Towards understanding Hindu culture, rituals and traditions…PART SIX

( Tulsi, crystals, rudraksha beads, in their own way, destroy negative energy. Hinduism makes use of a number of things in Nature to aid everyday living so that we adopt to nature in more ways than one. The use of mud vessels is one of the best eco friendly traditions that we have lost, thanks to modernisation and development…. Some day, some western scientist will find and declare that mud vessels are the best way to good health and immediately, we will have cricketers and celebrities endorsing mudpots, and there will be a chain store for mudpots, in every shopping mall across the country, and many MNCs will jump into the bandwagon of promoting “mudpots”, all for the cause of good health….”they are the latest health fad” people will gush, “thanks to that scientist from that country who found out the health benefits of using mud vessels for cooking” they will tell in cocktail parties, while forgetting that it was only the mudpots that showcased ancient civilisations across the world, including the Indus Valley civilisation….)  

Nature is intertwined with many rituals and practices in Hinduism. The worshipping of Tulsi, or Basil, is one of the best examples of making Nature a part of our everyday lives. Basil or Tulsi is an important part of ritualistic worship. Tulsi is considered a very holy plant, and in some legends, a consort of Lord Vishnu. Tulsi is also known as Surasah in Sanskrit. Botany students may know it better as Ocimum sanctum ( There is also Ocimum basilicum, or “nai Thulasi” in Tamil, which is NOT used – some confuse the two – However, the difference is distinct)

Tulsi is a powerful herb. Its medicinal virtues are well known. It is used for treatment of various common and uncommon diseases. It’s powerful healing properties to cure cancer has been recently acknowledged by the scientific community. Tulsi is extensively used in rural India to protect the household from snakes, mosquitoes, etc, since the smell of Tulsi keeps away the insects.  Basil leaves are still used in many villages to cure malaria.

What is perhaps less known, is that Tulsi is a destroyer of negative energy. It not only destroys negative energy, it exudes positive energy as well. The ritual worshipping of the Tulsi plant ensures that the person stays in the positive presence of the plant, thereby benefitting from the positive energy given by the plant. Tulsi is also known as Vishnu priya (dear to Lord Vishnu) and Bhutagni, the demon destroyer.

There are many legends in various regions of India as to the origin of the Tulsi. The common legend among some of the regions is that the sacred Tulsi plant came out of the blessings of Lord Vishnu during the churning of the ocean.

More than anything else, Tulsi is a symbol of purity. And Tulsi leaves and plants kept at the entrance of the home not only purifies the air entering the home, it also keeps away negative energy.

( To be continued)

Towards understanding Hindu Culture, rituals and traditions…..PART FIVE

Ringing in Divinity…..

The Genesis of the Bible (Old Testament)  starts thus : “In the beginning was the word, and the word was GOD. And God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. In another chapter of the Bible, (John 1:1) it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”

Can a word be God? Or is there a deeper meaning to it? Parallel studies of Hindu and Christian thoughts provide fascinating insights.

In the Hindu Trinity of Om – Tat – Sat, OM is the sound of Pranava, the basis of all creation. The reason why a Hindu says “OM” and rings the bell is deeply connected with the concept of the sound of Pranava. Pranava Mantram, or “OM” (There are a number of variations of Om – Aum, Ohm, Ameen, Amen, Hum, etc ) The ringing of the bell in the temple is symbolic as well as cleansing – the ringing of the bell creates a vibration that is very beneficial to some of the invisible chakras in the body. There are some temples where the ringing of the bell signifies something. As someone said, asking permission to enter the temple. By ringing the bell, the invisible beings in a temple are informed of our arrival, says another school of thought.

The resonance of the bell ring corresponds with Om, the Pranava. It is an auspicious sound that brings in beneficial vibrational changes. One of the more popular reasons ascribed by the elderly about the ringing of the bell, blowing of the conch, etc during religious festivals and functions is because these auspicious sound vibrations can minimize the other noises, some of which can be considered inauspicious. For example, the concept of “Getti Melam” in marriages at the precise moment of the tying of the thali appeals more to the concept of drowning out irrelevant or any other inauspicious noises. (for example, a curse by someone who is present at the wedding but who is not blessing the event!)

The ringing of the bell also is explained by slokas that say that the ringing of the bell drives out the evil forces from within one’s self, invoking divinity within.

Apart from the bell and the conch, various other instruments are used to produce various sounds for various occasions. All these different sounds produce different vibrations. For example, there is a deep esoteric significance to the use of drums in various temple festivals, including weddings. The sound of drums produce a vibration that is very beneficial to the root chakra.

(To be continued)