lord Surya and Kashyapa Muni-you also should return your realms."
Bhagavan Vishnu then went with His wife to the inner apartments. The demigods went cheerfully to their own abodes, Lord Shiva continuing his practice of austerity.
Dharmadhvaja and Kushadhvaja performed harsh asceticism and worshiped Godesss Lakshmi. Thereafter, they separately obtained the blessings they desired. By Goddess Lakshmi's favor, they again became the rulers of the earth. They acquired great spiritual merits, were married, and begot children. King Dharmadhvaja was married to Madhavi. After some time, she became pregnant with a partial incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. However, the infant remained in Madhavi's womb for one hundred celestial years. Day by day Madhavi's luster increased. Then, on an auspicious day and moment, when there was a full moon, in the month of Karttika, on a Friday, she gave birth.
The grace of the Goddess of Fortune, Lakshmi, manifested through the baby. There were marks of the lotus flower on the infant's feet. Her face looked like the autumnal moon, her eyes resembled blooming lotuses, and her lips appeared like ripe bimba fruit. Her palms and the soles of her feet were reddish, her navel was deep, and just above it were three folds. Her buttocks were round, and her body was delightfully warm in the winter and cool in the summer-very pleasant to touch. Her breast was firm and her waist thin, and the light shining from her body surrounded her like a halo. Her complexion was white, like a campaka flower, and her hair looked beautiful. Because her beauty was incomparable, the sages called her Tulasi.
As soon as she was born, Tulasi resolved to go to the mountainous region of Badarinatha to practice severe austerities. Though many persons tried to dissuade her, no one was able to; for she was determined to stay and pray in the forest till Lord Krishna appeared and agreed to become her husband. During a period of one hundred thousand celestial years, she endured the following:
In the summer, she exposed herself to four fires around her and the sun above; in the winter, she submerged herself in the icy waters; and in the rainy season, she subjected herself to heavy downpours at the funeral grounds. For 20,000 years, she subsisted on fruits and water; for 30,000 years, she chewed dry leaves; for 40,000 years, she lived only on air; and for 10,000 years, she ate nothing and just stood on one leg.
Finally, she saw Lord Brahma in the sky, riding on his swan carrier and sweeping down towards her. Believing that he had come to grant her a boon, she bowed down low to him.
Lord Brahma said, "O Tulasi, ask me for a boon. Whether it be devotion to Lord Hari or servitorship to Him or freedom from old age or freedom from death-I will grant it."
"Yes, O Lord, I will ask. Please listen. I will not hide my desires out of fear or shame, since you are all-knowing. My name is Tulasi. Formally I was a cowherd girl in Goloka, and there I served Radharani, the beloved of Shri Krishna. I am a partial expansion of Radharani and was her favorite companion. But one day in the place where the rasa dance had occurred, Krishna became intimate with me and I fainted from excessive joy. While I was lying there, Radharani suddenly appeared and saw me in that condition. She was not at all pleased. Blinded with fury, she first reproached Krishna and then cursed me. She said, 'O vile one! Go! And take birth as a human being!'
"Then Krishna said to me, 'When you take birth in India, if you practice austerities, Lord Brahma will grant you a blessing. He will arrange for you to marry the four-armed Narayana, who is an expansion of Myself.' Then Krishna disappeared. And out of fear of Radharani, I left Goloka and was born in this world...So please grant me that boon. I want to have that handsome and peaceful Narayana as my husband."
Lord Brahma replied, "O Tulasi, Sudama was a partial expansion of Krishna and was one of Krishna's cowherd boyfriends in Goloka. As a result of a curse by Radharani, he is presently living on earth among the Danavas (demons). His name is Shankhacuda. He is very energetic and no one can compare with him in strength. While living in Goloka, he was very attracted to you and wanted to marry you. But because he feared Radharani, he did not make any overtures.
"Just as you are a jatismara-that is, one who knows her previous births-Shankhacuda also is. Remembering his past desire to be close to you, he has performed severe austerities to obtain you as his wife. I now wish to grant his desire. Therefore, O beautiful one, please agree to wed him. However, later on, by the special arrangement of Providence, you will get the beautiful Narayana as your husband. But after that, He will curse you and you will be transformed into the world-purifying Tulasi plant (holy basil). You will be the best of flowers and dearer to Narayana than His own life. No one's worship will be complete without your leaves. You will remain as a tree in Vrindavana and will be widely known as Vrindavani. The cowherd men and women will worship Lord Hari with your leaves. As the presiding deity of the Tulasi plant, you will always enjoy the company of Krishna, the best of cowherd boys."
Tulasi Devi smiled and gladly said to Lord Brahma, "O Father, I will be honest with you. I am not as devoted to the four-armed Narayana as I am to the two-armed Krishna. For in Goloka, my close encounter with Krishna was suddenly interrupted, leaving me still longing for Him. Thus, it was only because Krishna had asked me that I have been praying to get Narayana for my husband. But now it appears certain that by your grace I will again get Krishna, who is very difficult to attain. However, O lord, please grant me the following boon: that I lose my fear of Radharani."
Lord Brahma replied, "O child, I shall now give you the sixteen-lettered radha-mantra. By this boon you will be as dear to Radharani as Her life, and She will approve of Your intimate dealings with Krishna."
Lord Brahma initiated Tulasi Devi into to the sixteen-lettered mantra, the hymn, and the mode of worship of Shri Radha. Then, blessing her, he disappeared.
As directed, Tulasi engaged herself in worshiping Shrimati Radharani and, after twelve years, attained success. Obtaining the desired boon, she reaped the fruits that were unattainable by others. As the pangs of her austerities ended, she became cheerful. When one gets the fruits of one's labor and then considers the difficulties experienced in attaining them, the difficulties then seem pleasurable.
Tulasi was in the prime of her youth and she longed for the company of Shri Krishna. Finishing her food and drink, she lay down on a beautiful bed decorated with flowers and perfumed with sandal paste. She went to sleep with a happy heart. But while she slept, Kamadeva, the god of love, shot five arrows at her-arrows that were meant to enchant her. Consequently, though she was anointed with cooling sandal paste and slept on a bed strewn with flowers, her body began to feel as though it were on fire. Out of joy, the hairs on her body stood on end, her eyes reddened and her body began to tremble. One moment she looked thin and at another moment she grew restless or drowsy. Sometimes she became agitated or warm with desire, at other times she fainted, then recovered, then sorrowed. Sometimes she got up from the bed, walked this way and that way, sat down or lay down.
This abnormal condition of her body and mind increased daily; so much so that her soft bed felt like a bed of thorns; delicious fruits and water tasted like poison; her house seemed like a desert; her soft delicate cloth felt hot like fire; and the vermilion mark on her forehead pained like a boil.
In her dreams she saw a nicely dressed, smiling, jolly youth. He was adorned with jewels, besmeared with sandal paste, and garlanded with flowers. Gazing at her face, he spoke to her affectionately, and embraced and kissed her repeatedly. One moment he went away; the next moment he returned; then she cried out, "O Lord of my heart, where are you going? Please don't go!" When she awakened, she wept again and again. In this way Tulasi Devi passed her days at Badarikashrama.
While practicing, an intolerable effulgence shot out from Dambha's head and spread everywhere. It was so hot that all the demigods, sages and Manus were scorched by it. Thus, with Indra leading, they all sought shelter of Lord Brahma.
Arriving at Lord Brahma's abode, they praised him and then informed him of the situation. After hearing about it, Lord Brahma, to relate the problem to Lord Vishnu, led them to Vaikuntha. There, with palms joined reverentially, they praised the great savior and Lord of the three worlds. The demigods then asked, "O Lord, we do not know what has caused this. Please tell us. What is that light by which we have been scorched?"
Lord Vishnu laughed and lovingly said, "O demigods, do not be afraid; remain calm and unshaken. No flood will occur and it is not the time of universal dissolution. The asura Dambha, one of my devotees, is performing asceticism to obtain a son. I shall soon bless him and that will quiet him."
Encouraged by this, Lord Brahma and the other demigods returned to their own realms.
Lord Vishnu went to Pushkara where Dambha was practicing austerity. Seeing that Dambha was repeating His name, the Lord consoled him and asked, "What blessing do you want Me to grant you?"
Dambha offered obeisances with great devotion and praised the Lord repeatedly. Then he said, "O Lord of lords, O lotus-eyed one, obeisances unto You. O Lord of Lakshmi, O Lord of the three worlds, please be merciful to me. Please give me a powerful and courageous son who will be Your devotee, be invincible to the demigods, and be a conqueror of the three worlds."
Lord Vishnu asked Dambha to stop his austerity, granted him the blessing, and disappeared. As the Lord vanished, Dambha offered obeisance in that direction and returned home. Within a short while, his blessed wife became pregnant. She radiated an effulgence that illuminated the inner apartment of her residence. The soul residing in her womb was Sudama, one of Lord Krishna's leading cowherd companions who had been cursed by Shrimati Radharani.
When Dambha's chaste wife gave birth to a radiant-looking son, Dambha invited the sages to his place and had the post-natal rites performed. There was great jubilation and, on a favorable day, the father named him Shankhacuda.
The son grew up in his father's residence like the moon in its bright half. In his childhood, he learned all the traditions, customs, injunctions and prohibitions, and became resplendent. Engaging in childhood play, he delighted his parents and became the favorite of all the family members.
Later on, to obtain a boon from Lord Brahma, Shankhacuda performed austerities in Pushkara for a long while. He concentrated his mind, restrained his senses and organs of action, and chanted a mantra that his preceptor, Jaigishavya, had imparted to him. Finally, Lord Brahma went to Shankhacuda to grant him a blessing. Lord Brahma asked, "Tell me what boon you want."
Seeing Lord Brahma, the Danava king bowed to him humbly and praised him with devotional words. Then he said, "Please make me invincible to the demigods, and also enable me to marry Tulasi.
"So be it," Brahma replied. Then he gave Shankhacuda the divine amulet of Lord Shri Krishna. This amulet, called Sarvamangalamaya (Conqueror of the World), was considered the most auspicious of all auspicious things in the world, for it guaranteed victory everywhere.
Brahma continued, "Now you should go to Badarikashrama. Tulasi Devi is performing penance there by her own will. You should marry her there. She is the daughter of King Dharmadhvaja." Lord Brahma then disappeared.
Shankhacuda, whose austerity had now borne fruit at Pushkara, tied that most precious amulet round his neck. He then set out for Badarikashrama, his face beaming with joy.
Tulasi saw Shankhacuda approaching in his jeweled airplane and noticed that he was in the prime of his youth. He was handsome like Cupid, white-complexioned like the campaka flower and decorated with gems. His face resembled the full moon of autumn, his eyes looked like lotuses in full bloom, and his cheeks flashed with the glow of his earrings. A parijata flower garlanded his neck, musk and saffron anointed his body, and sandal paste perfumed his person.
As he came closer, Tulasi hid her face in her shawl and smiled at him with sidelong glances. Blushing at the thought of this first meeting, she bowed her head nervously and eagerly drank in with her eyes the lotus of his face.
Shankhacuda also gazed at Tulasi, seated as she was on a lovely bed strewn with flowers and sandalwood. Her teeth shown like pearls, her lips were like bimba fruit, her nose was graceful and her complexion golden. She resembled the autumnal moon. Adding to her grace, just below the parting of her hair, was the mark of sandal paste and musk; and just below them, a mark of vermilion. She had a low yet deep navel, and below it, three lovely abdominal folds. Her palms were reddish, her fingernails were glowing, and her feet were radiant and crimson, colored with lac-dye. Her glowing toenails surpassed the glow of the autumn moon, giving her an unrivaled beauty.
Tulasi was adorned with lovely jingling ornaments, and the knot of hair at the back of her head was decorated with a jasmine wreath. Shark-shaped earrings adorned her cheeks while a diamond necklace beautified her breast. She wore gorgeous bangles of conch on her arms and wrists, as well as precious jewels on her fingers.
Shankhacuda sat down and said to her, "O beautiful girl, whose daughter are you? And how have you come to this forest? You look most fortunate and blessed. Indeed, you are the personification of heavenly joy-the best of women! You are a model of loveliness and can certainly bewilder even the saints!"
When Tulasi gave no reply, he asked, "O gracious one, why don't you speak? I am your servant, so please greet me with the melody of your speech."
Her head lowered, her face smiling, the beautiful-eyed Tulasi said, "I am the daughter of King Dharmadhvaja and have been practicing asceticism here. But who are you? And why are you talking to me? If a noble man sees a virtuous woman alone, he does not talk to her. So go away-wherever you please."
But Shankhacuda did not move.
Tulasi continued. "The shastras say that only a degraded man desires a woman. At first a woman is sweet to a man, but later proves fatal. Though her mouth rains honey, her heart is like a jar of poison. She uses sweet words but her heart is sharp like a razor. To achieve her own selfish ends she is submissive to her husband; otherwise, she is unsubmissive. While her face looks cheerful, her heart is dirty. Even the Vedas and the Puranas cannot fathom her character. A wise man never trusts a base woman. She has no friend or enemy; for all she wants are new lovers. When a woman sees a well-dressed man, she inwardly desires him, but outwardly she appears chaste and modest. She is naturally passionate, attracts men's minds, and eagerly engages in sex. Though outwardly she hides her lust and appears modest, when she meets her lover in secret, she is ready to swallow him up. When she does not have sex with him, she feels offended, her body burns with anger, and she begins to quarrel. When her passions are fully satisfied, she becomes cheerful; when unsatisfied, morose.
"A woman likes a good lover more than sweet foods or refreshing drinks; she likes him even more than her own son; he is dearer to her than her life. But if the lover becomes impotent or aged, she regards him as an enemy. Quarrels and anger ensue. Then she devours him as a snake eats a rat. She is rashness personified and a mine of vices. A woman is hypocritical, obstinate and unfaithful. Even Lord Brahma and other gods are deluded by her. She is a hindrance on the path of austerity, an obstacle to liberation, an impediment to developing faith in Lord Hari, a refuge of all delusion and a living chain that binds men to the world. She is like a magician and is as false as dreams. She appears to be very beautiful, but is she is a bucket of stool, urine, gas and blood. When God created her, he arranged that she should become the spirit of delusion to the deluded and poison to those who desire liberation. Thus, on no account should a woman be desired, and by all means she should be avoided."
Shankhacuda smiled and then answered, "O goddess, what you have said is not completely false. It is partly true and partly false. From the Creator have come chaste and unchaste women. One is praiseworthy, the other is not. Examples of chaste women are Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Durga, Savitri and Radha. Women who are expansions of them are auspicious, glorious and very commendable, such as Shatarupa, Devahuti, Svadha, Svaha, Dakshina, Anasuya, Ganga, Diti, Aditi, Vedavati, etc. In every yuga cycle these women are excellent. The heavenly prostitutes are also expansions and partial expansions of the above women, but they are not praiseworthy because they are unchaste.
Women who are in the mode of goodness are virtuous and pure. The sages declare them to be excellent. But those who are in the modes of passion and ignorance are not so praiseworthy. The passionate ones are fond of sense pleasures, indulge in them, and always want to fulfill their selfish goals. Such women are usually insincere, deluded, and irreligious. Generally, they are unchaste. But woman in the mode of ignorance are considered the worst. They are irresistible.
"A virtuous man would never court another man's wife in either public or private. But I have come to you by Lord Brahma's command-to marry you according to the Gandharva rite. (In this, the bride and bridegroom meet each other of their own accord and consummate their meeting in sexual union. No sacred rituals are necessary.)
"My name is Shankhacuda. When the demigods see me, they flee in fear. In my previous birth, I lived in Goloka and was a cowherd boy named Sudama. I was a close friend of Shri Krishna's, one of His attendants. I was one of the eight celebrated cowherds. Then Shrimati Radharani cursed me to be born in India in a demon family. By Krishna's grace and by His mantra, I am a jatismara, that is, I know the history of my previous birth. You also are a jatismara. So you know that in your previous birth, in Goloka, when Radharani caught you alone with Krishna, she became angry and cursed you to be born here, in India. In Goloka I very much wanted to consort with you; but because I feared Radharani, I did not do so."
Shankhacuda stopped talking. Tulasi smiled and cheerfully said, "Persons like you are famous in this world and good women desire such husbands. You have defeated me in argument. A man who is conquered by a woman is very impure and condemned by people in general. The forefathers and the demigods regard men who are conquered by women as low and contemptible. Even their fathers and mothers mentally despise them. The Vedas say that when a child is born or a relative dies, the brahmanas are purified in ten days; the kshatriyas in twelve days; the vaishyas in fifteen days; and the shudras as well as other low classes in twenty-one days. But a man conquered by a woman always remains impure. Only when his body is burned to ashes does he become purified. Neither the ancestors nor the demigods accept from him offerings of cakes, flowers, etc. Men whose hearts are totally conquered by women acquire no fruits from their knowledge, austerities, japa, fire sacrifices, worship, learning or fame.
