The Worshiping of Srimati Tulasi-devi
“Every home with a Tulasi plant is a place of pilgrimage, and no diseases, messengers of Yama, the God of Death, can enter it.”
Skandapurana 2, 4, 8, 13 Padmapurana Uttarakhanda
Wherever the aroma of Tulasi is carried by the wind, it purifies the atmosphere and frees all animals from all baser tendencies.”
“Vishnu, the Lord of the Three Worlds, takes up abode in the village or the house where Tulasi is grown. In such a house no one suffers calamities like poverty, illness or separations from dear ones.” Padmapurana, Uttarakhanda, 6-24-31-32
Benefits of Worshiping Tulasi-devi
Although we can never fully describe the glories of Tulasi-devi, an eternal associate of Lord Krsna. The scriptures give us a hint of the value of worshiping her. The following list comes from the Padma Purana.
Tulasi is the essence of all devotional activities.
The leaves, flowers, roots, bark, branches, trunk, and shade of Tulasi-devi are all spiritual.
One who with devotion applies the paste of Tulasi wood to the Deity of Krsna will always live close to Krsna.
One who puts mud from the base of the Tulasi tree on his body and worships the Deity of Lord Krsna gets the results of one hundred days worship each day.
One who offers a Tulasi manjari to Lord Krsna gets the benefit of offering all other varieties of flowers, and he goes to the abode of Krsna.
One who sees or comes near a house or garden where the Tulasi plant is present gets rid of all his sinful reactions, including that of killing a brahmana.
Lord Krsna happily lives in the house, town, or forest where Tulasi-devi is present.
A house where Tulasi-devi is present never falls on bad times, and it becomes purer than all holy places.
The fragrance of Tulasi-devi purifies all who smell it.
Lord Krsna and all the demigods live in a house where mud from the base of the Tulasi tree is found.
Without Tulasi leaves, Lord Krsna does not like to accept flowers, food, or sandalwood paste.
One who worships Lord Krsna daily with Tulasi leaves attains the results of all kinds of austerity, charity, and sacrifice. In fact, he has no other duties to perform, and he has realized the essence of the scriptures.
One who puts into his mouth or on his head Tulasi leaves that have been offered to Lord Krsna attains Lord Krsna’s abode.
In Kali-yuga, one who worships, remembers, plants, keeps, or performs kirtana before Tulasi burns up all sinful reactions and quickly attains Lord Krsna’s abode.
One who worships Lord Krsna with Tulasi leaves releases all his ancestors from the realm of birth and death.
One who remembers the glories of Tulasi or tells others about them will never take birth again.
The Worship of Srimati Tulasi-devi
For devotees aspiring to enter the eternal realm of Vrindavan, service to Vrinda-devi is essential. Srila Prabhupada stressed this by making Tulasi puja a daily part of our morning program. Tulasi-devi is an expansion of Vrinda-devi in this world. Every morning we pray to Vrinda-devi:
“ye tomara sarana loy tara vancha purna hoy krpa kori koro tare vrndavana-vasi“
“Whoever takes shelter of you, all his desires are fulfilled and by your mercy he becomes a resident of Vrndavana.”
Srimati Tulasi-devi is worshiped in the morning, after mangala-arati, when all the devotees should attend to her worship and circumambulation. First, obeisances are offered to Tulasi-devi with the Tulasi pranama mantra. Following, the Tulasi-puja-kirtana song is sung while Tulasi-devi is offered incense, a ghee lamp, and flowers. When the song is finished, the assembled devotees circumambulate Tulasi-devi four times, offering her water. During the circumambulation we are chanting the mantra: yani kani ca papani brahma-hatyadikani ca / tani tani pranasyanti pradaksinah pade pade. Finally, we again offer obeisances with the Tulasi pranama mantra.
