Tulsi as a twinkling totem...

Tulsi as a twinkling totem...

This season of Deepavali stands synonymous with the lighting of lamps of another sort. For, it falls in the auspicious month of Kartik­, whose highlight is the offering of tulsi to Lord Vishnu, and lighting of lamps every evening to worship Tulsi Devi. This is best encapsulated in these words of Lord Krishna from the Padma Purana: “Of all plants, the sacred Tulsi is most dear to Me; of all months, Kartik is most dear…”

This season’s significance also lies in its symbolism of the legend of naughty Bal Krishna being reined in by ropes around his belly by Yashoda maa.

Stemming from this spiritual significance of worshipping the tulsi plant in this month is the popular practice of lighting lamps to worship Tulsi Devi every evening during the entire month, along with performing four circumambulations of the holy plant, particularly by women.

In this context, the gift of a lamp – doing deep daan — for the worship of Lord Vishnu or Tulsi Devi, also called Vishnupriya, is considered the best gift.

This brings us to the colourful confluence of craftsmanship that the tulsi vrindavans — the platforms erected to worship Tulsi Devi — stand out as. Spanning the length and breadth of the country as a street-side or household totem of Hinduism, the tulsi vrindavans of North or South India present as much diversity as the cultural ethos of these regions.

In Goa, famous for its tulsi vrindavans, it is not only the brightly painted rustic houses wearing loud neon hues that attract attention for their liveliness. As gaily coloured as the houses are the planters in which the sacred tulsi towers as a totem in central courtyards.

In most parts of India, the tulsi manch may have a varied presence, but it is believed that under an oppressive Portuguese reign, in Goa, tulsi vrindavans emerged as an emblem for the reassertion of Hindu identity. At places, these platforms came to be as mammoth as mini-monuments, showcasing the ornate artistry and architecture of the Konkan belt.

In contrast, the tulsi vrindavans of the North sport a more sober and subdued look, and may not be as ornately sculpted as the trademark tulsi totems of the South.

But, be it Mathura or Marcel, Goa or Gujarat, tulsi vrindavans spring to life in autumn with the frills ‘n’ fervour of tulsi vivaah in Kartik maas. Tulsi Devi is bedecked with a bridal finery of blooms, beautiful rangolis and bounties of nature.

This season of lamps ‘n’ lights sure sees her twinkling as a totem of tradition.

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