The story of Tulsi, the medicinal plant, begins with Indra, the Lord of the Heavens.
Lord Indra, was the king of the Devas. But he realized that people no longer looked up to him at the main God. This worried him a lot. He knew that people now looked up at Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva to guide them. Indra knew that he could not hope to confront Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. They were after all the Gods of Creation and of Preservation. But Indra could not understand, why people liked Lord Shiva. He was after all the God of destruction.
Indra was thinking. I will go and prove to the world that I am better than the Lord of Destruction, then people will look up to me too…However Indra had misunderstood…Lord Shiva was the Lord of Destruction…he destroyed all evil things in the world…he was the destroyer of the ego…the uncontrollable impulses inside us….
Indra went straight to Kailash and there wanted to meet Lord Shiva. However Lord Shiva using the power of his meditation, figured out that Indra was coming to meet him. Lord Shiva transformed himself to look like his gana and stood outside his door as a doorman. He stood there as Indra came.
‘Let me in…doorman,’ Indra said contemptuously at the doorman, without realizing who he was. ‘I want to talk to Lord Shiva….and settle a matter once and for all…’
The doorman looked at Indra with amused eyes, ‘What do you want to settle once and for all, Lord Indra?’
Indra looked loftily at the doorman, ‘I want to prove that I am more powerful than Lord Shiva..’ Indra said brandishing his Vajra angrily.
The doorman if anything looked even more amused. ‘I am supposed to guard Lord Shiva…Why don’t you first show your powers before me…If you win…You can meet Lord Shiva…’
Indra was angry. But then you could refuse to fight when somebody openly challenged you..He accepted.
Indra and the doorman fought. The doorman fought brilliantly. Indra watched as the doorman became more and more angry. The doorman finally pushed him back with a great deal of force…Indra was about to get up when he had a sudden flash. No ordinary doorman could just push him away…This doorman…Indra realized with fear that the doorman could be none other than Lord Shiva himself. The doorman was eying him with sharp eyes, as Indra slowly got up on his feet. Indra realized that he had already tired himself and Lord Shiva looked like he had not even started fighting…Indra knew that he could not hope to match with a power like that. He slowly went towards the doorman and fell at his feet. ‘Lord Shiva! I am sorry! I did not realize how powerful you are…You have destroyed my pride…’
The doorman looked at Indra angrily for some time. The doorman closed his eyes and Indra saw as the doorman curbed his anger with great difficulty. Indra saw something fly out of the doorman – something fierce, red and burning. Once the thing emerged from the doorman, Lord Shiva appeared before Indra in his normal form. Indra looked at the beautiful face of Lord Shiva and once again bowed to him, ‘I am sorry my Lord!’
Lord Shiva smiled at Indra, ‘Indra! You had made me very angry…I was actually tempted to open my third eye and burn you to ashes…’ Indra shivered as he realized how close to death he had come…
‘…But then when you fell at my feet, asking for forgiveness…I could not just hold any grudge against you…’ Lord Shiva said as he shook his head. ‘But my anger was quiet another thing…’
Indra looked at Shiva and asked wonderingly, ‘What was the thing that came out of you, my Lord?’
Lord Shiva looked at Indra wondering whether he would understand, ‘That was a personification of my anger…Because I was not willing to use it against you…my anger was dragged away from me…It is now inside the ocean…’
Lord Indra once again asked Lord Shiva for forgiveness and went back to his palace a wiser man…However that was just the beginning of the problems of Indra…
Lord Shiva being a very powerful person, his anger was very potent, When all his anger was deposited in the ocean waves, the anger immediately transformed into a young baby! The baby wailed and wailed…Lord Brahma the God of creations, heard the cries of the baby and came there. He picked up the baby in his arms. The baby he found was extraordinarily heavy.
As Lord Brahma picked up the baby, he felt the tiny hands of the baby pluck at his beard. The force with which the baby tugged at his beard was great, that Lord Brahma nearly cried out! Wiping the tears from his face, Lord Brahma looked at the child and said, ‘You are very strong…You have brought ‘jala’ [water] in my eyes, by your strength…For this I name you Jalandhara [One who brings water].