"I tested you to determine how strong you are in knowledge. One should choose one's husband by examining a man's merits and defects. If one gives his daughter in marriage to a man devoid of good qualifications, to an old man, to a man who is ignorant or poor, illiterate, diseased, ugly, wrathful, harsh, lame, limbless, deaf, dumb, inactive, or impotent-this sin is equivalent to the sin of murdering a brahmana. But if one gives his daughter in marriage to a young Vaishnava who is learned, well-qualified and peaceful, one acquires the fruits of performing ten horse sacrifices. If one raises a daughter and then sells her out of greed for profit, he falls to the hell known as Kumbhipaka. There, for a period equal to fourteen of Lord Indra's lifespans, such a sinner has to drink his daughter's urine and eat her stool as well as be bitten by worms and crows. When this period ends, he has to be born in this world as a diseased person and earn his livelihood by selling and carrying meat."
When Tulasi Devi stopped speaking, Lord Brahma suddenly appeared there. After Shankhacuda and Tulasi offered him their respects, Lord Brahma said, "O Shankhacuda! Why are you wasting your time in such empty talks with Tulasi? Marry her now by the Gandharva rite. As you are a gem among males, she is a gem among females. When a clever couple marry, the union is very happy. And who would abandon happiness when it is at hand? Anyone who would do so is worse than a beast. And you, Tulasi! Why are you testing this noble and qualified person who can subdue both the gods and the demons? Marry Shankhacuda, just as Lakshmi is married to Narayana, Radhika to Krishna, my Savitri to me, Shaci to Indra and Aditi to Kashyapa. Stay with the handsome Shankhacuda for a long time and, as you like, wander with him to various places. When Shankhacuda leaves his body, you will return to Goloka and get Krishna as your husband." Lord Brahma then blessed them and returned to his own abode.
Shankhacuda then married Tulasi by the Gandharva rite. Glorifying the marriage, the demigods sounded their drums and showered flowers on them from the sky.
Sometimes the newly married couple would go to a flower grove and at other times to a river bank. There, they would sleep on flower beds smeared with sandal paste and enjoy marital pleasures. Tulasi easily stole the heart of her husband, and Shankhacuda also attracted Tulasi's heart. After Tulasi garlanded her husband with parijata flowers, which prevent disease and old age, she placed a precious jeweled ring on his finger and offered him rare beautiful gems. Bowing down to his feet with devotion, she repeatedly said, "I am at your service!"
Shankhacuda smiled. He then presented Tulasi with clothes he had obtained from Lord Varuna's house; he also gave her a precious necklace of jewels, an armlet he had gotten from Svaha (Agni's wife), armlets from Chaya (the sun god's wife), earrings from Rohini (the moon god's wife), finger rings from Rati (Cupid's wife), conch ornaments from Vishvakarma, as well as excellent bedding adorned with pearls and jewels. After further adorning her, he placed her feet on his chest and said, "I am your servant."
They left the hermitage and began to travel to various places. They went to different mountains, flower gardens, caves, beaches, riversides and forests. Wherever they went, they enjoyed each other's company with great satisfaction, never tiring of one another. Shankhacuda then brought Tulasi to his own kingdom and there they continued to delight in each other's company.
Lord Shiva then took them all to the highest place, Vaikuntha, where there is neither old age nor death. As they approached the first gate, they saw the watchmen guarding the gate and sitting on jeweled seats. The watchmen had beautiful dark blue bodies and looked effulgent. They had smiles on their faces, lotuslike eyes, and four arms-each hand holding a conch, mace, disc and lotus. They wore yellow garments, were decorated with jeweled ornaments, and were garlanded with forest flowers.
Lord Brahma asked them for admittance and they nodded their approval. Then, after passing through sixteen gates, the group finally arrived before Lord Narayana. The assembly hall was filled with saints and four-armed attendants who resembled Narayana and were wearing Kaustubha jewels. The assembly hall was so brilliant with rays of light that it appeared as though the moon had just arisen. By Lord Narayana's mercy, there were diamonds, gems and necklaces of jewels placed in various areas. In some spots there were rows of pearls that shed their splendor and brilliance, and in other spots there were mirrors arranged in a circle. In certain areas there were jewels called padmaragas which were artistically arranged to appear like lotuses spreading their radiant beauty everywhere. There were rows of steps made of Syamantaka jewels. Throughout the hall were wonderful pillars built of indranila jewels. There were sandal leaves strung high from pillar to pillar. There were also golden jars full of water. All around were parijata-flower garlands, sweet-scented sandal trees, and saffron and musk; the whole atmosphere was permeated with sweet fragrances.
The Vidyadharas were dancing in one area. The assembly hall measured eight thousand miles in circumference. All over, numerous servants were engaged in various services. Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and other demigods saw Lord Hari (Narayana) sitting in the center on a precious jeweled throne; He looked like the moon surrounded by many stars. He was wearing a crown on His head, earrings, a wildflower garland round His neck and sandal paste on His body. Holding a lotus in His hand, He was smiling, watching the dancers and listening to the music. He looked very tranquil. Lakshmi was gently holding His feet and He was chewing the sweet-scented betel she had given Him. Ganga was fanning Him devotedly with a white camara (whisk), and others were singing hymns to Him with their heads lowered in devotion.
Lord Brahma and the other gods offered their obeisances to Lord Vishnu. As they did, their hairs stood on end, tears flowed from their eyes and their voices were choked with emotion. Then Lord Brahma, his hands clasped and his head bowed, informed the Lord about Shankhacuda's doings.
Lord Hari smiled and said, "O lotus born! I know all about Shankhacuda. In his previous birth he was my great devotee, a very energetic cowherd boy in Goloka. I will tell you something about him which is quite sanctifying. His name was Sudama and he was my chief attendant. He is now a Danava because in Goloka Radha pronounced a terrible curse on him. Here is how it happened...
"One day I left Radha's company and went to the rasa dance area with the gopi named Viraja. Radha soon heard from one of Her maidservants that I had flirted with Viraja. Blinded with fury, She hastened there with Her attendants to see if this were true. Seeing that it was, Radha immediately converted Viraja into a river. I myself disappeared, so Radha rushed home angrily with Her attendants.
"Later, when I was with Sudama and She saw me, Radha rebuked me very much. However, I remained silent. But Sudama could not tolerate this, so he rebuked Radha in My very presence. This was quite intolerable to Her dignity. Her eyes became red with anger and She immediately ordered thousands of Her attendants to drive him away. Sudama then trembled with fear. As Radha's attendants tried to drive him away, he resisted and repeated his reproaches against Her. When She heard them, She cursed him, saying, 'May you be born in the womb of a Danavi (demon woman)!'
"Sudama bowed down to Me and, crying, began to leave. But Radha, who is quite merciful, began to melt. Weeping, she tried repeatedly to stop him from leaving. 'Wait!' She called. 'Wait! Where are you going? You don't have to go. Please come back.' She became distressed, and Her attendants and the cowherd boys began to weep. I then explained to them, 'In about a half a moment Sudama will return, having fulfilled the conditions of the curse. Of course a half moment here is equal to about one manvantara (4,320,000 years) on Earth.' I then called to Sudama. 'O Sudama, when the curse expires, please come back here!'
"O demigods, that expert mystic and devotee Shankhacuda will return to Goloka. Therefore, O gods, take My trident and go quickly to India. Lord Shiva will kill the Danava with the trident. The demon is wearing My auspicious amulet around his neck. It is called 'Conqueror of the World.' As long as he keeps wearing it, no one can kill him. So I will go to him disguised as a brahmana and beg for the amulet. But you have granted him the boon that he cannot die unless his wife's chastity is violated. I will take care of this as well. Then he will surely die. Later, when his wife leaves her body, she will become my dearest wife." Narayana then gave Lord Shiva his trident.
The city was 40 miles wide and 80 miles long. It was built of pearl and jewel crystals, and on all sides there were roadways. Seven inaccessible moats, one after another, surrounded the city.
There were hundreds of shops full of trade articles and marketable commodities. Palatial buildings of traders and merchants were all over. Thousands and thousands of beautiful buildings, constructed with scarlet gems, inlaid with various ornaments, and decorated with fancy articles, gave the place a boundless charm.
The Gandharva chief saw that Shankhacuda's palace was spherical like the moon. Four successive moats with fiery flames encircled it. On top of the palace were ramparts, made of jewels, that touched the sky. The palace was inaccessible to enemies but offered no hindrance to friends.
The twelve gates, decorated with lotuses, jeweled mirrors, paintings and statues, were guarded by twelve gatekeepers. On all sides the place was protected by very powerful, graceful, well-dressed and richly adorned demons who were holding heavenly weapons in their hands. When Pushpadanta approached the first gate, he saw that it was guarded by a man who had a hideous face, copper complexion and tawny eyes, and who was smiling and holding a trident in his hand. Pushpadanta explained to him the purpose of his mission-that he was a war ambassador-and the guard allowed him to pass inside; the other gatekeepers did the same. At the last gate he said to the guard, "O guard, quickly inform your king that a war is about to occur."
The guard did so and, obtaining Shankhacuda's permission, ushered the messenger inside. There, the Gandharva saw the well-formed, handsome demon seated in the center of the royal assembly on a golden throne. One attendant was holding a jeweled umbrella over the king's head while other attendants were fanning him with white camaras. Countless demons surrounded him and armed guards walked here and there. Shankhacuda was beautifully dressed in heavenly garments, covered with garlands, and anointed with fragrance.
Seeing all this, Pushpadanta was thunderstruck and said to Shankhacuda, "O King, I am a messenger of Lord Shiva and my name is Pushpadanta. My lord has ordered me to tell you the following: The demigods have sought the protection of Lord Hari. So you had better restore to them their kingdoms and rights. Lord Hari has given His own trident to Lord Shiva and asked him to wage war against you if necessary. Presently, Lord Shiva is residing under the shade of a fig tree on the bank of the Pushpabhadra River. Either you must return to the demigods their property or you must be ready to fight with Lord Shiva...What shall I tell my lord is your reply?"
The demon laughed loudly and said, "You had better leave. I shall go to him in the morning."
The messenger returned to Lord Shiva and conveyed the demon's message. In the meantime the following group of persons appeared before Lord Shiva: Karttikeya, Nandi, Mahakala, Bana, Manibhadra, the eight Bhairavas, the eleven Rudras, the eight Vasus, the twelve Adityas, Indra, Agni, Candra, Vishvakarma, the two Ashvini-kumaras, Kuvera, Yama, Jayanta, Nalakuvara, Vayu, Varuna, Budha, Mangala, Dharma, Shani, Kama, Ugra-canda, Kotari, the hundred-armed Bhadrakali, as well as many other personages.
Bhadrakali was seated on an excellent chariot. Her paraphernalia, clothing, garland and sandal paste were red. Inspiring her devotees with courage and infusing fear into the enemy, she began dancing, laughing and singing. Her rolling tongue and the skull she held in her hand were each eight miles in circumference. She carried a trident, an iron spear, conches, a wheel, mace, lotus, bow, arrows, dumbbells, a scimitar, thunder, the weapons of Vishnu and Varuna, a snake noose, the weapons of Agni, Narayana, Brahma, Gandharva, Garuda, Pashupati, a pestle, shield, staff, as well as other irresistible weapons. This fearsome goddess was accompanied by millions of devotee Yoginis and Dakinis, and also countless ghosts, goblins and demons known as Bhutas, Pretas, Pishacas, Kushmandas, Brahma-rakshasas and Rakshasas, as well as Yakshas and Kinnaras. Then Karttikeya arrived and he bowed down to his father Lord Shiva, who asked him to sit on his left side and help him. The army remained there in battle array.
At the palace, the mighty Shankhacuda went to the women's quarters and informed Tulasi about the imminent war. Hearing this, her palate, lips and throat became dry. With a sorrowful heart, she said to him, "O my lord, my friend, my master! Stay for a moment and sit within my heart. Fill me with life for a moment. Please satisfy my human desire. Let me gaze at you fully so that my eyes may be satisfied. My breathing is very agitated now. For at the end of night I had a very bad dream. Therefore, I feel a burning within myself."
The king finished his meal and, in truthful and beneficial words, said to Tulasi, "O my queen, when it is time to reap the results of one's past acts, one experiences good and evil, pleasure and pain, fear and sorrow. In time, trees grow, branches develop, flowers blossom and fruits appear. In time, the fruitful tree decays. Similarly, in time, human beings grow and decline. In time, the creator creates, the preserver preserves and the destroyer destroys. This is the law of creation, preservation and destruction. Therefore, you should always adore Lord Krishna, as He is the Lord of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; He is the creator, maintainer and destroyer, He has no beginning nor end, and He does not depend on material nature. Lord Krishna, by His own will, has manifested nature with its animate and inanimate objects.
"All things, from Lord Brahma down to a blade of grass, are artificial and temporary. In time, they grow and decay. Thus it would be better for you to adore Radha's consort, Lord Krishna, who is distinct from the three modes of material nature, who is the Supersoul within all and the Lord of all. Take shelter of Krishna, for it is by His command that the wind blows swiftly, the sun radiates heat, Indra pours rain, death visits human beings, fire burns, and the moon travels through the sky. Seek the Supreme Krishna, who is the death of death, the time of time, the creator of the creator, the preserver of the preserver and the destroyer of the destroyer. Take refuge in Him. My dearest, no one is a friend of anyone, but Lord Hari (Krishna) is the friend of all. Therefore, pray to Him and serve Him.
"My love, who am I and who are you? By our karma, Providence has united us. Providence will also separate us. When danger comes, only fools are disturbed. The wise are never thus shaken. Like wheels, pleasure and pain always revolve. In Badarikashrama you absorbed yourself in austerities to obtain Lord Narayana as your husband. Surely, you will get Him. I myself practiced austerities to obtain you as my wife. And by Lord Brahma's grace, I have gotten you. Very soon, you will get Govinda in Goloka Vrindavana. And when I leave my demoniac body, I too shall go there. In that realm we will regularly see one another. By Radha's curse I was born in the precious land of India. But I will return to Goloka. Therefore, my dear, do not worry about me. You, too, will quit your human form, assume a spiritual form, and go to Lord Hari. So you need not sorrow."
Tulasi was thus consoled.
Shankhacuda spent the night with Tulasi in the temple of gems, which was lit by diamond lamps. They rested on a nicely decorated bed strewn with flowers and anointed with sandal paste. Then Tulasi, who had not eaten any food and thus looked thin, became overwhelmed with grief and began weeping. The king, who knew the truth about life, clasped her to his chest and again appeased her in various ways. The spiritual instructions he had received in Bhandira Forest from Lord Krishna, which were capable of destroying all sorrows and delusions, he now carefully conveyed to Tulasi. Upon receiving them, her joy knew no bounds, for she realized that everything in this world is temporary. She and her husband then spent the remainder of the night in loving exchanges.
He then saw such auspicious things as curd, ghee, honey, parched rice, etc., and, as usual, distributed to the brahmanas the best jewels, pearls, clothing and gold. To make his departure for war favorable, he gave to his guru some pearls, gems and diamonds, and he gave to the poor some horses, elephants and cows. He then gave to the brahmanas a thousand storehouses, three lakhs (300,000) of towns and seven lakhs (700,000) of villages. He installed his son Sucandra as the acting king and entrusted to him the care of his family, kingdom, treasury, subjects, wealth, storehouses and conveyances.
Shankhacuda dressed himself for war and armed himself with bow and arrows. The king ordered the armies to gather, so three hundred thousand horses, one hundred thousand elephants, ten thousand chariots, three crores of archers (30 million), three crores of armed soldiers, and three crores of trident holders readied themselves for battle. After counting his forces, the king appointed a maharatha, an expert in the science of warfare, as commander-in-chief over three lakh akshauhini forces (300,000). [An akshauhini is a whole army consisting of 109,000 foot soldiers, 65,610 horses, 21,870 chariots and 21,870 elephants]. Ordering three akshauhinis to beat war drums, he remembered Lord Hari and emerged from the pavilion. Shankhacuda rode on a fine chariot and, headed by his guru and his elders, left for Lord Shiva's place.
Lord Shiva at that time was staying on the banks of the Pushpabhadra River at Siddhashrama. This holy place was known to enable sadhus to easily attain perfection in yoga. It was here that Lord Kapila practiced asceticism, and thus devotees of Lord Kapila went there and did the same. The place was bounded on the west by the western sea, on the east by the Malaya mountain range, on the south by the Shri Shaila mountain, and on the north by the Gandhamadana Mountain. The Pushpabhadra River was forty miles wide and four-thousand miles long. This auspicious river offered great spiritual merit, and was always full of transparent, sparkling water. She is the favorite spouse of the Lavana (salt) ocean and is indeed very sacred. This river issues from the Sarasvati in the Himalayas and, keeping the Gomati River on her left side, she eventually merges with the western ocean.
Upon seeing Lord Shiva, Shankhacuda got down from his chariot and, with his entire army, bowed low to him. He also saluted Bhadrakali, who was on Lord Shiva's left side, and Karttikeya, who was in the front. In response, they bestowed blessings on him. Nandi and other devotees of Lord Shiva got up and greeted him in a suitable manner. Shankhacuda spoke cordially to them and then sat down beside Lord Shiva, who greeted him cheerfully and said, "O King, Lord Brahma, the creator of the world and the father of religious duty, had a Vaishnava son named Marici, who begat the virtuous Kashyapa. Daksha, another son of Lord Brahma, bowed to Kashyapa and gave him his thirteen daughters in marriage. Of these daughters, Danu, who was very blessed and chaste, gave birth to forty sons. They were all very spirited and known as Danavas. Amongst them, Vipracitti was prominent-he was most valorous, pious and devoted to Lord Vishnu. His son's name was Dambha and he obtained Shukracarya as his guru. Following his teacher's advice, he worshiped Lord Krishna at Pushkara by reciting the Krishna-mantra for one hundred thousand years. Consequently, by Lord Krishna's boon, he was able to get a son like you.
