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Date: Sat Jun 24 1995 - 14:13:04 PDT

What is Darbha grass?

This plant is the same as Kusha or Munja also called panic grass and belongs
to the genus borage. It is found in damp marshy and low-lying areas. Brahmins
always keep some in their houses and it is used for purification in all kinds
of ceremonies. It grows to a height of about two feet and is thinly pointed
at the top. It is extemely rough to touch, and if rubbed the  wrong way, it
may cut through the skin. The word Kusha is related to the Sanskrit Kushala
meaning sharp in the sense of keen intelligence (because of the sharp tips of
the grass). The brahmacarin who used to fetch this grass for the guru was
also known as kushala (expert). It is used to make Pavitra rings for wearing
during puja, Kurcas to use in kumbha pujas or for purifying different objects
by touching or sprinkling liquids, making ropes which are used to encircle
objects like deities or brahmacarins,  making mats to sit on during pujas or
meditation, and laying around and lighting the sacrificial fire (yajna) in
the ceremony called Kushandika. It is also ground up and the essence used for
Kusha oil (to be used in Summer for it's cooling effects) and Kusha flavored
sarbat also drunk for  it's cooling effects.  Darbha Grass is identified with
Lord Visnu and is believed to possess the power to purify anything. It is
worshipped on Darbhashtami in the month Bhadrapada (August-September).

Stories concerning the origin of Darbha/Kusha:

1. Said to have been produced from the churning of the ocean of milk.
2. Said to have  fallen to Earth from the pot of Amrita (which was produced
from the churning of the ocean of milk.)
3. Equated with the hairs  on the body of Lord Varaha (the Boar) avatara of
Visnu. (see Bhagavata Purana 3.13.35)

As for how to get seeds, I don't know. I usually get a supply of Darbha
pre-cut (some pre-made into pavitras and kurcas) from a guy who sells it like
that at Vaikuntha Ekadasi festival in Shri Rangam.

This brings up the following points:
1. How important are ingredients like Darbha?
2. What to use as a sustitute if none is available?

Personnally I believe that it's "the thought that counts", and we should not
allow the non-availability of a particular samagri (darbha, etc) to stop us
from performing particular functions/duties for the service of God. Also I
have a pavitra ring made of gold which I often use.