As Jalandhara grew up, he became more and more proud of his strength. He realized that he could defeat anyone with his strength. The Gods hoped that Jalandhara would join them and they could make use of his strength. However Jalandhara had other ideas. He wanted to become the leader of the Asuras.
When he came of a marriageable age, Jalandhara went to a very powerful asura by name Kalanemi. Kalanemi was Ravana’s [the nemesis of Rama – the hero of Ramayana] uncle. Kalanemi had a beautiful daughter by name Vrinda. Vrinda was extremely intelligent and she was a very great devotee of Lord Vishnu.
Impressed with Jalandhara’s strength, Vrinda agreed to marry him. So Vrinda and Jalandhara were married a few days later.
Because of her devotion to Lord VIshnu, Vrinda had enormous amount of yogic powers. Vrinda loved her husband with all her heart and because of her, Jalandhara became powerful and invincible.
Shukracharya, the Guru of the Asuras, realized how powerful Jalandhara had become after his marriage to Vrinda. He decided to crown Jalandhara, the king of the Asuras. The Asuras also willingly followed the powerful Jalandhara. Soon Jalandhara ruled over the whole earth. All the kings on earth were defeated by the powerful Jalandhara.
Soon Jalandhara set eyes on Indra’s heaven. Up in the heavens, Indra and the other Devas, were totally unaware of Jalandhara’s plans. With an element of surprise, Jalandhara attacked the Devas. The Devas unable to protect themselves, were routed.
The Devas did not know what to do. Even Indra’s Vajra, which was the most powerful weapon they had…they could not even hurt Jalandhara. All the Devas went to Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma looked at Devas and spoke to them. He told them all about the birth of Jalandhara and finished by telling them, ‘Jalandhara was born out of the anger of Lord Shiva, so he can be defeated only by Lord Shiva…’
Indra said, ‘If we go and ask Lord Shiva and talk to Jalandhara…do you think it will work…’
Lord Brahma looked doubtful but he nodded his head, ‘We will have to ask him, but Jalandhara has become so arrogant, I doubt whether Lord Shiva can make him see sense..’
Agreeing to the requests of the Devas, Lord Shiva went to talk to Jalandhara. However Jalandhara was so arrogant that he openly insulted Lord Shiva!
Jalandhara yelled as Lord Shiva, ‘You call yourself an ascetic…How dare you? If you are an ascetic, why do you need a wife…Send Goddess Parvathi away…You don’t need a wife and claim to be yogi at the same time…’
With great difficulty Lord Shiva curbed his anger and tried to talk sense to Jalandhara. However Jalandhara became more and more haughty and turned down Lord Shiva’s offer for peace.
Lord Shiva went back to Kailash and told the Devas all that had happened between him and Jalandhara. Lord Shiva finished by saying, ‘I am afraid, we need to destroy Jalandhara…he had become too arrogant…I will lead you to battle.
The Devas cheered. If Lord Shiva himself lead them to battle, they were assured of victory.
However the next day, Lord Shiva found that Jalandhara was very powerful. He had both physical strength and he also had the power of illusion….Lord Shiva found Jalandhara to be a very strong…
Jalandhara used all his powers and created a powerful illusion to trap Lord Shiva, his gana and the Devas. Not expecting the attack, Lord Shiva and the others were stunned as they were struck inside the illusion.
Seeing Lord Shiva and the others struck inside the illusion, Jalandhara went to Kailash, where he saw Goddess Parvathi….Jalandhara smiled slyly as he used his powers and changed his form like Lord Shiva.
Jalandhara went to meet Goddess Parvathi looking like Lord Shiva, ‘Parvathi! I have come back victorious…I have defeated Jalandhara…’
Goddess Parvathi looked at Lord Shiva and frowned at him. She felt something was wrong….She closed her eyes and used her powers to sense who was before her…
When Parvathi opened her eyes…she was angry…’Jalandhara! You dare come here in my husband’s form…’ She walked up and picked up her sword and pointed it at him.