Lectures from Srila Prabhupada
Tulasi leaf is very, very dear to Visnu. All Visnu-tattva Deities require profusely Tulasi leaves. Lord Visnu likes garland of Tulasi leaves. Tulasi leaves mixed with sandalwood pulp and placed on the lotus feet of the Lord is the topmost worship. But we must be very careful that Tulasi leaves cannot be placed on the feet of anyone else except Lord Visnu and His different forms. Tulasi leaves cannot be placed even on the lotus feet of Radharani or on the lotus feet of the Spiritual Master. It is entirely reserved for being placed on the lotus feet of Krsna. We can place, however, Tulasi leaves in the hands of Radharani for being placed on the lotus feet of Krsna. April 7, 1970
Tulasi-devi is a pure devotee of Krsna and she should be treated with the same respect given to all Krsna’s pure devotees. Simply by worshiping her faithfully, a devotee can get himself free from all material miseries. In the Nectar of Devotion I have given two verses from the Skanda Purana, one of which is: “Tulasi is auspicious in all respects. Simply by seeing, simply by touching, simply by remembering, simply by praying to, simply by bowing before, simply by hearing about, or simply by sowing the tree, there is always auspiciousness. Anyone who comes in touch with the Tulasi tree in the above mentioned ways lives eternally in the Vaikuntha world.” January 6, 1972
The following list was compiled from scriptures and from Srila Prabhupada’s instructions.
- Tulasi’s body is spiritual. Although Tulasi appears as many individual trees, she is one person, and she comes wherever she sees devotion to Krsna.
- Every morning devotees should water and pray to Tulasi-devi and circumambulate her three times.
- Worship Tulasi with nice food, flowers, incense, a ghee lamp, and other traditional articles of worship.
- Protect the delicate Tulasi seedlings from birds and insects. It is an offense to turn the seedlings back into the soil.
- In places where Tulasi cannot survive the winters when planted in the ground, provide a suitable house for her.
- Every day provide Tulasi fresh air, water (as needed be careful not to water too much), and sunshine (or plant lights).
- Neglecting to care for or water Tulasi properly is a great offense. Do everything carefully.
- When picking Tulasi leaves, chant the following mantra:
tulasy amrta janmasi
sada tvam kesava-priya
kesavartham cinomi tvam
varada bhava sobhane
“O Tulasi, you were born from nectar. You are always very dear to Lord Kesava. Now, in order to worship Lord Kesava, I am collecting your leaves and manjaris. Please bestow your benediction on me.”
Pick only the leaves that grow next to the manjaris (flowers) and the leaves that are ready to drop (they will turn a pale color) not the new, green ones. Pick the manjaris as soon as they blossom. Avoid letting them go to seed, which takes much energy from the plant that can be used to make more leaves and flowers for Krsna’s service. Pick the leaves one at a time with your fingertips. Don’t shake or stroke the branch and damage healthy leaves. Pick with care and attention. Avoid using cutting tools.
Never cut or prune Tulasi-devi. This is a great offense. Remove dead branches if absolutely necessary. If branches obstruct a passageway, tie them back, but don’t cut them.
Pick Tulasi leaves and flowers in the morning, never at night (from sunset to sunrise).
Never use chemical sprays on Tulasi.
Collect leaves once in the morning for worshiping Krsna and for putting on the plates of food to be offered to Him. Put at least one leaf on each preparation. Never pick Tulasi leaves for any other purpose than to offer to the Lord.
Lord Krsna likes garlands of Tulasi leaves. Tulasi leaves mixed with sandalwood pulp and placed on the lotus feet of the Lord is the topmost worship. Do not place Tulasi leaves on the feet of anyone other than Lord Visnu in His various forms. Srimati Radharani can be given a Tulasi leaf in Her hand for offering to Lord Krsna.
Krsna accepts even dry Tulasi leaves. Tulasi wood (taken after a plant has fully dried naturally) can be used to carve worship paraphernalia, such as beads. Place leftover Tulasi wood within the earth.
Never use Tulasi leaves or flowers to make teas or juices, even after they’ve been offered to Krsna. It is a great offense to cook or heat Tulasi, or to use her for mundane purposes, such as medicines and ointments.
