Thulasi or Basil is one of the most sacred of plants revered by people of all faiths, if not for its use in the worship of Lord Maha Vishnu, for its medicinal properties. When Lord Krishna proclaims in the Bhagavad Gita that He is satisfied with a leaf, a flower or a drop of water, the significance of the Thulasi leaf in the worship of the Lord becomes clear. Called Brinda, she attracts Krishna who loves to reside amongst the Thulasi plants in Brindavana.
Once Narada Maharishi taunted Sathyabhama, the wife of Lord Krishna that her devotion to the Lord was a little less than that of Lord Krishna’s other wife Ruckmani. Sathyabhama, in a moment of vanity, immediately retorted that she would give anything to please the Lord. Naradha muni told her to offer whatever she wanted to the Lord by His weight to prove her statement. So, when Lord Krishna came along, a big scale (Tula) was set up and Sathyabhama reverentially requested Krishna to sit on one of the scales and heaped her jewels on the other scale. She kept on adding to the other side but however much she added, the scale where Lord Krishna sat always tipped low. Admitting defeat as her pride was humbled, Sathyabhama gave way to Ruckmani who removed all the jewels and placed just one Thulasi leaf which to wonder of all those assembled made the scales even.
How the Thulasi became so dear to Lord Mahavishnu is narrated by the Puranas. Goloka is the celestial abode of Lord Krishna who rules over the entire universe with His consort Radha Rani. Sudhama was the Lord’s favourite and Brinda was one of the chief attendants of Radha devi. One day during Rasa leela the Lord was espied by Radha to be close to Brinda. Krishna vanished and the poor Brinda, afflicted with the sudden separation from the Lord fell to the ground and when she was found in this state, Radha cursed Brinda to be born on earth. Radha devi also chided Lord Krishna for His antics and Sudhama intervened and earned the wrath of Radha. He was also cursed to be born a dhanava (demon). Quickly realizing her mistake, Radha devi made amends and blessed Brinda with final union with Krishna and Sudhama to wed Brinda in the earth and to return back to Goloka when the curse waned.
Brinda, born in the earth performed sever austerities to attain Narayana as her husband. She was blessed by Lord Brahma who narrated her previous life in the Goloka and asked her to marry Sudhama who had taken birth in the lineage of sage Kashyapa as Sankachooda. Brinda was also told by Brahmadeva that she will unite with Narayana and then will return to Goloka and remain there for ever dear to Lord Krishna. As destined, Sankachooda met Brinda and both were happily wedded and spent many years in marital bliss. Sankachooda was urged by the other asuras to wage war against the devas and prove their supremacy. Armed with invincibility with the boon from Brahma that none can defeat him till the amulet of Lord Vishnu given to him by Brahma was worn by him and till such time his wife remained chaste of which not even a speck of doubt could arise, Sankachooda defeated the devas and usurped their powers as a result of which vedic dharma declined and all the worlds suffered. The devas approached Brahma and in turn went to vaikunta and offered their obeisance to Lord Maha Vishnu and prayed for deliverance from the clutches of Sankachooda. Maha Vishnu decreed that the end of the asura would come from Lord Shiva and He himself will play a vital role in the defeat of the asura.
Approached by the hapless devas, Lord Shiva came to battle Sankachooda, who matched the Lord weapon to weapon and blow for blow. At this point of time, Lord MahaVishnu approached the demon as a Brahmin and sought as alms his amulet which Sankachooda gladly gave away (reminds of the story of Karna). In the meantime Lord MahaVishnu came to Brinda disguised as Sankachooda and declared that he had returned from the battle field. Brinda welcomed her lord and united with Him when she realized that she had been duped and it was Sriman Narayana who had come under the guise of Sankachooda. She cursed the Lord to become a stone. The Lord pacified her and reminded her of the boon she had got from Brahma that she will be united with Lord Maha Vishnu as she had prayed for the same. He also blessed her that she would now return to the Goloka and be for ever with Lord Krishna adorning him as a garland (Thulasi dhama bhooshana). Her remnants on earth would turn into a beautiful river Gantaki as well as the holy Thulasi plant which would be most suited for the worship of the Lord. It is therefore in the Gantaki river, the Lord resides as small black pebbles which to this day are worshipped as Salagramam. Lord Shiva blessed Sankachooda to return to the Goloka as Sudhama and be in service of the Lord there. His remnants were scattered over the oceans and turned into beautiful conches.
We go through many births in our pursuit to attain the lotus feet of the Lord. We take the form of insects, plants, birds, animals and above all humans and depending on the austerities performed in our lives as humans we evolve further into gandarvas, devas and so on. The Lord is our master in all our births and if we realize this and dedicate ourselves to the service of the Lord, we shall be ever near Him. Whatever actions that happen are a reflection of the supreme will and we can pray for acceptance of the same as His divine grace. We may be born a demon or a dame, but if love for the Supreme is embedded in our heart, it would guide us to Him ultimately.
Thulasi is worshipped on the twelfth day of the new moon in the month of Karthikai. The day is called Uttana Dvadasi or Brindavana dvadasi. On this day, lighting a ghee lamp near the Thulasi plant, decorating it with flowers and offering our prayers to Thulasi devi will bring us immense happiness and joy and ultimate union with Lord Krishna.