In ancient times, Sankhchuda, a mighty daitya underwent terrific tapa and penance and pleased Brahma. Brahma blessed him with a boon of invincibility. Brahma also granted a boon that none in the three worlds would be able to kill him. For the protection life and kingdom, the lord conferred divine armour also. So long, the great daitya continued to put on the divine armour on the body, none would be able to hurt or kill. Therefore, even the great gods Shiva and Vishnu were not able to do any harm to the daitya. Not only this, the great daitya was a man of dharma. He practiced the laws of dharma religiously but was also prone to commit mistakes and sins for the sake of community. Therefore, after victory over the three worlds, he drove out gods from various celestial kingdoms.
All the gods appeared before Brahma and sought refuge and cure. Brahma, the supreme lord, knew the writ on the walls. He asked lord Vishnu to help gods in panic and sufferings. A great war began but lord Shiva was unable to conquer. He asked Virbhadra, Mahakali and warriors of gods to eliminate the demon but regrettably, the mighty daitya defeated or pushed back to the background or killed everyone whomever he confronted. Vishnu knew that until the great demon is armoured no man could kill or destroy. Shiva was helpless as none wanted to violate the sanctity of Brahma’s blessings. Left with no alternative, Vishnu used the great unconquerable delusory powers.
Lord Vishnu in the guise of a beggar (an old brahmin) appeared before the great daitya. He knew the kindly nature and generosity of Sankhchuda and so made an earnest request and revealed the inner wish, and insisted on the armour the daitya had put on. Sankhchuda could not refuse and therefore, offered divine armour to the brahmin. He was a learned man but failed to recognize Sri Hari in the guise of an old brahmin. Thus, Vishnu deprived Sankhchuda of a great divine possession and later, the mighty daitya went to queen Tulsi. Sri Hari had already planned to eliminate him.
Sri Hari appeared before the holy woman Tulsi in the guise of Sankhchuda. At the threshold of the main gate of the palace of Tulsi, he sounded arrival to the devoted queen with earsplitting drumbeats while many slogans of victory and gallantry spoke of the glory of daitya. The spread of delusory powers of Sri Hari created a situation where none grasped the enormity of situation and the sinister design of Sri Hari.
When queen Tulsi learnt about the arrival of husband Sankhchuda, excitement, happiness and pleasure thrilled the holy woman. Through the secret window-holes in the walls of the palace, she threw a glance at the royal path leading to the main gate of the palace. When she observed the mighty daitya approaching the palace, it filled the queen with fantastic ecstasy and she was lost in sweet thoughts and memories. Inner desires of gratification gave pleasure. She felt fulfilled as if. Within no time, she gave money and precious things to brahmins and performed auspicious karmas as dharma dictated. When she performed holy deeds as a gesture of gratitude to the great gods, she put on magnificent clothes and ornaments like a bride, and got ready to welcome a victorious husband.
Lord Vishnu wanted to achieve the objectives so that the gods are relieved of the sufferings they endured for a long time. With the sacred and lofty objective, in the guise of Sankhchuda, he descended the royal chariot and proceeded to the palace of Tulsi. The righteous woman was unable to recognize Vishnu, for she was under the spell of hallucination and everything appeared indistinguishable. When he entered, she worshipped and talked pleasantly about many things and thereafter, she wandered with the king in leisure, joy and pleasure.
A thought struck and the holy woman thought over the extraordinary and bizarre behaviour of Sankhchuda (lord Vishnu in disguise). She measured the intensity of pleasure, comforts, capacity, ability and captivating gestures.
All acts raised doubts in mind and then, suddenly, she sensed treachery and betrayal and so said angrily, “Who are you?”
Tulsi’s voice apparently reprimanded the great lord in disguise.
He did not speak for a few moments. Quietness was unbearable as irritated and inquisitive looks of the queen infused fears uncertain.
Tulsi asked again, “O wicked man, tell immediately. Who are you? You exercised powers of delusion and illusion. You cared little for ethical principles, enjoyed and spent time in intense pleasure. You destroyed dharma of a devoted wife and violated purity and sanctity. It is a grave crime. I issue a curse just now.”
