The Skanda Purana
by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes The Greatness of Tulasi (Basil Plant) which is chapter 8 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the eighth chapter of the Karttikamasa-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Chapter 8 - The Greatness of Tulasī (Basil Plant)
[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]
1. O Lotus-seated Lord, speak further. I am not satisfied with drinking the nectar of your speech. (In fact) the thirst has increased further.
2. In the month of Kārttika one should take bath early in the morning. Remaining pure in body and mind, he should be devoted to Viṣṇu. Then he should worship Dāmodara with tender Tulasī (Basil) leaves. Thereby he attains salvation. There is no doubt about it.
3. If one is devoid of devotion but worships the Lord with gold and other (valuable) things, the Lord does not accept the worship. There is no doubt about it.
4. It is declared (in scriptures that) devotion is the greatest thing in everyone. A holy rite devoid of devotion does not please Viṣṇu.
5. On being worshipped with devotion (even) with half a leaf of Tulasī everyday, Lord Hari, the overlord (of the world), becomes directly visible.
6. Formerly Viṣṇudāsa went to the world of Viṣṇu by worshipping him devoutly with Tulasī. King Cola also attained a subordinate post. (vide infra Chs. 26, 27)
7. Listen to the greatness of Tulasī which is destructive of sins and is conducive to the increase of merit. I shall recount to you what was formerly narrated to Ramā by Viṣṇu.
8. After the advent of the month of Kārttika, those men who devoutly worship Tulasī and Hari, attain the highest region.
9. Hence, by all means, the Lord who destroys all pains and distresses should be worshipped with great devotion, with the tender leaves of Tulasī.
10. The devotee is honoured in the world of Brahmā for as many thousands of Yugas as the extent of the roots of the Tulasī plants fixed by him.
11. If a person takes bath in the water that has come into contact with Tulasī leaves, he shall be rid of all sins. He rejoices in the abode of Viṣṇu.
12. Even if a person makes a raised platform for planting Tulasī, O great sage, he gets instantly rid of his sins thereby. He becomes worthy of being absorbed in Brahman.
13. O Brāhmaṇa, the house in which there is a grove of Tulasī plants becomes a sacred place. The servants of Yama do not go there.
14. The grove of Tulasī plants is meritorious. It destroys all sins. It yields what is desired. The excellent persons who plant it, do not see Bhāskari (Yama, the god of Death).
15. If a man smears scented unguents (upon his body) mixed with (powdered) Tulasī twigs, the sin that is being committed will not (even) touch his body.
16. For the propitiation of the Pitṭs (Manes), Śrāddha should be performed, O Brāhmaṇa, where there is the shade of Tulasī plants.
17. Even Yama is not powerful enough to look at (directly) a person, if a Tulasī leaf is visible in his mouth, ears or head; what to speak of his awful messengers!
18. He who constantly listens to the greatness of Tulasī with great respect, becomes absolved of all his sins and goes to the world of Brahma.
19. In this context they cite this ancient legend of Tulasī. O Brāhmaṇa, if it is listened to, it is destructive of sins.
20. Formerly in the land of Kāśmīra, there were two Brāhmaṇas named Harimedhas and Sumedhas. They were engrossed in devotion to Viṣṇu.
21-22. They were endowed with kindness and compassion towards all living beings. They were conversant with all essential principles (of philosophy). Once those excellent Brāhmaṇas were engaged in pilgrimage to holy places. They were going through a forest once, when they became utterly exhausted at a certain place. The two Brāhmaṇas, the suppressors of their enemies, saw a grove of Tulasī plants there.
23. On seeing that great grove of Tulasī plants one of those two, nameley Sumedhas, circumambulated it and bowed down to it with devotion.
24-28. Harimedhas observed this. In order to understand the greatness of Tulasī and the benefit thereof, he repeatedly asked (Sumedhas) with great joy:
O Brāhmaṇa, there are Devas, Tīrthas, holy rites and leading Brāhmaṇas. Still why did you make obeisance (to the plants)?
O Brāhmaṇa of great fortune, your speech (enquiry) is well-worded. Listen. The heat of the sun is oppressive. We shall go to that banyan tree. Under its shade I shall tell you the truth.
Having told thus, Sumedhas, conversant with piety and virtue, went to the banyan tree wherein there was a great hollow cavity. He went there in the company of Harimeḍhas. There he rested for a while. The Brāhmaṇa then spoke to Harimeḍhas:
29. “O tiger among Brāhmaṇas, may the excellent story of Tulasī be listened to. With the favour of the great Lord it originated in the ocean.
