For some time, the Śrī Gauḍīya Sārasvata Vaiṣṇava sampradāya had no kīrtana to sing at the time of śrī tulasī-parikramā and āratī. Some devotees used to sing Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa’s tulasī kṛṣṇa preyasī namo namaḥ / vilāsa-kuñja diyo vāsa. This is appropriate for highly elevated rāgānuga-sādhakas, but not for vaidhī-bhakti-sādhakas who do not possess the greed to reside in the vilāsa-kuñja.
Others used to sing Candraśekhara’s namo re namo re maiyā namo nārāyaṇi. This is appropriate for Vaiṣṇavas of the Śrī Rāmānuja sampradāya, because in this song Tulasī-devī is addressed as the queen of Śrī Nārāyaṇa, or Śrī Śālagrāma, who resides in Vaikuṇṭha. Śrī Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas worship Śrī Vṛndā-devī as the most dear sakhī of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. She is the presiding deity of Vṛndāvana-dhāma, the topmost section of Goloka, and she is expert in arranging for Their intimate pastimes (līlā-vilāsa). She gave her beautiful land of Vṛndāvana to her most dear sakhī, Vṛṣabhānu-nandinī Śrīmatī Rādhikā. The intimate meetings of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Their other pastimes in the kuñjas become successful only with the help of Śrī Vṛndā-devī. Tulasī, who is dear to Śrī Nārāyaṇa in Vaikuṇṭha, is the vaibhava-prakāśa of Vṛndā-devī. The original Vṛndā-devī can never be the queen of Śrī Nārāyaṇa, or of Śrī Śālagrāma. Thus, Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas worship her in the form of Vrajendra-nandana Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s beloved sakhī in Vṛndāvana.
For all these reasons, paramārādhya Śrīla Gurudeva felt the need for an appropriate prayer which ordinary sādhakas of the Śrī Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya could offer at the time of tulasī-parikramā and āratī. The Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas accept Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Śrī Gaurahari as one non-dual para-tattva, and Śrīla Gurudeva has included this siddhānta in the beautiful prayer that he composed. The whole of the Sārasvata Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya has accepted this prayer, which is complete in all respects and brimming with philosophical conclusions. The prayer is as follows:
ei abhilāṣī (1)
je tomāra śaraṇa laya,
sei kṛṣṇa sevā pāya,
kṛpā kori koro tare
(namo namaḥ) (2)
tomāra caraṇe dhari,
more anugata kari’,
rākha divā niśi
(namo namaḥ) (3)
dīnera ei abhilāṣa,
māyāpure/navadvīpe dio vāsa,
aṅgete mākhiba sadā
dhāma dhūli rāśi
(namo namaḥ) (4)
tomāra ārati lāgi,
dhūpa, dīpa, puṣpa māgī,
mahimā bākhāni ebe
hau more khuśī
(namo namaḥ) (5)
jagatera jata phūla,
kabhu nahe samatula,
sarva-tyaji kṛṣṇa tava patra
(namo namaḥ) (6)
ogo vṛnde mahārānī!
tomāra pādapa tale,
deva ṛṣi kutūhale,
sarva-tīrtha la’ye tā’rā
(namo namaḥ) (7)
śrī-keśava ati dīna,
tomāra āśraye sadā
(namo namaḥ) (8)
Verses 1 and 2. First of all, obeisances are offered to Śrī Tulasī, or Vṛndā-devī, as the beloved of Kṛṣṇa. She has been described as a very compassionate sakhī who bestows the eternal service of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Yugala. “To those who take shelter of you, you kindly award kṛṣṇa-sevā and the fortune of eternal residence in Vṛndāvana.” Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has glorified Śrīmatī Vṛndā-devī in his Śrī Vṛndā-devyāṣṭakam:
vṛnde! numas te caraṇāravindam (3)
madhvādibhir bhānti vibhūṣyamāṇā
vṛnde! numas te caraṇāravindam (4)
tvat-saubhagaṁ kena nirucyatām tad
vṛnde! numas te caraṇāravindam (5)
rāsābhilāṣo vasatiś ca vṛndā-
labhyā ca puṁsāṁ kṛpayā tavaiva
vṛnde! numas te caraṇāravindam (6)
tvaṁ kīrtyase sātvata-tantra-vidbhir
līlābhidhānā kila kṛṣṇa-śaktiḥ
tavaiva mūrtis tulasī nṛ-loke
vṛnde! numas te caraṇāravindam (7)
bhaktyā vihinā aparādha-lakṣaiḥ
kṣiptaś ca kāmādi-taraṅga-madhye
kṛpāmayi! tvāṁ śaranaṁ prapannā
vṛnde! numas te caraṇāravindam (8)
“Śrī Vṛṣabhānu-rāja-nandinī Śrī Rādhikā has given you authority over Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s most sacred abode, Vṛndāvana, which is fully endowed with unlimited qualities and is the crown jewel of all the Vaikuṇṭha planets. On your order, the loveliness of the spring season eternally maintains the supreme beauty of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s Vṛndāvana pleasure groves, which are decorated with different types of leaves and fragrant flowers, and are full of bumblebees, deer, peacocks, male and female parrots, and other birds and animals.
