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THE PLANT IN ORISSAN FOLKLORE
 
The richest source of folklore is mythology. The intercourse between the myth and the folktale is always occurring. In course of retelling of tales, or recitation of oral songs, which have used the mythological materials, the myth loses much of its divinity and becomes a legend. The God or Goddess of the Puran is more humanized. This has happened in case of Brundabati of mythological fame. In local legends she is called Brundabati. Tulasa or Tulasi who grants children to the childless, wealth to the needy and opens the gates of heaven to the pious.

Worship of the Tulasi

Tulasi is found before every Hindu dwelling or Vishnu temple in India and is the most sacred of all plants. It is the symbol of Brundabati, the wife of the demon, Jalandhara. Here purity and chastity sustained the life of her husband who had no dharma of his own to stand on. Krushna had to outrage her modesty n the guise of her husband and then could kill him. Brundabati came to know this fact and cursed Krushna with the following words—

“I shall be born in the form of the sacred Tulasi plant and you will have to bear my leaves on your head for the wrong you have done to me.”

Krushna who was now full of remorse, granted her desire and thus paid the highest regard to the chastity of woman. The leaves of the basil plant were more acceptable to him than any another beautiful flower.

Brundabati is now found in front of many of the Oriya homes in form of a stone statue of typical Oriya woman with all her traditional ornaments and she hold on her head the pot carrying the basil plan. Pious old men and women water the plant after their bath every day, sip a little water from its root, decorate their forhead with a bit of its sacred clay. To eat or drink anything before the worship is considered a sin. Every evening a candle (prepared out of torn cloth and soaked with oil) is lit on the chawra (pavement) of the plant by the house-wife who bows down and expresses her sorrows in whispering voice and seeks remedy.

Ganges, the sacred river is said to be at its root. Brahma, the creator, lives on its branches. Other gods and goddesses reside on its sacred leaves. Tulasi is the meeting point of the heaven and the earth. Virgins cleans the pavement every morning, draw beautiful designs of gods and goddesses, saints and the feet of lakshmi, with rice paint or powder and believe that this service will please Brundabati who will bless them with suitable husbands.

Widows of the village resort to her worship in Kartik, (October-November) the most sacred month of the year for them. They take their bath in early morning, put on a garland of beads, made out of wood of the basil plant, decorate the Tulasi with flowers and its root with designs of conch, wheel, club and lotus, utter hulu sounds, give offerings and sing the following song of prayer :-
O Brundabati, I bow down
And salute at your feet hundred times
Give me good intellect and knowledge
Give me shelter at your feet in heaven after death
I salute you hundred tmes.

Brundabati is the presiding deity of Jahniossa (name of a fast) observed by virgins only. Some tales depict the glory and whimsical nature of the goddess. She compels all virgins to observe the fast and punishes those who stand on the way of her whorship. Jambubati’s son was bitten by a snake, for she laughed at a devotee and was restored to life after her due prayer and worship. The five sons of Sukanti were concealed in the hollow of a tree for she was against the worship of this goddess. They were restored to her after due worship. The goddess threatened a lady in dream that if her daughter would not observe the fast, all her sons would be killed within a week.

A girl’s hand rotted and fell piece by piece, because she plucked a Jahni (luffa acutangula), a forbidden fruit for virgine in the month. She removed after worship. The traditional nobleness and pristine purity of her character is found to be absent. She does not pardon the slightest offence and takes revenge upon any delinquent till her submission.

Virgins on the full moon day of Aswin (Oct-Nov.) worship the moon at the root of Tulasi. They sing the beauty and glory of the moon and display their skill in puchi which is an inter-mixture of dance and play.

So Brundabati or the basil plant is considered as the representative of all local deities. She may be compared to a sacrificial fire. Ghee is poured upon the fire and the god whose name is invoked at the time of offering, receives it in heaven. Similarly offering given at the root of Tulasi is received by the god or goddess whose name is invoked.

Brahmins beg pardon of the goddess for the offence of plucking the leaves of basil plant. They do it after due prayer. No one is permitted to touch its leaves at night. It is said that all sorts of diseases have their abode on its leaves after the dark. This is to frighten the people who may not obey the rule and carelessly tear away its leaves.

 
 
 
 
 
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