30. Formerly, due to the curse of Durvāsas, Purandara (Indra) lost all his glory and prosperity. Suras beginning with Brahmā churned the Milk Ocean along with the Asuras.
31-34. From it all the (following) things came up: Airāvata, Kalpa tree, the Moon, Goddess Lakṣmī. Uccaiḥśravas, Kaustubha, Had in the form of Dhanvantari and all the divine medicinal plants beginning with Harītakī (yellow myrobalan). O excellent Brāhmaṇa, all of them were conducive to the welfare of all the worlds.
Viṣṇu (in the form of Dhanvantari) held in his hands the pot of nectar that bestows immunity from old age and immortality. Holding the pot of excellent base and glancing at it, he experienced the highest mental satisfaction. Drops of his tears of joy fell into the pot of nectar forming circular figures which immediately became Tulasī.
35-40. Lakṣmī endowed with all good features and adorned with all ornaments, was also born therefrom.
Devas headed by Brahmā gave unto Han, Lakṣmī and Tulasī that had originated there. Lord Hari accepted them. That is why Tulasī is exceedingly pleasing to the Lord of the worlds.
Nārāyaṇa is the protector of the universe. Tulasī is his favourite beloved. Like Viṣṇu she is also worshipped by all the groups of Devas. Therefore, O Brāhmaṇa, I made my respectful obeisance to it.”
Even as the noble-souled Sumedhas said this, a great aerial chariot, refulgent like the sun, was seen nearby. At that time, O sage, the banyan tree fell down in front of him.
41-43. And also two men came out of that tree, brightening all the quarters with their refulgence. They resembled the sun. They bowed down to Harimedhas and Sumedhas. On seeing them, Harimedhas and Sumedhas became frightened. Struck with wonder, they spoke to those two persons who resembled Devas:
Harimedhas and Sumedhas said:
44-49a. O beings resembling Devas, who are you? You are auspicious unto all. You have worn a fresh garland of Mandāra flowers. You are immortal ones; therefore, you are worthy of being saluted by us. You are Suras.
On being spoken thus by those two Brāhmaṇas, those persons who came out of the tree spoke thus:
“You are our father, mother and preceptor. There is no doubt about this that you alone are our kinsmen etc.”
The eider one said:
I am a resident of the world of Devas. My name is Āstika. Once I went to Nandana park for the sake of sport, surrounded by groups of celestial damsels. My mind was engrossed in sensual pleasures. There, on the mountain, the divine ladies began to cling to me and embrace me as they pleased.
Jasmine garlands and pearl necklaces of the women fell on sage Romaśa who was engaged in penance there. On seeing it, the sage became angry.
49b-53. “This is not the fault of the women who are not independent. This fellow of wicked activities deserves being cursed.” Then he said to me, “You shall become a Brahmarākṣasa and hover around this banyan tree.”
On being propitiated by me, he told me the means of redemption too: “When you hear from a Brāhmaṇa the name of Viṣṇu as well as the greatness of Tulasī leaf, you will immediately attain complete release.”
Having been cursed thus by the sage, I began to abide here on this banyan tree with great sorrow for a long time. Fortunately I have been liberated by seeing both of you, from the curse of the Brāhmaṇa. Listen to the story of the second one.
54-57a. This is an excellent sage. Formerly he was engaged in serving his preceptor. Once he disobeyed the order of his preceptor and became a Brahmarākṣasa.
With your favour, he has been released now from the curse of the Brāhmaṇa. The benefit of the pilgrimage has been achieved by you both. Your merits will increase more and more everyday.
After saying this and bowing down to those excellent sages again and again, they took their permission and went to their respective abodes with great joy.
57b-60. Then, O eminent sage, those two great ascetics went on their pilgrimage praising the meritorious Tulasī.
Thus, O Nārada, who can (adequately) describe the greatness of Tulasī? Hence, O Nārada, in this month of Kārttika which brings delight to Hari, the worship of Tulasī should be performed. There is no doubt about it.
Thus the Aṅgavratas (ancillary observances) have been described, O excellent sage. I shall narrate the Upāṅgas (subsidiary ancillary rites) as told by Vālakhilyas.
Footnotes and references:
VV 20-59 give dialogue between Harimedhas and Sumedhas about the greatness of Tulasī.
This version of Tulasī’s creation is special to this Purāṇa. In Devī Bhāgavata the plant is identified with Mahā-Lakṣmī and is a daughter of King Dharmadhvaja (DB IX 15-24). According to PdP VI (Uttara Khaṇḍa Chs. 3-16) Vṛndā, the wife of Jalandhara, became Tulasī in the next birth.
VV 41-57 show how by listening to Tulasī’s greatness two cursed celebrities were absolved.