Never cut down or pull up living Tulasi plants. This is a great offense.
Avoid stepping on Tulasi-devi’s shadow.
Tulasi-devi is very, very dear to the Lord. Therefore, most important is to serve her with love and devotion.
Among all articles which are offered to the Lord, Tulasi is most highly praised. Therefore one may perform perfect worship of the Lord by simply offering pure water and Tulasi leaves (Raghunatha das Goswami, Advaita Acarya). According to the Garuda Purana, Tulasi must always be offered on the naivedyam.
tulasi vina ya kriyate na puja
snanam na tat yat tulasi vinakrtam
bhuktam na tat yat tulasi vinakrtam
pitam na tat yat tulasi vinakrtam
Puja, bathing and offering of food and drink performed without Tulasi cannot be considered as puja, bathing and offering to the Lord. The Lord does not accept anything or drink anything that is without Tulasi. Brhad Naradiya Purana
During the puja, one should offer Tulasi leaves to the Lord’s feet. Tulasi garlands may also be offered around His neck. Some say that gandha, flowers and Tulasi should be offered at least three times, washing the hands each time before offering. The article is offered in the right hand, while the left hand touches the right arm. Some say that offering eight Tulasi leaves is best.
One should be clean before touching or plucking Tulasi.
asnatva tulasim citva yah pujam kurute narah
so’paradhi bhaven nityam tat sarvam nisphalam bhavet
One who picks Tulasi without having bathed and then performs worship is an offender, and all his activities becomes useless. Vayu Purana
Tulasi should not be plucked on dvadasi.
nacchindat tulasim vipra dvadasyam vaisnavah kvacit
The Vaisnava should never pick Tulasi on dvadasi tithi. Visnu Dharmottara
One should pluck the leaves with the right hand, holding the branch in the left hand, being careful not to break the branches.
patranam cayane vipra bhagna sakha yada bhavet
tada hrdi vyatha visnor diyate tulasi pateh
karatala trayam dattva cinuyat tulasi dalam
yatha na kampate sakha tulasya divyasattama
If when picking Tulasi leaves one breaks the branches, Visnu feels pain in His heart. One should clap the hands three times before picking Tulasi and pick in such a way that the branches do not shake. Visnu Smrti
One should say:
tulasy amrta janmasi sada tva kesava priya
kesavarthe vicinvami barada bhava sobhane
tvad anga sambhavaih patraih pujayami yatha harim
tatha kuru pavitrangi kalau mala vinasini
Oh Tulasi, born from the ocean of nectar, you are eternally the dearmost of Kesava. For His worship I now pluck you. Please bestow blessings on me.
Oh Tulasi, being pure in body and the destroyer of the sins of Kali-yuga, I will worship the Lord using leaves coming from your body. You should make that worship successful.
If Tulasi is unavailable, one may touch Tulasi wood to the Lord’s body as an offering of Tulasi. If wood is unavailable one should chant the name of Tulasi and perform the puja meditating on her presence. (i.e. etat tulasi patram sri krsnaya namah)
If one offers Tulasi to anyone other than Hari, that sin is equal to killing a brahman or a cow, or having sex with ones guru’s wife.
Tulasi prasadam may be offered to the hand of sakti and jiva-tattva, and unoffered Tulasi may be offered to their hand for offering to Krsna. If bhoga (not mahaprasadam) is offered to sakti or jiva-tattvas as naivedyam, Tulasi may be placed on the naivedyam, since, being devotees of the Lord they always offer the naivedyam to Krsna before taking it themselves.
Tulasi leaf is very, very dear to Visnu. All Visnu-tattva deities require profuse Tulasi leaves. Lord Visnu likes garlands of Tulasi leaves. Tulasi leaves mixed with sandalwood pulp and placed on the lotus feet of the Lord is the topmost worship. But we must be very careful that Tulasi leaves cannot be placed on the feet of anyone else except Lord Visnu and His different forms. Tulasi leaves cannot be placed even on the lotus feet of Radharani or on the lotus feet of the spiritual master. It is entirely reserved for being placed on the lotus feet of Krsna. We can place, however, Tulasi leaves in the hands of Radharani for being placed on the lotus feet of Krsna. On each bowl or plate there should be at least one leaf.
