Theme Tyagaraja History & Culture

Tulasi Jagajanani...

Tulasi plant

Tulasi plant   | Photo Credit: Sampath Kumar G P

Tulasi is hailed as Mother of the Universe by Tyagaraja, who worships her through many kritis

Tulasi has always been held in reverence. It is believed that one attains salvation by watering the Tulasi plant. Brinda means cluster and since this plant grows in clusters, Brinda came to be synonymous with Tulasi, whose other names are Manjari, Patra Pushpa, Parnasa and Ajaka.

Compositions on Krishna or Vishnu have references to Tulasi. Dikshitar refers to navatulasivanamalam in the composition ‘Chetasri Balakrishnam.’ The term Vanamali is used for Vishnu. The Alwars have also given a special place for Tulasi in their pasurams. Andal is said to have been found in a garden of Tulasi plants by Periayazhwar. But it is Tyagaraja who sings on the greatness of the Tulasi and worships her as Mother Goddess. Six of his compositions on Tulasi are available.

Those days, when temples served as rest houses for travellers. Tulasi was grown outside temples for its unique property of quenching thirst. A couple of leaves chewed would help quench thirst quickly. The tirtham given in Vishnu temples has Tulasi leaves and Tyagaraja in his Mayamalava Gowla kriti, ‘Devi Tulasamma,’ says, ‘nivuleka tirthamu sevinchuta neeranuchunu berayenata’, meaning without you the tirtha would be mere water.

Tulasi also has medicinal properties. The juice of the plant is used to treat insect bites, cough and as a digestive. In the West, the basil is a delectable herb that adds to the flavour of dishes.

Tulasi is seen as an incarnation of Mahalakshmi and Tyagaraja sings ‘Amma Ravamma’ in Kalyani asking mother Tulasi to come and protect him.

He says that Vishnu does not part from her even in his dreams as he knows that she confers temporal and spiritual benefits. The Lord adorns his head with Tulasi because of the qualities that she possesses. She is tender, fragrant and filled with divine glory.

The protector

Traditionally, Tulasi is worshipped in every home. It is planted within a square pillar, the four sides facing the four cardinal directions. Tulasi sparsha or touching the plant is compared to meditation. In ‘Tulasamma mayinta nelakonnanamma’ (Devagandhari), Tyagaraja asks Tulasi to come and stay in his house. Along with the Tulasi, he gives a list of scented flowers — maruvaka, parijata and saroja.

In ‘Tulasi Jagajanani’ (Saveri), Tyagaraja asks Tulasi, the mother of the universe, the protector. She is the destroyer of all sins, the source of rivers, the abode of Gods and he is happy to sing her praise.

The Bhagavatam elaborates nine forms of bhakti that brings one nearer to God. Archana is listed as one of them. In the Kedaragowla piece, ‘Tulasi Vilva,’ he asks the Lord to accept with compassion and love, the archana of Tulasi, Bilva, Mallika and other flowers. In the well-known Mayamalavagowla kriti, ‘Tulasidalmulache,’ he says that he has long worshipped the feet of the Lord with Tulasi. He also lists flowers sarasiruha, punnaga, champaka, patala kuravaka, sugandharaja as flowers used in worship. Those without fragrance were not considered.

Certain rules are observed while plucking Tulasi. One is not supposed to use nails while plucking and it can be plucked along with the seeds on top.

There are verses to chant, asking for forgiveness while plucking. Unlike the vilvam, where three leaves have to be plucked, in the Tulasi , single leaves or a bunch — tulasidala — can be plucked.

The botanical name for the plant is Ocymum Sanctum, meaning holy sweet herb in Greek. Today, an awareness on the Tulasi’s health properties has been created and drinking Tulasi tea is a trend. We are going back to habits, which were common a few centuries ago.

Sumathi Krishnan is a senior disciple of vidushi R. Vedavalli

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 4:05:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/tyagaraja-worshipped-the-tulasi-through-his-kritis/article19174435.ece

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