As my pious biological mother reminded me, it’s now the time of Magha Gupt Navaratri. Tradition says that listening to the Tulsi Moksham story during Navaratri takes us closer to Moksha or liberation. So, I thought, why not narrate it here for everyone’s benefit. Offering eulogies to the Divine Mother, I now start this post of Tulsi Moksham:
Tulsi Moksham describes the Leela of the Divine Mother, Sri Devi. In this, the Divine Mother goes through various forms before merging into her Isht or beloved Divine, Hari. Through this tale, the Divine Mother enacted the story of our liberation. In the process, she also helped reform society in many ways.
The tale I’m presenting isn’t something you’ll discover by reading just one scripture. What I’m writing here is my years of scriptural study, research, and contemplation. My narrative is a collection of stories that I’ve gathered from Devi Bhagavatam, Swami’s narration of the tale, and many more accounts transferred by oral tradition.
Therefore, the story I write may not match what you know. Rather than reacting to the “correctness” of this, please revel in Devi’s Leela or Divine play. If you grasp the essence, it will help you in your spiritual evolution.
Vedavati – The Sarasvati
There was once a princess whom many considered the incarnation of Sri Devi herself. The Sarasvati aspect of Devi shone brightly in her as she became well-versed in the scriptures. Vedavati spent hours reading the scriptures and cherishing every moment of it.
One day, while reading the Puranic stories of Vishnu, she found that her heart had reached its destination. Vishnu would be her husband and nobody else, she decided. Her parents tried to thwart her plans by arguing that marriage to Vishnu couldn’t happen until she left the world.
“In that case, I’ll leave the world for Vishnu,” she declared. Wearing the clothes of a renunciate, she left home to do severe Tapasya or penance.
A few years later, the King of Lanka, Ravana, happened to see Vedavati. He was returning after paying obeisance to his beloved Lord Shiva. One look at Vedavati’s radiant face and Ravana’s heart stopped beating. He descended from his Pushpaka Vimana, the flying machine that he had gotten from his half-brother Kubera. With grace and dignity, he approached the woman he desired.
Ravana said, “Oh radiant one, I’m in love with you! Will you marry me?”
“No, I won’t marry anyone but Vishnu,” replied Vedavati.
“Union with the Divine is separate from marrying a human husband. Simultaneously, you can do both,” the Vedic scholar in Ravana debated.
Drawn in by Ravana’s wisdom and seeing the point in his argument, Vedavati wedded Ravana. Surprisingly, Ravana turned out to be a good husband, and he took excellent care of her. While the King of Lanka meditated upon Shiva, Vedavati eulogized Vishnu. It was a blissful life for both, but their paradise shattered when a few robbers found Vedavati alone and attacked her.
“Ravana, help me! Please, Ravana,” Vedavati screamed. Listening to her screams, Ravana rushed towards her and saved her from those robbers. When the situation cleared, Ravana found Vedavati in deep sorrow.
“I’ve saved you, dear one,” Ravana gently calmed her.
“But, why did I call out to you, Ravana? In distress, you cry to Shiva, but I forgot my beloved Vishnu,” Vedavati spoke pensively.
“You love me, dear. There’s nothing wrong in calling the one you love,” Ravana responded with a feeling of triumph.
“Vishnu is my beloved. Calling you wasn’t my Dharma, and you tricked me into marrying you, Ravana,” Vedavati said firmly.
“Why are you angry at me? It’s not my fault that you couldn’t remain steadfast in Vishnu’s Bhakti,” Ravana retaliated.
“I’m ending my life now. And, you will suffer for tricking me,” Vedavati cursed Ravana.
“But..,” Ravana started.
Without waiting to hear Ravana’s argument, she called upon her Svam Urja, her inner energy. Vedavati burned herself to death in that fire, leaving an angry Ravana behind. Deeply insulted by Vedavati’s words, Ravana vowed to destroy Lord Vishnu for taking away his beloved wife.
Sita – The Lakshmi
Having gained the wisdom of steadfastness as Vedavati and burned out of her humanly impurities, Sri Devi reincarnated as Sita. When Sita made a decision, nobody could shake her from it. With intense fervor, she yearned for her beloved Vishnu. Sita is Lakshmi herself, for nobody else can love Vishnu with such longing, the world applauded her.
