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sacred plant in the Hindu religion; it is consequently
found in or near almost every Hindu house throughout
India. Hindu poets say that it protects from misfortune,
and sanctifies and guides to heaven all who cultivate
it. The Brahmins hold it sacred to the gods Krishna
and Vishnu. The story goes that this plant is the trans-
formed nymph Tulasi, beloved of Krishna, and for this
reason near every Hindu house it is cultivated in pots,
or in brick or earthen pillars with hollows at the top
(brindavanam or brinda forest), in which earth is de-
posited. It is daily watered, and worshipped by all the
members of the family. Under favourable circumstances,
it grows to a considerable size, and furnishes a woody
stem large enough to make beads for the rosaries used by
Hindus, on which they count the number of recitations


of their deity's name." * Writing in the seventeenth
century, Vincenzo Maria t observes that " almost all
the Hindus . . . adore a plant like our Basilico
gentile, but of a more pungent odour . . . Every
one before his house has a little altar, girt with a wall
half an ell high, in the middle of which they erect certain
pedestals like little towers, and in these the shrub is
grown. They recite their prayers daily before it, with
repeated prostrations, sprinklings of water, etc. There
are also many of these maintained at the bathing-places,
and in the courts of the pagodas." The legend,
accounting for the sanctity of the tulsi, is told in the
Padma Purana.J From the union of the lightning that
flashed from the third eye of Siva with the ocean, a boy
was born, whom Brahmadev caught up, and to whom he
gave the name of Jalandhar. And to him Brahmadev
gave the boon that by no hand but Siva's could he perish.
Jalandhar grew up strong and tall, and conquered the
kings of the earth, and, in due time, married Vrinda (or
Brinda), the daughter of the demon Kalnemi. Narad-
muni, the son of Brahmadev, stirred up hatred against
Siva in Jalandhar, and they fought each other on the
slopes of Kailas. But even Siva could not prevail
against Jalandhar, so long as his wife Vrinda remained
chaste. So Vishnu, who had lived with her and Jalan-
dhar, and had learnt their secret, plotted her downfall.
One day, when she, sad at Jalandhar's absence, had
left her garden to walk in the waste beyond, two demons
met her and pursued her. She ran, with the demons
following, until she saw a Rishi, at whose feet she fell,

* Watt, Diet. Economic Products of India,
t Viaggio all' Indie orientali, 1672.

J See Note on the Tulsi Plant. Journ. Anthrop. Soc., Bombay, VIII, I,


and asked for shelter. The Rishi, with his magic, burnt
up the demons into thin ash. Vrinda* then asked for
news of her husband. At once, two apes laid before her
Jalandhar's head, feet, and hands. Vrinda, thinking that
he was dead, begged the Rishi to restore him to her.
The Rishi said that he would try, and in a moment he
and the corpse had disappeared, and Jalandhar stood
by her. She threw herself into his arms, and they
embraced each other. But, some days later, she learnt
that he with whom she was living was not her husband,
but Vishnu, who had taken his shape. She cursed
Vishnu, and foretold that, in a later Avatar, the two
demons who had frightened her would rob him of his
wife ; and that, to recover her, he would have to ask the
aid of the apes who had brought Jalandhar's head, feet,
and hands. Vrinda then threw herself into a burning
pit, and Jalandhar, once Vrinda's chastity had gone, fell a
prey to Siva's thunderbolts. Then the gods came forth
from their hiding place, and garlanded Siva. The
demons were driven back to hell, and men once more
passed under the tyranny of the gods. But Vishnu came
not back from Vrinda's palace, and those who sought him
found him mad from grief, rolling in her ashes. Then
Parvati, to break the charm of Vrinda's beauty, planted
in her ashes three seeds. And they grew into three
plants, the tulsi, the avali, and the malti. By the growth
of these seeds, Vishnu was released from Vrinda's
charm. Therefore he loved them all, but chiefly the
tulsi plant, which, as he said, was Vrinda's very self.
In the seventh incarnation, the two demons, who had
frightened Vrindan, became Ravan and his brother
Kumbhakarna, and they bore away Sita to Lanka. To
recover her, Ramchandra had to implore the help of
the two apes who had brought her Jalandhar's head and



hands, and in this incarnation they became Hanuman
and his warriors. But, in the eighth incarnation, which
was that of Krishna, the tulsi plant took the form of a
woman Radha, and wedded the gay and warlike lord of

The Shodasopachara, or sixteen acts of homage, are
next performed in due order, viz.

