Traditions & Practices > Worshipping Nature

Worshipping Nature

The concept of nurturing the environment is deeply embedded in Indian thought. Innumerable ancient hymns in the Vedas decree that human happiness depends upon the well-being of the environment. Thinkers and sages possessed rare insight into nature's myriad secrets, qualities inherent in varieties of plants, trees and grasses and their interconnections. The antiquity of tree worship in India goes back thousands of years.

Some of the trees, plants and animals have achieved a sacred status through religious association, festive or divine significance.

The Peepal tree (Indian Fig Tree/Ficus religiosa) is found throughout India. In the scriptures, the Peepal is recognized as the tree of eternal life whose roots originate in heaven. Its branches spread on earth to bring munificence to mankind. It shelters bird life and offers a haven of safety to animals and human beings alike. The Peepal is also the mythical abode of spirits and ancestors. The Peepal leaf, when dried, becomes a tracery of veins and is often used for paintings or bookmarks.

The Peepal tree has acquired the status of sacredness since time immemorial on account of its utility and various stories and myths woven around it.

Tulsi:Plant of Devotion and Love
Tulsi plant is worshipped through- out India as a symbol of their love for Vishnu or Krishna. It also has great medicinal qualities and is said to purify the atmosphere around the home. The planter in which it is grown is very decorative and is called Vrindavan, the village where Krishna was brought up. Tulsi leaves are used on every festive day and during sacraments. Tulsi Vivaha or the wedding of Tulsi, is the official start of the winter wedding season in India.

Tulsi Vrindavan
Earlier Tulsi Vrindavan was made up of the clay available locally during religious ceremonies; it was plastered with the green colours cow dung. With changing economies, cement plaster, tiles and paints are used to decorate it. One feature common to all temples in Goa, regardless of their deity is a Tulsi Vrindavan. They are usually set to one side of the front entrance to the Mandap. The Vrindavans themselves vary from the majestic example to the elaborately tile-decorated pedestal. Before the arrival of Portuguese in Goa, the Tulsi Vrindavan was a simple clay or terracotta container. After the Portuguese arrived and conversion to Christianity began in earnest, the Vrindavan assumed the symbol of Goan Hindu identity and of ethnic pride. After the liberation, it became richer in its embellishments and is begun to be seen as a symbol of prestige. They are brightly painted in chemical based paints and strengthen with cement, fibre glass and stones.

On the occasions of Dhalo, Dhillo, and Katyo, the eco- feministic festivals of Goa, Tulsi Vrindavan has an immense place of gratitude. It is an integral part the Goan Hindus religious and cultural life.

Besides having the Tulsi Vrindavan in front of house, there is also a tradition of building Vrindavan by the family in the honour of a married woman who died before her husband's death. It serves as the memorial and is worshiped on various occasions.

Tulsi Vivaha
After the festival of Diwali, Goan people celebrate the wedding of the Tulsi from the Prabhodini Ekadashi of the Kartik as 'Dev Diwali'. The Tulsi plant symbolises the bride and she is wedded to lord Vishnu who is represented in the form of a well carved green stick of Gino shrub. Sugarcane, Amla, tamarind is used in this occasion. In some places a plant of Taikilo and in other places a plant of Tadmad along with its pods is decorated with the flowers of marigold and is planted in the Vrindavan. The Goan Hindus always prefer to organize marriage ceremonies only after the festival of Tulsi Vivah.

Worshiping Tulsi on 'Mahabishuv Sankranti'
Worshiping 'Tulsi' plant is one of the commonest traditional practices in the state, it is celebrated in a grand manner in Puri district of Odisha. During Mahabishuv Sankranti people used to hang a water pot with a small hole in the bottom, over the plant so that the tulsi plant will get enough water in these days. This practice used to continue for a month as the summer is at its peak. To save Tulsi plant from the burning sun, the practice has been synergized with the occasion. The occasion is also known as 'Pana Sankranti' in which the people throughout the state celebrate this occasion with the distribution of 'Pana' (sugary water with rich in different fruits, coconut, banana, etc.). This is believed to cater the water requirement of the body to resist the scorching sun during these periods.

Contributed by Rajendra Kerkar, Goa

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Mythology of the Peepal Tree in Goa

In Goa, the peepal tree occupies a great place of respect, and in some places it is worshipped as Peepaleshawar. In places like Asnora, Karaswada, Nanora of Bardez, the folk deity Rashtroli is worshipped in the form of the peepal tree. The holy, unseen spirit known as Khazaneshwar of Shivoli is associated with the peepal tree. There were also places named after the peepal trees of the locality like Peepalamol, Peepalkatta, Peepalaped and so on. The famous Datta Mandir of Sankhali has very old and giant peepal trees which add to the divinity and serenity of this temple complex. There are folk songs which have references to the peepal tree. In many villages of Goa, usually the peepal tree has a platform around it where people used to sit. It was believed that if a boy died before his thread ceremony, he would haunt the peepal tree. Because of such traditions and beliefs, the community never dared to cut this tree and thus the tree enjoyed total protection.

Worshipping Tulsi in Goa

Among, the Hindus in Goa, while performing the last rites, leaves of Tulsi are put in the mouth of dead, on the forehead and also in the ears. In order to express their gratitude, devotees prefer to offer the garlands of Tulsi leaves to Vishnu, Krishna and Pandurang. In rural Goa, the Hindu women always pray the Tulsi first and then prefer to go out of the house.