I’ve always felt that many Hindu rituals are simply good eco-conservation practices. In the old days, Hindus regarded snakes, mice and monkeys as God’s incarnation. So even today, despite the menace these creatures can be, we’ve learnt to love them or at the very least, tolerate them. The early morning practice of rice flour kolams in front of our homes, which attracted sparrows and insects, was another such eco-sensitive tradition. Many of these traditions are fast going out of fashion. Yet, one of them is very much alive: the tradition of worshiping the Tulsi or Holy Basil plant. Though I am not a Tulsi worshiper myself, I still revere it for its amazing healing properties.
Here is my Tulsi plant. It is the Krishna Tulsi variety with dark, purplish leaves.
Here is another picture of the same species. Owing to its bright green leaves, you might assume it is the Rama Tulsi.
Would you believe it, if I told you that in truth, both plants belong to exactly the same species and are exactly the same age. In fact, both plants are from the same batch of seeds that I germinated. The first plant sits in the sun. The second one, which I offered as a seedling to a neighbor, sits in the shade. This is a remarkable example of how the duration of sunshine can affect a plant’s appearance and growth so markedly. My neighbor, however, suspects that I’m treating my plant with some secret potion!
|Krishna Tulsi: In the Shade|
|The Real "Rama Tulsi"|
Ayurveda attributes so many curative properties to Tulsi. So I’m not surprised when Indians take it to ward off all kinds of ailments: colds, swine flu, stress, headaches, stomach aches, skin infections, etc, etc. But I was surprised to hear an Iranian restaurateur strongly recommending Tulsi seeds for health reasons. She revealed this as she offered us a most delightful drink of guava juice sprinkled with plenty of tulsi seeds soaked in barley water.
Speaking of Basil, here is a picture of my Sweet Basil. Eight out of Ten omelets in my house are made with sweet basil, so you can imagine how much I love this herb. As for homemade pizzas and pasta, I can't imagine them without this herb.
Chennai's climate is absolutely ideal for Basil. Other than having to pinch off its flowers (to encourage branching), there’s nothing I really need to do to keep my Basil happy and growing.