We are happy to invite you for one hour presentation on “Tulsi: A Linguistic Exploration into its Divinity in Vedic Texts” which will be given by Dr. Sridevi Sriniwass (Sridevi Gaurangi devi dasi) from University of Malaya Kuala Lumpur. More about the presentation read below. Please confirm your attendance by replying to BC secretary so that we can arrange the seats accordingly (limited number).
VENUE: Bhaktivedanta College Classroom (under the BC Library)
DATE and TIME: Saturday, 17th of October at 18:00
Tulsi: A Linguistic Exploration into its Divinity in Vedic Texts
Dr. Sridevi Sriniwass (University of Malaya)
(Sridevi Gaurangi Devi Dasi)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The word ‘Tulsi’ signifies the incomparable one for stories surrounding her birth and her subsequent advent to earth, being unique and mystical, evoke feelings of gratitude to those for whom she is an object of worship. The Tulsi plant’s sacredness can be traced back thousands of years ago. Tulsi, also affectionately known as Vishnupriya, Pushpakara, Vrinda Devi or Vraja Boomi is an indispensable part of daily homage in much of mainstream Hinduism (Geden, 1900/1983; Basak, 1953 in Morgan 1953; Bhakta, 1997; Bhakti-sudhodaya, 2004 & Bhakti-vilasa, 2004 and Rosen, 2002). Tulsi Devi is glorified and worshipped especially by followers of Chaitanya Vaishnavism (introduced in the West by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Srila Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of ISKCON) as it is believed that by mere association with Tulsi Devi one is on the pathway to “liberation in the form of pure devotional service” (Mādhava Svāmī, 2011, pp.10). Viewed as a form of the Goddess Lakshmi or as a consort of the God Vishnu, stories surrounding Tulsi Devi’s relationship with Vishnu or Krishna is manifold and in Vaishnavism, an elaborate marriage, known as Tulsi Shaligram Vivaha is conducted between a Krishna deity or a representation of him as a black stone (shaligram) and Tulsi Devi (Lall, 1933/2004; Hawley & Wulff 1982/1984; Simoons, 1998; Carbone, 2008; Pintchman, 2010). However, in the worship of Lord Krishna as The Supreme Personality of Godhead in the four authorised lineages or sampradayas in Vaishnavism, Tulsi Devi is not referred to as God Vishnu’s or Krishna’s consort but honoured as His dear most servant or gopi (Dwyer and Cole 2007). The relationship of Tulsi Devi with Lord Krishna is usually confused by those outside these circles hence it is hoped that the current study which is an exploration into her divinity helps in the understanding of the significant role she plays in the daily worship of Vaishnavas. Although there are many varieties of Tulsi or Holy Basil, the most popular are botanically known as Ocimum sanctum and Ocimum Krsnae (Pandey & Madhuri, 2010). Among the earliest sources documenting the practice of tree worshipping in India were by Edwards (1922) and Lall (1933) and in later years, there grew an interest on the socio-religious significance of Tulsi such as the work of Carbone (2008), Manimaran, (2013), Choudhury, (2013) and Edwardes & Ahirwar (2013). While the benefits of the Tulsi plant are well documented, for instance, antibacterial properties (Rathod, 2012), ethnomedicinal, pharmacological and toxicological information (Pandey & Madhuri, 2010), environmental (Kaur, 2013), ecological protection (Kumar, 2008), ethnobotanical (Agarwal, Kumar & Kumar, 2013) among others, there have been no linguistic studies on Tulsi Devi. Hence, the current study aims to bring to the fore this less studied dimension which is how meanings are constructed in relation to divinity in the English translations and commentaries of the invocations, songs, stories and hymns in the worship of Tulsi Devi. The current study deploys a systemic semantic investigation drawing insights from the works of Martin & Rose (2007), Quirk et. al. (1993), Downing & Locke (2006) and Halliday and Matthiessen (2014) among others. Preliminary findings into language and religion show that Tulsi Devi’s divinity is expressed in a number of ways mainly through her role and relationship with her devotees, her mercy towards her devotees and the concession she makes in the interest of her devotees. The findings also show divinity in expressions of humility in the veneration of Tulsi Devi by the devotees. The significance of the current study is in providing a means for practitioners of Vaishnavism who have no access to the Sanskrit and Bengali to appreciate the meanings enshrined in the English translations and descriptions of the much loved Tulsi Devi.
Key words: Tulsi, Chaitanya Vaishnavism, divinity, linguistics, systemic semantic, meanings, language and religion.
BIODATA OF SPEAKER:
Dr. Sridevi Sriniwass, born and bred in Malaysia, is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University of Malaya and has been an academic for the past 25 years. She received her PhD in linguistics from the University of Malaya in 2006. She has been practicing Krsna Consciousness for the past 10 years and took initiation from HH Bhakti Vigna Vinasha (BVV) Swami Narasimha Maharaj in 2014 and was given the name Sridevi Gaurangi Devi Dasi. She engages in devotional service in the Sri Sri Gaura Nitai Radha Govinda Mandir ISKCON Klang (Teluk Pulai, Malaysia.
In recent years, she moved on from an analytical text linguistic study of scientific discourse and learner corpora into the field of language and religion resulting in several international presentations and a SCOPUS cited publication entitled The construction of meanings in relation to language and religion: A study into The Mahabharata in theInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language. Her current sabbatical leave research for which she received a University of Malaya Research Grant looks at how expressions of divinity manifest themselves in Vedic texts leading to the presentation of a paper entitled Tulsi: A Linguistic Exploration into its Divinity at the Heritage in the History, Culture and Religion of South and Southeast Asia, 6th SSEASR Conference hosted by University of Kelaniya, Colombo, Sri Lanka from 4th to 7th June 2015. She is grateful for the recent confluence of her academic and spiritual undertakings and with the blessings of her Gurudev and Lord Gauranga. She hopes to continue to share her research in academic circles on matters of Vedic spirituality. She is married and lives with her husband and four children in Klang, Selangor, Malaysia.
Dr. Sridevi Sriniwass
Department of English Language
Faculty of Languages & Linguistics
University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA
Tel: 03-79673193 (office-currently on sabbatical leave)
012 212 4000 (cell phone)