Tulsidas, the great Indian poet and his epic - Ramcharitmanas
Tulsidas, the great Indian poet had his full name as Goswami Tulsidas. The story of lord Rama was long back narrated in the epic Ramayana by the saint Valmiki. As Ramayana was in the Sanskrit language which was supposed to be the language of the elite class, it was not popular with the masses. It was the foresight and intelligence of the Tulsidas that he rewrote the whole story in his own style in a local dialect (Awadhi) in an elaborate and friendly language which was easily understood by the general public. This was something unprecedented in the history of Indian literature which was otherwisepredominantly in Sanskrit language. The credit of bringing the religious story of lord Rama to the common Hindu dwelling goes to Tulsidas.
This made Tulsidas as the poet of the masses and people started to talk about him as if he was the incarnation of saint Valmiki and was especially blessed by lord Rama to write the poetry. There are many stories famous about the life of Tulsidas and his quest for writing about lord Rama. So those who want to read more about the poet might find some amazing and miraculous instances of his life but many of them are conjectural in their nature and should be taken in that way only.
Birth and life of Tulsidas
There is some difference of opinion between the scholars regarding the exact year and exact place of birth of Tulsidas but commonly it is attributed to a place known as Rajpur in the state of U.P. in India. He was born in a Hindu Brahmin family in the year 1532. His father was known as Atmaram Shukla Dube and mother was hulsi. Legend is that Tulsidas did not cry at his birth and in fact was born with full set of teeth intact in his mouth. It is also said that he uttered the word 'Rama' just after his birth. Anyway, these things are most of the times propagated by the ardent fans and followers and are not to be taken on their face values. Whatever be the exact reasons, Tulsidas was also known by the names Tulsiram and Rambola.
As per the historical data compiled by the scholars it is believed that due to the fear of some inauspicious astrological event, Tulsidas was abandoned by his parents and was given to a servant who also died after some time leaving Tulsidas again as an orphan. At a tender age of about 5 years he was adopted by a person called Narharidas, who was a disciple of Ramananda and Anantacharya, the great Vaishnava personalities. This was in fact a turning point in the life of Tulsidas as Nariharidas was the person who took him to the temples and other places for listening to the story of lord Rama and other discourses. Tulsidas had mentioned this phase of his life in the epic Ramcharitmanas.
In due course of time, Tulsidas got marrried with Ratnavali and loved his wife much and was attached to her so much that she one day told him that his too much passionate attachment to her was an impediment in his growth and it would had been better if he had put that indulgence in the worshipping of lord Rama for attainment of eternal bliss. I have tried to put the words of Ratnavali translated in a four liner just to convey the force and impact it had.
So much crazy you are,
For a body that is filthy.
Even with half of that passion,
You could attain spirituality.
These words shot like an arrow in the heart of Tulsidas and brought a phenomenal change in his life and he left his home and devoted the rest of his life in learning Sanskrit, reading the scriptures, visiting of sacred places and writing various books. He then settled in Varanasi in the state of U.P. as a poet and writer.
Biographers do not agree on the date of death of Tulsidas but it is commonly agreed that he died in the year1623.
"There are three all-powerful evils: lust, anger and greed."
Ramcharitmanas is the most outstanding work of Tulsidas. The style of the poetry and its vastness is simply amazing. Though Ramcharitmanas is the major work of Tulsidas but apart from that he had other main works to his credit. These are -
1. Dohavali - Written in Braja and Awadhi dialect of Hindi language this is a collection of Dohas (A two line poetry with an obvious break in almost centre of both lines, that enables to chant or sing it nicely) and Sorthas (Another type of two line poetry where the latter half of each line is placed ahead of first half. The singer would make it out and sing it accordingly). There are a total of 573 two liners like this in this collection. Incidentally 85 Dohas of it are common with Ramcharitmanas.
2. Kavitavali - Written in Braja dialect, it is a huge collection of poems in seven volumes.
3. Gitavali - It comprises of 328 songs in Braja dialect and can be categorised under Hindustani classical music.
4. Krishna Gitavali or Krishnavali - This collection of 61Braja songs is dedicated to lord Krishna covering lord Krishna's childhood and young age.
5. Vinaya Patrika - It is one of the famous work of Tulsidas and comprises of 279 paras or stanzas. This mainly talks about the various Indian deities and lord Rama's court and courtiers.
Further, he had composed many small poems and stanzas among which Hanuman Chalisa is very popular and famous and many Hindu individuals remember it by heart. It is a prayer to lord Hanuman asking for his blessings to the individual.
Have you ever heard or read about the great Indian poet Tulsidas?
Ramcharitmanas is a poetic journey of the life of lord Rama. It is written in an organised poetic form so that people can sing it in a melodious manner. The group singing of this holy book is very popular in India and people time to time organise it in their own house or nearby temple or auditorium.
The story of Ramcharitmanas depicts the life of lord Rama encompassing his birth, childhood, marriage, exile to jungle, friendship with apes and monkeys, kidnapping of his wife Sita by demon Ravana, search for Sita, fight with Ravana and killing of Ravana, returning to home that is Ayodhya and finally ruling the country. Written in Awadhi dialect, one can easily understand it if one knows Hindi. It is a long and elaborate story of good versus evil and contains mesmerising presentation of attributes like respect, obedience, friendship, leadership, strategy, fighting skills, reputation, and many more.
There are 7 chapters in Ramcharitmanas known as Balakanda, Ayodhyakand, Aranyakand, Kishkindhakand, Sundarkand, Lankakand, and Uttarkand. Altogether there are 10902 numbers of verses in Ramcharitmanas. No doubt, it is a huge poetry.
Ramcharitmanas is a saga in poetry. A poetry which is well balanced in its structure. It is written in a precise and proper way so that it could be sung by the people who are interested in it. There is a proper observance of poetry and its grammer throughout the Ramcharitmanas. It is a flawless treatise depicting the life and activities of lord Rama in a poetic form.
Why Ramcharitmanas is so popular?
The story of lord Rama was also written by earlier scholars before Tulsidas but that was in Sanskrit language which was the language of the elite class and not of the common people. So, the story did not become much popular. It was only when Tulsidas wrote it in a common language Awadhi, which is a dialect of Hindi, that this story became very popular. As the story was in a poetic form having all rythms of a beautiful poem, people started to sing and chant it in different tunes which produced a melodious effect in the surrounding and increased its popularity day by day.
Another interesting thing is that this story has many small incidents narrated about other deities and religious figures of Hindu religion and that attracts the religious people to read it time and again in their lives. It has become for Hindus just like the bible is for the christian community.
Some excerpts from Ramcharitmanas
Ramcharitmanas is full of wisdom and knowledge. It contains beautiful lines on a myriad of subjects. I have compiled some of the translated quotes from it -
- There is no sin as grievous as speaking ill of others.
- There is no misery in this world as terrible as poverty.
- There is no blessing as great as company with saints.
- Before preaching others one should observe it.
- Never underestimate your enemy.
- Do not haste, think well before you act.
- Non-violence is the highest religion.
- Infatuation is the root of all ailments.
- Valour and fortitude are the wheels of the victorious chariot.
- Truth is the highest Dharma (duty or religion).
- Happiness and sorrow alternate in one's life.
- Grief destroys one's courage. There is no enemy greater than grief.
- Conduct is the best proof of character.
- Promises made are to be kept.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Umesh Chandra Bhatt