1. Avahana, or invocation of the gods.

2. Asanam, or seat.

3. Padhya, or water for washing the feet.

4. Arghya, or oblation of rice or water.

5. Achamanam, or water for sipping.

6. Snanam, or the bath.

7. Vastra, or clothing of tulsi leaves.

8. Upavastra, or upper clothing of tulsi leaves.

9. Gandha, or sandal paste.

10. Pushpa, or flowers.

11. 12. Dhupa and Dhipa, or incense and light.

13. Naivedya, or offering of food.

14. Pradakshina, or circumambulation.

15. Mantrapushpa, or throwing flowers.

1 6. Namaskara, or salutation by prostration.

While the five stones already referred to are bathed
by pouring water from a conch shell, the Purusha
Suktha, or hymn of the Rig Veda, is repeated. This
runs as follows : " Purusha has thousands of heads,
thousands of arms, thousands of eyes, and thousands
of feet. On every side enveloping the earth, he
transcended this mere space of ten fingers. Purusha
himself is this whole (universe) ; whatever has been, and
whatever shall be. He is also the lord of immortality,
since through food he expands. Such is his greatness,
and Purusha is superior to this. All existing things are
a quarter of him, and that which is immortal in the sky
is three quarters of him. With three quarters Purusha
mounted upwards. A quarter of him was again


produced below. He then became diffused everywhere
among things, animate and inanimate. From him Viraj
was born, and from Viraj Purusha. As soon as born, he
extended beyond the earth, both behind and before.
When the gods offered up Purusha as a sacrifice, the
spring was its clarified butter (ghi), summer its fuel, and
the autumn the oblation. This victim, Purusha born in
the beginning, they consecrated on the sacrificial grass.
With him as their offering, the Gods, Sadhyas, and
Rishis sacrificed. From that universal oblations were
produced curds and clarified butter. He, Purusha,
formed the animals which are subject to the power of
the air (Vayavya), both wild and tame. From that
universal sacrifice sprang the hymns called Rik and
Saman, the Metres, and the Yajus. From it were
produced horses, and all animals with two rows of teeth,
cows, goats, and sheep. When they divided Purusha,
into how many parts did they distribute him ? What
was his mouth ? What were his arms ? What were
called his thighs and feet ? The Brahman was his
mouth ; the Rajanya became his arms ; the Vaisya was
his thighs ; the Sudra sprang from his feet. The moon
was produced from his soul ; the sun from his eye ; Indra
and Agni from his mouth ; Vayu from his breath. From
his navel came the atmosphere ; from his head arose
the sky ; from his feet came the earth ; from his ears the
four quarters ; so they formed the worlds. When the
gods, in performing their sacrifice, bound Purusha as a
victim, there were seven pieces of wood laid for him
round the fire, and thrice seven pieces of fuel employed.
With sacrifice the gods worshipped the sacrifice. These
were the primaeval rites. These great beings attained
to the heaven, where the Gods, the ancient Sadhyas,


Some Smarthas, e.g., the Brahacharnams, are more
Saivite than other sections of Tamil-speaking Brahmans.
During worship, they wear round the neck rudraksha
(El&ocarpus Ganitrus) beads, and place on their head a
lingam made thereof. In connection with the rudraksha,
the legend runs that Siva or Kalagni Rudra, while
engaged in Tripura Samhara, opened his third eye, which
led to the destruction of the three cities, of which
Rakshasas or Asuras had taken the form. From this eye
liquid is said to have trickled on the ground, and from this
arose the rudraksha tree. The mere mention of the word
rudraksha is believed to secure religious merit, which
may be said to be equivalent to the merit obtained by
the gift of ten cows to Brahmans. Rudraksha beads are
valued according to the number of lobes (or faces, as they
are called), which are ordinarily five in number. A bead
with six lobes is said to be very good, and one with
two lobes, called Gauri Sankara rudraksha, is specially
valued. Dikshitar Brahmans, and Pandaram priests of
the higher order, wear a two-lobed bead mounted in
gold. In a manuscript entitled Rudrakshopanishad, it is
stated that a good rudraksha bead, when rubbed with
water, should colour the water yellow. The Madhvas
worship in the same way as Smarthas, but the objects of
worship are the salagrama stone, and images of Hanu-
man and Adi Sesha. Food offered to Adi Sesha,
Lakshmi, and Hanuman, is not eaten, but thrown away.
The Madhvas attach great importance to their spiritual
guru, who is first worshipped by a worshipper. Some
keep a brindavanam, representing the grave of their
guru, along with a salagrama stone, which is worshipped
at the close of the Devata puja. Sri Vaishnavas keep
for domestic worship only salagrama stones. Like the
Madhvas, they are scrupulous as to the worship of their