"In your former birth, in Goloka, you were very religious and were the chief cowherd friend of Lord Krishna. By Radha's curse, you have become lord of the demons here. But you are also a Vaishnava. And a Vaishnava regards everything-from the form of Lord Brahma down to the form of a blade of grass-as very illusory. Even if the four kinds of liberation are offered to him, namely, salokya, sarshti, sayujya and samipya (to live on the same planet as Lord Vishnu, to have the same opulences as Lord Vishnu, to merge with Lord Vishnu and to have equal association with Lord Vishnu, respectively), he does not care at all for them; for he is only interested in serving Lord Vishnu. Nor does he care to have the position of Indra, Kuvera or Brahma, for he thinks them all insignificant. He only cares to worship and serve Lord Krishna. Now you are a true Krishna devotee. Therefore, why do you care for things that belong to the demigods and which are false to you? Better return to the demigods their kingdoms and please me by this act. Let the demigods be reinstated in their own positions and you govern your own kingdom happily. You are all descendants of Kashyapa Muni. So it is not desirable for relatives to feud. In fact, the sin committed by killing a brahmana is not even one sixteenth as great as that of creating hostilities amongst one's relatives.
"O King, pause. If you think that by restoring to the demigods their kingdoms, you will lose prestige, you should also consider that no one's position is stable or unchanging. When the world is completely dissolved, even Lord Brahma disappears; then, by the will of God, he subsequently reappears. And later, by virtue of his knowledge, he again creates everything. But the type of knowledge, intellect and memory that people receive depends on the amount of austerity they practiced in their previous births.
"Also, consider this: truth is the support of dharma or virtue. In the Satya-yuga (golden or truthful age), virtue is complete; in the Treta-yuga (silver age), it is reduced by one fourth; in the Dvapara-yuga (copper age) by one half; and in the Kali-yuga (iron age or age of quarrel), by three fourths; and at the end of the Kali-yuga, virtue becomes reduced even more, like the moon on the dark-moon night.
"Or consider the sun: in the summer its light is very intense; but not so in the winter. At noon, the sun is very hot; but not so in the morning and evening. In time, the sun rises; in time, it becomes powerful; and in time, it sets. By the working of time, it is obscured by clouds.
"Then consider the moon: when the moon is devoured by Rahu (as in a lunar eclipse), it trembles; when it is released, it becomes bright again. In the full-moon night, it becomes full, but does not remain so. In the bright fortnight, it waxes daily, but in the dark fortnight, it wanes daily. In the bright fortnight, the moon looks healthy and rich, but in the dark fortnight, it looks decreasingly thinner, as if afflicted by consumption. Thus, at one time the moon looks powerful, and at another time it looks weak and pale.
"Similarly, Bali Maharaja is presently living in Patalaloka (one of the planets beneath the earth), but at another time he will become lord of the demigods. At one time the earth is lush with grains and is the resting place of all beings, but at another time it becomes covered with water. The entire world, including everything moving and nonmoving, appears at one time and disappears at another.
"Only Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, remains the same. It is by His grace that I obtained the name Mrityunjaya (the Conquerer of Death). I have witnessed many dissolutions of the world and I shall continue to witness them. Lord Krishna is both material nature and the Supreme Being. He is the individual soul as well as the Supreme Soul. Though He assumes many forms, He is beyond these forms. Whoever repeats His name and sings His glories can conquer death; he does not come under the influence of birth, death, disease, old age and fear. Lord Krishna has created Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and me, the destroyer. By His will we possess those potencies and influences. O King! I have delegated Kala, Agni and Rudra to do the work of destruction, whereas I myself only repeat His name and sing His glories incessantly, day and night. For this reason I am called Mrityunjaya, and by my knowledge, I have conquered death. I am fearless. When death sees me, he flies away, just as snakes flee when they see Garuda."
King Shankhacuda thanked and praised Lord Shiva repeatedly, and replied modestly. "What you have said is quite true. But please allow me to say a few words. Kindly listen...You have just said that fighting with one's relatives is a great sin. Then why did the Lord, on behalf of the demigods, take away all of Bali Maharaja's possessions and send him down to Patala? And why did the Lord, for the same reason, kill Hiranyaksha, Hiranyakashipu, Shumbha and other Danavas (demons)? Long ago the demons and the demigods worked hard together churning the ocean to obtain nectar from it; but why did the Lord give the nectar to the demigods? O lord, this universe is the sporting ground of Lord Krishna; and anyone He favors with fortune and glory obtains them. The quarreling between the demigods and the demons is eternal. Victory and defeat come to each party alternately. So it is improper and unnecessary for you to interfere in our quarrel. For you, O great lord, are both my relative and my friend. And your nature is of the Highest Self. To you, the demigods and the demons are equal. So it is certainly shameful for you to become our opponent and favor the demigods. If you win this battle, the glory and fame you gain would not be as great as if we win. And if we defeat you, the disgrace and infamy you earn would be much greater than that which we would if we were defeated: for we are small and you are great.
Shiva smiled and gently said, "O King, you have descended from a brahmana
family, so if I am defeated by you, how shall I incur shame? In former
days, the Lord fought with Madhu and Kaitabha as well as Hiranyakashipu and
Hiranyaksha. And I fought with Tripura. And the universal mother, Durga Devi,
fought with Shumbha and other demons. But none of the demons just mentioned,
who were killed in the war, can be compared to you in prowess. You are the best
of Lord Krishna's attendants. The demigods have sought Lord Hari's protection,
so He has sent me on their behalf to approach you. If I am defeated by a
sublime person like yourself, how can I be disgraced? But I am surprised to
hear you talk of disgrace and infamy. There is no point in continuing this
useless talk. Now, either return to the demigods their kingdoms or prepare to
fight with me. I am firm in my determination."
Lord Shiva, the goddess Kali and their son Karttikeya encamped at the root of the holy fig tree.
King Shankhacuda, adorned with gems and surrounded by millions of demons, sat down on a beautiful jeweled throne.
a great battle ensued. Many mystical and supernatural weapons were hurled, and
numerous demigods and demons were killed. Maces, long and short swords, pattishas,
bhushundis, mudgaras (different types of iron clubs), javelins, spears,
axes and other weapons glowed in the soldiers' hands. Fighting with these
weapons, the jubilant warriors roared and cut off each other's heads.
Elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers, along with their drivers and
passengers were hit and torn apart. Arms, thighs, hands, hips, ears and feet
were cut off. Flags, arrows, swords, coats of mail and beautiful ornaments were
split apart. From the tussle, glowing heads with earrings as well as
elephantlike thighs were strewn about the earth. Severed arms with their
ornaments and weapons were scattered about like honeycombs. Warriors running on
the battlefield saw several headless bodies that jumped and which were still
holding their weapons. The warriors discharged so many arrows at each other
that the sun became obscured and it appeared as if the rainy season had
arrived. Heroes roared like lions, blew conches loudly and fought furiously.
Though the combat was terrible and tumultuous, it was pleasurable to the
fighters. Then the demigods were defeated. Many were wounded by weapons and
missiles, and, frightened, they fled the battlefield.
Lord Shiva, noting the demigods' defeat and hearing their fearful cries, became greatly enraged. Glancing at the demigods sympathetically, he assured them of his protection. He ordered his son, the great hero Karttikeya, to attack the enemy. Fighting courageously with the hosts of demons, Karttikeya shouted angrily and roared heroically, killing one hundred akshauhinis in the battle. Then Kali, her eyes like a red lotus, chopped off their heads, drank their blood, and rapidly ate their flesh. She fought in many ways, frightening both the demigods and the demons. Wherever she went, she drank the Danavas' blood. With one hand she grabbed ten million elephants and ten million men and playfully shoved them into her mouth. Thousands of headless bodies appeared to be dancing on the battlefield. All the cowards were terrified by the overwhelming tumult.
Karttikeya again became furious. Showering countless volleys of arrows, he struck thousands of demon leaders within a few seconds. Terrified, many of the Danavas fled, but those who stayed were slain. The demons Vrishaparvan, Vipracitti, Danda and Vikampana fought with Karttikeya by turns, and all of them were wounded by his spear. Kali assisted Karttikeya, and together they won the battle. In the heavens, the celestials pounded their drums and showered down flowers. Shankhacuda saw the appalling spectacle wrought by Karttikeya and Kali; it appeared as terrible as the final dissolution of the world. Furious, he prepared for battle. Accompanied by many heroes, he climbed into his diamond-studded airplane, which was equipped with weapons and missiles. This enlivened and encouraged his men, especially when Shankhacuda, sitting in the middle of the plane, drew his bowstring to his ear and discharged volleys of arrows. The shafts were terrifying and could not be endured. They resembled a shower of rain and covered the battlefield with intense darkness, relieved only by occasional flashes of fire.
At this, Nandishvara and the other demigods fled, however, Karttikeya stayed. Then the Danava king showered mountains, serpents, pythons and trees so horrendously that they could not be resisted. Thus Karttikeya looked like the sun covered by thick sheets of frost. Shankhacuda broke Karttikeya's car, cut to pieces his bow, chariot and horses, and shattered his peacock carrier. Then he hurled his effulgent spear at Karttikeya's chest, and the force of the blow caused him to fall unconscious.
Quickly regaining consciousness, Karttikeya mounted his sturdy, bejeweled chariot, took up his weapons and missiles and fought awesomely. Using his mystic weapons, he furiously split the weapons that had been hurled at him, namely, the serpents, mountains, trees and rocks. Then he put out a fire with his water weapon, split apart the demon's bow and chariot, and killed his charioteer. Roaring and shouting repeatedly like a hero, he split Shankhacuda's armor and crown, and then hurled his blazing spear at the demon's chest. Shankhacuda collapsed unconscious.
But within a second that powerful asura regained consciousness and, with the strength of a lion, got up and roared. The demon grabbed another bow and more arrows and mounted another chariot. Foremost in the use of mystic powers, the demon caused a tremendous downpour of arrows on Karttikeya that completely enshrouded him. Then the demon grabbed an invincible iron spear, which was filled with Lord Vishnu's energy; it was radiant like a hundred suns and looked like the vast fire that occurs at the end of the world. Shankhacuda hurled it at Karttikeya and it hit him with the impact of a massive fireball, causing him to drop unconscious.
Kali immediately went to him, lifted her son to her breast and carried him to Lord Shiva. By virtue of his deep knowledge, Lord Shiva revived Karttikeya and endowed him with inexhaustible strength. He then got up full of vigor but remained guarded by Lord Shiva.
Kali, followed by Nandishvara, the Gandharvas, the Yakshas, the Rakshasas and the Kinnaras, returned to the battlefield. Hundreds of war drums were pounded and hundreds of persons carried wine. When Kali began to roar like a lioness, the demons fainted. Seeing this, she burst into cackles of laughter repeatedly, boding ill to the asuras. Then Kali drank wine and danced on the battlefield, and the Yoginis, Dakinis and the demigods also drank, roaring and reveling.
When Shankhacuda saw Kali, he hastened to the field. Though his men were frightened by her, he assured them of his protection.
Kali then hurled a fire weapon and it shot over the field like the fire that manifests when the world is about to come to an end. But the king shot a water weapon at it and quickly extinguished it. Kali hurled the varuna weapon at him but he baffled it with the Gandharva weapon. Kali threw the Maheshvara weapon, but he destroyed it with his Vaishnava weapon. Then, after uttering some mantras, Kali discharged the Narayana weapon. Seeing it coming at him, the king jumped off his chariot and bowed down to it, causing the weapon to zoom upwards like the fire of final dissolution. The demon, full of devotion, fell prostrate on the ground. The goddess recited a mantra and hurled a brahmastra at him, but he baffled it with his own brahmastra. Then she threw a weapon at him that was eight miles long, but Shankhacuda cut it to pieces with his celestial weapon.
Infuriated, the demon discharged celestial missiles at the goddess but she merely opened her mouth wide, swallowed them and roared with loud laughter. This terrified the demons. Shankhacuda then hurled a weapon at her that was eight hundred miles long, but she shattered it into a hundred pieces with celestial missiles. He flung the Vaishnava missile at the goddess, but she blocked it with a Maheshvara missile.
The fight continued for a long time and all the demigods and demons stood watching it.
Kali was now infuriated. Just as she readied herself to throw the pashupata weapon, a heavenly voice from the sky cried out, "O Goddess! Do not throw this missile at Shankhacuda. So long as Lord Hari's amulet remains on his neck and his wife's chastity is not violated, the king cannot be killed-even by the never-failing pashupata weapon. Lord Brahma gave him this boon." Kali heeded the voice and desisted from hurling the weapon. But out of hunger she devoured millions of demons. She then hastened to devour Shankhacuda but he resisted her with his sharp celestial weapons. She next aimed a scimitar at him that flashed like the noonday sun but the king cut it to pieces. So she ran after him to swallow him. But the skillful demon prevented her by expanding his body.
Highly enraged, the dreadful goddess smashed his chariot, killed his charioteer, and hurled a terrible spear at him-one that looked like the awesome fire that occurs when the world is about to end. But the king caught it with his left hand. The goddess then angrily struck him with her fists and caused the demon enough pain to make him reel and fall unconscious for a moment. Regaining consciousness, he got up, but he would not engage in hand-to-hand combat with Kali. Rather, he bowed down to her.
The goddess then threw other weapons at Shankhacuda, but he partly cut them down and partly took them up and absorbed them, rendering them futile. Regarding her as his mother, he did not aim any weapons at her. Then Kali caught hold of him, whirled him around repeatedly and angrily flung him into the sky. The demon came down with a tremendous crash, but he immediately got up and bowed to the goddess. Next, he gladly climbed up onto another stunning jeweled chariot and, feeling no fatigue at all from the battle, continued fighting.
Then Kali, feeling hungry, began drinking the blood and eating the fat and flesh of the demons. After this the goddess returned to Lord Shiva and described to him in detail the progression of the war-from beginning to end. Hearing about the demise of the demons, Lord Shiva laughed. Kali remarked that the only demons alive were the ones who crawled out of her mouth while she was chewing them, which amounted to about one hundred thousand. "And when I took hold of the pashupata weapon to kill Shankhacuda, an invisible celestial voice cried, 'He cannot be killed by you.' Then the powerful demon stopped hurling weapons at me. All he did was shatter those which I hurled at him."
When Shankhacuda saw him, he alighted from his aerial chariot and offered obeisances to him by lying flat on the ground. Then he got up, quickly returned to his chariot, and, seizing his bow and arrows, readied himself for the fight.
The fight lasted for a year. The two heroes showered arrows fiercely on one another the way clouds continuously pelt the earth with rain. When Shankhacuda playfully shot dreadful arrows, Lord Shiva split them all with his own arrows. Lord Shiva hit the demon's limbs with various weapons. Shankhacuda then grabbed his sword and shield, hastened toward Lord Shiva's sacred bull and hit it on the head. Seeing this, Lord Shiva smashed that sword and the shining shield by his kshurapra weapon. Then the demon threw his spear but Lord Shiva shot an arrow at it and split it in half. Shankhacuda, now infuriated, flung a discus, but Shiva punched it with his fist and splattered it. The demon threw his club vigorously at Lord Shiva, however Shiva split it apart and reduced it to ashes. Grabbing an ax, Shankhacuda rushed toward Lord Shiva, but Shiva released such a volley of arrows at him that he fell unconscious.
The Danava quickly regained consciousness and mounted his beautiful chariot. Covering the whole sky, he shone resplendently with his mystic weapons and arrows.
When Lord Shiva saw him coming toward him, he pounded his drum with enthusiasm and twanged his bowstring with a loud sound. Shiva filled all four quarters with the sound of his horn and then, roaring loudly, frightened the demons. Next, the noble bull bellowed thunderously, filling the sky, earth and eight quarters and shaming the proud trumpeting elephants. Lord Shiva surpassed all previous sounds by clapping the earth and the sky. The warriors emitted a raucous laughing sound, portending ill for the asuras. Shiva also roared in that mighty battle.
The demons were frightened by these piercing and dreadful sounds. However, the Danava king became extremely angry.
Lord Shiva shouted, "O wicked one, stay! Stay!," and the gods and his companions quickly shouted, "Victory! Victory!"
Shankhacuda then hurled at Lord Shiva his awesome flame-shooting spear; as it traveled, it blazed brilliantly like a mighty fire. However, one of Lord Shiva's followers shot a meteor at it and stopped it. As the battle between Lord Shiva and the demon king continued, the heavens, earth, mountains, oceans and rivers shook and trembled. Lord Shiva split apart hundreds and thousands of Shankhacuda's arrows, and the king did the same to Lord Shiva's shafts. Then the infuriated Shiva hit Shankhacuda with his trident and knocked him unconscious. But quickly regaining consciousness, he grabbed his bow, discharged some arrows and hit Lord Shiva and his assistants. Then, by means of magic, the asura assumed ten thousand arms and quickly surrounded Lord Shiva with ten thousand discuses. But Lord Shiva shot wonderful arrows at them and split them all apart. Shankhacuda next seized his mace and, accompanied by a massive army, charged Lord Shiva with the intention of destroying him. However, Lord Shiva split the mace, making the Danava furious. The demon then seized a spear that, to the enemy, blazed unbearably; as he neared Lord Shiva, the latter hit him in the chest with his trident. Then, a huge, valorous being came out of the demon's chest and said, "Stand by, stand by." Lord Shiva laughed loudly and, with his sword, cut off the fearsome head that was emerging, and it fell to the ground.
