On account of Kartiki Poornima and ‘Tulsi vivaah samapti’, sharing some random thoughts.
Tulsi is considered as the most sacred plant in India, and particularly among Hindus. I have never seen a Marathi household sans a tulsi plant. It is a medicinal plant and has been used for thousands of years in ayurvedic medicines. An essential ingredient in my grandma’s medicinal recipes, like kadha(decoction) and chatan(syrup) which she gave us to fight off cough and cold, tulsi leaves are also great in the medicinal tulsi ginger tea. We generally offer tulsi mala (garlands made of tulsi leaves) to Krishna, Vishnu and vithhal. It is also a custom to put a tulsi leave on the food (Naivaidya) offered to god. A person, who waters this wonderful plant and tends to it, is believed to get salvation. If you have managed to get bitten from red ants or fire ants, applying the soil around tulsi plant can give relief (Not joking!! It really works.)
Such a multitalented plant gets married to Krishna (Or Vishnu). Every year!!(LolJ)
I love festivities in general. But this wonderful wedding of a plant and a god which takes place between prabodhini Ekadashi and kartiki poornima is one of my favourites for many reasons.
First – It marks the end of Monsoon and start of winter. Don’t get me wrong I love monsoon too, but I generally associate winter to travelling. In winter, you can visit many places in Sahyadri without bothering about heat, humidity or landslides. I also feel this is the most pleasant time in Mumbai as humidity drops to 30-40 % instead of the normal 80-99% humidity we generally have to bear for the whole year. (What? It matters to someone who lives near the sea shore!!)
Secondly, it also marks the beginning of wedding season. And that means lot of fun! Getting a chance to dress up and dance, meeting relatives and having fun with them is cool! Actually my own wedding took place a day later than Kartiki poornima. (A small trivia – If you have an unmarried girl in your household, you ought to marry off tulsi first. I don’t know the reason behind it, but it is kind of compulsory (!!?)
So I was wondering for a long time about what is the legend behind this ‘Tulsi vivaah’. And I found it here. Those who don’t want to read this whole page I will narrate the long story in short- A demonic king called ‘Jalandhar’ became invincible because of his pure-hearted, chaste and devoted wife ‘Vrinda’ (Meaning similar to tulsi). As always, Indra and other gods feared that Jalandhar will take over ‘Swarga’. They came to know that Jalandhar will remain invincible Vrinda’s chastity is intact. So guess what – they requested Vishnu to do something about it. Vishnu took the appearance of Jalandhar and went to Vrinda and broke her chastity (!!) and immediately, Jalandhar was killed in a battle. When Vrinda came to know about Vishnu’s deception, she cursed Vishnu to become a stone (As we all know the famous Shaligram stone is a form of Lord Vishnu) and jumped into her husband’s funeral pyre. Vishnu, deeply absorbed in the regret, mourned near the fire for several days. To bring out Vishnu from his grief and to soothe him, all gods planted a medicinal plant, into which a part of Vrinda’s soul was transferred. As Vrinda had believed, though only for moments, that Vishnu is her husband, in Treta yug, she took form of Rukmini and married Krishna, who we all know was avatar of Vishnu. And here comes the concept of Tulsi Vivaah.
On a humanitarian (and feminist) ground, I want to protest and outlaw this ritual!! But then I start to think, did this really happened, or is it a story. Could someone go to such extremes just to conquer someone in battle? Why is it so that no matter who is guilty, it is always a woman who suffers the most? And still we women are supposed to say – “Main tulsi tere aangan ki”. Why?
Another thing I cannot fathom is how could Lord Vishnu do this? Then why we call him ‘Lord’. Because frankly, this story proves one thing clearly – the people we call gods nowadays were just normal people in their time. Someone might argue that their actions were justified. Then should we start to justify same actions in today’s world? Can we justify the actions of thousands of eve-teasers and rapists? Can we justify why someone throws acid on a girls face? Can we justify why in the name of spreading over their religion, some people fool innocent women of different religion and marry them? Is it correct to do whatever it takes to achieve something?
There are many questions but no answers.I was told when i was a child that integrity, honesty and courage should be put above everything. Then why does every single fight from satyayug to kaliyug involves some kind of treachery (Many times from the supposedly good sides too). This means that it is okay to forget about right and wrong, do whatever it takes to conquer and rule over a territory, and increasing the boundaries of the territory.
Talking about territory, what else wild animals do? They too mark their territory and if someone tries to enter without permission, they kill. Lion does it, tiger does it, and leopard does it, why can’t we human do it? After all our ancestors too lived in cave and killed for food. It only proves that even if we become culturally rich, find new alloys, progress towards the mars and create colonies on moon, at the core we will always remain a wild animal. And the more we make progress, the wilder we will grow.