A TULSI IN THE LOTUS
On a visit to Goa, a coastal town in India, I kept seeing tulsi vrindavanas on the streets that I walked. Many of them were lotus-shaped. Tulsi vrindavanas are raised stone, brick or plaster structures, generally placed in the courtyards or in front entrances of homes of people from the Hindu community.
In love with the lotus at the time, I kept taking several images of the lotus-shaped vrindavanas. Some were simply majestic.
Now as I delve deeper into these botanical structures, I find that the plant they hold, the tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, has a rich mythological history.
Tulsi is the holiest of all plants in Hinduism. According to Hindu scriptures, the tulsi plant was considered the vegetal embodiment of a woman called Vrinda or Brinda. In one Hindu myth, Vrinda drowned herself in the ocean, and the gods transferred her soul to a plant which was then called Tulsi. Vrinda thus became a synonym for the plant.
The soul of Vrinda is believed to come to stay in the plant every evening and leave in the morning. Hence, its leaves cannot be plucked after sunset. According to another Hindu myth, it is Goddess Tulsi’s hair that transformed into the sacred Tulsi plant.
The process of getting to know a plant through myth has a certain quality. It is unlike getting to know a plant through fact.
Author: Geetanjali Sachdev