Spreading her mouth wide open, Kali angrily consumed countless demons, crushing their heads with her fierce fangs. The enraged Kshetrapala consumed many other demons, and Lord Shiva shot missiles at some and killed them. Others were just wounded. Virabhadra and Nandishvara destroyed many other demons. Thus a major portion of Shankhacuda's army was killed while many of his terrified troops cowardly fled the battlefield. But Shankhacuda stood firm and said to Lord Shiva, "I'm here, ready to fight with you. Come on. So what if many of my men have been killed. Fight me, face to face!"
Lord Shiva replied, "So be it."
At that moment Lord Shiva desired to see Lord Vishnu, and so Lord Vishnu appeared there. Lord Shiva told Him what he desired and Lord Vishnu agreed to help him.
So, dressed as an aged brahmana, Lord Vishnu, foremost in mystic power, approached Shankhacuda and requested, "O King of the Danavas, please grant my request. You give away in charity all kinds of wealth and riches, so please grant me what I desire. I am a quiet, peaceful, aged brahmana. I am very hungry and thirsty. But first make your promise, and then I will tell you what I want."
The king, with a kind face and a pleasing eye, swore to Him that he would give Him whatever He asked for. So the brahmana said affectionately, "I would like your amulet."
Shankhacuda, a well-wisher of the brahmanas who spoke the truth, thus handed over to the disguised Lord Vishnu his divine amulet.
Then Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Shankhacuda and went to Tulasi Devi's palace. When He approached the entrance, He created the appearance of a victory homecoming, causing others to beat their drums and to shout, "Victory."
Tulasi Devi was awakened from sleep. On hearing the sounds, the chaste woman was ecstatic. She eagerly peeped through the windows onto the road. When she realized that her husband had returned, she observed all auspicious rites and offered cash gifts to the brahmanas. Then she beautified herself.
Lord Vishnu went to Tulasi's apartment.
When she saw the Lord and thought He was her husband, she was gladdened. She bathed His feet, offered obeisances to Him, and sobbed. Then she had Him sit on the jeweled throne and handed Him the auspicious betel leaf that had been made fragrant with camphor. She said, "Today my life has become happy. For my beloved, who went to fight, has now returned home."
Drinking him in with wide eyes and a smiling face, Tulasi Devi sweetly asked him about the events of the battle. "My lord, how did you do in the battle with Lord Shiva? He is the protector of the demigods and the annihilator of countless universes. You have returned cheerfully after defeating the great lord. How did you beat him? Tell me all about it."
Lord Vishnu laughed and said sweetly, "When I reached the battlefield, there was a terrible clamor. A big battle then followed. The demigods fought the demons, and each side was eager for victory. The demigods defeated the demons. But then I fought the powerful demigods. Those whom I defeated sought shelter of Lord Shiva. Then Lord Shiva, to help them, fought me for a long time. My dear wife, Lord Shiva and I fought continuously for a year. All the demons were killed. Then Lord Brahma made us agree to peace. Thus, at Lord Brahma's order, the powers of authority were re-assigned to the demigods...So, I have come home and Lord Shiva has gone to Shivaloka. All have returned to health and normalcy. Thus the trouble has ended."
Lord Vishnu then lay down on the bed with Tulasi Devi and became close with her.
Lord Shiva raised the trident high, aimed and hurled it at Shankhacuda. Seeing it coming, the demon king dropped his bow and arrows, collected his mind, sat down in a yoga posture, and meditated on the lotus feet of Lord Krishna with great devotion. The trident whirled around Shankhacuda's head for a while. Then, at Lord Shiva's command, it smashed into the demon's head and burned him and his chariot to ashes. Thereafter, the trident returned to Lord Shiva, and then left for the airways at the speed of the mind, and finally returned with force and gladness to Lord Narayana.
In the heavens, the celestials beat their drums, the Gandharvas and Kinnaras sang, the sages and demigods chanted eulogies and all the damsels danced. Flowers continuously rained down upon Lord Shiva, and Lord Vishnu, Brahma, Indra and other notables praised him.
Out of compassion, Lord Shiva tossed the demon's bones into the sea and these bones became transformed into all the conches in the world. They are always considered very holy and favorable in the worship of the demigods. The water in the conch is also considered very sacred and satisfying to the demigods-as sacred as the water in any holy river. It can be offered to all the demigods but not to Lord Shiva. Wherever the conch is blown, Lakshmi dwells there with great delight. If one bathes with the conch water, this is equivalent to bathing in all the holy rivers. Wherever the the conch is placed, Lord Hari and Goddess Lakshmi live there, and all inauspicious things disappear from that place. However, wherever the females and shudras blow the conch, Goddess Lakshmi becomes annoyed and, out of fear, travels to other places.
Lord Shiva then mounted his bull carrier and, with all his followers, returned to his own residence. All the demigods also returned to their abodes with great joy. Before leaving, Lord Shiva favored Shankhacuda by releasing him from his curse, and thus he regained his original form as the cowherd boy Sudama.
Adorned with jewels, holding a flute, mounted on a divine chariot, and surrounded by numerous cowherd boys from Goloka Vrindavana, Shankhacuda then flew to the spiritual sky, Goloka, which is full of devotees of Lord Krishna who have various transcendental relationships with Him.
Sudama saw Shrimati Radharani and Shri Krishna, he bowed down to Their lotus
feet with devotion. Seeing him, the Divine Couple were filled with love for him
and, with kind faces and joyful eyes, lifted him up and took him on Their laps.
Tulasi Devi became angry. "Yes, who are you? I want to know immediately. For I know you have deceived me to enjoy me! You have outraged my modesty! For this I shall curse you!"
Lord Vishnu then assumed His own true beautiful form. Tulasi saw the Lord of the demigods before her. His complexion was deep blue, like fresh rain clouds, His eyes were like autumnal lotuses, and He was decked with jewels and ornaments. His smiling face looked very gracious, and He wore a yellow robe. Seeing Vasudeva's handsome form, Tulasi fainted.
A few moments later she regained consciousness and said, "O Lord, you are like a stone! You are merciless! You violated my chastity by deception. And by this means you have killed my husband. O Lord, you are merciless! Yes, Your heart is like a stone. Therefore, I curse you to become a stone. Those who call you holy are doubtlessly wrong. Your devotee committed no offense and yet, for the sake of others, You killed him! Why?"
Overpowered with grief and sadness, Tulasi cried loudly and repeatedly lamented.
Seeing her so upset, Narayana, who is an ocean of mercy, tried to console her according to dharmika rules. He said, "O exalted one, you performed austerities for a long time to get Me as your husband. And Shankhacuda also performed austerities for a long time to get you as his wife. By that austerity, he fulfilled his wish. It was then necessary for Me to fulfill your wish. For this reason, I did what I did. Now leave your earthly body and assume a spiritual body-and be married to Me. Be like Lakshmi. Your body will become a famous river known as Gandaki, a virtuous, pure and transparent river in this holy land of India. Your hairs will be transformed into holy trees; and since the trees will be born of you, they will be known as Tulasi trees. All the residents of the three worlds will perform worship with the leaves and flowers of this tree. Thus, you, Tulasi, will reign as the best among trees and flowers."
"Whoever will be moistened or anointed with the water that has been sanctified by Tulasi leaves, will reap the benefits of having bathed in all the sacred rivers and performed all kinds of sacrifices.
"Lord Hari will not be as pleased with the gift of a thousand jars of honey as with one Tulasi leaf.
"Offering one such leaf as a gift will bring the same reward obtained by offering millions of cows.
"If one offers Tulasi leaves during the month of Karttika, he gets the same rewards as those just mentioned.
"If, at the time of death, one drinks or gets the Tulasi-leaf water, one will be freed of all his sins and proceed to Vaikuntha.
"Whoever drinks the Tulasi-leaf water daily will be redeemed in his lifetime and receive the benefit of a dip in the Ganges.
"Whoever plucks a Tulasi leaf, keeps it on his person, and then leaves his body in a holy place, will go to Vishnuloka.
"Anyone who worships Me with this leaf daily will reap the blessings of a hundred thousand horse sacrifices.
"Anyone who leaves his body holding a Tulasi leaf in his hands will be saved from all sins.
"Anyone who wears a necklace composed of Tulasi wood, will surely, at every step, get the reward of a horse sacrifice.
"Whoever breaks his promise while holding the Tulasi leaf will go to the Kalasutra hell for as long as the sun and moon last.
"Anyone who gives false evidence in the presence of the Tulasi leaf, will go to the Kumbhipaka hell for as long as the lifespans of fourteen Indras.
"Whoever at the time of death drinks or gets a little Tulasi-leaf water will certainly proceed to Vaikuntha, leaving in a jeweled airplane.
"Lord Hari will decapitate that person who, on the day of the new moon or the full moon, or on the twelfth or last day of the lunar month, or after being anointed with oil just before taking a bath, or at noon, night, daybreak or sundown, or in a state of impurity or in one's night dress-will cull or pluck the Tulasi leaf.
"O chaste one, even if such a leaf is kept for three nights and becomes dry, it can still be employed in connection with funeral ceremonies, vows, gifts, consecration of temples and the worship of demigods.
"If Tulasi leaves that were offered to Lord Vishnu have fallen on the ground or on water are then properly washed, they may still be used for other sacred purposes.
"You will always be the presiding deity of the Tulasi plant here on Earth, and at the same time you will always sport with Shri Krishna in solitude in Goloka. You will also be the presiding deity of the Gandaki River, and thereby shower India with religious merit. You will further be the wife of the ocean of salt, which is My partial expansion. O chaste goddess, you will always remain personally by My side and enjoy My company, as Lakshmi does.
"As for Me, by your curse, I will become a stone and remain close to the bank of the Gandaki River. Millions of vajrakita worms, with their sharp teeth, will make convolutions or rings in the stones there, representing Me. These will be known as Shalagramas or sacred stones.
"Those stones which have one entrance hole, four rings, are marked with a garland of wild flowers, and look like a fresh rain cloud, will be known as Lakshmi-Narayana murtis or forms.
"Those stones that have one entrance hole, four rings, look like fresh rain clouds but have no garland mark will be called Lakshmi-Janardana cakras.
"Those that have two entrance holes, four rings, are impressed with the marks of cow-hooves but have no garland mark, will be called Raghunatha cakras.
"Those that are very small, have two rings, look like fresh rain clouds but have no garland mark will be called Vamana cakras. They shall be auspicious to householders.
"Those stones that are very small, have two rings and a garland mark will be called Shridhara cakras. They will bring prosperity to householders.
"Those stones that are large, circular, have two rings but no garland mark will be known as Damodara cakras.
"Those that are medium-large, have two rings, have the marks of arrows and quivers will be known as Rana-rama cakras.
"Those that are medium-sized, have seven rings, and have the marks of an umbrella and ornaments will be called Rajarajeshvara (king of kings) cakras, and give royal prosperity to the people.
"Those that are large, have fourteen wheels, look like fresh rain clouds will be called Ananta cakras. They will bestow the fourfold fruits-artha, kama, dharma and moksha (wealth, pleasure, righteousness and liberation).
"Those that are spherical, beautiful, medium-large, have two rings, look like rain clouds, and are marked with cow hooves will be called Madhusudana cakras.
"Those that have one ring will be called Sudarshana cakras.
"Those that have their rings hidden will be called Gadadhara cakras.
"Those that have two rings and the face of a horse will be called Hayagrivas.
"Those that have two rings, their mouths very wide and extended, and look very terrifying will be called Nrishimhas. They will bestow detachment on their worshipers.
"Those that have two rings, extended mouths and garland marks (elliptical) will be called Lakshmi Nrishimhas. They will bestow blessings on the householders who worship them.
"Those that have, near their doors, two rings that are of equal size and beautiful, with manifested marks, will be known as Vasudevas. They will fulfill all desires.
"Those that have a thin ring, look like fresh rain clouds, and have many fine holes within their wide gaping facets will be called Pradyumnas. They will give happiness to all householders.
"Those whose rings are united and whose backs are capacious will be called Sankarshanas. They will always bestow happiness to householders.
"Those that look yellow, round and very beautiful will be known as Aniruddhas. They also will give happiness to householders.
"Wherever there are Shalagrama stones, Lord Hari Himself exists. And wherever Lord Hari is, Goddess Lakshmi and all the holy places also exist.
"By worshiping the Shalagrama-shila (stone), one destroys the sin of having killed a brahmana and any other type of sin.
"By worshiping Shalagrama stones of the following shapes, the following effects take place:
"If the stone looks like an umbrella, one may obtain a kingdom.
"If the stone looks round, great prosperity.
"If it is cart-shaped, miseries.
"If its ends are spear-shaped, death.
"If its facets are distorted, poverty.
"If it is yellow, evils and afflictions.
"If its rings look broken, diseases.
"If its rings are split into fragments, certain death.
"If one observes vows, offers gifts, consecrates a temple, performs shraddha or funeral ceremonies, or worships the demigods before the Shalagrama-shila-all these acts become highly exalted.
"If one worships the Shalagrama-shila, one acquires the merits of bathing in all the tirthas (holy rivers) and being initiated into all the Vedic sacrifices.
"Furthermore, one acquires all the merits acquired by performing all the Vedic sacrifices by visiting all the holy places, by fulfilling vows, by practicing all austerities and by reading all the Vedas.
"Whoever performs his abhisheka (bathing) ceremony always with Shalagrama water-being sprinkled with this water at the initiation and installation ceremonies-acquires the spiritual merits gained by offering all sorts of gifts and walking around the entire earth.
"Without a doubt, the demigods are pleased with the person who daily worships the Shalagrama-shila. He becomes so holy that even all the holy places desire his touch. He becomes a jivan-mukta (liberated while in his physical body) and very godly. Ultimately he goes to Vaikuntha and serves Lord Hari there eternally. Any sin, such as the killing of a brahmana, flies away from him just as snakes flee at the sight of Garuda (Lord Vishnu's eagle carrier). The earth is consecrated by the dust of his feet. By his birth, he redeems one hundred thousand of his ancestors.
"Anyone who, while dying, drinks the Shalagrama-shila water, will be freed from all his sins and go to Vaikuntha. He becomes completely freed from the effects of karma (material action and reaction) and, without a doubt, becomes forever absorbed in the vision of Lord Vishnu's feet.
"Anyone who lies while holding the Shalagrama in his hands goes to Kumbhipaka hell for as long as Lord Brahma is alive (311 trillion and 40 billion earth years).
"If one breaks his promise while holding the Shalagrama in his hand, he goes to the Asipattra hell for one hundred thousand manvantaras.
"He who worships the Shalagrama-shila without offering Tulasi leaves on it, or who separates the leaves from the stone, will have to suffer separation from his wife in his next birth.
"And if one does not offer the Tulasi leaves in a conch, he remains without his wife for seven births and becomes diseased.
"He who maintains the Shalagrama-shila, the Tulasi, and the conch in one place, becomes very dear to Lord Narayana.
"It is painful for a person to separate from his beloved, whose company he once enjoyed. You were the dearmost of Shankhacuda for one manvantara, so it is now very difficult for you to separate from him.
As soon as Tulasi Devi quit her physical body, this body became the Gandaki River; and Lord Hari manifested Himself as the mountain on the bank of that river, giving spiritual merit to the people. The worms on that mountain cut and fashion, i.e. construct, various kinds of stones. Those that fall into the river and assume the color of clouds, without a doubt, yield results; but those that drop onto the dry land become brown by the sun's rays and unfit for worship.
Lord Hari duly honored Tulasi and began to sport with her along with Goddess Lakshmi. He elevated Tulasi to the rank of Lakshmi, making her blessed and glorious. Lakshmi and Goddess Ganga allowed and tolerated this new union of Lord Narayana and Tulasi. However, Goddess Sarasvati became angered and could not tolerate Tulasi's elevated position.
Once, in the presence of Lord Hari, the dignified Sarasvati quarreled with Tulasi and hurt her. Tulasi, humiliated and insulted, disappeared. Then, out of anger, the wise and adept Tulasi became invisible even to Lord Hari.
When Lord Hari did not see Tulasi, he appeased Sarasvati and, obtaining her permission, proceeded to the Tulasi forest-Vrindavana. He was very much disturbed by separation from her. There, he took a bath; then, with proper rites, he worshiped the chaste Tulasi with His whole heart, and then meditated on her with devotion, and uttered, "Obeisances to Tulasi Devi, Queen of Vrindavana Forest." During the worship, Tulasi was offered a lighted ghee lamp, frankincense, sandal flowers and sacrificial offerings. Anyone who worships Tulasi in this way will achieve complete perfection.
The Lord then began to praise His glorious devotee. "The Tulasi trees collect in many groups, thus the panditas call it Vrinda. I praise that dear Tulasi. Long ago she appeared in the Vrindavana forest and is thus known as Vrindavani. I adore that auspicious and glorious one. She is always worshiped in countless universes and so is known as Vishvapujita-one who is worshiped throughout the world. I worship that Vishvapujita.