Jalandhara knew that Goddess Parvathi was a very strong warrior, as good as her husband. He was already weak from his powers of illusion and his fight with Lord Shiva. He knew he could not fight Goddess Parvathi now…He ran from there…
Goddess Parvathi was sitting there furious, when Lord Vishnu came there. ‘Parvathi! What is wrong…?
Goddess Parvathi told Lord Vishnu everything. ‘How can Jalandhara be so powerful…?’
Lord Vishnu said, ‘Jalandhara was already powerful…He has now married Vrindha…She is my greatest devotee…Every time Jalandhara goes to war, she prays to me. She gets a lots of powers by her prayers. It is because of her that Jalandhara is becoming invincible…’
Goddess Parvathi looked at Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu looked at Goddess Parvathi, with troubled eyes. He knew what he had to do…But could he do such a thing to his own devotee….Lord Vishnu unhappily walked out of there and went back to Vaikunta. He knew he had no choice but to do what he had to do….
The next morning, as Vrinda knew that her husband would begin his battle with Lord Shiva, she started her prayers for his welfare. As she was deep in her meditation, she saw someone enter her room. She opened her eyes and was startled to find her husband before her. She blinked as Jalandhara came before her and told her with pride, ‘I have done it….I have defeated Lord Shiva…Now there is no one as strong as me….’ He said with pride as Vrinda thanked Lord Vishnu. She stopped her prayers to prepare for the celebrations for her husband’s victory.
It was at that minute at the battlefield between Lord Shiva and the real Jalandhara that Lord Shiva stabbed Jalandhara straight in the chest with his trishul. Without her wife’s prayer to protect him, the weapon pierced into his body, killing Jalandhara then and there.
Back in Jalandhara’s palace, Vrinda felt something wrong as she looked at her husband…She had felt something bad happen to her husband…But her husband was standing before her…How was that possible….
She looked at the Jalandhara before her and said, ‘Who are you? You are not my husband….Where is he?’ Vrinda looked around her palace with tears, ‘I stopped my prayers…My husband…What happened to him…?’
Jalandhara vanished from there and in his place stood Lord Vishnu…But Lord Vishnu was looking at Vrinda with unhappy eyes and sad face…
Vrinda looked at Lord Vishnu and glared at him and whispered, ‘What have you done? How is my husband….?’
Lord Vishnu spoke quietly, ‘Jalandhara is dead, Vrinda’ Vrinda let out a wail as Lord Vishnu continued, ‘Your husband was becoming invincible because of your prayers, Vrinda…As long as you were praying for him, nothing could defeat him…’
Vrinda shouted at Lord Vishnu, ‘I believed you and you let me down…I loved my husband and you cheated me…You stood like a stone, while my husband was dying in the battle…for this I curse you…’ Vrinda said in an angry voice, ‘I curse you that you will be trapped in a stone…’
Lord Vishnu nodded his head in a melancholy manner. ‘I accept your curse, Vrinda…But remember, it was also your duty to stop your husband, when he did anything wrong…Your husband was behaving arrogantly and hurting others…He went to the extent of going to asking Lord Shiva to give up Goddess Parvathi…’
Vrinda looked at Lord Vishnu with wide fearful eyes as Lord Vishnu continued, ‘…Still nothing happened to him, because your prayers protected him…’
Vrinda looked heartbroken as she fell down. Vrinda breathed her last…Lord Vishnu was beside her looking at the dead face of his greatest devotee…
Lord Shiva and the Devas came and found Lord Vishnu sitting heartbroken beside a dead Vrinda. Lord Shiva came and told Lord Vishnu, ‘Please do not grieve for her. She will be reborn as Tulsi…one of the greatest medicinal plants in the world…None of your prayers shall ever be complete without worshiping you with Tulsi leaves…’
Due to the curse, it is believed that the spirit of Lord Vishnu was captured in the stones near the river Gomti called as ‘Saligram’. These stones are considered as sacred because they are representations of Lord Vishnu. It is also believed that Vrinda cursed Lord Vishnu to be separated from his wife and it was because of this curse that Rama [Vishnu’a avatar] was separated from Sita when she was kidnapped by Ravana, the King of Lanka.