“The pleasure pastimes of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, who are always eager to relish such loving exchanges, are only made successful by your assistance as an extremely skilled envoy. In other words, you become a messenger (dūtī) just to arrange Their union, which would otherwise be very difficult. You assist in many different ways to bring about the success of Their amorous pastimes (līlā-vilāsa). Who in this world can describe the limit of your fortune? I repeatedly bow down at your lotus feet.
“O Vṛndā, by your mercy the greed to have darśana of the rāsa-līlā arises in the heart of Kṛṣṇa’s devotees. By your mercy they obtain residence in Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma and receive service to the lotus feet of their prāṇa-vallabha, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava. I repeatedly offer obeisances at your lotus feet.
“O Vṛndā, in the bhakti-tantras composed by devotees such as Śrī Nārada, expert and learned scholars have described you as Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s līlā-śakti, His pastime potency. You expand yourself in this world as the renowned Śrī Tulasī-devī in the form of a plant. I offer my obeisances unto you again and again.
“O merciful devī, I am devoid of bhakti, and therefore full of hundreds of offences, and because of this I am sinking in the waves of lust, anger and all base qualities in the ocean of material existence. I surrender at your lotus feet because I have no other alternative. Please be merciful and deliver me from the impassable material ocean. I offer my obeisances at your lotus feet again and again. O Vṛndā, beloved of Kṛṣṇa, please be merciful to this surrendered soul and give me residence in Vṛndāvana.”
Verse 3. Śrīla Gurudeva continues in his āratī-kīrtana, “O Vṛndā, we pray at your lotus feet again and again. Please give us your guidance and bestow upon us the service of Śrī Gaurahari, who is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, endowed with the internal mood and effulgent lustre of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, so that we may be immersed day and night in that service.” Someone may raise the question, “Śrīmatī Tulasī is the beloved of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and she can bestow kṛṣṇa-sevā. How, then, can she give the service of Śrī Śacīnandana Gaurahari?” The answer is, “She can, because Śrī Śacīnandana Gaurahari and Śrī Kṛṣṇa are abhinna-para-tattva, the non-different Absolute Truth.” The Lord of all pastimes, līlā-puruṣottama Śrī Kṛṣṇa, is rasika-śekhara, the enjoyer of the topmost mellows, and parama-karuṇa, supremely merciful. He adopts the mood and complexion of Śrīmatī Rādhikā and appears in the form of Śrī Śacīnandana Gaurahari to distribute rāga-mārga-bhakti and to fulfil his own three internal desires. These are (1) to know the greatness of Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s love, (2) to know the sweetness of His form, qualities, flute and pastimes, which Śrīmatī Rādhikā relishes through Her love and (3) to know the happiness that Śrīmatī Rādhikā derives on tasting His sweetness. Therefore, Śrī Tulasī-devī is also very dear to Śrī Gaurahari and can certainly give service to Him and love for Him.
Almost all the associates of Kṛṣṇa appeared with Śrī Gaurahari in male forms; very few appeared in female forms. In Kali-yuga, Śrī Vṛndā-devī has also appeared in the form of the tulasī tree to make kṛṣṇa-bhakti more easily attainable. Śrīla Advaita Ācārya, who is the incarnation of Mahāviṣṇu, adopted the easiest and most effective process to entreat Śrī Kṛṣṇa to advent in this world. The method of worship was to offer some tulasī leaves with Gaṅgā water to Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and with great eagerness to chant the name of Kṛṣṇa loudly. Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa appeared in this world by the influential and infallible worship of Śrī Advaita Ācārya. Thus, Śrī Tulasī Mahārānī can give the service of Śrī Gaurahari.