gurus (acharyas), without whose intervention they believe
that they cannot obtain beatitude. Hence Sri Vaishna-
vites insist upon the Samasrayanam ceremony. After
the Sandhya service and Brahma yagna, the guru is
worshipped. All orthodox Vaishnavas keep with them
a silk cloth bearing the impressions of the feet of their
Acharya, an abhayastha or impression of the hand of
Vishnu in sandal paste, a few necklaces of silk thread
(pavitram), and a bit of the bark of the tamarind tree
growing at the temple at Alvartirunagiri in the Tinne-
velly district. The worshipper puts on his head the
silk cloth, and round his neck the silk necklaces, and,
if available, a necklace of Nelumbium (sacred lotus)
seeds. After saluting the abhayastha by pressing it
to his eyes, he repeats the prayer of his Acharya, and
proceeds to the Devatarchana, which consists in the
performance of the sixteen upacharas already described.
The salagrama stone is bathed, and the Purusha Suktha

The daily observances are brought to a close by the
performance of the Vaisvadeva ceremony, or offering to
Vaisvadevas (all the gods). This consists -in offering-
cooked rice, etc., to all the gods. , Some regard this as
a sort of expiatory ceremony, to wipe out the sin which
may have accidentally been committed by killing small
animals in the process of cooking food.

The male members of a family take their meals
apart from the females. The food is served on platters
made of the leaves of the banyan (Ficits bengalensis),
Butea f rondo sa, Baukinia, or plantain. Amongst Smar-
thas and Madhvas, various vegetable preparations are
served first, and rice last, whereas, amongst the Sri
Vaishnavas, especially Vadagalais, rice is served first.
Before commencing to eat, a little water (tirtham), in









which a sfdagrama stone has been bathed, is poured
into the palms of those who are about to partake of
the meal. They drink the water simultaneously, saying
" Amartopastaranamasi." They then put a few hand-
fuls of rice into their mouths, repeating some mantras
" Pranayasvaha, Udanayasvaha, Somanayasvaha," etc.
At the end of the meal, all are served with a little water,
which they sip, saying " Amartapithanamasi." They
then rise together.

In connection with the salagrama stone, which has
been referred to several times, the following interesting
account thereof* may be quoted : " Salagrams are fossil
cephalopods (ammonites), and are found chiefly in the
bed of the Gandak river, a mountain torrent which,
rising in the lofty mountains of Nepal, flows into the
Ganges at Salagrami, a village from which they take
their name, and which is not far from the sacred city of
Benares. In appearance they are small black shiny
pebbles of various shapes, usually round or oval, with
a peculiar natural hole in them. They have certain
marks to be described later, and are often flecked and
inlaid with gold [or pyrites]. The name salagram is
of Sanskrit derivation, from sara chakra, the weapon of
Vishnu, and grava, a stone ; the chakra or chakram
being represented on the stone by queer spiral lines,
popularly believed to be engraved thereon at the request
of Vishnu by the creator Brahma, who, in the form of a
worm, bores the holes known as vadanas, and traces the
spiral coil that gives the stone its name. There is a
curious legend connected with their origin. In ancient
times there lived a certain dancing-girl, the most beauti-
ful that had ever been created, so beautiful indeed that

* Madras Mail, 1906.


it was impossible to find a suitable consort for her.
The girl, in despair at her loveliness, hid herself in
the mountains, in the far away Himalayas, and there
spent several years in prayer, till at last Vishnu appeared
before her, and asked what she wanted. She begged
him to tell her how it was that the great creator Brahma,
who had made her so beautiful, had not created a
male consort for her of similar perfect form. Then
she looked on Vishnu, and asked the god to kiss her.
Vishnu could not comply with her request as she was a
dancing-girl, and of low caste, but promised by his virtue
that she should be reincarnated in the Himalayas in the
form of a river, which should bear the name Gandaki,
and that he would be in the river as her eternal con-
sort in the shape of a salagram. Thereupon the river
Gandaki rose from the Himalayas, and salagrams were
found in it. How the true virtue of the salagram was
discovered is another strange little fable. A poor boy
of the Kshatriya or warrior class once found one when
playing by the river side. He soon discovered that
when he had it in his hand, or secreted in his mouth,
or about his person, his luck was so extraordinary
at marbles or whatever game he played, that he always
won. At last he so excelled in all he undertook that he
rose to be a great king. Finally Vishnu himself came to
fetch him, and bore him away in a cloud. The mystic
river Gandaki is within the jurisdiction of the Maharaja
of Nepal, and is zealously guarded on both banks, while
the four special places where the sacred stones are
mostly picked up are leased out under certain conditions,
the most important being that all true salagrams found
are to be submitted to the Maharaja. These are then
tested, the selected ones retained, and the others returned
to the lessee. The first test of the salagrams to prove