"Countless universes are made pure and holy by her contact. She is therefore called Vishvapavani-one who purifies the whole universe. Remembering her, I am suffering from separation from her. Though other flowers be heaped upon the demigods, they are not satisfied unless Tulasi is offered. Thus she is considered the essence of all flowers and is called Pushpasara. Now I am anguished and troubled and very eager to see her-she who is purity incarnate. I crave the favor of that goddess. Because attainment of her brings faith and joy, she is called Nandini. O may she be pleased with Me. In the whole world she is incomparable, thus she is called Tulasi. I take refuge of that dear Tulasi. Very chaste and dear, she is the life of Krishna and so is known as Krishnajivani. O may that goddess save my life."
After Lord Hari finished the ceremony and prayers, Tulasi was pleased and came out of a tree. She immediately took refuge at Lord Hari's lotus feet. He blessed her by saying, "O Tulasi, you will be worshiped by all throughout the world. Dearest, I will hold you on my head and in my heart; and all the demigods will hold you on their heads."
When Lord Hari saw that the dignified Tulasi was weeping because her feelings had been hurt by Sarasvati, He clasped her to His breast, took her to Sarasvati and reconciled their differences. Then He blessed Tulasi, saying, "You will be worshiped by all, honored by all, and respected by all. And all will carry you on their heads. I also will worship, honor and respect you and carry you on My head."
Tulasi was now very happy. Sarasvati then embraced her and seated her by her side. Lakshmi and Ganga, smiling, also hugged her, and then took her home.
Because Tulasi was born on the lunar day of the full moon in the month of Karttika, Lord Hari prescribed this day for her worship.
Whoever worships her on this day will be freed from all sins and go to Vaikuntha.
Whoever, out of reverence, gives Lord Vishnu a Tulasi leaf in the month of Karttika, will gain the same benefit obtained by giving the gift of ten million cows.
By hearing or recalling the Tulasi hymn, a son will be born to a sonless woman, a wife will be obtained by a wifeless man, health will be restored to a diseased person, freedom will be given to a prisoner, fearlessness will be bestowed upon a terrified person, and salvation will be given to a sinner.
In the Kanva-shakha branch of the Vedas, the method of worshiping and meditating on Tulasi Devi is described. Without invoking the goddess, one can reverentially meditate on her and adore her with sixteen ingredients in the following way:
"Of all flowers, Tulasi is the best. She is worshipable and beautiful, and burns up the fuel of sins like a flame of fire. Of all the goddesses, she is the most sacred. Because no one can compare to her, she is called Tulasi. I worship this goddess who is entreated by all. She is placed on the heads of all, desired by all, and makes the universe holy. She bestows liberation from this world and devotion to Lord Hari. I worship her." After this meditation and worship, the wise should read her praises and bow down to her.
How to Care for Tulasi Devi
The author does not pretend to be an expert on this complex subject. However, he has gleaned from one excellent professional source enough information to help the reader cultivate and maintain a beautiful Tulasi plant. This source is a booklet entitled The Art of Caring for Shrimati Tulasi Devi, by Ishana Devi-dasi. The author recommends it highly, as it contains even more information than is contained in this book, especially in the area of specific pests and diseases that may attack a Tulasi plant. Ishana Devi-dasi is not only the caretaker of Tulasi Devi in the New Dvaraka community, but also holds a Ph.D degree in botany from an accredited US university. Persons may obtain her booklet by writing to her at the Los Angeles Temple, ISKCON, 3764 Watseka Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90034 USA or to the Vrindavana Trust, Krishna Balaram Mandir, Raman Reti, Vrindavan, Dist. Mathura, India.
The author thanks the anonymous artist of The Tulasi Handbook for the use of some of his/her illustrations to depict this section of the book.
There are two types of Tulasi plants. One, grown in direct sunlight, develops purple leaves and stems, and dark purple to pink flowers-this is called a Krishna Tulasi. The other, whose leaves and stems never turn purple and whose flowers are pure white, is called a Rama Tulasi.
Tulasi's Latin name is Ocimum sanctum L. Ocimum means she is related to the basil herb, and sanctum means "holy." Thus she is also known as the "Holy Basil." There is also a Lakshmi Tulasi or Tulasa. She is a tree basil and her Latin name is Ocimum gratissmum var. suave (Wild) Hook f. In worship, she is used as a substitute when Tulasi is not available.
Whoever cultivates and cares for a Tulasi plant purifies oneself, gives pleasure to Lord Krishna, and obtains Tulasi Devi's mercy, namely, devotional service to and pure love of Krishna.
Starting a Tulasi Plant from Seed
1. Either obtain a seed-starter kit from a local nursery, or if you use your own soil, mix of one part potting soil and one part sand. (See soil section below.)
2. Place these into peat-moss cups or into flat containers at least two inches deep.
3. Remove the four Tulasi seeds from the calyx by shaking them gently or pushing them out with the blunt eye of a needle.
4. Place the seeds singly on top of the soil.
5. Sprinkle soil finely over them-an amount equal to the diameter of the seed. They should be able to receive light. If planted too deeply, they will not be able to sprout.
6. Each seed will germinate into a Tulasi plant, so use only an amount of seeds that you are prepared to care for.
7. Do not water the seeds from above as the water could dislodge them.
8. Water the containers from below by placing them in a tray of lukewarm water until moist spots manifest on the surface of the soil.
9. Let the containers drain completely.
10. Place a pane of glass over the containers or place them in a clear plastic bag to increase their humidity.
11. Provide them with bright illumination, but not direct sunlight, and keep them in a warm environment.
12. Daily remove the moisture that collects on the inside of the pane or bag, and let fresh air circulate about the containers.
13. Most Tulasi seeds germinate in three to five days, but some take longer.
14. When germination starts, remove the pane or bag. However, keep the seedlings in a humid place, but do not let the planting medium get soggy. (See section on humidity below.)
15. For a number of days, as the roots begin developing, the young seedlings will have only two seed leaves.
16. If at this stage Tulasi turns purple, she is probably receiving too bright a light. Therefore, the light should be filtered.
17. If by chance Tulasi is bent over at the soil line and her stem there is brown and pinched, she has been assailed by a fungus. To overcome this:
a. Increase the circulation of air.
b. Reduce the amount of humidity
c. Sprinkle fine, hot sand onto the soil surface.
18. When the Tulasi seedling sends up a shoot with two additional leaves, and then another two, she is ready to be transplanted.
19. If the seedling is in a peat-moss container or peat-moss pellet:
a. When her roots begin to come out of the bottom and the sides of the container, it is time to transplant her.
b. Transfer the container to a clay pot that is slightly larger and contains the proper amount of potting soil. (See section on soil below.)
c. Make certain that the new soil line is the same as the line in the container, neither higher nor lower.
20. When two Tulasis are in the same container and you want to transplant each in a separate pot:
a. First, the seedlings should have at least two or three sets of leaves.
b. Gently tease apart the container and tease apart the soil mass until the Tulasis separate.
c. When two Tulasis refuse to disentangle, soak them in room-temperature water.
d. Once the plants are separated, make certain that each has as much soil as possible around the roots. Re-plant at once and water them completely.
21. When the Tulasi seedling is in a seed flat:
a. Scoop out the seedling, taking as much soil around it and below it as possible.
b. Place her in a small pot and water her completely.
22. For several days, keep the seedlings in mild shade. Then gradually increase the light.
23. From this point on, the seedling should grow quickly.
24. The tip of Tulasi's stem will grow higher and higher till a flower cluster or manjari will begin to manifest.
25. Sometimes, before this happens, Tulasi becomes fairly tall. When this happens, and she is still young and her stem not yet woody, she may need to be staked.
26. Because wooden dowels rot fast, use bamboo rods or plastic coated steel rods for stakes.
27. Place the stake at the edge of the inside of the pot, not near Tulasi's stem, which may injure her roots.
28. Take a piece of clean cloth or kite string and, without interfering with her branches, tie it to her stem. Then tie the other end to the stake. Use as many stakes as required to keep her upright.
29. If Tulasi is becoming too top heavy and you wish to terminate her upward growth:
a. Pinch away the tiny apical growing point on the top of the stem.
b. This will cause the small buds at the meeting point of each leaf and stem to grow into branches.
c. When these branches have developed three to four sets of leaves, you can again pinch away the apical growing points. This will cause more side shoots to develop on the branches.
d. The result? A very compact Tulasi plant.
30. Tulasi may never be pruned, to shape her, as is done with ordinary plants, except when doing so will save her life. According to the Padma Purana, it is offensive to cut a living Tulasi branch, and Lord Krishna feels this as a pain in His heart.
31. Under ideal conditions Tulasi can flower throughout the year. But she develops the greatest amount of flowers during the spring and summer months.
32. Tulasi produces clusters of flowers called manjaris. The total length of an entire cluster may grow to ten inches.
33. Although flowering occurs throughout the year, she generally produces seeds in late spring through summer.
34. If you wish to collect Tulasi's seeds, let the seeds turn brown but cut the manjari before the seeds start falling from the calyx. Store these mature manjaris with their seeds in a cool, dry, airtight container.
35. As a Tulasi plant matures, her new leaves may be smaller, and her stem will become thicker and woody. Most Tulasis reach an adult height of three to four feet, however some grow to nine feet.
36. The duration of most Tulasi plants is about five years.
37. After Tulasi leaves her body, her wood can be carved into chanting beads or be employed in fire sacrifices and cremation ceremonies.
For further information about how to properly remove and store Tulasi's leaves and manjaris and use them in worship, see the section on worship.
Keeping Your Tulasi Plant Healthy
Tulasi Devi's physical health all year round depends on proper light, water, temperature, humidity, soil, nutrients, pot size, and on remaining free from pests and diseases. Here are some of the basics that should be followed.
1. Tulasi Devi develops and is maintained best in natural sunlight.
2. Ideally, she should be given three to five hours of direct sunlight daily.
3. The morning to early afternoon sunlight is best.
4. The results of insufficient light are:
a. Thin weak stems.
b. Long-stemmed branches between the leaves.
c. Large pale green leaves, and few or no flowers.
d. Leaves that may fall and branches that may die.
5. Tulasi Devi can thrive well indoors when placed before a window that gets the required amount of sunlight.
6. Daily, turn Tulasi Devi's pot about one fourth of its circumference. This will enable her to grow straight and her branches to develop symetrically (as opposed to leaning over onesidedly in the sun's direction).
7. When you don't have a window that offers adequate light:
a. Use daylight tubes and natural white florescent tubes; or daylight tubes with "gro-lux" or "gro-lite" tubes.
b. She has to be encircled by light.
c. In three separate lighting fixtures, hang two forty watt tubes above, to the left, and to the right of her. Place them very close, but without touching, her.
d. Leave these lights on fourteen to sixteen hours daily (but less if she is getting some sun).
8. When Tulasi Devi has been indoors all winter and the weather becomes warm enough to take her outside for direct sunlight, make the transition gradually:
a. At first, allow her to stay outside an hour or so daily.
b. Increase the length of her stay gradually.
c. Otherwise, too much sun too fast will "sunburn" and shock her.
d. This results in her leaf areas turning bronze or white, then dying and turning brown; sometimes her lower leaves may even suddenly fall off.
1. The ideal time to water Tulasi Devi is in the early morning.
2. Water her gently without upsetting her soil. Otherwise, root disease and soil aeration problems could arise.
3. To avoid city-water chemicals, use purified or distilled (bottled) water.
4. If this is not possible, allow your city water to stand overnight in a non-corrosive container. This will permit the chlorine and possibly other chemicals to disperse.
5. Pour the water from one container to another, aerating it.
6. Do not use "hard" water to which chemicals have been added to make it "soft."
7. No less than once each week water Tulasi Devi completely. Some of the water should flow out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.
8. Whenever her topsoil feels dry, she should again be watered, with enough to keep her moist all day but not drenched.
9. She should never be so wet that when more water is added, it immediately flows out of the bottom of the pot.
10. Waterlogging can cause fungal disease and death of the roots. In turn, the leaves will be affected, turning pale or brownish before dropping.
11. Soil that is constantly too dry will also harm the roots. This may cause Tulasi's leaves to become faintly greyish or bronzed or pale green, slowing down her growth;
12. It may also cause the soil to pull away from the sides of the pot, resulting in the water not pervading the soil. If this happens:
a. Plunge the pot in a bucket of water so that the soil may absorb the water; or
b. Add small quantities of water to the soil surface; let it soak in; then slowly add more till the soil reaches its necessary moisture level.
c. Should Tulasi begin wilting from inadequate soil moisture, withdraw her from the sun and heat and administer water to her. However, this shock could cause her to drop her lower leaves.
d. Another way you can determine if Tulasi's soil is too dry is by lifting her pot. If it feels especially "light," then she may very well need water.
1. During Tulasi's growing season, she does best in temperatures ranging from 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) in the day to about 65 degrees F (18 degrees C) during the night. She can withstand temperatures over 100 degrees F (37 degrees C) and even in the low 50s (12 degrees C); but these can cause her stress and will slow her growth.
2. Tulasi can overheat and wilt in extremely warm wealther, notwithstanding having an adequate amount of soil water. If this happens:
a. Don't water her-this will drench her soil.
b. Take her out of the sun and into filtered light.
c. Reduce her temperature by spraying a fine mist of water over her.
d. When the humidity is very low, increase it around her (see humidity section). This will lessen the amount of water she loses from her leaves.
e. When the humidity is very high and water cannot evaporate from her, heat doesn't dissipate very well. Therefore, try to improve the circulation of air around her.
3. Tulasi Devi is very sensitive to cold weather. When night temperatures are regularly in the forties, she may have great difficulty surviving.
4. To protect her from the cold, bring her indoors.
5. If that isn't possible, and your area isn't harshly cold, build a simple greenhouse around her:
a. Use galvanized water pipes as a frame. Place 4 mm clear pastic over them and tape it with duct tape that is weatherproof.
b. To keep her warm, an electric heater may be placed inside.
c. The greenhouse must be sufficiently ventilated to avoid build up of heat in the sun.
6. If you keep Tulasi Devi inside in a heated area, make certain that she is in a spot that is devoid of cold and hot drafts.
7. In a very cold climate, remove her from the window area at night. The coldness from the window could shock her enough to make her give up those leaves and branches that are close to the window.
8. Do not place her in the line of direct heat from a heater or cold from an air conditioner.
9. Hot drafts could cause her leaves to drop, shrivel up, turn black overnight, or even destroy complete branches or the entire Tulasi plant.
10. In homes, heated air is often dry, so make certain that Tulasi Devi is not affected.
11. Extreme temperature changes between day and night, or any sudden temperature change creates stress on her. This can cause her to wilt. On such mornings, expose her to the sun gradually, let her warm up slowly, and keep a high level of humidity around her.
1. Dry air may cause Tulasi's leaves to sacrifice water to the air faster than she can absorb water through her roots.
2. This results in her leaves curling and/or the edges of her leaves dying (becoming brown and crisp).
3. Also, her flower buds may dry up and drop off without ever opening. And she may appear somewhat shriveled, notwithstanding sufficient water in her soil.
4. To remedy this situation increase the humidity around her by any or all of the following:
a. In a greenhouse or on a patio, spray the floor with water. As it evaporates, it will travel through her leaves.
b. Place her in a waterproof tray that can hold a layer of gravel or sponge rock (perlite) and water.
(1) Place the bottom of Tulasi's pot on the gravel but above the level of the water.
(2) Or better yet, raise the pot on slats above the gravel so that air can circulate freely under the pot.
c. Spray her mildly (mistily).
d. Place two or more Tulasis near each other-each will benefit from the water vapor emitted from their leaves.
e. Create a miniature greenhouse over her by placing a clear plastic bag over a wire frame.
(1) When Tulasi is in direct sunlight, partially remove the bag or she will be harmed by too much heat.
(2) When there is steam in the bag, it is too hot for her. In this case, restrict use of the bag to nighttime (when there is no sunlight).
1. To remain healthy, plant roots require oxygen, and they receive it from the air spaces in the soil. In over-watered soil, the soil spaces fill up with water and deprive the roots of oxygen.
2. When this occurs, the roots may begin to die, and the leaves may yellow or form brown margins.
3. Tulasi thrives well in steralized commercial potting soil, such as Unigro or Supersoil.
4. Avoid brands that are sawmill by-products, and that list "sludge" (a sewage-treatment by-product) as an ingredient.
5. For rich soil with excellent drainage capacity, you can make your own soil mix as follows:
a. To two parts potting soil, add one part compost, leafmold, earthworm castings or other decomposed organic matter, and one part clean coarse sand, such as masons' sand. You may substitute perlite or sponge rock for coarse sand. Do not use beach sand, as it has too much salt.
b. Add one tablespoon of pulverized phosphate rock and one tablespoon of potash rock (granite dust or green sand).
c. When compost is unavailable, use vermiculite; however, be prepared to give Tulasi more nutrients, as mentioned in the next section.
6. It is not a good idea to use soil straight from a garden because the soil may contain disease organisms.
7. Do not place earthworms in Tulasi Devi's pot because they are apt to damage her roots.
force of watering may compact the soil. This will hinder the water and the air
from penetrating the soil. To allay this, each month turn over the top inch of
soil with a small instrument (such as a fork), but be careful not to poke at or
upset her roots.
