Holy basil - history
OriginsHoly basil is native to tropical Asia but has been dispersed by humans so that it now grows in many tropical parts of the world. It is a sacred plant in Hindu religion, and has been cultivated in India in courtyards or temples, and in pots in homes, for about 3000 years.
|Holy basil has been cultivated in India for thousands of years.|
HistoryThe history of the plant in South Asia is closely linked with folklore and mythology. It represents Vishnupriya or Beloved of Vishnu, since it is believed to be the embodiment of the goddess Lakshmi, the spouse of Vishnu. What is apparent is that it has been valued and cultivated since ancient times in India as an intimate link between the household and the spiritual world.
The Aryans, who structured the forms of Hinduism, were nature-worshippers and their poetry and imagery were rich with the evocation of nature. Perhaps they were drawn to holy basil because of its fragrance and delicacy. It may also have been already well-entrenched in the myths of the indigenous people and from there absorbed into Hinduism.
Holy basil is mentioned in the Rig Veda, written in about 1500 BC, and its holiness is celebrated in the Puranas. It is highly regarded in the Ayurvedic system of medicine and is noted in medical treatises such the Charaka Samhita written between the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD.