Story of Tulasi


How the Tulasi Became a Sacred Tree? One day Indra, the king of heaven, went to Kailasa to visit Shiva. He noticed a fierce-looking man guarding the door but there was no one else in sight. Indra enquired about Shiva but the main simply looked through him and did not answer. Please tell me where Shiva is... asked Indra, I have come specially to see him. Indra asked him again and again and when he received no answer, he got so angry that he threw his weapon of lightning at him. But strangely, the lightning did not even touch the man. On the contrary, a whiff of flame burst from his brow and was about to engulf Indra, who instantly realised that the fierce looking man was none other than Shiva himself. Indra went down on his knees and begged Shiva's pardon. Since it was a genuine mistake and Indra had no intention of insulting Shiva, the latter forgave Indra readily. Shiva then grasped the seething flame from his brow and threw it into the ocean. As the flame fell into the swirling water, a strange thing happened. The flame instantly turned into a little child and started crying. The ocean took him in her arms and rocked him quiet. Brahma, who had also arrived at Kailasa just then, saw the little boy in the arms of the ocean. Who is he? What is his name? Brahma asked the ocean. Why don't you give him a name, my Lord? asked the ocean. Brahma picked up the child in his arms. He named the child Jalandhara and blessed him with a number of boons. The most important one was that no one on earth would be able to vanquish Jalandhara except Shiva himself. Brahma then made him the king of demons. Jalandhara grew up to be a powerful young man. Because of his special boon from Brahma, no one was able to control him in any way. He won every battle with ease and soon came to known as the invincible Jalandhara. He lived happily with wife Vrinda, the beautiful daughter of Kalnemi, a powerful asura. But Jalandhara had fought and conquered nearly everyone except the mighty Indra. With Brahma's blessings as his armour, Jalandhara fought the Gods and captured Indra's kingdom. Indra, driven out by the mighty Jalandhara, sought Shiva's help. My Lord, I shall be totally undone if you do not save me from Jalandhara, he pleaded. It is not enough to save me. Jalandhara must be killed or he will strike again and yet again, and none of us will have a moment of peace. Do not worry, Indra, assured Shiva, I shall vanquish Jalandhara. He will not be able to withstand me as he was born of the flame from my brow. Shiva came out of Kailasa to fight Jalandhara and a terrible battle followed. Vrinda, who was an ardent devotee of Vishnu, prayed to him earnestly, and begged him to protect Jalandhara from Shiva. Vishnu could not refuse so earnest a prayer and kept saving Jalandhara from every blow. Shiva soon found that he was unable to overpower Jalandhara as he was under Vishnu's protection. Things came to a total stand still. The Gods now started praying to Vishnu so that he would withdraw his protection. Otherwise, it was quite impossible to harm Jalandhara. Vishnu realised that something must be done about Jalndhara since he could not allow him to displace Indra and the Gods from heaven. And yet he could do nothing as long as Vrinda continued praying to him. In the meantime, Jalandhara confronted Shiva and said, I have already conquered heaven and earth and have driven Indra and his Gods away. An now I will conquer you! Don't even try it, said Shiva smiling at him. You will be inviting destruction on yourself! You don't know who you are talking to, said Jalandhara in an arrogant voice. I am invincible. Don't you know that I have driven out Indra, the king of heaven? I'm not afraid of you. Indeed! said Shiva and he placed one foot in the ocean. He drew a chakra on the waves with his right toe. This flashed like lightening and rotated on the water at great speed. Pick up the chakra, Jalandhara, said Shiva. I shall fight with you only if you are able to lift it from the water. Ha! That's no big deal! said Jalandhara bending down to pick up the chakra. Meanwhile, unknown to Jalandhara, something else had happened. Vishnu, knowing that Jalandhara would remain invincible so long as Vrinda continued her prayer, appeared before Vrinda. He was in the guise of Jalandhara. Vrinda was deceived. She stopped praying to Vishnu and stood up to greet her husband. This was the moment when Jalandhara remained unprotected. Being extremely strong, he was able to lift Shiva's chakra from the water but as he did not posses Vishnu's protection, the chakra cut his body into two. Jalandhara died because Vishnu had tricked Vrinda. She was extremely angry and was about to curse Vishnu when he appeared before her. How could you do this to me, my Lord? she cried reproachfully. Why did you play this trick on me? I had no other option, my child, said Vishnu, just think of my dilemma. I could not let down a devotee who prayed as earnestly as you did. So your husband, for whose safety you prayed, remained unharmed. At the same time, I could not let down Indra or the Gods, who also prayed to me to protect them from your husband. Besides, I could not allow Jalandhara to create such havoc on heaven and earth. So I had to interrupt your prayer somehow. And this was the only way. You cheated me, said Vrinda again. No mortal lives forever, said Vishnu. Jalandhara has lived his life. And beacuase Shiva himself vanquished him, Jalandhara will enjoy a special place in heaven. Do not grieve for him, Vrinda. It's the best thing that could have happened to him . Vishnu sought her forgiveness and said, Vrinda, you are one of my best and truest devotees. I bless you that henceforth you will remain an integral part of my worship. Anyone who worships me, will remember you too. When Vrinda died and was cremated, a beautiful and aromatic tree sprang up from her ashes. This was the Tulasi tree! Since then, the leaves of Tulasi are considered essential for the worship of Vishnu.

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