Lord Indra and Deva-Guru Brihaspati, were on their way to Kailasa to offer their salutations to Lord Shiva. Lord Sankara decided to test Indra’s devotion. He disguised himself and met them enroute. Angered at being blocked on their path, Indra asked him to move away. When Shiva refused to move, Indra took up his weapon, Vajrayudha and tried to hurl it at Shiva. The Lord was extremely angry at Indra’s behaviour and was about to punish him when Brihaspati pleaded on Indra’s behalf and sought forgiveness. The fire-of-anger that emanated from Lord Shiva crystallized and fell into the ocean and out of it emerged a small boy. Brahma, the creator appeared and asked Lord Varuna to look after the child who would ultimately become a rakshasa because of the anger element from which he had manifested. He was named Jalandhara (born or arose from water). Since he was an aspect of Lord Shiva, his death was also destined at the hands of Lord Shiva. Trained by the Rakshasa-Guru, Shukracharya, Jalandhara grew up to become very powerful and mighty.
Gandaki was an ardent devotee of Lord Sri Hari. Pleased with her faith and devotion, loyalty and commitment, Lord Vishnu granted her darshan and asked her what she wanted as a boon. Gandaki told the Lord she had only one wish and that was that she should always have the privilege of his association and he should never leave her. The Lord agreed and told her to take the form of a river – River Gandaki. He added that sometime in the future, he would be cursed to become a “stone”. And as a “saligrama stone” he would reside in her waters.
On the other side, Jalandhara married Vrinda, the daughter of Kalanemi. She was also a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. She ardently longed for the eternal companionship of the Lord. However she had been cursed to take birth in the mortal world and become the consort of a rakshasa. When she approached the Lord, he assured her that after she was relieved from the curse, she would constantly be in his company. Thereafter, she was born as the daughter of Kalanemi and married Jalandhara. She was extremely faithful and loyal to her husband. The power of her purity and chastity was an armour and protection for Jalandhara. Knowing well that he was invincible because of his wife’s chaste conduct, Jalandhara waged war on the devatas and declared his superiority and lordship over them as well. Unable to withstand Jalandhara’s atrocities, all the gods approached Lord Vishnu. However Lord Vishnu could not annihilate Jalandhara because he was protected by his own devotee, Vrinda. Next the devatas sought help from Lord Shiva. A fierce battle ensued between the Sankara and Jalandhara. Even Lord Shiva could not kill him because of Vrinda’s intense tapas. Again the devatas appealed to Lord Vishnu to help them otherwise Jalandhara would create havoc amongst the noble and pious.
For the sake of everyone’s welfare, Lord Vishnu approached Vrinda in the guise of Jalandhara. Thinking that it was her own husband who had come back from the battle, Vrinda abandoned her tapas to serve him. Vrinda’s mind had been diverted and that was the moment Lord Shiva was waiting for. That very moment, the Lord annihilated the rakshasa. Vrinda who was aware that Jalandhara was invincible by the power of her tapas, realised that it was Lord Vishnu who had come in the guise of Jalandhara. Overwhelmed by anger she cursed Lord Vishnu to become a “stone”. After the curse was pronounced, Vrinda repented. She prostrated to the Lord and sought his forgiveness. Lord Vishnu smiled and consoled his devotee. All that had happened had to happen! The Lord told Vrinda that in the future she would manifest as a plant – the most auspicious TULASI PLANT. She would be revered and worshipped by one and all. She would possess the unique properties of bestowing good and positive energy and annulling the negative influences around. Every part of the plant would possess immense medicinal value. And she would be extremely dear to Lord Vishnu. His puja would be considered complete only with the offering of Tulasi to him. Further the Lord added that he would appear in the waters of River Gandaki or Narayani in the form of a black stone – Saligrama.
After Vrinda dissolved her mortal body, she manifested as the Tulasi plant. And as Tulasi she became the eternal consort of Lord Sri Hari in the form of Saligrama and is therefore known as Vishnupriye. Lord Shiva exhaustively extols the glories of Tulasi to Sage Narada in the Padma Purana. Every year, Tulasi Vivaha with the Lord (Saligrama) is celebrated on shukla dwadashi day (also known as Uttana Dwadashi) in the month of Kartika. Where the Saligrama is not available, a branch of the Amla which represents Lord Vishnu is used. Tulasi represents Goddess Lakshmi and Amla represents Lord Vishnu. Hence puja offered to Tulasi and Amla signifies the invoking of Lakshmi and Narayana during the month of Kartika.
Kartika Maasa heralds the onset of winter. And winter is characterized by darkness, chillness, drop in energy and immunity levels. Growth and expansion is curtailed to a large extent at macro as well as micro levels. These shortcomings are compensated by ushering in light, warmth and positive energy by lighting lamps everyday. To strengthen our immunity system and fight the cold we use the Tulasi and Amla which have immense medicinal and therapeutic value. The warmth and light (energy) from earthern, brass, copper or silver deepas and amla deepas boosts and reinforces the metabolism of the human body. Hence lighting the lamps, extensive use of tulasi and amla becomes very significant during this month. And by invoking the respective deities, the spiritual dimensions get included and incorporated!
“Jagaddhatri namastubhyam vishnoscha priyavallabhe; Yato brahmadayo devah srishtisthithyantha karinah!” ~ Tulasi Stotra
“Aajanmakrutha papanam prayaschittam ya ichati; Saligrama shilavari papahari namostute!” ~ Saligrama Stotra
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