1. Even in the best of soils, a potted Tulasi will need additional nutrients to replace those she uses.
2. Generally, in a pot, nitrogen is the first nutrient that requires replacement.
3. Nitrogen evaporates from soil especially in hot weather while Tulasi is growing.
4. When Tulasi has an inadequate supply of nitrogen, her lower leaves will turn yellow and fall off.
5. To replace nitrogen and most other important elements, add a one-inch layer of aged cow manure to the top layer of her soil.
6. Or water Tulasi every other week with a tea made by soaking overnight one part dried manure or other composted material in three parts water (mixed to a weak tea color). Never use fresh manure as this will burn her.
7. After these applications, Tulasi's leaves should become green in two to three days.
8. In very hot weather, cow manure alone does not always furnish nitrogen quickly enough. Therefore, use fertilizers such as "Miracle Gro," whose nutrients come from natural sources. Avoid fertilizers with slaughterhouse or sewer-treatment facility by-products.
9. Notwithstanding the above, Tulasi may still require extra iron treatments several times a year, especially when her upper leaves and manjaris are pale yellow-green instead of deep green.
10. Do not over-fertilize a potted Tulasi. If the concentration of nutrients becomes too high, "fertilizer burn" will occur and she will wilt. This is because the excess salts prevent her from absorbing water from the soil.
11. Consequently, the branch tips will quickly turn black and die, and black patches will manifest at both edges of her young leaves before they fall. As soon as this begins to happen:
a. Flush Tulasi with a large quantity of fresh water to wash the excess salts from the soil.
b. Take at least fifteen minutes to do this, allowing the water to flow out.
c. This should stop the spread of the black areas; however, the blackened tissue cannot be saved.
12. To prevent fertilizer burn, water Tulasi once weekly and let the water run out of her drainage hole. Also, heed the instructions on packaged soil supplements.
Give Tulasi extra
nutrients only when she is growing and can use them. This means reduce or even
halt the introduction of supplements during autumn and winter when she has
1. Your Tulasi plant, if she is healthy and growing, will at some point require a larger pot.
2. Examine the bottom of her pot. If her roots are pushing out of the drainage hole, she may need to be transplanted.
3. Water her and allow her to drain completely. Then, with her stem between your index and middle fingers, and your palm on the soil at the base of the stem, turn her pot upside down.
4. Rap the rim of the pot on the edge of a table. The entire Tulasi plant should move out of the pot.
5. Examine her roots. If they do not fill the pot, so that the rootball is in the shape of the pot, just replace her in the same pot.
6. But if the roots do fill the soil area of the pot, she should be transplanted.
7. When Tulasi looks too large for her pot and she wilts between regular waterings, it is then beyond the right time for transplanting.
8. When it is time to transplant, select a pot that is one or two sizes larger than her present one. However, if it is past the time for transplanting and Tulasi has greatly outgrown her pot, use a pot that is larger than two sizes, about one third to one half of her plant height.
9. Do not plant in a larger-than-needed size pot because the excess soil in it will retain too much water and cause problems in Tulasi's root development.
10. Use a pot made of unglazed clay which has a drainage hole. The unglazed clay permits air to move through the sides of the pot (Do not use plastic pots or glazed-clay pots).
11. Do not transplant under strong, hot sunshine. Do it when the weather is cool and overcast or after four p.m., and always protect Tulasi from drying winds.
12. Here is how to transplant her:
a. Plunge the new clay pot in water till it ceases bubbling.
b. Place broken pottery chips over the drainage hole to prevent the soil from flowing out of the bottom of the pot. But do not block it completely-water must drain out. A layer of gravel may be placed on the bottom of large pots.
c. Place an adequate amount of soil on the bottom of the new pot.
d. If possible, carefully separate and straighten any roots that are twisted in circles; then gently lower her into her new pot, keeping her straight and upright.
e. Add new soil all around her and tamp it gently.
f. The soil level should be the same as her previous level.
g. If her soil level is lower than the previous level, her roots will become exposed and rot; if it is higher, her stem may rot.
h. Between the soil level and the top of the pot, always leave a one-half inch to one-inch space. This is to allow for watering.
13. Water her fully and place her in a shady place for a few days. After this period, you can place her in the direct sunlight again.
14. The next time you water her should be when the soil is dry, for the new pot contains a substantial amount of reserve water.
Keeping Tulasi Healthy
1. The place where Tulasi stays should always be very clean.
2. Collect all of her fallen leaves regularly.
3. Use a proportion of 3:1 bleach:water solution to sterilize any pots, trowels, scissors, and other implements you may be using to maintain her.
4. Even though you may take all precautions, your Tulasi plant may be attacked by pests.
5. Such pests should be counter-attacked immediately to prevent terrible damage to Tulasi. Some pests carry fungal, bacterial, and viral diseases that can be fatal to her.
6. Pruning Tulasi is forbidden except in the following emergencies: when her roots have been attacked by a pest(s), her life is at stake, and she can be saved by this. (Reducing her size may allow a reduced root system to adequately nourish the rest of the plant.)
7. Tulasi should be examined daily for pests.
8. If Tulasi is kept clean, she will remain healthy. She can be kept clean by bathing her as follows:
a. Spray her gently with a hose to remove dust and insects from her leaves.
b. Give her a bath with vegetable-based (castile) soap made with potassium salts. These salts are deadly to insects.
c. Small Tulasi plants are bathed as follows:
(1) Cover the pot and soil with plastic.
(2) Place your hand on her soil and her stem between your index and middle finger for her support.
(3) Tip her upside down, lower her into the soapy water, and swish her gently for five to ten seconds only.
(4) Slowly withdraw her from the soap.
(5) Rinse her in a bucket of clean water or under a fine garden-hose spray.
(6) Shake off the excess water and slowly turn her over; else, that water may make her heavy and cause her to droop or maybe break.
d. Large Tulasi plants (that do not fit in a bucket) are bathed as follows:
(1) Cover her soil with plastic, wrap it tightly around her stem, and spray her with soap.
(2) Make certain you spray on the underside of the leaves, where most insects hide.
(3) When Tulasi is indoors and spraying is difficult, spray each leaf with a squirt bottle, or wipe each leaf with a soft cloth.
(4) Or remove her to an outer balcony or just outside your front door and spray her.
(5) One-gallon pump sprayers are available from most garden stores.
9. Especially in the summer, bathe Tulasi Devi daily.
10. As a preventive measure, it is useful to bathe her with soap weekly or bi-weekly. But if you prefer, you may soap her only when she has been attacked by insects.
11. When you soap-spray her, be certain to wash off the soap or it might burn the margins of her leaves.
12. If, in spite of bathing her, Tulasi is still attacked, you can use certain natural sprays derived from plants that repel or destroy insects. They are non-toxic and environmentally safe. Here are some of them:
a. Pyrethrum: Derived from chrysanthemum flowers, it fights aphids, whiteflies, and caterpillers. Apply in late afternoon or evening-never in the sun-and don't use it with soap.
b. Rotenone: Derived from the derris plant root, it acts as a stomach poison on aphids, spider mites, ants, and true bugs.
c. Diatomaceous earth: Silica fragments derived from the skeletal re-mains of small sea animals called diatoms. These lacerate the insect, causing it death from dehydration.
d. Hot chile peppers mixed with water: These discourage chewing in-sects.
e. Neem oil: Derived from the Neem tree, it suppresses appetite and inhibits growth in aphids, mites, mealybugs, and whiteflies. (Marketed in US as Bio-Neem by Safer, Inc.)
f. SunSpray Oil: A parafin based oil, it may be sprayed on Tulasi's leaves without harming them. It acts against mealybugs, scales, spidermites, and aphids. Only this type of spray oil may be used on Tulasi. (Never use petroleum-based sprays.)
13. There are certain insects that do not eat plants but thrive only on plant-eating insects. These assist in keeping Tulasi free of harmful ones. Here are a few:
a. The ladybug: Both the adults and larvae eat aphids, mealybugs, and scales. They can roam directly on Tulasi or in her area.
b. The green or brown lacewings: These eat aphids, spider mites and mealybugs.
c. The assassin bug, ambush bug, praying mantis, and various spiders are helpful.
14. These insect-eating insects may be obtained at a local nursery or an insectary.
15. If you need more assistance in solving a pest problem, you can obtain it from your local nursery or agricultural extension agent. These persons identify local crop pests and diseases.
is provided in the book The Art of Caring for Tulasi Devi.
1. The assembled devotees should offer obeisances to Tulasi Devi with the Tulasi-pranama-mantra, which is chanted three times:
om vrindayai tulasi-devyai
priyayai keshavasya ca
satyavatai namo namah
"I offer my repeated obeisances unto Vrinda, Shrimati Tulasi Devi, who is very dear to Lord Keshava. O goddess, you bestow devotional service to Krishna and you possess the highest truth."
2. The assembled devotees then recite the Tulasi-puja-kirtana prayer in English:
"O Tulasi, beloved of Krishna, I bow before you again and again. My desire is to obtain the service of Shri Shri Radha and Krishna. Whoever takes shelter of you has his wishes fulfilled. Bestowing your mercy on him, you make him a resident of Vrindavana. My desire is that you will also give me a residence in the pleasure groves of Shri Vrindavana-dhama. Thus within my vision I will always behold the beautiful pastimes of Radha and Krishna. I beg you to make me a follower of the cowherd damsels of Vraja. Please give me the privilege of devotional service and make me your own maidservant. This very fallen and lowly servant of Krishna prays, "May I always swim in the love of Shri Shri Radha and Govinda."
3. Next, the devotees sing the Tulasi-puja-kirtana song in Bengali:
namo namah tulasi krishna-preyasi
radha-krishna-seva pabo ei abilashi
ye tomara sharana loy, tara vancha purna hoy
kripa kori' koro tare vrindavana-vasi
mora ei abhilasha, vilasa kunje dio
nayana heribo sada yugala-rupa-rashi
ei nivedana dhara, sakhira anugata
seva-adhikara diye koro nija dasi
dina krishna-dase koy, ei yena mora
shri-radha-govinda-preme sada yena bhasi
4. As the song is sung, one of the devotees, acting as the priest or pujari, cleanses his hands and mouth. Then he offers Tulasi Devi incense, next the ghee lamp, and then flowers.
5. When the song is finished, the devotees should walk or dance around Tulasi Devi at least four times. During the circumambulation, the following mantra is chanted:
yani kani ca papani
tani tani pranashyanti pradakshinah pade pade
6. As the circumambulation is proceeding, one or more devotees should approach the Tulasi plant. One of them should, with his right hand, take the spoon from the water cup and, with water on it, pour the water on his right hand to cleanse it. (This may also be done for the devotee by the pujari.) One should then return the spoon to the cup. Then, using the right hand, one should take the spoon from the other cup and, with water on it, pour three drops on Tulasi Devi's soil. This process should be followed by each devotee, one by one, while the other devotees are circling Tulasi Devi. After each devotee has watered the Tulasi plant, he should offer obeisances, reciting his guru-pranati mantra. Then he should rise and stand to the side of the circling area or, if he wishes, continue to circumambulate Tulasi Devi.
7. After the devotees have chanted the circumambulation mantra three times, they should proceed with a brief Hare Krishna kirtana. The circling of Tulasi may be continued during this kirtana.
8. When the kirtana is
finished, the devotees should again offer obeisances to Tulasi Devi with the Tulasi-pranama-mantra.
The Complete Tulasi Devi Worship
The following procedures are derived from the book Arcana-paddhati, The Process of Deity Worship, which itself is an abridgement of the book Hari-bhakti-vilasa by Sanatana Gosvami. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja commissioned the Arcana-paddhati in order to regularize the worship in the temples he had established, and the book was compiled under his his order.
The following worship of Tulasi Devi should be performed by the Tulasi pujari after the morning worship of the other Deities is completed, or, if this is not possible, at another time during the morning.
1. First one should recite the prayer:
nirmata tvam pura devair
arcita tvam surasuraih
tulasi hara me 'vidyam
pujam grihna namo 'stu te
"O Shrimati Tulasi Devi, you were previously created by the demigods and worshiped by both them and the demons. O Shrimati Tulasi Devi, kindly take away my ignorance and accept my worship. I offer you my humble obeisances again and again."
2. Then, while sprinkling water on Shrimati Tulasi Devi, one should chant the following mantra:
om govinda-vallabham devim
"I am bathing goddess Tulasi Devi, who is very dear to Govinda and who brings life to all the devotees. She is the mother of the universe, and the bestower of devotion to Lord Krishna."
3. Then, taking some arghya mixture (candana mixed with camphor, flower petals and water) from an arghya-patra (a bowl) with a kushi (spoon) and pouring some on her soil, one should chant:
shriyah shriye shriya-vase
nityam shridharam sat-krite
bhaktya dattam maya devi
arghyam grihna namo 'stu te
"O goddess Tulasi, I offer my obeisances unto you, who are the shelter and residence of all beauty and opulence. You are even worshiped by the Supreme Lord. O Tulasi, please accept this arghya water which is offered by me with devotion."
4. Then one should perform the following:
a) One should offer a flower mixed with sandalwood pulp to Shrimati Tulasi Devi with the mantra:
idam sagandha-pushpam om tulasyai namah.
b) One should offer the bath water of Shri Krishna to Tulasi Devi with the mantra:
idam shri-krishna-caranamritam om tulasyai namah.
c) One should offer garlands and flowers offered to the Lord with the mantra:
idam maha-prasada-nirmalyadikam sarvam om tulasyai namah.
d) One should offer acamana (water with ground nutmeg and cloves) to Shrimati Tulasi Devi with the mantra:
idam acamaniyam om tulasyai namah.
5. Then one should sing the praise of Shrimati Tulasi Devi as follows:
adhivyadhi-hare nityam tulasi tvam namo 'stu te
"O Shrimati Tulasi Devi, I offer my repeated obeisances unto you. You are the mother of maha-prasada, the increaser of the good fortune of all, and you take away all diseases and anxieties."
6. Following this, one should offer obeisances to her with the Tulasi-pranama mantra:
om vrindayai tulasi-devyai
priyayai keshavasya ca
satyavatai namo namah
"I offer my repeated obeisances unto Vrinda, Shrimati Tulasi Devi, who is very dear to Lord Keshava. O goddess, you bestow devotional service to Krishna and you possess the highest truth."
7. Then, with his right hand, one should very carefully, one by one, pick the Tulasi leaves or soft Tulasi-manjaris along with their stems while repeatedly uttering the Tulasi-cayana-mantra:
om tulasy amrita-janmasi sada tvam
keshavartham cinomi tvam varada bhava shobhana
"O Tulasi, you are born from nectar. You are always very dear to Lord Keshava. Now, in order to worship Lord Keshava, I am collecting your leaves and manjaris. Please bestow your benediction on me to serve the Lord."
It is best to remove only the older leaves near the stem, especially those she is about to release and which can be taken with a slight pull. Do not remove many leaves from a small plant, or she will suffer. All her leaves are offerable for worship, even dry, brown leaves. In an emergency, one may even offer pieces of her wood.
8. Special care should be taken taken to ensure that no pain is caused to Shrimati Tulasi Devi, and, when one is finished, one should recite the kshama-prarthana-mantra, begging her pardon:
yad hridi tava vartate
tat kshamasva jagan-matah
vrinda-devi namo 'stu te
"O Tulasi Devi, I offer my respectful obeisances unto you. Kindly forgive me if I have caused you pain by picking your leaves and manjaris, O mother of the universe."
Devotees are restricted from picking Tulasi leaves on dvadashi (the twelfth day after a new or full moon), the day following ekadashi. Even if Tulasi's leaves have become dry due to having been cut on the previous day or cut in the morning, they may be used in Deity worship. Tulasi may be offered only to vishnu-tattva Deities, i.e., Krishna, Balarama, Lord Chaitanya, etc.
Clipping and Storing Her Leaves and Manjaris
Clip the stalk below the first set of leaves at the base of the manjari or manjari unit (these may be small leaves) but as close as possible to the second set of leaves. When clipping, do not leave a small twig on her, as she will have to use energy to discard this now useless tissue. It is best to store the manjaris in large Tupperware containers so that they can "breathe" and not dry out. They should keep for several days.
In India, manjaris are broken off with the fingers of the right hand. Fingernails are not used. However, Westerners may have difficulty removing the manjaris cleanly, therefore a very small, sharp scissors, used only for Tulasi, is recommended. When making a Tulasi garland, never use a needle to pierce her. Instead, knot or wrap the thread around the manjaris.
Store the leaves in a bowl of fresh water or in plastic, airtight containers-and place them in the refrigerator. When using an airtight container, wash the leaves and pat them dry before placing them inside, as too much moisture will cause them to rot rapidly.
Eight Names of Shrimati Tulasi Devi
Vrindavani: She who appears in Vrindavana forest.
Vrinda: She who appears in many plants and trees.
Vishva-pujita: She who is worshiped in countless universes.
Pushpasara: The topmost of all flowers.
Nandini: She who, when attained, brings faith and joy.
Krishna-jivani: She who is the life of Lord Krishna.
Vishva-pavani: She who purifies the whole universe.
Tulasi: She who is incomparable.
It is very auspicious to chant these
From The Books, Classes, Morning Walks, Room Conversations, and Letters Of Shrila Prabhupada
Adi-lila, Chapter 3, Texts 103-110
103. While He [Advaita Acarya] was thinking about how to propitiate Krishna by worship, the following verse came to mind.