Letter from Srila Prabhupada – April 7, 1970, Los Angeles
Glories of Tulasi
Tulasi is glorified throughout the Puranas and Pancaratra. Visnu created Tulasi at the time of the churning of the milk ocean for the spiritual upliftment of the souls in the material world. Tulasi is considered to be more dear to the Lord than Laksmi, for, by performing extreme austerities and loving worship of the Lord with the aim of having the Lord as her husband, Visnu surrendered to her wish.
There is no better recipient of charity than vipra, no better gift than giving of cows, no better tirtha than the Ganga, and no better leaf than the Tulasi leaf. Whatever can be obtained by offering all types of flowers and leaves, may be attained by simply offering one leaf of Tulasi, Offering flowers of gold, jewels and pearls is not equal to offering Tulasi.
By offering Tulasi one is released from sins accumulated for one koti of lifetimes. By offering Tulasi to the head of the Lord all the unmentionable and undetected sins are destroyed. By sprinkling the Lord’s house with water using a Tulasi leaf, one is freed from all great sins. By offering Tulasi one destroys enemies, increases wealth, and guarantees liberation from material birth. One is certain to attain Vaikuntha. The fragrance of Tulasi leaves, the flower of the malati plant and the milk from a brown cow are the three items which most quickly satisfy Kesava.
dhatri phalani tulasi hy antakale bhaved yadi
mukhe caiva sirasya ange patakam nasti tasya vai
If one has amalaki fruits or Tulasi leaves in one’s mouth or on one’s head or body when one dies, one is guaranteed not to suffer in hell. Brahma Purana
Caring for Tulasi
No sprays can be used, not at all. The best thing is to simply daily water Tulasi-devi and keep her clean. Nothing else is required.
Letter from Srila Prabhupada – July 26, l975, Los Angeles
Please take care of the Tulasi plants in the following way. This is the best season for growing Tulasi plants. From 15 April to 15 June is the best season for growing this plant. Now I understand that the seedlings are coming out, so the whole spot if possible may be covered by some net because the seedling stage creepers, being very delicate, are sometimes eaten up by the sparrows, so we have to give a little protection from attack of the sparrows. All the devotees should pour water at least once in the morning before taking prasadam. The watering should not be very much large in quantity, but it should be poured just to keep the ground soft and moist. Sunlight also should be allowed. When the creepers are grown at least 7 inches high, then you can take them out from the planting soil and transplant them in a row in a different place. Then go on watering and they will grow like anything. I think this plant cannot grow in cold countries, but if the plants are dispatched from your place and if the devotees take care of the plant with a little care in a flower pot then it may grow.
Letter from Srila Prabhupada – April 7, 1970, Los Angeles
Should Tulasi be given to families who visit the temples? No, let them come and offer respects to Tulasi-devi instead. If they still want to have Tulasi-devi you can give them seeds and let the guests grow the plants from seed.
Letter from Srila Prabhupada – May 5, 1971, Bombay
The Glories Of Tulasi puja from Sri Garga-Samhita
(2.16) translated by Sriman Kusakratha Dasa
Sri Radha, the goddess of the rasa dance, spoke to Her friend Candranana, the best of the knowers of religion. Sri Radha said, “Please tell Me what kind of worship I should perform to please Sri Krsna, worship that will bring auspiciousness, piety, and the fulfillment of My desire. O beautiful one, you heard the religious scriptures from Garga Muni’s own mouth. O noble hearted one, please tell Me what vow or what worship I should perform.” Hearing Radha’s words, and reflecting on them in her heart for a moment, Candranana, the best of all friends, replied, “O Radha, service to Tulasi gives the greatest piety, the greatest good fortune and the greatest benediction. It gives Lord Krsna’s association. You should always gaze on Tulasi, touch her. Then she will grant Your desire.”
