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Tulasi mahAthmyam : Part 1

From: Sadagopan (
Date: Wed Aug 04 1999 - 19:25:24 PDT

Dear Sri Rajam Ravikumar :

It is my pleasure to respond to your request for 
information on Tulasi in our sampradhAyam .

Let us start with some background information on
the sacred Basil plant , TuLasi . It is a shrub , whose 
pathrams (leaves) are used with reverence for 
worshipping Sriman NaarAyaNan by His BhakthAs
from time immemorial .Yathis (SanyAsis )in
our sampradhAyam wear a petal of TuLasi used
in Bhagavadh AarAdhanam inside their outter ears 
for purifying the amangala sabdhams (inauspicious 
sounds )that they may come across during the day .
The medicinal qualities are well recorded in
AaayurvEdham text books .  

Vaayu , Padma , BhavishyOtthara PurANams describe 
the glory of Thulasi Devi. According to these PurANAs,
ThuLasi originated from amrutha mathanam ( churning of
the milky ocean to produce nectar by the Lord )during
His avathAram as the giant Koormam(tortoise).

ThuLasi devi 's marriage to the Lord is celebrated 
on the twelfth day of the first part (Sukla Paksham )of 
the month of Kaarthikai. This is known as TuLasI vivAham ,
where an image of Bala KrishNan is married to
TuLasi dEvi in a traditional manner .This year ,
the TuLasi vivAham day falls on the 20th of November,
which is also the Kaisika Dwadasi day .As many 
of you know , Kaisika PurANam is read before 
Sri RanganAthA on that day and there is also
a special Arayar Sevai at Thirukkurunkudi called
Kaisiki Natanam .I will write about that festival 
and the rare dance (Arayar Sevai) performed only 
at ThirukkuRunguDi in a few days time in the context 
of another Kaimkaryam under plan . 

Coming Back to ThuLasi MahAthmyam ,We show our
reverence to ThuLasi by having it in our houses 
in India .We create a home for it in a special 
cement platform  known as ThuLasi BhrundhAvanam
or ThuLasi matam .Now we can understand  the context
of ThuLasi Devi's marriage to Baala KrishNan 
on Kaiski dhwAdasi day in the context of 
the roamings of our Lord Baala KrishNA in 
BrundhAvanam wearing Kaatu-Mallikai and Kaatu-Thulasi 
in His VyjayanthI garland (Vana Maalai) :

VandhE BhrundhAvanacharam VallavI-Jana Vallabham
Jayanthi Sambhavam dhAma vyjayanthI VibhUshaNam
__ Sri GopAla Vimsathi: SlOkam 1 of Swami Desikan 

We pick the tender leaves of the TuLasi plant 
with appropriate manthrAs for our usage in 
the daily AarAdhanam for the Lord .We will
describe these manthrAs in the next posting.

Saint ThyagarAjA had composed 5 beautiful krithis 
to offer his homage to ThuLasi dEvi and called 
her affectionately as ThuLasammA .These songs and
their Raagams are:

(1) Devi ! Sri ThuLasammA ---MaayAmALa GouLai
(2)ThuLasi Bilva MallikAdhi-----KedAra GouLai 
(3)Sri ThuLasammA ! MaayinDa nelakOnavamma--Deva GhAndhAri 
(4)Amma ! Raavamma, ThuLasamma nanu Paalimpu--KalyANi
(5)ThuLasi Jagajjanani! dhurithApahAriNI !--sAvEri

In the first krithi , Saint ThyagarAjA says that 
he has been cheerfully worshipping the holy feet of 
the Lord , the DharmAthmA , with TuLasi leaves.

In the second krithi , the Saint refers to his 
archanaa of the Lord's various limbs with sweet-
smelling TuLasi in a nishkAmya ( not expecting 
any fruits for the worship ) manner with a  mind
overwhelmed with bhakthi.

In the third krithi , He addresses TuLasi dEvi as ,
"Sri ThuLasammA " and invtes Her to take Her abode 
in his house . He says : " Who is Your equal in
this world ? Please come to my house bedecked 
with a lace saree , gold jewels, pearl necklaces and
in the company of Your Lord looking at You adoringly,
while You are praised by sages and rulers of the kingdoms ".

In the fourth Krithi set in Raagam KalyANi ,the Saint
requests ThuLasi Mother to come to his protection and
states that he reposed his faith in Her blessed feet
always. He points out that Sriman NaarAyaNan does not
part with ThuLasi Devi even in His dreams .He states that 
the special reason for the Lord's love for Her is Her 
soft body , Parimalam (fragrance ) and glory ( mahathvam),
which in turn leads to the Lord wearing Her on His crown
with great affection .

In the fifth krithi , Saint ThyagarAjA addresses 
ThuLasi Devi as the Mother of the  Universe and destroyer of 
all sins . He says: " No Gods can equal You in steadfastness
in devotion to Your Lord . Your holy feet are veritable paradise 
for the rivers (puNya Theerthams).Your body is the abode of all
devAs! Over Your head shines all Nigamams (Vedhams)".

We get an appreciation ofthe greatnes of TuLasi MaathA
from saint ThyagarAjA's sthuthis .

Our AzhwArs have praised Sriman NaarAyanan as 
ThirutthuzhAi Marbhan , ThirutthuzhAi Mudiyan
and longed for the prasAdham of that ThirutthuzhAi,
which has had His dEha sambhandham to remove their
sufferings caused by separation from Him( AndaaL,
Swami NammAzhwAr and Kaliyan ).ThiruppANAzhwAr in
his AmalanAdhipirAn Paasuram salutes that Thirumudi of 
Sri RanganAthan adorned with Thulasi Devi as 
garland as " thuLabha virayAr Kamazh neeL mudi
yem IyaanAr " .His divya KirItam indicates His 
supermacy as Ubhaya VibhUthi Naathan. What do we 
see on that KirItam ? A Thulasi garland wrapped around .
That makes ThuLasi according to Swami Desikan 
"SarvAdhika soochakam " ( indicative of its 
supreme nature by all measures ).Such is 
the glory of our ThuLasi Devi.

At ThiruviNNagar , MaarkaNdEya Maharishi
performed penance in a ThuLasi Vanam ( Forest
of ThuLasi bushes ) and Bhumi Devi incarnated as
a small baby there.The sage was delighted to see
this divine baby with dhivya thEjas and raised Her
as His own daughter . Lord Sriman NaarAyaNaa 
appeared before the Sage as a old man and sought 
the hand of the child , BhUmi Devi and won her hand
as described in the sthala purANam . The Thulasi
Vanam was ideal for Sri BhUMi Devi's avathAram 
at ThiruviNNagar . 

Etymologically , the word TuLasi is derived as ,
"thulAm Saadhrusyam syAth ".One of the meanings of" ThulA"
is to lift up . It also means a balance for measurements
of weights. It lifts us all up to the Lord's side
to receive His blessings because of Her(TuLasi Devi's)
dearness to Him . The word Thula Saadhrusyam means 
resembling that of the balance (in equipoise). 
When the thriguNAs are under control due to 
Bhagavadh AarAdhanam and Yogam , the mind is
like a steady balance and that is the connection to
the power of ThuLasI.The word ThuLasi is also connectable to 
the sanskrit word Thulyam  meaning samAnam or equal to.
Who are the people-- worshipping the Lord with the sacred ThuLasi
with a heart filled with devotion-- are qual to ? They are
"thulyam " to MukthAs or liberated Jeevans .

Such is the glory of ThuLasi Devi !

(To be continued ),

Sri Bhumi Devi samEtha Sri Oppiliappan ThiruvadigaLE SaraNam ,
Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri SadagOpan