Thulasi has so many different spellings to it. I prefer to spell it as the way I say it!
I remember when I was around 5 years old, I used to visit my grandparents, thatha (grand dad) and paati (granny). I have a vivid memory of this house that they stayed in. At that time they used to live in Mudikondan. Their house was that olden day brahmins styled house (agrahara veedu), almost a square or rectangle shape with an open in the centre and rooms were surrounding the open area in the middle, pillars give the border and the frame of the open area. There used to be a varandah outside the house, whereby my paati used to sit outside on a lazy wooden chair and read newspapers with her friends or play board games drawn by a white chalk on the ground, Tamarind seeds as pieces in the game and 2 golden dice (thayakattai). I remember my thatha was so against her socialising behaviour of a typical Indian house wife.
Coming back to the houses, the backyard (kolaippuram) contained the washrooms and bathing area with a well with borehole water. I remember the well was so deep and dark and I was too afraid to take a peep inside. It would cointain a bucket with a pulley system.
The house would look somewhat like this from the outside with the Varandah.
The open area in the middle with the rooms surrounding it. People used to wash their dishes and clothes in this area. I remember buying fireworks for Deepavali festival and lighting it in this area. I would love to invent a time machine just to go back to those ages. It was some magical moments.
The open area inside the house as seen above usually contains the Thulasi Maadam (Tulsi tree). We used to wake up early morning to the Supbrapatham (slokams-manthras) and the smell of Bru coffee. Bath in the well water. My paati used to boil hot water for me from a firewood stove outside. Bath me and dress me up.
We used to pray around this Thulasi tree and have breakfast and go to temple. She used to have 2 calves and a cow that she used to milk. This was my daily morning activity with my granny during my holidays. I used to get upset when I had to go back to the city for schooling. My holidays with my grandparents used to be fun. I have to mention this, my paati was a very hardworking lady and loving person whom I miss dearly. The above photo shows a Thulasi maadam and an old lady praying. This is how it was.
“The Tulasi Maadam as it is called is a sacred spot in the house where the Tulsi plant is kept in a rectangular pot like structure. The plant is considered sacred and is worshiped with pujas and rituals performed.
Ocimum tenuiflorum, Holy Basil (also tulsi, tulasī), is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae which is native throughout the Old World tropics and widespread as a cultivated plant and an escaped weed.
Tulsi is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely known across South Asia as a medicinal plant and an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda, and has an important role within the tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving tulsi plants or leaves.” – Wikipedia
People used to pray two things in those days and even now.This practice looks very weird from the outside world. The cow and the Thulasi tree. The cow was prayed as it serves the purpose of a mother, giving milk and the Thulasi tree has medicinal values that the doctors of that age couldn’t cure with their chemical medicines. That is why Ayurvedam (herbal medication) is known to have one of the best medicinal value of all times.
I used to get sick just by standing in the rain for 2 minutes. My immune system was so weak then. My paati used to make Thulasi Kashaayam. Kashaayam is a mixture or syrup that will make you feel better as soon as you drink it and take a nap. Paati used to add honey to adjust to my taste. This drink is made up of herbs and spices mostly Thulasi and black pepper. My paati used to grind it with a amikkal (stone). They used 2 stones to grind the leaves to make it into a paste. In those days they never had the facilities of having a grinder or mixie. They wouldn’t even have electricity in the night time. They used paraffin lamps and candles.
You might ask what kind of medicinal values does this green leaf contain????
Extracts from Thulasi are used in traditional Ayurvedic medicines for common colds, headaches, stomach problems and even heart problems. Preparations of Thulasi are often made into a tea or a powder or even just eaten as fresh leaves along with ghee, clarified butter. It is known to control the diabetes, keep the air clean and it protects the house’s atmosphere.
Even though I live so far away from India, I still have a Thulasi tree in my backyard. However I don’t pray it everyday, which I feel guilty of. I think about it and water it.