“They who, day after day, serve Tulasi in these nine ways attain the results of pious deeds performed in many thousands of millions of yugas… As many branches, sub-branches, seeds, flowers and leaves as are on the Tulasi he has planted, so many ancestors and descendants in His family for thousands of kalpa-yugas will go to Lord Krsna’s transcendental abode. O Radha, by offering Him every flower and leaf that exists, a person who, with offerings of Tulasi-leaves worships Lord Krsna is not touched by sin as a lotus is not touched by water… A home in the midst of a Tulasi forest is a sacred pilgrimage place. Yamaraj’s servants will never enter that home.”
“For persons who plant, protect, water, see or touch her, Tulasi burns the sins committed with the body, mind and words. On a single Tulasi leaf the holy places beginning with Puskara, the sacred rivers beginning with the Ganga, and the Deities headed by Lord Vasudeva reside. Even though stained with a hundred sins, a person who touches a Tulasi-manjari as he leaves this life does not see Yamaraja.”
“O friend, as four-faced Brahma cannot describe all the glories of Lord Krsna, who holds the Sarnga bow, so he cannot describe all the glories of Tulasi. A man or woman who offers sandal-paste and Tulasi to Sri Krsnacandra’s feet attains the results I have told to You. O gopi, serve Tulasi every day. Then Sri Krsna will come under Your control [having won His heart.]”
After hearing Candranana’s words, Sri Radha, the queen of the rasa dance, in order to please Lord Krsna, began to serve Tulasi. Taking Tulasi, beautiful with many green leaves, to the middle of a ketaki forest, and placing her in a Tulasi-temple that was round, tall, a hundred hastas in size, beautiful with walls of gold and rubies, splendid with an outer wall of emeralds, diamonds and pearls, decorated with cintamani gems, arched gateways, gold flags and gold awnings everywhere, and glorious like Indra’s palace, at the time of the star Abhijit, saintly Radha served Sri Tulasi. Beginning with the full moon of the month of Asvina (Sept/Oct), and ending with the full moon of Caitra (Mar/Apr), to please Sri Krsna, saintly Radha followed a vow with great devotion. Month after month She sprinkled Tulasi with milk, sugar-cane juice, grape-juice, mango-juice, pancamrta, and many kinds of sweet and cool juices. On the first day of Vaisakha (Apr/May), She ended the vow. King Vrsabhanu’s daughter, Radha, then pleased two hundred-thousand brahmanas with a great feast of fifty six courses. Then Radha gave them daksina of a hundred bharas of gold and pearls to each brahmana. The demigods showered flowers on the Tulasi temple.
Then, seated on a glorious throne on a gold pedestal, Her eyes like lotus petals, and Her gold crown and earrings glittering, beautiful four-armed Tulasi, who is dear to Lord Krsna, appeared. Descending from the sky, Tulasi, beautiful as a flowering vine, with Her four arms embraced and then kissed Radha, who wore a new Vaijayanti garland, and whose snake-like braids were covered with a yellow cloth. Sri Tulasi said, “O daughter of Kalavati, I am pleased with You. I am eternally conquered by Your loving devotion. O beautiful one, as if You were an ordinary human being, You very carefully followed this vow. The desire that fills Your heart, mind, intelligence and senses will be attained. Lord Krsna will be kind to You, You are very fortunate.”
To Tulasi, who spoke these words and who is dear to Lord Krsna, Radha bowed and said, “May I have unalloyed devotion for Lord Krsna’s lotus feet.” Saying, “So be it, ” Krsna’s beloved Tulasi disappeared. Then Radha, King Vrsabhanu’s daughter, went home happy at heart.
A devotee who hears this wonderful story of Sri Radha attains first the three goals of material life and then the supreme spiritual goal of life.
All glories to Srimate Vrinda-devi!!!