Tulsi Vivah is a Hindu festival in which a ceremonial marriage of Tulsi with Lord Shaligram or Amla branch, which are personifications of Vishnu, is held. This year, Tulsi Vivah was celebrated on November 15, 2021. The Tulsi wedding signifies the end of the monsoon and the beginning of the wedding season in Hinduism.
According to Hindu scripture, the Tulsi plant was a woman named “Vrinda” who was the wife of Asura Jalandhar and was a great devotee of Vishnu. Her devotion made her husband invincible, not even Gods could defeat him. One time, when Vrinda was praying for her husband’s victory, Vishnu disguised himself as Jalandhar and went in front of her. She stopped her prays and went to touch Jalandhar/Vishnu’s feet. This took away the real Jalandhar’s powers and then he was killed by Shiv. When Vrinda heard about it, she cursed Visnu that he would become Shaligram and he would get separated from his wife, Laxmi. Visnu turned into Shaligram and was separated from Sita in his Ram avatar.
After that, Vrinda walked into the ocean and drowned herself. The Gods turned her into the Tulsi plant. Visnu had promised her that he would marry her in the next life. So he marries Tulsi in the form of Shaligram. Hence, this day is celebrated as Tulsi Vivah.
The marriage of Tulsi with Vishnu/Krishna resembles the traditional Hindu wedding. The marriage ceremony is conducted where a fast is observed on the Tulsi Vivah day until evening when the ceremony begins. A mandap is built around the courtyard of the house where the Tulsi plant is usually planted. It is believed that the soul of Vrinda resides in the plant at night and leaves in the morning. The bride Tulsi is clothed with a sari and the groom, an image of Vishnu or the Shaligram is clothed with dhoti. The couple is linked with a cotton thread in the ceremony. People burst firecrackers and distribute sweets on this day.
A day of fast, feast and ‘tulsi vivah’
The much-awaited wedding season begins as Hindu deities wake up from their deep sleep and are all set to bless the newlyweds from Monday. The day is celebrated as Dev Uthani Gyaras or Prabodhini Ekadashi or Chhoti Diwali. The most important ceremony of the day is ‘tulsi vivah’.
The ritual involves ceremonial marriage of holy basil (tulsi) plant to Lord Shaligram (Lord Vishnu). This day is considered auspicious and weddings take place on this day. All auspicious functions that cannot be performed during ‘chaturmas’ will begin on this day. Almost all local marriage gardens have been booked for weddings tomorrow. Many devotees will observe fast and stay on fruit diet. This day helps people in detoxification of bodies. Sugarcanes will be sold in large quantities during the day.
Preparing for celebrations, Gera family bought decorative items, puja goods and new cloth from market. “In our family, ‘tulsi vivah’ is organised as a proper wedding and celebrated with music, prayers and feast,” businessman Vasudev Gera said. He bought sugarcane, red shiny cloth, havan goods and a large earthen lamp.
“Earthen lamp is lit at night. It burns all night to commemorate the start of new season and bright future,” Gera said. Besides, earthen lamps are lit all around the house like on Diwali. Hospital administrator Ashish Ramnani also talked about importance of sugarcane. ‘Tulsi vivah’ will be organised at temples in Khajrana, Vijay Nagar and other places. ISCON temple will also hold the ceremony
The Devi Bhagavata Purana regards Tulsi as an manifestation of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and principal consort of Vishnu. Once upon a time, King Vrishadhvaja-a devotee of the god Shiva-banned worship of all other deities except for that of his patron god. An agitated sun god Surya cursed him that he would be abandoned by Lakshmi. Upset, Shiva pursued Surya, who fled, finally seeking shelter with Vishnu. Vishnu said to the deities that years had passed on earth. Vrishadhvaja and also his heir-son were dead and his grandchildren-Dharmadhvaja and Kushadhvaja-were now worshiping Lakshmi to gain her favor. Lakshmi rewarded their efforts by being born as their daughters Tulsi (literally “matchless”) to Dharmadhvaja and Vedavati to Kushadhvaja, respectively. In time, Tulsi gave up all her royal comfort and went to Badrinath to perform penance to gain Vishnu as her husband. The god Brahma was pleased with her penance but told her that she would have to marry the daitya Shankhachuda before she could marry Vishnu.
Curse of Tulsi & Lord Vishnu
Shankhchuda was Sridama reborn. Though he was a devotee of Shri Krishna, he detested Shri Radha. He considered Prema as Vilas. Once on his visit to Golok, Shri Krishna asked him to guard the gate of His palace and not allow anyone to enter. Following the order, he stopped Shri Radha from entering Shri Krishna’s palace as He was resting. They got into a heated argument. In a fit of anger, he cursed Shri Radha that she would forget all about Shri Krishna and would abandon Golok and live on Lok (Prithvi) for a hundred years. He was made to realise that Radha-Krishna’s prema is the foundation of the universe. He too was cursed to be born on Prithvi as Shankhchuda.
This mighty daitya underwent terrific tapa and penance and pleased Brahma. Brahma blessed him with a boon of invincibility. Shankhachuda pleased Brahma with his penance, was granted the Vishnu-Kavacha (armour of Vishnu) and he blessed shankhachuda that as long as Vishnu-Kavacha was on his body, no one could slay him. Shankhachuda and Tulsi were soon married. He practiced the laws of dharma religiously but was also prone to commit mistakes and sins for the sake of community. Therefore, after victory over the three worlds, he drove out gods from various celestial kingdoms. To rescue the universe, Shiva challenged Shankhachuda to war. Vishnu appeared in his true form and urged Tulsi to abandon her earthly body and return to his celestial abode. In her anger and grief, she cursed Vishnu to be turned into stone. Vishnu turned into a stone and reside on riverbank Gandaki River. People and devotees will call it a chunk of Shaligrama. Tulsi’s mortal remains decayed and became the Gandaki River, while her hair transformed into the sacred Tulsi plant.
Vrinda and Jalandhara
A variant of the legend replaces the name Tulsi with Vrinda (a synonym of the Tulsi plant) and in this legend, Tulsi is distinct from Lakshmi. She was daughter of Kalanemi, an asura. Vrinda was very pious and a great devotee of god Vishnu. Jalandhara, a demon born from lord Shiva’s rage, married her. After Jalandhara took control of the three realms, he had a conflict with lord Shiva. To protect her husband from death, Vrinda performed a penance which made him immortal. The later part of the story concentrates on the tale of Vishnu destroying Vrinda’s chastity to lead to the death of Jalandhara by Shiva. Different texts suggest different methods used by Vishnu. Some say that Vishnu, disguised as Jalandhara, performed a ritual belonging to married couples, others say that Vishnu broke Vrinda’s fast or slept with her. The legend ends with Vrinda cursing Vishnu to become a stone, turning him the Shaligram stone (which are found only in the Kali Gandaki River of Nepal) and Vishnu transforming Vrinda into the Tulsi plant. In a variant, Vrinda immolated herself in her husband’s funeral pyre (see sati) but Vishnu ensured that she got incarnated in the form of tulsi plant on the earth. In both versions, she gain the status of a goddess named Tulsi, while her earthly form is the Tulsi plant.