The Brihaddharma Purana (abridged)

by Syama Charan Banerji | 1915 | 50,976 words

The English translation of the Brihaddharma Purana, one of the several minor or Upa Puranas, and represents an epitome of several important (Major) Puranas. In this book one can observe the attempts made to reconcile the three main forms of Hindu worship, viz. the Shaiva Vaishnava and Tantrika (worship of God in the form of Kali, Durga, Ganga, and ...

Chapter 7 - Origin of the sacred Tulsi plant

The residence of Brahmanas is a Tirtha, and so are their sacred feet. The place where lotus and Tulsi[1] plants grow are also Tirthas. A radius of sixteen cubits (1 = 24 feet) from the stem of a Tulsi plant, on all sides, is a Tirtha which is held in veneration even by the gods. The localities where Bilva[2] or Amalaka[3] trees grow are also Tirthas of great sanctity.

On hearing this, Jaya and Vijaya entreated their mistress to tell them all about Tulsi, and Bilva trees, and the goddess Parvati stated as follows:—

In ancient days there lived a saintly Brahmana on the summit of the Kailasa mountain, whose name was Dharmadeva. He was a worshipper of the god Vishnu. His wife also was a pious and righteous Bhramana lady, who went by the name of Vrinda. She was a devoted follower of her husband whom she honoured as a god and, consequently, led a very happy life. Her devotions were conducted under the directions of her husband, and she always personally supervised the arrangements necessary for the performance of worship by him. Her cheerful disposition and modest behaviour, added to other qualities of the head and heart, were admired by all who knew her.

Dharmadeva was a renowned singer of hymns in praise of Krishna. He used to sing before all the Rishis, and had frequently to travel long distances to meet their wishes. He was a man of a benign and cheerful disposition, and had a prepossessing appearance. He was an accomplished musician with a sweet voice.

One day he was entertaining an assembly of Brahmanas with his music, and, so, did not return home at the usual hour for taking his meal. His wife, Vrinda, after serving the guests, went out and began to walk restlessly on the Kailasa mountain.

Dharamdeva, on returning home, found his wife absent, and went out in search of her; and finding her roaming about impatiently on the mountain, became so enraged that he cursed her saying,

“Since thou hast grown so restless through hunger that thou art wandering about instead of waiting at home for my return, I command thee to turn into a demoness at once”

No sooner had he uttered these words than poor Vrinda was transformed into a demoness, and forthwith went away and began to lead a solitary roving life in the forests below the mountain. Her hunger grew so great that she ate human beings, tigers, lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, hares, deer, horses and buffaloes promiscuously; and, in time, the whole locality was covered with the bones of her victims. She abstained, however, from eating Brahmanas, Vaishnavas and Saivas, and also cows.

After a long time she once felt a longing to visit the Kailasa mountain, her former abode. She reached it in three days during which time she got nothing to eat because the mountain was inhabited by Saivas and Brahmanas only. Her difficulties grew still greater after reaching the mountain where she wandered about on all sides without getting a morsel of food to eat. The Brahmanas felt pity for her, and, seeing that her end was approaching very fast, resolved that they should help her in attaining salvation by reciting hymns in praise of the god Krishna in her hearing. Accordingly, whereever she went she heard those hymns, until hunger put an end to her miserable existence.

A year after her death the lord Siva was one day walking through the mountains admiring the beauty of the wild flowers which had grown profusely in all directions. He was accompanied by his wife Parvati and a large retinue of Pramathas[4] who were singing and dancing merrily to entertain their lord and lady.

While they were thus walking about, they came near a lotus-pool on the banks of which they saw the corpse of a woman which was quite fresh and bright.

Siva said to his wife,

“See Parvati, this is the corpse of Vrinda who was once a very pious woman but unfortunately became a demoness. She died a year ago, but her body is as fresh as ever, because she died hearing the name of Krishna which was recited to her by the Brahmanas. Such is the wonderful efficacy of that name! Go and examine her body and tell me what is written there.”

Parvati found the Mantra[5] “Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya”[6] written all over the body, and was struck with wonder.

The Pramathas also read the inscription on the body, but their surprise was beyond description when, on their touching the body, it burst into innumerable radiant pieces, and each piece bore the self-same inscription. Not only so, but inside each letter forming the mantra were also written the thousand names of Vishnu! Then the lord Siva ordered that Vrinda’s body should not be wasted in vain, but should be utilized in a way which would be delightful to her god Vishnu. He accordingly directed his servants to sow her body like seed, and said that a plant would grow out of it which should be called Tulasi, (because “Tu” means ‘“dead” and “Lasi” means “shining”) in commemoration of the fact that her body remained fresh and radiant for a year after her death. He further said that nothing would be so dear to Vishnu as a Tulsi leaf, without which his worship would be incomplete.

Meanwhile, Dharmadeva who was very sorry and repentant for having cursed his wife, and was wandering about in quest of her, came to the spot where Siva and his companion and followers were talking together, and learnt about the glorious issue Siva had given to the otherwise miserable death of his wife; and he was consoled by that kind god.

Dharmadeva after worshipping him devoutly, said,

“O Lord, grant that if my beloved wife’s body grows as a Tulsi plant, my body may grow as its root to supply nourishment to it.”

Siva said, “Be it so,” and Dharmadeva was quite satisfied.

Siva’s attendants took Vrinda’s body down to the plains and buried it on the banks of the sacred river Jamna near the renowned Govardhana hill. This place is known as Vrindavana[7] and is a great Tirtha consecrated to the god Krishna.

Footnotes and references:


The sacred basil plant.


The Bel tree. Its English name is wood apple (Aegle marmelosh).


Called Aonla In Hindi and Amloki in Bengali. Its scientific name is Emblic myiobalan.


A class of Beings (said to be goblins) attending on Siva.


See foot note at page (12).


Obeisance to the glorious Vasudeva.


Literally, a Tulsi forest.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: