Srimati Tulsi Devi is one of the most exalted devotees of the Sri Krishna. Tulsi is Vrinda Devi, who eternally resides in Goloka, the most brilliant planet in Vaikunta. She performed intense penance to marry Lord Vishnu.
It is through the fruits of her penance that she became Tulsi. The Hari-Bhakti Vilasa states: ‘Sri Krishna, who is very affectionate toward His devotees, sells Himself to a devotee who offers merely a tulsi leaf and a palmful of water.’
- Story of Vrinda and Jalhandara
Padma Purana says that Vrinda Devi was born on earth to King Kushadvaja. She married Jalhandara, a demon king who had sovereignty over the nether regions and declared war on the Gods. He had a boon that he would be free from death till his wife Vrinda was chaste. Jalhandara drew strength from the chastity and purity of his pious wife, Vrinda. The power of Vrinda`s chastity was so great that Jalhandara could not be defeated by the Gods, even Lord Shiva. Helplessly, the Gods sought refuge in Lord Vishnu.
- Vrinda`s curse
As a final resort, Lord Vishnu assuming the form of Jalhandara beguiled Vrinda, who mistook the form of Vishnu as Jalhandara. Her chastity was broken as she greeted Vishnu. Taking advantage of the situation, the Gods overpowered Jalhandara and killed him in the battle.
Soon Vishnu appeared in his original form much to the surprise of Vrinda. Understanding the reality, Vrinda became enraged and cursed Vishnu to become a stone for his act of deception. She cursed Vishnu for his stone hearted approach to spoil her chastity that led to the death of her husband. Soon she too burnt herself in the pyre of her husband.
- Vishnu as Shaligram shila
Vishnu accepted the curse hurled upon him and appeared as a shaligram shila in the Gandhaki River in Nepal.
- Vrinda as Tulsi
He also blessed Vrinda for her purity and chastity that she will eternally reside in Vaikuntha as his consort. He also transferred her soul into the plant of Tulsi and blessed her to be worshipped as Tulsi. He said that Tulsi will be the most auspicious and dear to him and no prayer is complete without an offering of Tulsi to him. Thus devotees of Krishna never go to him without an offering of Tulsi leaf. He promised to marry her annually on this day in the month of Karthik.
- Marriage of Tulsi and Shaligram shila
Every year Tulsi Vivah or ceremonial marriage is conducted for Tulsi and Vishnu as shaligram shila on Ekadasi, the eleventh moon of the bright fortnight of Karthik. All devout Hindu women pray to Tulsi and shaligram, on this day and perform a marriage ceremony to Tulsi and shaligram shila for meritorious benefits. By doing this, all sins get burnt away and deep seated desires get fulfilled.
In the Skanda Purana there is a statement praising the Tulsi tree as follows: ‘Let me offer my respectful obeisance unto the Tulsi tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases.
This year Tulsi Vivah in 2014 will be observed on Tuesday, 4th November.