Chaste in the courtyard

Indian Mythology 7 Comments

Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, Oct. 23, 2011


An Asura called Shankhachuda terrorized the Devas. No weapon could harm this demon because he was protected by a magical armour. Brahma told the gods, “The armour will protect Shankhachuda for as long as his wife, Vrinda, remains faithful to him.”

To make a chaste wife betray her husband is a sin. But not destroying an Asura is dangerous. Indra, king of Devas, did not know how to handle the situation. So he approached Krishna. Krishna promised to find a solution.

Vrinda was a great devotee of God. One day she expressed her desire to see God. Krishna, who is God incarnate, immediately appeared before her, but he appeared taking not the form of Krishna. Since God can take any form, Krishna took the form of Shankhachuda. Vrinda welcomed him as a wife welcomes a husband. Instantly, the magical power of her chastity faded from her husband’s armour. The Devas were able to kill Shankhachuda without any difficulty.

All the Asuras accused Vrinda of infidelity. How else could Shankhachuda have died? But Vrinda was adamant, she had never been with a man other than her husband. The Asuras drove Vrinda out of her house. She wandered homeless. And finally came to Dwarka. She had heard Krishna was God on earth. She decided to take shelter in his house. But Krishna’s wives refused to let her enter their house.

Standing in the courtyard, Vrinda said, “Come out Krishna and tell your wives and the world that I am just your devotee, pure and chaste, true to none but my husband.” Krishna could not do that. Vrinda waited and waited in Krishna’s courtyard patiently for God to come to her rescue but there was no sign of Krishna. Krishna’s wives became jealous of Vrinda and feared she was planning to become his wife. Vrinda reassured them that she was but a devotee. Still there was no sign of Krishna. Exasperated she said, “Are you a stone that cannot move, Krishna? May you therefore be worshipped as a stone.” She then turned into the Tulsi plant, growing roots into the courtyard of her house.

Said Krishna, “I was the cause of Vrinda’s misery. I could not come to her rescue. I let her down. I was like a stone. Henceforth, therefore, I will be worshipped as a stone, the Shaligrama fossil. I will accept no prayer unless a sprig of the Tulsi plant accompanies it. That way Vrinda will be brought to me by the very world, which rejected her. She will be the universal symbol of love, devotion and chastity.”

The rather controversial story of Tulsi or Vrinda acknowledges the difficulties associated with chastity and fidelity that forms the cornerstone of the household. For centuries, this goddess of the courtyard has been worshipped by women across India, especially Vaishnavas. She has sometimes been associated with Radha. She embodies viraha bhakti, devotion expressed through the pain of separation. She empathizes with every human being who has to be faithful to worldly responsibilities but yearns to give it all up and surrender to divinity.

  • Namaste Devduttji, Learning from you is always a good experience.Whenever i read your articles,i observe that KRISHNAJI whenever approached with a problem had always solution for it,it would always be a win win situation,as you say above,Indra got what he wanted & shankhachuda a recognition by Krishna.The only difference i observe is that one gets immediate relief but for a short time(a symptomatic treatment as for INDRA) and other gets it for life time as for Shankhachuda. Can you please teachme,how he decided(who should be given which of the two treatments) Thankyou Sir :-)

    • Sorry in the above comment,i made a mistake names,i am referring about wonderful solutions by Krishnaji to both given to both INDRAji and SHANKHCHUDA’s wife(Vrindaji)…:-)

  • venkatesan

    Another version ( Reported in a Tamil Magazine quoting Skandha puran as source)
    Viruntha is a devotee of Vishnu; does Sati after her husband’s death; Vishnu is sad and becomes mad; The devas approach the wives of the three murthis; They each give different plant seed; the combined seed becomes Tulsi plant; Vishnu is cured by the leaves of the plant; So it is dear to him.

  • Hi Devdutt Ji,

    Is it Shankhachuda or Jallandhara??

    I was talking with my mother regarding this story and she told me that the name of the asura is Jallandhara.


    • Devdutt

      It is good to keep in mind that there are dozens of Puranas and hunders of versions with numerous variations and regional recessions….so quite possible there are other names of the Asura, no?…..no one knows everything the last time I checked.

  • Ankit Suhane

    Devdutt ji, i have seen few of videos and understood that each story has some lesson. With this story i understand following meaning,
    1. A chaste women has power to shield his husband’s health.
    2. If god made any mistake then even god should be punished.
    3. Its very difficult to admit in truth in the world. Krishna didn’t had courage to confront Vrinda
    4. Vrinda sacrifice herself and got lord Krishna. Sacrifices always have meanings.

    pls confirm if i m right

    One question i have
    In stories every action consequence occur very fast but nowadays many leaders (Business, politics etc) doing many wrong things and their lives end but they never get any punishment.
    Pls dont tell me that they will get their punishments in next life or in hell.

  • Tanusrenath

    I have seen this story in the serial of LIFE OK Devo Ke Dev Mahadev which is also drawn from your concepts & ideas. But there is one confusion that in that serial they showed that this story of Vrinda or Tulsi was told by Sati’s mother Prasuti. But as far as I can remember they refer Vishnu not Krishna in that serial, obviously Vishnu’s incarnation Krishna was not held before that time during Sati and Shiva’s marriage.Please if you can explain ?