Sri Hari heard angry words of Tulsi and right away, abandoned powers of delusion, and came to the real image. Observing an extremely brilliant divine figure before eyes, Tulsi recognized Sri Hari and recognized brilliant divine clothes and ornaments. For a while, she cherished moments of supreme divine pleasure. She experienced moments of bliss.
Next moment, she realized that wifely chastity, devotion, purity and saintliness stood destroyed and therefore, she was a contaminated woman.
A mere thought filled Tulsi with terrific anger, “O Vishno, you, with a heart as hard as a stone! Not an iota of mercy cautioned you. You violated a woman’s chastity and dharma. It is a grave and unpardonable sin. It is certain… that the great daitya is dead. You are hard and heartless like a stone sans feelings of empathy and pity. You acted viciously. Therefore, you will be a stone.” A uneasy silence filled time and space as if. After a moment, she said, “I curse you. You’ll turn into stone.”
She cursed the lord in anger. The most pious woman Tulsi lost control, wept incessantly, lamented, bemoaned and saw no end to grief because she suffered betrayal and dishonesty of Vishnu. As grief of the holy woman increased immensely, at that time, the beloved of devotees, Sankara appeared and advised Tulsi to understand the designs of the Supreme Brahma.
Sankara said, “O goddess, please listen. It will liberate you from sufferings. I want Sri Hari also listens to the words attentively. I only say words that benefit and comfort you enormously.”
He looked at Sri Hari and Tulsi and then, resumed, “O virtuous woman, whatever desire you nurtured in the mind and then, were engaged in severe tapa was the consequence of tapa and penance. How and why do you think? It happened without the consent of the Highest Spirit and Supreme Design. Therefore, O holy woman, you are blessed in commensurate with tapa you undertook. Now, you abandon body and adorn ‘the self’ physically with a divine figure.” Sankara pacified the holy woman it appeared.
After a pause, Sankara said, “O goddess Tulsi, you shall live like goddess Laksmi in Vaikuntha and wander around in leisure with lord Vishnu and taste pleasure of heaven. The mortal body you relinquish will transform itself into a river. People will know the river as Gandaki. The water of the river will bestow purity and punya (altruistic disposition/acts of charity) on devotees, and it shall flow in India for years. O Mahadevi, after sometime, with the effect of boon, you will become an integral part of the material of prayer and worship, and therefore, will enjoy the first and foremost status. O beautiful woman, whether in heaven or in Mrityuloka (land of the dead or the subterranean world) you shall always live near Sri Hari and so an eternal status will adorn you. Among the plants, you shall be the holiest plant. As goddess of trees in Vaikuntha, you will play with Sri Hari in divine form, and alone will enjoy the bliss. You shall be the chief among the rivers in India.”
After a pause, he resumed, “O goddess, because of the curse, Sri Hari will turn into a stone and reside on riverbank Gandaki. While he lives as a stone near the riverbank, millions of dreadful insects with sharp beard would cut the stone, make a circle, a disc in the center of the stone and the mark of distinction will provide punyas to the devotees. People and devotees will call it a hunk of shaalgrama (an oval shaped stone found in Gandaki river with a circle around it, and people will call it Laksminarayana). The confluence of shaalgrama and Tulsi will give boost to many punyas.”
“O noble woman, he, who removes or picks up a leaf of Tulsi from the surface of shaalgrama will be condemned to live separately from wife for many births. A man, who removes the conch from the leaf of tulsi, will live alone without a woman, and continue to live sick for seven births. A wise man, who collects and keeps together shaalgrama, tulsi and conch, and protects the three, is very dear to Sri Hari.”
Lord Shiva spoke of the glory of tulsi and shaalgrama and thereafter, disappeared. It filled Sri Hari and Tulsi, the goddess with delight, bliss and happiness. Tulsi abandoned the body and attained a divine figure and then, Sri Hari took her to Vaikuntha. After she relinquished body, Gandki River took birth and the great lord Vishnu turned into a stone and situated ‘the self’ on the bank of river Gandki.
Another interesting truth is quite apparent about the stone shaalgrama. The revelation relating to Shaalgrama, surprises. People believe that many insects continue to pick holes in the stones and, the stones that fall into the river Gandki attain a supreme status. The stones with many holes left on the bank of the river are pingla. Pinglas are not auspicious for living beings. However, Tulsi is revered. It is auspicious and blesses a devotee.