104. "Shri Krishna, who is very affectionate toward His devotees, sells Himself to a devotee who merely offers a Tulasi leaf and a palmful of water."
This is a verse from the Gautamiya-tantra.
105-106. Advaita Acarya considered the meaning of the verse in this way: Not finding any way to repay the debt He owes to one who offers Him a Tulasi leaf and water, Lord Krishna thinks, "There is no wealth in my possession that is equal to a Tulasi leaf and water."
107. Thus the Lord liquidates the debt by offering His own self to the devotee. Considering this, the acarya began worshiping the Lord.
Through devotional service one can easily please Lord Krishna with a leaf of the Tulasi plant and a little water. As the Lord says in Bhagavad-gita (9.26), a leaf, a flower, a fruit or some water (patram pushpam phalam toyam), when offered with devotion, very much pleases Him. He universally accepts the services of His devotees. Even the poorest of devotees in any part of the world can secure a small flower, fruit or leaf and a little water, and if these offerings, and especially Tulasi leaves and Ganges water, are offered to Krishna with devotion, He is very satisfied. It is said that Krishna is so pleased by such devotional service that He offers Himself to His devotee in exchange for it. Shrila Advaita Acarya knew this fact, and therefore He decided to call for the Personality of Godhead Krishna to descend by worshiping the Lord with Tulasi leaves and the water of the Ganges.
108. Thinking of the lotus feet of Shri Krishna, He constantly offered Tulasi buds in water from the Ganges.
109. He appealed to Shri Krishna with loud calls and thus made it possible for Krishna to appear.
110. Therefore the principal reason for Shri Chaitanya's descent is this appeal by Advaita Acarya. The Lord, the protector of religion, appears by the desire of His devotee.
Antya-lila, Chapter 3, Text 100
100. Haridasa Thakura constructed a cottage in solitary forest. There, he planted a Tulasi plant, and in front of the Tulasi he would chant the holy name of the lord 300,000 times daily. He chanted throughout the entire day and night.
Without difficulty one can sit down anywhere, especially on the bank of the Ganges, Yamuna or any sacred river, devise a sitting place or cottage, plant a Tulasi, and before the Tulasi chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra undisturbed....
We can follow his [Haridasa Thakura's] example, however, by chanting sixteen rounds of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra on beads every day and offering respect to the Tulasi plant. This is not at all difficult for anyone, and the process of chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra with a vow before the Tulasi plant has such great spiritual potency that simply by doing this one can become spiritually strong. Therefore we request the members of the Hare Krishna movement to follow Haridasa Thakura's example rigidly. Chanting sixteen rounds does not take much time, nor is offering respects to the Tulasi plant difficult. The process has immense spiritual potency. One should not miss this opportunity.
Antya-lila, Chapter 3, Text 122
122. After offering her obeisances to the tulasi plant and Haridasa Thakura, she [the prostitute] sat down at the door. Hearing Haridasa Thakura chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, she also chanted, "O my Lord Hari, O my Lord Hari."
Herein one can clearly see how a Vaishnava delivers a fallen soul by a transcendental trick....
The conclusion is that associating with a Vaishnava, chanting the holy name of the Lord and offering obeisances to the Tulasi plant or a Vaishnava all lead one to become a transcendental devotee who is completely cleansed of all material contamination.
Antya-lila, Chapter 3, Text 137
137. "Chant the Hare Krishna mantra continuously and render service to the Tulasi plant by watering her and offering prayers to her. In this way you will very soon get the opportunity to be sheltered at the lotus feet of Krishna."
Antya-lila, Chapter 6, Text 295-297
295. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu continued [to Raghunatha dasa], "Worship this stone in the mode of goodness like a perfect brahmana, for by such worship you will surely attain ecstatic love of Krishna without delay.
296. "For such worship, one needs a jug of water and a few flowers from a Tulasi tree. This is worship in complete goodness when performed in purity.
297. "With faith and love, you should offer eight soft Tulasi flowers, each with two tulasi leaves, one on each side of each flower."
Antya-lila, Chapter 13, Text 134
134. When Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami was absorbed in remembrance of Lord Krishna, he would take the Tulasi garland and the prasada of Lord Jagannatha given to him by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, bind them together and wear them on his neck.
Antya-lila, Chapter 15, Texts 33, 39-41
33. [The gopis said:] "O all-auspicious Tulasi plant, you are very dear to Govinda's lotus feet, and He is very dear to you. Have you seen Krishna walking here wearing a garland of your leaves, surrounded by a swarm of bumblebees?"
39. "They will certainly tell us where Krishna has gone, since they have seen Him personally." Guessing in this way, the gopis inquired from the plants and creepers, headed by Tulasi.
40. "O Tulasi! O malati! O yuthi, madhavi and mallika! Krishna is very dear to you. Therefore He must have come near you."
41. "You are just like dear friends to us. Kindly tell us which way Krishna has gone and save our lives."
Madhya-lila, Chapter 1, Text 35,
35. The subject matter of Hari-bhakti-vilasa by Shri Sanatana Gosvami was collected by Shrila Gopala Bhatta and is known as vaishnava-smriti. This vaishnava-smriti-grantha was finished in twenty chapters, known as vilasas... In the ninth vilasa, there are descriptions about collecting Tulasi leaves, offering oblations to forefathers according to Vaishnava rituals, and offering food.
Madhya-lila, Chapter 3, Text 103
103. Shri Advaita Acarya fed the two Lords cloves and cardamom mixed with Tulasi flowers. Thus there was a good flavor within their mouths.
Madhya-lila, Chapter 15, Texts 9-10
9. Shri Advaita Prabhu would also place a flower garland around the Lord's neck and Tulasi flowers [manjaris] on his head. Then, with folded hands, Advaita Acarya would offer obeisances and prayers unto the Lord.
10. After being worshiped by Advaita Acarya, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would take the dish containing flowers and Tulasi and, with whatever paraphernalia remained, would also worship Advaita Acarya.
Madhya-lila, Chapter 15, Texts 254
254. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu finished eating, Bhattacarya washed his mouth, hands and legs and offered Him flavored spices, Tulasi-manjari, cloves and cardamom.
Madhya-lila, Chapter 17, Texts 141-142
141. [In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam Suta Gosvami says:] "Apart from the pastimes of Lord Krishna, when Tulasi leaves are offered at the lotus feet of Shri Krishna, even the aroma of the leaves attracts the minds of self-realized persons.
142. [Suta Gosvami states what Shri Maitreya said to Vidura in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (3.15.43)] "When the breeze carrying the aroma of Tulasi leaves and saffron from the lotus feet of the lotus-eyed Personality of Godhead entered through the nostrils into the hearts of those sages [the Kumaras], they experienced a change in both body and mind, even though they were attached to impersonal Brahman understanding."
....Simply by seeing the Lord and smelling the aroma of Tulasi and saffron from His lotus feet, the Kumaras became devotees and abandoned their long-cherished impersonalism. Thus the four Kumaras were turned into Vaishnavas simply by smelling the aromatic Tulasi mixed with saffron. Those who are actually on the platform of Brahman realization and who have not offended the lotus feet of Krishna can immediately become Vaishnavas simply by smelling the aroma of the Lord's lotus feet. However, those who are offenders or demons are never attracted to the Lord's personal feature....
Madhya-lila, Chapter 17, Text 193
193. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited the different forests, including Madhuvana, Talavana, Kumudavana and Bahulavana. Wherever He went, He took His bath with great ecstatic love.
The word vana means "forest." Vrindavana is the name given to the forest where Shrimati Vrinda Devi grows profusely.
Madhya-lila, Chapter 22, Texts 124-125
124. [Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said:] "One should (23) attend arati and festivals, (24) see the Deity, (25) present what is very dear to oneself to the Deity, (26) meditate, and (27) serve those related to the Lord.
125. Tadiya means the Tulasi leaves, the devotees of Krishna, the birthplace of Krishna, Mathura, and the Vedic literature Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Krishna is very eager to see his devotee serve Tulasi, Vaishnavas, Mathura and Bhagavatam.
After item twenty-six (meditation), the twenty-seventh is to serve Tulasi...
Madhya-lila, Chapter 24, Texts 260-261
260. [Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said:] "Narada Muni continued, 'Leave your home and go to the river. There you should construct a small cottage, and in front of the cottage you should grow a Tulasi plant on a raised platform.
261. " 'After planting the Tulasi tree before your house, you should daily circumambulate that Tulasi plant, serve her by giving her water and other things, and continuously chant the Hare-Krishna maha-mantra.' "
....In any condition, any man can live in a small cottage, plant a Tulasi tree, water it in the morning, offer it prayers, and continuously chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Thus one can make vigorous spiritual advancement....Taking the advice of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and our spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, one can go to any part of the world and instruct people to become devotees of the Lord by following the regulative principles, worshiping the Tulasi plant and continuously chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.
Madhya-lila, Chapter 24, Text 336
336. ....The Shalagrama-shila should be worshiped with Tulasi where a sufficient quantity of Tulasi leaves are available. Worship of Shalagrama-shila should be introduced in all ISKCON temples....
Canto 3, Chapter 15, Text 49
49. [The Kumaras said:] O Lord, we pray that you let us be born in any hellish condition of life, just as long as our hearts and minds are always engaged in the service of Your lotus feet, our words are made beautiful [by speaking of Your activities] just as Tulasi leaves are beautiful when offered unto Your lotus feet, and as long as our ears are always filled with the chanting of Your transcendental qualities.
....Here the sages pray that their words may always be engaged in glorifying the Supreme Lord. One may speak very nicely with ornamental language or one may be expert at controlled grammatical presentation, but if one's words are not engaged in the service of the Lord, they have no flavor and no actual use. The example given here is that of Tulasi leaves. The Tulasi leaf is very useful even from the medicinal or antiseptic point of view. It is considered sacred and is offered to the lotus feet of the Lord. The Tulasi leaf has numerous good qualities, but if it were not offered to the lotus feet of the Lord, Tulasi could not be of much value or importance....
Canto 3, Chapter 16, Text 20-21
20. [The four Kumaras said:] The goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, the dust of whose feet is worn on the head by others, waits upon You, as appointed, for she is anxious to secure a place in the abode of the king of bees, who hovers on the fresh wreath of Tulasi leaves offered at Your feet by some blessed devotee....
As previously described, Tulasi has attained all superior qualities due to being placed at the lotus feet of the Lord. The comparison made here is very nice. As the king of bees hovers over the Tulasi leaves offered to the lotus feet of the Lord, so Lakshmi, the goddess who is sought by the demigods, brahmanas, Vaishnavas and everyone else, always engages in rendering service to the lotus feet of the Lord. The conclusion is that no one can be the benefactor of the Lord; everyone is actually the servant of the Lord. ... The goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, is sometimes envious of the Tulasi leaves which are placed at the lotus feet of the Lord, for they remain fixed there and do not move, whereas Lakshmiji, although stationed by the chest of the Lord, sometimes has to please other devotees who pray for her favor. Lakshmiji sometimes has to go to satisfy her numerous devotees, but Tulasi leaves never forsake their position, and the Lord therefore appreciates the service of the Tulasi more than the service of Lakshmi.
Canto 4, Chapter 8, Text 55
55. One should worship the Lord by offering pure water, pure flower garlands, fruits, flowers and vegetables, which are available in the forest, or by collecting newly grown grasses, small buds of flowers or even the skins of trees, and if possible, by offering Tulasi leaves, which are very dear to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It is specifically mentioned herein that Tulasi leaves are very dear to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and devotees should take particular care to have Tulasi leaves in every temple and center of worship. In the Western countries, while engaged in propagating the Krishna consciousness movement, we were brought great unhappiness because we could not find Tulasi leaves ... Tulasi leaves are very important for satisfying the Lord, so as far as possible an arrangement should be made for growing Tulasi leaves.
Canto 5, Chapter 3, Text 6
Supreme Lord, You are full in every respect. You are certainly very satisfied when your devotees offer you prayers with faltering voices and in ecstasy bring You Tulasi leaves, water, twigs bearing new leaves and newly grown grass. This surely makes You satisfied.
Quoting from the Gautamiya-tantra, the Hari-bhakti-vilasa states: "Shri Krishna, who is very affectionate toward His devotees, sells Himself to a devotees who offers merely a Tulasi leaf and a palmful of water." The Supreme Lord is causelessly merciful upon His devotee, so much so that even the poorest of men can offer Him a little water and a flower in devotion and thus please Him. This is due to His affectionate dealings with His devotees.
Canto 5, Chapter 25, Text 7
7. Appearing as white as the heavenly king Indra, He wears a golden belt around His waist and a vaijayanti garland of ever-fresh Tulasi blossoms around His neck. Bees intoxicated by the honeylike fragrance of the Tulasi flowers hum very sweetly around the garland, which thus becomes more and more beautiful. In this way the Lord enjoys His very magnanimous pastimes.
Canto 7, Chapter 5, Texts 23-24
....Service to the Vaishnava, Tulasi, Ganges and Yamuna are included in pada-sevanam. All these processes of pada-sevanam help one advance in spiritual life very quickly. ...In the same Skanda-Purana, Reva Kanda, it is said that one who recites prayers to Tulasi or sows a Tulasi seed is also freed from all offenses. Similarly, one who worships the Shalagrama-shila can also be relieved of offenses.
Canto 9, Chapter 4, Texts 18-20
Maharaja Ambarisha always engaged his mind in meditating upon the lotus feet of Krishna, his words in describing the glories of the Lord, his hands in cleansing the Lord's temple, and his ears in hearing the words spoken by Krishna or about Krishna. He engaged his eyes in seeing the Deity of Krishna, Krishna's temples and Krishna's places like Mathura and Vrindavana, he engaged his sense of touch in touching the bodies of the Lord's devotees, he engaged his sense of smell in smelling the fragrance of Tulasi offered to the Lord, and he engaged his tongue in tasting the Lord's prasada.
... In other words, if one wants to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead in completeness, one must follow the prescriptions given by Krishna by following in the footsteps of Maharaja Ambarisha....
December 19, 1970, Shrimad-Bhagavatam Class, Surat
Prabhupada: Somebody asked me, "Swamiji, why are these Tulasi beads on your neck or on your devotee's neck?" So I replied, "Just as a pet dog has got a collar, similarly we are pet dogs of God. So we have got this collar. And Yamaraja, the Lord of Death will understand that he-the devotee-is God's dog; he should not be shot down."
Feb. 22, 1973, Shrimad-Bhagavatam Class, Auckland, New Zealand
Devotee: How is it possible that Tulasi Devi is a pure devotee, what we might call a plant?
Prabhupada: That you cannot know in your impure state. You just become pure. You will understand ... When you become a devotee, you will understand what kind of devotee Tulasi is. So long as you are not a devotee, you cannot understand. Don't expect to. Therefore we have to accept the authority. That is the beginning. The shastra says, "Tulasi is the greatest devotee of Krishna." We have to accept, that's all. Authority. How she is so great a devotee, that you will understand when you become a devotee. You come to that platform; then you will understand; not before. Now chant.
April 28, 1973, Shrimad-Bhagavatam Class, Los Angeles
Prabhupada: So we come under the influence of the three modes of material nature, and by the current of such nature, we are being washed away ... For one who has learned how to see Krishna's lotus feet and offer a little Tulasi and sandalwood pulp, this current will stop.
June 28, 1974, Room Conversation, Melbourne
Prabhupada: Just like we worship Tulasi. Why? Because it is very dear to Vishnu. tadiyaham. Vishnu likes it, Krishna likes it... When the Tulasi leaf is offered to Krishna, He becomes very pleased. Therefore we love Tulasi because He likes her.
January 3, 1975, Shrimad-Bhagavatam Class, Bombay
Prabhupada: The devotee begins offering Tulasi leaves with sandalwood pulp and offering them to the lotus feet of the Lord. That is his vilasa, enjoyment. Yad-pada-pankaja-palasha-vilasa. They enjoy. That is transcendental bliss-offering a little sandalwood pulp and Tulasi leaves on the lotus feet of the Lord.
February 4, 1975, Morning Walk, Hawaii
Siddha-svarupananda: Tulasi grows profusely in Hawaii.
Prabhupada: That's a good sign.
Siddha-svarupananda: Yes, many people, hundreds of people, are worshiping Tulasi. Even people we don't know, they, somehow or other, have gotten Tulasi and they are worshiping.
Prabhupada: Very good. They will become devotees. Without fail, they will become devotees. If they chant Hare Krishna and worship the Tulasi leaf, they will be liberated without fail and they will become devotees.
August 1, 1975, Shrimad-Bhagavatam Class, New Orleans
Prabhupada: Unless there is bhakti, this Tulasi plant will not grow...Worshiping the Deity and watering the Tulasi plants, chanting at least sixteen rounds, and observing the rules and regulations-the regulative principles-will make your life successful. Don't neglect these. Continue them very seriously. And in this one life you will go back home, back to Godhead...
August 28, 1975, Shrimad-Bhagavatam Class, Vrindavana, India
Prabhupada: Flowers and Tulasi leaves are not offered on the face of Krishna; they are offered on the feet.
March 16, 1976, Morning Walk, Mayapur, India
Prabhupada: (summarized) It is an offense to use a lota that has been or is being used for one's personal cleansing for the purpose of watering the Tulasi plant.
