Vrindavan, 2017.09.29 (VT): Not so long ago, Vrindavan was filled with groves of tulsi – a sacred plant known as the favorite of Shri Krishna. In fact, the name of the town itself means the Tulsi Forest. But today, most of Vrindavan has transformed into a concrete jungle. Just a few gardens still exist in the town, and tulsi is generally confined to pots in people’s homes and temple courtyards.
However, in the rural areas, tulsi is making a comeback thanks to artisans from Bengal and Manipur. They have transformed the art of making tulsi beads from a simple craft into a real art form. Not only simple beaded malas are produced, but intricate bas-relief sculptures and Holy Name art are engraved on the beads.
Tulsi bead art draws customers from all over the globe. There is a high demand for handcrafted tulsi products from as far as Russia, Europe, Australia and the USA. Vaishnav devotees in India have been wearing tulsi necklaces as a symbol of faith since time immemorial, and now that the faith has spread abroad, so has the tulsi market.
With the demand for tulsi necklaces, tulsi cultivation is also on the rise. Tulsi leaves sell for 40-50 rupees a kilo, the seeds for 200-250 per kilo, and the wood at 40 rupees a kilo. The wood from the root as well as the stem is used in mala production.
Tulsi malas are made in Jaint, Chaumua and Kama, while the more artistic versions are made in Radhakund by families from Bengal and the Northeast. One can find breathtaking pieces at these small and unassuming shops while performing Radhakund parikrama.
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