Tulsi Vivaha celebrates the marriage of Tulsi-devi—the embodiment of selfless devotion—and Maha-Vishnu. Read the story of Tulsi here as told by Paramahamsa Vishwananda in His book Just Love 3.
Just Love 3: The Power of Devotion: The Story of Tulsi-devi (Excerpt)
Tulsi-devi was one of the main devotees of Maha-Vishnu. Not only that, She was the sister-in-law of Maha-Lakshmi and, at the same time, She was also the wife of Maha-Vishnu. So the question arises how many husbands did She have? The first husband to whom She was married was a demon. She was married to Jalandhar, who was a great demon. First, before becoming a demon, he was very nice; that’s why Tulsi married him. But after that, when pride arose, when ego arose, he became a demon.
His power was not in himself. His power was the faith that Tulsi had in Maha-Vishnu. When pride arose inside of him, he became blind to reality. He was conquering everywhere. Wherever he would go, he would be victorious because of the faith of Tulsi. Such was his pride that he went to Shiva and said to Shiva 'I will marry Parvati, your wife.' Crazy! So Shiva, Ganesha, Kartikeya, all of them, went to war against him, but they were defeated. Shiva was defeated. Why? It was because Jalandhar was wearing a garland that Tulsi had given to him and this garland protected him, even against Shiva. He went to Parvati and said 'I have defeated your husband. Now I will take you as my wife.' Parvati looked at him and said 'You better go away. I can just burn you like nothing right now!' This is the power of Ma! Parvati said 'I am your Mother, how can you say that? I forgive you, but go away from here!' He realised his mistake and ran away.
Tulsi, when She heard that, said 'What have you done? You know Parvati is the Mother of the Universe; She is Parashakti.' Then Lakshmi came and talked with him and said 'Jalandhar, what have you done? You know, She is your Mother, how can you even have that thought?' He became very angry and as Tulsi used to pray to Maha Vishnu, of course, He was not happy. He made Tulsi blind, he removed the eyes of Tulsi. But even though Maha-Vishnu replaced her eyes and all the devas tried to fight with him, it was not possible to defeat him.
Finally, they went to Maha-Vishnu and said 'Maha-Vishnu, She is your great devotee. You are the only one who can stop the effect of that garland. Save us.' So Maha-Vishnu said 'OK, I will try my best,” because, you know, bhakti is more important. So Maha-Vishnu said to Jalandhar, the demon 'I will fight you and defeat you. So let’s go for a fight.'
Before that, Maha-Vishnu disguised Himself. He changed His form into that of Tulsi’s husband and came to Her. This garland was the garland of purity that She had made for Her husband. Because of the Love that She had for Her husband, She would never even touch another man. That is how pure She was. When Maha-Vishnu changed His form and came, of course, He was another man. When She saw Him, She touched Him and said 'You have come back home.' The moment She touched him, the garland became old and black. At that moment Shiva, with His trident, chopped the head of Jalandhar and the head flew and fell at the feet of Tulsi.
She looked at it and Jalandhar’s head said to Her 'You have cheated on me. You have been with another man.' Then Tulsi said 'Who are you? This is my husband next to me.' He said 'No, this is not your husband. I am your husband.' Then he died. Tulsi said to Maha-Vishnu 'Tell me who you are!' Maha-Vishnu revealed His true form to Tulsi and She became very angry. Out of Her power of devotion, She cursed Maha-Vishnu and said to Maha-Vishnu 'As you have been like that, I curse you to become a stone!' At that moment, He became a stone for real. When Maha-Vishnu, who is the protector, was transformed into a stone, there was an imbalance in the world. As you know, Brahma is the Creator, Vishnu is the Protector and Shiva the Destructor. If one of these is not there, everything gets unbalanced. They ran to Tulsi and said 'Please Tulsi-devi, save us.' Tulsi could not be moved by anything, because when She was suffering nobody was there for Her, so She didn’t care too much about it.
Then Lakshmi came. When She saw Lakshmi, Lakshmi was in white. Normally in Hinduism, white is worn by widows, except when you are on the spiritual path, it’s different. Normally Lakshmi is always dressed in green and red, but there Her sari transformed into white because Her husband had become a stone.
When Tulsi-devi saw that Maha-Lakshmi was dressed in white, She realised Her mistake and said 'Oh my God, I have made you a widow.' Then Maha-Lakshmi said 'It is how it has to be. My husband came to you in that form because you are the greatest devotee to Him. So He took this risk and came to you and now, look, I am a widow. The world will remember you like that − that you have made me a widow.' Then Tulsi realised 'Well, I don’t want that.' So She forgave Maha-Vishnu and at that moment, Maha-Vishnu came back in His real form, not a stone anymore. Tulsi-devi forgave everybody and She said 'I can’t be here in this world anymore so I will go away from here.' With Her devotion, with Her power, She burnt Herself into ash. She became ash and, of course, everybody was ashamed.
The Trimurti were ashamed. Tulsi-devi was such a great devotee, but it had to be done. So, from the ash, they blessed Her. The Holy Basil, which you see nowadays as Tulsi, grew from the ash of Tulsi. Actually, the Tulsi is Her; the Holy Basil is Tulsi-devi. As Maha-Vishnu felt so bad for what He had done, He blessed Tulsi and said 'From now on, I will always be at your feet, because you have made me a stone – the Shaligrama – and everybody will remember me. Whenever they pray to me, they have to put your leaves on me.' That’s why the Shaligrama is under the Tulsi tree and the leaves of Tulsi are always put on the Shaligrama. So from His body, Maha-Vishnu materialised a Shaligrama. It was placed down with Tulsi and He also said that He would never accept any prasad from anyone unless there was a Tulsi leaf on it. That’s why, whenever we offer prasad to Maha-Vishnu, we always put a leaf of Tulsi so that He can accept it.
The wedding between Tulsi-devi and Maha-Vishnu is always a lively and joyful event. It begins with an expanded evening prayer service featuring special pujas, abhishekam, bhajans and satsang, all glorifying Tulsi-devi. It concludes with a reenactment of the auspicious wedding and joyous bhajans.
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