For two murder convicts serving life terms in Beur central jail in Bihar, plucking tulsi leaves from the prison’s backyard is not only a daily routine, but also a quest for atoning for their crimes.
That’s because the tulsi leaves they pluck, are sent to the revered Mahavir Mandir near Patna Junction and are offered as prasad to devotees.
“Santosh Kumar and Ramashray Yadav, both serving life sentences for murder, get up early morning, take bath and pluck tulsi leaves. About 15-20 other prisoners - convicts as well undertrials, assist them in segregating the leaves and packing them. Even in adverse weather conditions, the prisoners devote themselves to this job without fail. This, they believe is an act of seeking atonement for all their sins,” said Beur jail superintendent Rupak Kumar.
A prison guard carries the tulsi leaves to the temple every day and while returning brings the prasad from the shrine dedicated to Lord Hanuman for the prisoners, Kumar said.
The tulsi plucking exercise has become a tradition, but Kumar has no idea when it started.
“I believe the jail administration initiated cultivation of tulsi since its inception and has been sending the leaves to the Mahavir Mandir daily,” he said.
Mahavir Mandir Trust secretary Acharya Kishore Kunal also acknowledged that the temple had been receiving tulsi leaves from Beur jail every morning.
“We generally don’t need to get the supply of tulsi leaves from anywhere else as the Beur jail is able to meet the temple’s demand for almost 10 months in a year,” Acharya Kunal said.
Tulsi and puja
Hindus believe tulsi leaves possess divine qualities to invoke the descent of gods and increase spirituality. It is always offered along with prasad, sanctified food offering, given after puja. Tulsi is the only type of prasad that can be used more than once in worship. After being washed, it can be offered again. In temples, the priests keep water and tulsi leaves in a pot and offer it as charanamrit (literally the water which has been used to wash the idols of gods or goddesses) to devotees, who drink part of it and sprinkle the remainder on their heads.