A fortnight after the grand Diwali celebration is what the Hindu calendar describes as the Tulsi Vivah. The deities, who have gone into hibernation during the shraadh period, re-emerge to break the mourning period post Diwali. It is after the deity is wedded to the herbal plant that the muhurat is considered auspicious for mortal wedding ceremonies.
There is an interesting story about how this ceremony came to be observed. It is said that Lord Krishna, one day, spotted a beautiful woman Vranda and in his usual prankster style, teased her. A spiritual soul of higher attainment, Vranda was offended by
overture and cursed him to turn into a stone till that time she touched him and
transformed him to his original avatar.
In her next birth, says the fable, Vranda was born as Tulsi plant and while being sown into the soil touched upon the shaligram stone that transformed it into Lord Krishna. Repentant of his misdeed, Lord Krishna proposed marriage to Tulsi and they lived happily ever after.
The only example I can think of a similar situation in Hindi films is of a gangster (Anil Kapoor) raping a chaste girl Juhi Chawla in Benaam Badshah. Later guilty of his conduct, he offers to marry the rape victim and gradually the two learn to love and respect each other.
Some religious books have a contradictory version of the Tulsi vivah story. According to these, Vranda spotted the alluring
and was mesmerised by his beauty. But coming from a humble origin, she did not
muster courage to admit her attraction and died without expressing herself. To
salvage her from her suffering, she was re-born as an herbal plant that comes
into contact with the shaligram
stone. The Lord is overwhelmed by her simplicity and devotion and Tulsi
acquires a special place in his heart.
Raaj Kumar playing the nawab in Lal Patthar is drawn to the second lady of the palace for her purity and devotion. The only difference being that while Lord Krishna to establish Tulsi’s position amongst his earlier consorts Rukmini and Satyabhama, pledged that no meal offered to him would be complete without a sprinkle of Tulsi leaves, Raj Kumar is consumed with envy and plots a murder of his wife (Rakhee) and her ‘assumed’ lover (Vinod Mehra).
From the B&W films of Meena Kumari right up to Smriti Irani’s incarnation of Tulsi in Ekta Kapoor’s Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Tulsi has been omnipresent in Hindi films with special song sequences ‘Jyoti kalash chhalke...’ (Bhabhi Ki Choodiyan) devoted to her virtues.
In the ’70s starrer Sanjog, there is an elaborate song sequence where Mala Sinha and Aroona Irani (both married to Amitabh Bachchan) recall mythological tales. It is said that
second wife Satyabhama once in an arrogant mood decided to weigh her husband in
gold but the scales did not swing. In response, Rukmini, Krishna’s
first wife, placed merely two leaves of Tulsi on the scale and the balance
tilted. It was Krishna’s way of telling his
wives that Tulsi occupies a place in his heart that nobody can take away.
In the ’80s Raj Khosla changed her interpretation from the pious to the pariah on the big screen forever. With just one film Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki where the director symbolised her as the ‘Other Woman’ in hero Goldie Anand’s life, the director dislocated her from
heart to the aangan. She was still someone the Lord (hero) loved but not
someone who could invade his private territory.
In almost all the films made on extra-marital relationships thereafter, the ‘Other Woman’ was always projected with character traits of Tulsi.
It is more than 25 years but the image has not altered. It will, some day, when some original filmmaker well-versed with Tulsi vivah tradition will redefine the custom and make a film that will return the plant back to where she belonged,