Destiny worked in her favor, and she married Lord Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu. Shortly after their marriage, Rama got exiled to the forest, and as a dutiful wife, Sita followed him as well. Even though she encountered a million troubles, her love for her husband remained unparalleled.
Nevertheless, Sita’s life took a turn when Rama and Lakshmana got into a mini-war with Surpanaka, the sister of Ravana. In the forest of Panchavati, before she left in distress, Surpanaka threatened Lord Rama, “I’ll return with my brother, Ravana’s army.”
A short while later, Sage Hutasana approached a worried Rama.
“Ravana may attack us any moment,” Rama expressed his concern to Sage Hutasana.
“He plans to kidnap Sita today,” Sage Hutasana warned Rama.
“How can we protect Sita while I fight with Ravana? He has an entire army,” Rama pondered aloud to the sage.
“I have come here with a plan,” Sage Hutasana assured Rama.
Much to Rama’s relief, Sage Hutasana created a clone of Sita and named her Maya Sita, the illusive Sita. Then, leaving behind Maya Sita, the sage took the original Sita with him to his Ashrama. As soon as Sage Hutasana left with Sita, Maya Sita spotted a golden deer and pressed Rama to get it for her.
“You’re not my wife, but you’re a woman alone in this forest. It’s my Dharma to protect you,” Lord Rama disagreed with Maya Sita.
“I want that deer, Lord Rama. I love it. Please,” Maya Sita insisted.
“Fine, I will get it,” Rama said as he left to find that golden deer.
Soon, due to a turn of events, Lakshmana left Maya Sita and ran to aid Rama in his deer hunt. Meanwhile, Ravana kidnapped Maya Sita. Lord Rama rescued Maya Sita with the help of the Vaanaras, a species of Homo with tails that weren’t Sapiens. Further, Rama used the situation to eradicate the forest of Ravana and all other Asuras, a tribe that practiced witchcraft.
Maya Sita returned to Hutasana, and Sita accompanied Rama to become the Queen of Ayodhya. As the story of Ramayana ends, Sita protested against the Adharma done to women and disappeared into the earth.
Maya Sita – The Vikara of Impatience
When Sage Hutasana cloned Sita, he created two forms of the same soul. Maya Sita came into existence, and she was also called Chhaya Sita or shadow Sita. In cloning her, the sage removed whatever little negative Karma Sita had and moved it into Maya Sita. Thereby, Sita became pristine and pure beyond comparison.
However, Maya Sita still had many mental impurities, manifesting as her desire for the golden deer. Further, Maya Sita refused to leave Rama after being rescued from Ravana.
“I’m a clone of Sita, and I suffered instead of her. Besides, I love you too. Please marry me, Rama,” Maya Sita begged him.
“I’ve taken the vow of Eka Patni or one wife,” Rama replied.
“What’s to happen of me, then?”
“Go back to Sage Hutasana and send my beloved Sita here,” Rama instructed Maya Sita.
A dejected Maya Sita did as Rama suggested. Under Sage Hutasana’s guidance, she worked on eliminating her mental impurities and performed austerities to marry Vishnu. She purified herself, but the impurity of impatience remained in her. It resulted from the subconscious trauma of her neverending wait as Ravana’s captive.
“If Vishnu won’t be pleased, I’ll have Shiva persuade Vishnu,” Maya Sita decided and meditated upon Shiva.
When Lord Shiva appeared before her, she asked for her boon, “I want to marry Vishnu! Please, I want to marry Vishnu. Vishnu is the one I deeply desire to marry. Marriage to Vishnu is the only thing I want. Can you please grant me the wish of marriage to Vishnu?”
“In your impatience, you asked me for marriage to Vishnu five times. Now, I have no choice but to grant you that,” Lord Shiva said in his characteristic calmness. Lord Shiva disappeared without waiting to hear anything further, leaving a baffled Maya Sita behind.
Draupadi – The Kali
Devi Sita reincarnated as Rukmini and united with her Lord, now the Divine Krishna. Meanwhile, thoroughly cleansed of all her Vikaras, Maya Sita appeared into the world as Draupadi. Eventually, she married the Pandavas, the five brothers, part-Avataras of Vishnu.