June 11, 1976, Morning Walk, Los Angeles
Prabhupada: We are worshiping the Tulasi plant. Why? Because Tulasi is liked by Krishna. Similarly, it is better to worship anything that is connected with Vishnu [Krishna], than to worship Vishnu Himself.
Letter dated March 26, 1968, from San Francisco, to Balai dasi, New York
Yes, Shri Tulasi is the eternal consort of Krishna and the most pure devotee, and therefore the Tulasi plant is worshiped by Vaishnavas.
Letter dated April 7, 1970, from Los Angeles, to Govinda dasi, Hawaii
Please take care of the Tulasi plants in the following way. This is the best season for growing Tulasi plants. From the 15th April to the 15th of June is the best season for growing this plant. Now I understand that the seedlings are coming out, so the whole spot if possible may be covered by some net because the seedling-stage creepers being very delicate are sometimes eaten up by the sparrows. All the devotees should pour water at least once in the morning before taking prasadam. The watering should not be very much in quantity, but it should be poured just to keep the ground soft and moist. Sunlight should also be allowed. When the creepers are grown at least 7 inches high, then you can take them out from the planting soil and transplant them in a row in a different place. Then go on watering and they will grow like anything. I think this plant cannot grow in cold countries, but if the plants are dispatched from your place [Honolulu] and if the devotees take care of the plant with a litle care in a flower pot, then it may grow.
The Tulasi leaf is very, very dear to Vishnu. All vishnu-tattva Deities require Tulasi leaves profusely. Tulasi leaves mixed with sandalwood pulp and placed on the lotus feet of the Lord is the topmost worship. But we must be very careful that Tulasi leaves are not placed on the feet of anyone else except Lord Vishnu and His different forms. Tulasi leaves cannot be placed even on the lotus feet of Radharani or on the lotus feet of the spiritual master. It is entirely reserved for being placed on the feet of Krishna [Vishnu]. However, we can place Tulasi leaves in the hands of Radharani for the purpose of being placed on the lotus feet of Krishna....
I am giving you herewith three mantras for Tulasi Devi as follows:
This mantra is for offering obeisances, bowing down (pancanga pranam) to Tulasi Devi.
vrindayai tulasi-devyai priyayai
krishna-bhakti-prade devi satyavatyai namo namah
I offer my repeated obeisances unto Vrinda, Shrimati Tulasi Devi, who is very dear to Lord Keshava. O goddess, you bestow devotional service to Krishna and possess the highest truth.
And when collecting leaves from the plant, the following mantra should be chanted:
tulasy amrita-janmasi sada tvam
keshavartham cinomi tvam varada bhava shobhane
O Tulasi, you are born from nectar. You are always very dear to Lord Keshava. Now in order to worship Lord Keshava, I am collecting your leaves and manjaris. Please bestow your benediction on me.
The mantra for circumambulating the Tulasi tree is as follows:
yani kani ca papani
tani tani pranashyanti pradakshina pade pade
By circumambulation of Shrimati Tulasi Devi all the sins that one may have committed are destroyed at every step, even the sin of killing a brahmana.
So there are three mantras: one for bowing down, one for circumambulating, and one for collecting the leaves [from the Tulasi plant]. The collecting of leaves should be done once in the morning for worshiping and for putting on the plates of foodstuff to be offered. On each bowl or plate there should be at least one leaf... Regarding the installation of the Deities for which you are preparing, I wish to go there as soon as there are many Tulasi leaves grown. You are trying to grow mango very soon, but it will be better if you can grow soon the Tulasi leaves. This is more important than growing mangoes. So give your best attention for this purpose and as soon as you inform me that there is a regular bush of Tulasi plants, then I shall immediately start for Hawaii and install your Deities. I think this will satisfy you.
Letter dated November 5, 1970, from Bombay, to Govinda dasi
I know that both you and Gaurasundara are sincere devotees and you have done your best in Hawaii in accordance with my desire, and the luxurious growing Tulasi Devi is giving evidence of your sincere devotion. Kindly take care of Guru-Gauranga, Radha-Krishna and Tulasi Devi and be happy. Try to make others also happy by spreading this Krishna consciousness....
Letter dated November 30, 1970, from Bombay to Karandhara dasa, Los Angeles
Simply all the devotees offer a little water every morning, and in the evening offer obeisances and ghee lamp (one wick) and circumambulate three times repeating the mantras that I have given you. The plant may remain in the garden....
Letter dated December 29, 1970, from Surat to Jagadisha dasa Toronto.
The presence of Tulasi is proof of a true devotional atmosphere there. Please offer her all respects and carefully tend [her], and Shrimati Tulasi will be pleased with you in gaining the auspicious favor of the Lord....
Letter dated April 11, 1971, from Bombay to Krishnakanti dasa
Tend Tulasi very nicely and your devotion towards Krishna will increase. In the evening a lamp should be offered to the Tulasi plant, and in the morning each devotee should offer a little water and offer obeisances....
Letter dated May 28, 1971, from Calcutta, to Govinda dasi, Honolulu
I always speak to many gentlemen how strenuously hard you have worked to introduce Tulasi in the Western countries, and I am hearing from everywhere that Tulasi is growing very luxuriantly. May Tulasi be kind upon you and introduce you to Krishna, to be one of the assistant maidservant gopis in Vrindavana....
Letter dated August 9, 1971, from London, to Indira dasi, St. Louis
So you should induce other centers to cultivate Tulasi. One circular should be sent to every center that they should import Tulasi Devi from either St. Louis or Hawaii, and as soon as possible each center should arrange to care for Tulasi Devi nicely according to the instructions of you or Govinda Dasi, who have become expert....
Letter dated November 20, 1971, from New Delhi, to Govinda dasi, Honolulu
All should wear Tulasi kunti beads, not less than two strands; or three or four strands; my Guru Maharaja had five strands....
Letter dated January 6, 1972, from Bombay, to Radhavallabha Dasa
Tulasi Devi is a pure devotee of Krishna and she should be treated with the same respect given to all Krishna's pure devotees. Simply by worshiping her faithfully a devotee can get himself free from all material miseries. In the Nectar of Devotion I have given two verses from the Skanda Purana: "Tulasi 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 the tree, there is always auspiciousness. Anyone who comes in touch with the Tulasi tree in the above mentioned ways lives eternally in the Vaikuntha world." So from this verse we can understand how pure is the service which Tulasi offers to Shri Krishna. So we should always endeavor to become the servant of Tulasi Devi.
I do not know who has has taught you that part of a Tulasi plant may be cut off and then replanted. From the Tulasi plant you can cut off leaves only for offering them to Krishna, never for cutting and planting. That is an offense. The manjaris may be offered in water and it makes the water fragrant and tasteful. And the manjaris can be planted for growing new Tulasi plants....Tulasi Devi never goes back to Godhead; she is always with Godhead. She is a pure devotee and thus she has appeared on this planet to render service to Krishna by being offered in all temples throughout the world...to the lotus feet of Krishna....
Letter dated February 17, 1973, from Sydney, Australia, to Govinda dasi
I can understand that proportionately as your Tulasi plants are growing, your devotion and love is also growing. Please continue in this way....
Letter dated December 6, 1973, from Los Angeles, to Kirtida Kanyaka dasi
Thank you very much for the Tulasi leaves offered to Lord Chaitanya's lotus feet. If one is fortunate enough to receive such holy prasadam, then all sinful reactions are immediately purified within the heart and pure devotional service is very easily obtained.
....The more you devote yourself to her service, the more you will understand and relish Krishna consciousness....
Letter dated May 31, 1975, from Honolulu, to Kirtanananda, New Vrindaban
I think you can close the doors to the Deity room during Tulasi puja and then open them again afterwards.
Letter dated July 26, 1975, from Los Angeles, to Vrinda dasi, Winnipeg
But one thing is that no sprays can be used [on the Tulasi plant], none at all. Tulasi is a worshipable plant, so there is no question of using any sprays. The best thing is to daily water Tulasi Devi and keep her clean. Nothing else is required.
Letter dated October 25, 1976, from Vrindavana, to Vidya dasi, Los Angeles
If it is not possible for the Tulasi plant to survive the winters when planted in the ground, then a suitable house should be provided for her. Even in the Canadian temples which are in a much colder climate are keeping Tulasi nicely. Why should there be so much difficulty in Los Angeles, which has such a nice climate. Just do everything very carefully. Tulasi flourishes where there is love and devotion.
The following questions were asked by Vidya Dasi in her September 27, 1976 letter to Shrila Prabhupada and answered by him as follows:-
1. Vidya dasi: Is each Tulasi plant a separate jiva soul or an expansion of one pure devotee?
Prabhupada: Tulasi is one devotee who appears wherever there is devotion to Krishna.
2. Vidya dasi: Where does her spirit soul go when she leaves this body?
Prabhupada: Tulasi's body is spiritual.
3. Vidya dasi: May we place jewelry in her soil or just moon stones?
Prabhupada: Yes, jewelry is all right.
4. Vidya dasi: When Tulasi is being cared for by householders in their home, must two arotikas still be offered?
Prabhupada: If possible.
5. Vidya dasi: When Tulasi is being cared for by householders in their home may they use her leaves and manjaris on their home offerings or should they take them to the temple?
Prabhupada: Tulasi leaves should be offered to the Deity.
6. Vidya dasi: When Tulasi is being offered arotika by the householders must she have a ghee lamp?
Prabhupada: If possible.
7. Vidya dasi: Is it offensive to turn the baby Tulasis back into soil when they appear?
8. Vidya dasi: There have been questions concerning Tulasi's arotikas. We have always offered her incense, ghee lamp and flower. Is this correct?
9. Vidya dasi: In the manual, it states that Tulasi should not be pruned. Does this also mean trimming the branches which no longer have leaves or life fluids flowing through them?
Prabhupada: You may cut the dead branches but what is the necessity?
10. Vidya dasi: We were told you once spoke the "4 regulative principles of Tulasi care" which will keep her from getting sick: a) keep her moist; b) keep her clean; c) give her morning sunlight (at least); d) give her two arotikas a day. Is this bona fide?
Prabhupada: I never said that.
11. Vidya dasi: May Tulasi be made into a tea after she has been offered?
12. Vidya dasi: May devotees carve Tulasi wood for Deity paraphernalia?
13. Vidya dasi: When Tulasi leaves her body and the body is too soft for carving beads, how should she be used? Should a small fire sacrifice be performed?
Prabhupada: Use the wood for beads as far as possible, the balance may be placed within the earth.
14. Vidya dasi: We have a letter from you requesting that no sprays be used on Tulasi Devi. May we use a spray of buttermilk, whole wheat flour dissolved in water which coats her leaves to keep spider mites from causing Tulasi to leave her body?
Prabhupada: I said no chemical sprays.
15. Vidya dasi: Does Tulasi sleep? Should she be left undisturbed after nightfall?
Prabhupada: Undisturbed means what?
16. Vidya dasi: Is it permissible to use scissors to cut her manjaris, and when transplanting, to use knives to loosen her from her pot?
Prabhupada: Use common sense, and if you have none, then consult with others.
17. Vidya dasi: Is it an offense to step on or across her shadow (or the shadow of any pure devotee)?
Prabhupada: Yes. [originally, Shrila Prabhupada had answered "No", however, in a subsequent letter he corrected himself and replied Yes.]
18. Vidya dasi: For two years we have been awaiting permission to use the following two prayers plus translations and translation of the already existing prayer. Please tell us if these are bona fide:
om govinda-vallabham devim
snapayami jagad-dhatrim hari-bhakti-pradayinim
Now I am bathing the mother of the universe, the bestower of Krishna bhakti, the enlivener of the living force of the devotees and the dear one of Govinda.
cayanodbhava-duhkham ca yad hridi
tat kshmasva jagan-matah vrinda devi namo 'stu te
O mother of the universe, please forgive whatever misery exists in your heart caused by the cutting of your leaves. O Vrinda Devi, let me offer my obeisances unto you.
om tulasy amrta-jamasi sada tvam
keshavartham cinomi tvam barada bhava shobane
O Tulasi, you are born from nectar and always dear to Lord Keshava. Now, for the service of Keshava, I am picking your leaves, O one who is shining brightly.
Prabhupada: Don't try to introduce something new. The most important thing is the love and devotion....
Letter dated December 9, 1973, from Los Angeles, to Babhru
That Gaurasundara and Siddha-svarupa have sold the temple in Hawaii and abandoned the beautiful Tulasi plants there is a great fall-down on their parts....
Yes, you may return to Hawaii with Sudama Maharaja and
take charge of caring for Tulasi Devi there. I cannot understand how Govinda
Dasi could abandon Tulasi Devi. Kindly try to induce her to return....
The following information has been circulated by the Vrinda Trust of Vrindavana, India.
When Shri Krishna concluded His transcendental pastimes on earth, His great grandson, King Vajranabha of Mathura, established many of the holy places as villages named after the lilas of Krishna. He installed many Deities of Krishna and revealed many kundas (sacred places) where Shri Krishna performed His pastimes. In the course of time, however, these places were concealed. No one cared to discuss or remember them or the Lord's pastimes there.
Much later Shri Krishna Chaitanya, Vrajendra-kumara Himself, went to Mathura and indicated the locations of those lost holy places. He described everything about them to Sanatana and Rupa Gosvami, who sought evidence of their importance from the scriptures.
After collecting scriptural references, they traveled to each of the holy places in Vraja (Vrindavana). With utmost care they re-established many of the lost kundas and villages. Because of their sincere endeavor to reveal them, we can now know the glories of each location in Mathura.
Shri Krishna and Shri Balarama enjoyed Their pastimes throughout the twelve forests of Mathura. They lived at the home of Nanda Maharaja, called Nandishvara. One half mile to the east of Nandishvara is Vrinda-kunda, the sacred place of Vrinda Devi.
In the book Bhakti-ratnakara by Narahari Thakura, Vrinda-kunda is described: "A little distance from this place [Nandishvara], in a secluded spot, Vrinda Devi would consider in her mind how to arrange the meeting of the Divine Couple [Radha-Krishna]. After arranging Their meeting, she would float in happiness. Who would not glorify the qualities of Vrinda Devi?"
Adjacent to Vrinda-kunda is Gupta-kunda, where Radha and Krishna secretly enjoy Their morning pastimes. Bhakti-ratnakara states: "This is Gupta kunda, where Krishna and His friends headed by Subala secretly played various games as they wandered through the forest."
King Vajranabha installed the original deity of Vrinda Devi at Vrinda-kunda nearly 5,000 years ago. This Deity was later broken during a Muslim attack and could no longer be worshiped. Gradually, Vrinda-kunda and Gupta-kunda were forgotten; only the local villagers of Nandishvara, or Nandagrama, remembered the holy place.
It is said in the book Chaitanya-bhagavata by Vrindavana dasa Thakura that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's disciples would keep a Tulasi tree beside Him, and He would sit taking darshana of Shrimati Tulasi Maharani and chant His prescribed number of japa rounds. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would say, "Just as a fish cannot live when taken out of its environment, water, so I cannot remain alive in separation of Tulasi Maharani."
In the 1980s, one highly respected Gaudiya Vaishnava, Baba Madhava dasa, was researching the Nandagrama area to locate the many kundas there. He had been working on a project to protect Mathura's holy places from construction companies who were about to destroy some of the mountains and kundas for commercial enterprise.
When Baba Madhava first heard about Vrinda-kunda and Gupta-kunda, they were inaccessable by road, but once finding them, he decided to restore the two kundas because of their great spiritual significance. The village council of Nandagrama encouraged him in this work, and gave him full rights to the place.
To carry out the excavation of the kundas, he sought help from local Vaishnavas and government officials in the Mathura district. Then, to build the ghatas around the kundas, he approached mine owners in Rajasthan for donations of stone slabs. Once the kundas were restored, he had a Vrindavana artist in Kamyavana Forest carve a new marble Deity of Vrinda Devi, and constructed a small temple between the two kundas for her worship. Vrinda Devi was again brought to Vrinda-kunda, and since then she has been worshiped, and prasadam has been distributed regularly.
When Baba Madhava das grew too weak to continue his work, he requested the ISKCON devotees of the Shri Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrindavana to maintain Vrinda Devi's worship. There were some devotees interested in the project. The Baba, who had resided in Vrindavana for over fifty years, gave the kundas to ISKCON in 1989, and left this world on March 27, 1990 at Krishna-Balaram Mandir. His samadhi is fittingly located at Vrindakunda. In 1992 under the auspices of ISKCON, devotees formed the Vrinda Trust, a private charitable trust, to carry on the work of restoration.
The Aims of the Vrinda Trust
1. To carry out the order of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to promote the glorification of Tulasi Devi (Vrinda Devi) worldwide.
2. To make Vrinda-kunda an international self-sufficient place of pilgrimage and represent ISKCON'S interest at Vrinda-kunda.
3. To hold annual festivals and cultural programs at Vrinda-kunda.
4. To establish and renovate other holy places and temples in Vraja (Vrindavana).
5. To purchase property in Vraja.
6. To establish ashrams in Vraja.
7. To distribute spiritual literature and prasadam.
These sacred, transcendental kundas are being developed and maintained by ISKCON devotees. All devotees are welcome to help in this service and receive the mercy of Vrinda Devi by writing to:
Shri Krishna Balarama Mandir
Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg
Vrindavana, U.P., 201124