if they are genuine is very simple, but later they are put
through other ordeals to try their supernatural powers.
Each stone, as it is discovered, is struck on all sides
with a small hammer, or, in some cases, is merely
knocked with the finger. This causes the soft powdery
part, produced by the boring of the worm, to fall in and
disclose the vadana or hole, which may, in the more
valuable salagrams, contain gold or a precious gem.
In addition to the real stone with chakram and vadana
formed by natural causes, there are found in many
mountain streams round black pebbles resembling the
true salagram in colour, shape, and size, but lacking the
chakram and vadana. These are collected by Bairagis,
or holy mendicants, who bore imitation vadanas in them,
and, tracing false chakrams in balapa or slate stone,
paste them on the pebbles. So skilfully is this fraud
perpetrated that it is only after years of use and per-
petual washing at the daily puja that in time the tracery
wears away, and detection becomes possible. There
are over eighteen known and different kinds of true
salagrams, the initial value of which varies according
to the shape and markings of the stone. The price
of any one salagram may be so enhanced after the
further tests have been applied, that even a lakh of
rupees (Rs. 1,00,000) will fail to purchase it ; and, should
experience prove the stone a lucky one, nothing will, as
a rule, induce the fortunate owner to part with it. The
three shapes of salagrams most highly prized are known
as the Vishnu salagram, the Lakshmi Narasimha sala-
gram, and the Mutchya Murti salagram. The first has
a chakram on it the shape of a garland, and bears marks
known as the shenka (conch) gada padma, or the
weapons of Vishnu, and is peculiar to that god. The
second has two chakrams on the left of the vadana, and


has dots or specks all over it. This stone, if properly
worshipped, is believed to ensure to its owner prosperity
and eternal life. The third, the Mutchya Murti, is a
long-shaped flat stone with a vadana that gives it a
resemblance to the face of a fish. It bears two chakrams,
one inside and one outside the vadana, and also has
specks and dots on it in the shape of a shoe. There
are four or five varieties of this species, and it also,
if duly worshipped, will infallibly enrich its possessor.
One salagram there is which has no vadana, and is
known as the ugra chakra salagram. It is quite round
with two chakrams, but it is not a particularly safe
one to possess, and is described as a ' furious salagrama,'
for, if not worshipped with sufficient ardour, it will
resent the neglect, and ruin the owner. The first thing
to do on obtaining a salagram is to find out whether or
not it is a lucky stone, for a stone that will bring luck to
one owner may mean ruin for another. The tests are
various ; a favourite one is to place the salagram with
its exact weight of rice together in one place for the
night. If the rice has increased in the morning (and, in
some cases, my informant assures me, it will be found to
have doubled in quantity), then the stone is one to
be regarded by its lucky holder as priceless, and on no
account to be parted with. If, on the other hand, the
rice measures the same, or dreadful omen has even
become less, then let the house be rid of it as early as
possible. If no purchaser can be found, make a virtue
of necessity, and send it as a present to the nearest
temple or mutt (religious institution), where the Gurus
know how to appease the wrath of the Deity with daily
offerings of fruits and flowers. A salagram will never
bring any luck if its possession is acquired by fraud or
force. The story runs that once a Brahman, finding


one with a Mahomedan butcher, obtained it by theft.
The luckless man speedily rued the day of his time, for,
from that time onwards, nothing prospered, and he
ended his days a destitute pauper. Again, possession of
them without worship is believed by all Hindus to be
most unlucky, and, as none but Brahmans can perform
the worship, none but Brahmans will retain the stones
in their keeping. For an orthodox Brahman household,
the ownership of three or more stones is an absolute
necessity. These must be duly worshipped and washed
with water, and the water drunk as tirtha, and sacrifice
of boiled rice and other food must be daily performed.
When this is done, speedy success in all the business of
life will fall to the lot of the inmates of the house, but
otherwise ruin and disgrace await them."

