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Understanding Tulsi Vivah: A Popular Hindu Ritual

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By Vineeta Chawla:

We attend many marriages in our lives but none like this one. This marriage is one that is believed to have happened eons ago and is celebrated to this day by a large percentage of the Indian population. This is a marriage that is celebrated by Hindus all over India for the union of Srimati Tulsi Devi and Lord Sri Krishna.

The story behind this ritual is ancient and it is believed that Lord Brahma, the creator himself, recited this story to Shri Vasishthaji. Shri Vasishthaj wrote this story in the Padma Puran so that common man could know about the events that led to this marriage and its yearly celebration.

It revolves around Tulsi, the plant Ocimum Sanctum which in her former birth was Vrinda, the daughter of a giant named Kaalnemi who was the king of Mathura. She was the faithful wife of demon Jalandhar. Being born in water Jalandhar, claimed sovereignty over the ocean and demanded the fourteen treasures churned out of the ocean in Vishnu’s second incarnation, Mohini. But the Gods refused and Jalandhar declared war and became a danger to the gods. The danger was even greater because of a boon (vardaan/wish) that he would be free from death till his wife Vrinda was chaste.

As a last resort to protect the treasures Vishnu decided to kill Jalandhar. For this Vishnu beguiles Vrinda by assuming her husband’s form so as to break the wish. But Vrinda realizes Vishnu’s deceit and in her wrath cruses Lord Vishnu into a Black stone (Salagram). Vishnu too retaliates but in admiration of her impeachable chastity and piety, he transfers her into the sacred Tulsi plant and promises to marry her annually on this day of Kartik. This promise of Lord Vishnu is fulfilled to this day by the Hindus.

The marriage of Tulsi and Salagram is performed every year on the 11th day of the bright half of Kartik. In this marriage all the rituals of Hindu marriages are performed, Tulsi is dressed in a red shirt and the pot of the plant in a red skirt. Also her branches are adorned with red bangles, red kum-kum, and red bindis. The mangalsutra is made of dried turmeric root. Then literally a mock marriage is performed between the Tulsi and the Salagram.

As a consequence, all devout Hindu women worship the Tulsi plant with flowers and milk assuming Lord Krishna to be present on it on this auspicious day. The belief is that one, who performs this ceremony of giving away Tulsi considering them to be one’s own daughters, gets the credit as making a Kanyadan which is regarded as an extremely meritorious act in our religion.  This sacred ceremonial day marks the auspicious opening of the annual marriage season of the Hindus.

This is not one of major Hindu rituals or festivals but it is more sentimental than any other festival. This festival is really a unique one and one should experience it first hand to get a real feel of it.

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  1. parul

    Tulsi vivah rituals incorporate specific tulsi vivah songs that are sung during the puja other than the tulsi aarti, where can I find those songs????

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