It’s hard to imagine that Vrindavan was once celebrated for its dense forests and known for its groves of Tulsi or Holy Basil because today it smacks of development and urbanization as it continues to attract huge numbers of Hindu devotees of Radha and Krishna who are eager to buy the condominiums that are filling in every inch of available real estate in this sacred town. According to Wikipedia, the ancient name, Brindavana, comes from the “Brinda” or Holy Basil and vana from the Sanskrit, meaning grove in the forest but only two small groves exist today. Just about all the devotees of Radha and Krishna wear sacred beads or malas that come from the Tulsi plant. While strolling the narrow back lanes of Vrindavan, artisans had set up stalls selling these malas in varying lengths and styles. Some of the artisans were right on the street, carving intricate medallions that hung from the strands of these beads.
Associated with the worship of Radha and Krishna, the wearing of Tulsi beads are attributed with opening the heart, mind, bestowing love and instilling compassion and faith. A classic mala contains 108 beads or half of that at 54.
While visiting Vrindavan, the temptation to buy one of these malas is alluring as their appeal sneaks up on you. The artisans are generally soft-spoken and not pushy, which is unique for India. Few visitors leave Vrindavan without a magical mala of the Tulsi plant, myself included.