Draupadi fell in love with Krishna, but as a chaste wife of the Pandavas, she remained Krishna’s friend. Nevertheless, fate took a different turn for her. When the five men in her life gambled her away, she burst with anger at the Adharma of society against women. In her rage, she became the Kali who supported Krishna in his cleansing of the world.
Krishna left the world with his mission accomplished, and Rukmini ended her Leela. Before Draupadi died, she decided that she would no longer be the wife of those men who left her alone to depart from this world on a ridge.
“In my next life, I’ll marry Vishnu in his Poorna Svarupa, his complete Divine form,” Draupadi uttered as she breathed her last towards the end of the Mahabharata.
Vrinda (Tulsi) – The Pure One
After completing her Leela as Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Kali, Sri Devi reincarnated as Vrinda or Tulsi. Entirely cleansed of her impurities, she became a synonym for purity. However, her Karma of the world’s destruction as Draupadi made her the wife of an Asura, Jalandhara. Jalandhara was Sudhama or Sreedhama, a devotee of Vishnu who had reincarnated as an Asura due to a curse.
Supported by his pure and chaste wife, Jalandhara grew invincible. He started tormenting the world in his pride, and eventually, he became mean to Tulsi. Nonetheless, Tulsi remained unwavering in her Dharma, and her good Karma protected her husband.
Lord Vishnu decided to liberate Tulsi and Jalandhara, his cursed devotee. Lord Shiva took on ending Jalandhara, but Tulsi’s chastity prevented him from doing that. Therefore, Lord Vishnu approached Tulsi, but he was in Jalandhara’s form.
When Tulsi saw Jalandhara, she ran and hugged him. Immediately, she sensed that the one with her wasn’t her husband. Her innate anger of not being married to Vishnu poured out in the form of words.
“How could you mess with a woman, Vishnu? Since your heart is like a stone, become the Saligramam stone,” Tulsi cursed Vishnu.
“Tulsi, I’m sorry to have caused you grief, but I only did what’s right for you,” Vishnu said.
“Good for me? You messed up my life,” Tulsi cried.
“As Draupadi, you endured a lot for the benefit of this world. You were innately angry at me, your Vishnu. And, cursing me removed that,” Vishnu explained.
“But the world will know me as an unchaste wife,” Tulsi wailed.
“Marriage to the Divine isn’t the same as a wedding to a human husband,” Vishnu reiterated the wisdom of the Vedas.
“I don’t understand,” Tulsi replied in confusion.
“Whoever you’re in this world, spiritually, every being is my soulmate. So, you longed for a union with me, and I’ve granted your wish. Dear one, you’ve attained liberation,” Vishnu said with love and compassion.
When Tulsi began to understand her truth, Vishnu continued to speak, “My dear Vrinda, you’ll see everything in a new light when you realize your true self. You’ll remain eternally with my Saligramam form as the Tulsi plant in this world. You will be known as the pure wife of Vishnu.”
Sri Devi – The Formless Divine
Tulsi still had a couple of questions for Vishnu, “Why did I go through lifetimes of suffering, my Lord?”
“All of your sufferings prepared you for a merger with me,” Vishnu replied.
“And, what is my true form, my beloved?”
“Every soul must discover the Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Kali in them. You gained wisdom as Vedavati and acquired spiritual wealth as Sita. As Maya Sita, you learned patience. Then, in Draupadi’s form, you invoked your innate compassion. As Tulsi, you learned to remain in this world with non-attachment. Now, you’ll see your true self,” Vishnu replied.
Ending the conversation, Vishnu or Hari left behind a part of him as the Saligramam stone and emerged as the Formless Divine. Immediately, Tulsi left a part of her as a medicinal plant and appeared in her True Form – The Formless Divine, Sri Devi.
Thus, the Feminine Energy known as Sri Devi merged into the Masculine Energy known as Hari. After ending their lifetimes of Leela, Sri and Hari united to become Om, the singular Formless Divine.
There ends the story of Tulsi Moksham, which is the tale of every one of us on this planet.
Om Sri Hari!