In some temples, the Mula Vigraha, or idol fixed
in the inner sanctuary, is decorated with a necklace of
salagrama stones. For example, at Tirupati the god is
thus decorated.

The following incident in connection with a salagrama
stone is narrated by Yule and Burnell * : " In May,
1883, a salagrama was the ostensible cause of great
popular excitement among the Hindus of Calcutta.
During the proceedings in a family suit before the High
Court, a question arose regarding the identity of a
salagrama, regarded as a household god. Counsel on
both sides suggested that the thing should be brought
into court. Mr. Justice Morris hesitated to give this
order till he had taken advice. The attorneys on both
sides, Hindus, said there could be no objection ; the
Court interpreter, a high-caste Brahman, said it could
not be brought into Court because of the coir matting,



but it might with perfect propriety be brought into
the corridor for inspection ; which was done. This took
place during the excitement about the ' Ilbert Bill, 1
giving natives magisterial authority in the provinces
over Europeans ; and there followed most violent and
offensive articles in several native newspapers reviling
Mr. Justice Morris, who was believed to be hostile to
the Bill. The Editor of the Bengallee newspaper, an
educated man, and formerly a member of the Covenanted
Civil Service, the author of one of the most unscrupu-
lous and violent articles, was summoned for contempt
of court. He made an apology and complete retracta-
tion, but was sentenced to two months' imprisonment."

The sacred chank, conch, or sankhu, which has been
referred to in connection with ceremonial observance,
is the shell of the gastropod mollusc Turbinella rapa.
This is secured, in Southern India, by divers from
Tuticorin in the vicinity of the pearl banks. The chank
shell, which one sees suspended on the forehead and
round the neck of bullocks, is not only used by Hindus
for offering libations, and as a musical instrument in
temples, but is also cut into armlets, bracelets, and
other ornaments. Writing in the sixteenth century,
Garcia says: "This chanco is a ware for the Bengal
trade, and formerly produced more profit than now . .
. and there was formerly a custom in Bengal that
no virgin in honour and esteem could be corrupted unless
it were by placing bracelets of chanco on her arms ;
but, since the Patans came in, this usage has more or
less ceased." " The conch shell," Captain C. R. Day
writes,* " is not in secular use as a musical instrument,
but is found in every temple, and is sounded during

* Music and Musical Instruments of Southern India and the Deccan, 1891.


religious ceremonials, in processions, and before the
shrines of Hindu deities. In Southern India, the sankhu
is employed in the ministration of a class of temple
servers called Dasari. No tune, so to speak, can of
course be played upon it, but still the tone is capable of
much modulation by the lips, and its clear mellow notes
are not without a certain charm. A rather striking
effect is produced when it is used in the temple ritual as a
sort of rhythmical accompaniment, when it plays the part
of kannagolu or talavinyasa." In a petition from two
natives of the city of Madras in 1734, in connection with
the expenses for erecting a town called Chintadrepettah,
the following occurs * : " Expended towards digging a
foundation, where chanks was buried with accustomary
ceremonies." A right-handed chank (i.e., one which has
its spiral opening to the right), which was found off the
coast of Ceylon at Jaffna in 1887, was sold for Rs. 700.
Such a chank is said to have been sometimes priced at a
lakh of rupees ; and, writing in 1813, Milburn says* that
a chank opening to the right hand is greatly valued, and
always sells for its weight in gold. Further, Baldaeus
narrates the legend that Garroude flew in all haste to
Brahma, and brought to Kistna the chianko or kinkhorn
twisted to the right. The chank appears as a symbol
on coins of the Chalukyan and Pandyan dynasties of
Southern India, and on the modern coins of the Maha-
rajas of Travancore.

Temple worship is entirely based on Agamas. As
Brahmans take part only in the worship of Siva and.
Vishnu, temples dedicated to these gods are largely
frequented by them. The duties connected with the
actual worship of the idol are carried out by Gurukkals

* Oriental Commerce.


in Siva temples, and by Pancharatra or Vaikhanasa
Archakas in Vishnu temples. The cooking of the food
for the daily offering is done by Brahmans called Par-
charakas. At the time of worship, some Brahmans,
called Adhyapakas, recite the Vedas. Some stanzas
from Thiruvaimozhi or Thevaram are also repeated, the
former by Brahmans at Vishnu temples, and the latter

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