Verse 4. “O Vṛndā, O beloved of Kṛṣṇa! I repeatedly bow down at your lotus feet. Please be merciful to this insignificant and destitute soul who has surrendered to you, and allow me to reside in Śrī Vṛndāvana, Śrī Māyāpura or Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma. Then I will be able to smear the dust of these transcendental abodes all over my body and, maddened with prema, I will sing the names of Śrī Gaurahari or Śrī Kṛṣṇa.”
Verse 5. “O Tulasī-devī, beloved of Kṛṣṇa! I have collected the sixteen items of worship such as incense, a lamp, flowers and naivedya (offerings of edibles) to perform your āratī, and with them I am affectionately performing your āratī. At the same time, I am glorifying you with saṅkīrtana. You are Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastime potency, His līlā-śakti, and you are most dear to Him. You are capable of giving prema-bhakti for Śrī Gaurahari and the Divine Couple, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. May you be pleased with me. This is my repeated prayer at your lotus feet.”
Verse 6. “O Tulasī-devī, beloved of Kṛṣṇa! There are varieties of beautiful flowers in the world, such as belī, camelī, jūhī, kevaḍā and kamala, but they are insignificant compared with you. Śrī Kṛṣṇa rejects all these different flowers and accepts only your leaves and mañjarīs. Kṛṣṇa enjoys pastimes with His beloved Śrīmatī Rādhikā in your vṛndā-kuñja.”
According to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the four Kumāras became enchanted by the aroma of the honey of the tulasī leaves which were offered at the Lord’s lotus feet, and that is why they came to Vaikuṇṭha to have His darśana. All other flowers lack this astonishing power. The honey and aroma of Śrī Tulasī attracts even Kṛṣṇa Himself.
Once, Śrī Kṛṣṇa visited Kurukṣetra at the time of the solar eclipse with His sixteen thousand one hundred and eight queens and all the Dvārakāvāsīs. After taking bath for the last time at the end of the eclipse, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s dear Satyabhāmā wanted to weigh Kṛṣṇa on a scale against a heap of gold and then give that gold to Śrī Nārada in charity. Śrī Kṛṣṇa sat on one pan of the scale and Satyabhāmā put all her gold ornaments on the other pan. After that, all His other queens put every one of their ornaments on the pan, and then more and more golden pots were added, but the pan with the gold was still far too light. The queens did not know what to do, but by Devarṣi Nārada’s inspiration they surrendered to Vṛndāvaneśvarī Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Śrīmatī Rādhikā removed all the gold from the pan and replaced it with one tulasī leaf dipped in Her tears. No sooner had She done that than Kṛṣṇa’s pan lifted and the pan with the tulasī leaf sank and touched the ground. Everyone was struck with wonder to see the glories of this one tulasī leaf. In this way, we see that tulasī leaves and mañjarīs are superior to all other leaves and flowers. There can be no doubt about this conclusion.
Verse 7. Śrīla Gurudeva continues: “O Tulasī, beloved of Kṛṣṇa! All the demigods and sages, along with all the places of pilgrimage, eagerly reside under your purifying shade just to attain your mercy. You can fulfil all their desires. I am very insignificant and quite worthless. I simply surrender unto you and offer you my obeisances again and again.”
There are many authentic statements in śāstra to prove that all the demigods and sages worship tulasī to attain bhagavad-bhakti and that all the pilgrimage places reside under the shade of the divine tulasī tree. Śrī Tulasī-devī is served in various ways.
dṛṣṭā spṛṣṭā tathā dhyātā kīrttitā namitā śrutā
ropitā sevitā nityaṁ pūjitā tulasī śubhā
navadhā tulasīṁ devīṁ ye bhajanti dine dine
yuga-koṭī-sahasrāṇi te vasanti harer gṛhe
Skanda Purāṇa, quoted in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.202–203)
Śrī Tulasī is very auspicious and she bestows unlimited good fortune upon those who see her, touch her, meditate upon her, sing her glories, offer obeisances to her, hear her glories, plant her, offer her leaves to Śrī Hari’s lotus feet, serve her or worship her. Those who serve Tulasī in these nine ways reside in Śrī Hari’s abode for thousands of yugas, i.e., eternally.
Hence, this Tulasī-parikramā and āratī-kīrtana composed by our most revered Śrīla Gurudeva is of great benefit to all kinds of practising devotees.