Do you know these facts about Goa's ‘tulsi vrindavan’?

Goa’s Hindu community celebrates ‘Vhadli Diwali’ or ‘Tulsi Lagna’ 12 days after Diwali, and the focal point of this occasion is the ‘tulsi vrindavan’
The 'tulsi vrindavan' (left) and 'tulsi' plant (right) is the focal point of the ‘Tulsi Lagna’ festival
The 'tulsi vrindavan' (left) and 'tulsi' plant (right) is the focal point of the ‘Tulsi Lagna’ festivalGomantak Times

Diwali may be over, but the festive season for Goa’s Hindus certainly isn’t! In Goa, as soon as the festival Diwali ends, Goan Hindu homes start preparing for another festival, which is literally ‘bigger’ than Diwali and it is termed as Vhadli Diwali.

In other words, it is the Tulsi Lagna ceremony, which is usually held 12 days after Diwali in the front yard of homes. It is a wedding ceremony, held between Lord Vishnu and the holy basil plant, or tulsi (Ocimum sanctum). As this plant is grown in the front yard of homes, the ‘ceremony’ is held here.

The 'tulsi vrindavan' (left) and 'tulsi' plant (right) is the focal point of the ‘Tulsi Lagna’ festival
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ABOUT THE CELEBRATIONS

The festivities begin a few days earlier by cleaning and painting the tulsi vrindavan, or the decorative concrete planter, in which the tulsi plant grows. Traditionally, it was made of mud, and if you go to remote corners of Goa, you will still find these mud planters.

This tulsi vrindavan is then decorated with the branches of various trees such as:

  • tamarind (Tamarindus indica), which represents the bridesmaid or dhedi

  • sugarcane, which represents the best man or dhedo

  • amla or Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica)

  • a stick of jino (Leea indica) that represents the bridegroom. This is a forest species and it is actually a shrub or a small tree which is laden with berries. It has medicinal properties and is used by the local communities.

In some villages of Goa, such as Canacona, the whole vrindavan is decorated with sheaths of banana pseudostem or kelichi pathi as they are locally known.

A typical 'tulsi' planter decorated during 'Tulsi Lagna' ceremony
A typical 'tulsi' planter decorated during 'Tulsi Lagna' ceremonyPIC COURTESY: Arti Das

This festival, in many ways, is a celebration of the tulsi plant. As we are all aware, it is believed to be medicinal. The tea made from its leaves has a calming effect on our bodies. It is part of many homemade concoctions that helps to get rid of the common cold, etc.

The tulsi has a special relationship with the women of the household. For a married woman, a day in a typical Hindu village home starts by watering and circumnavigating this plant. Then at dusk, a lamp is lit and placed on the planter.

WHAT IS THE TULSI VRINDAVAN?

One may wonder why only this plant is so special or there are rituals focusing on the tulsi vrindavan. There are many stories in Hindu mythology related to the tulsi plant.

And, in some folk traditions the plant and the planter made of mud is considered as a symbol of female fertility. The book (in Marathi) titled Gudhbandh, by researcher and writer, Dr Jayanti Naik, elaborates on this concept.

In the chapter on the tulsi plant, Naik states, “In my opinion, in Goa and Maharashtra, the tulsi plant which we usually see in the front yard of people’s homes, that is considered as one of the symbols of the mother goddess, is actually a representation of yoni (female genital). It is evident when we come across the traditional tulsi planters, which were commonly seen around 30 to 40 years ago in many villages of Goa.”

Traditionally, a 'tulsi' planter was made of mud
Traditionally, a 'tulsi' planter was made of mudPIC COURTESY: Arti Das

She further explains this while talking about the design of tulsi planters, which are traditionally made of mud. Dr Naik mentions that the hollow in the centre of the planter, where the plant is placed, is locally known as pirnoli or pindi. Pindi is the place where the womb gets formed, in the uterus.

Along with this, the outer part of the planter has two spherical shaped balls on all four sides of the planter. Dr Naik mentions that this symbolises a woman’s breasts and it is placed on all four sides as to get visibility on four sides.

According to Dr Naik, this is the original design of the mud tulsi planter. But, with the passage of time, the shape has changed, and the meaning behind it, too. In the book, Naik also quotes a villager from the Kazur village, in Quepem, where he mentioned that tulsi is a goddess, but she is also a woman. So, being a woman, she will also have the organs which a woman has. And, that’s why there is an emphasis on breasts.

Naik also states that people believe that this planter is complete only when the tulsi plant is planted in it. “There is a hidden meaning behind this, too. The tree is also a symbol of fertility, creation, etc.”

Thus, when we look at the tulsi vrindavan minutely, it is a celebration of female fertility, creation and the woman, in general.

The 'tulsi vrindavan' (left) and 'tulsi' plant (right) is the focal point of the ‘Tulsi Lagna’ festival
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