Tulsidas
Overview
 
Tulsidas also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

: तुलसीदास, t̪uls̪iːd̪ɑːs̪, also known as Goswami Tulsidas), (1497/1532–1623) was a Hindu
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 poet-saint, reformer and philosopher renowned for his devotion for the god Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

. A composer of several popular works, he is best known for being the author of the epic Ramcharitmanas, a retelling of the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

 in the vernacular Awadhi
Awadhi language
Awadhi is an Indo-Aryan language, part of the Hindi-Urdu continuum. It is spoken chiefly in the Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh, although its speakers are also found in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Nepal. Furthermore, the Fiji Hindi dialect spoken by Indo-Fijians is considered a variant of Awadhi,...

, which is a popular Hindu scripture often referred to as the Bible of North India.
Encyclopedia
Tulsidas also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

: तुलसीदास, t̪uls̪iːd̪ɑːs̪, also known as Goswami Tulsidas), (1497/1532–1623) was a Hindu
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 poet-saint, reformer and philosopher renowned for his devotion for the god Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

. A composer of several popular works, he is best known for being the author of the epic Ramcharitmanas, a retelling of the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

 in the vernacular Awadhi
Awadhi language
Awadhi is an Indo-Aryan language, part of the Hindi-Urdu continuum. It is spoken chiefly in the Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh, although its speakers are also found in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Nepal. Furthermore, the Fiji Hindi dialect spoken by Indo-Fijians is considered a variant of Awadhi,...

, which is a popular Hindu scripture often referred to as the Bible of North India. Tulsidas was acclaimed in his lifetime to be a reincarnation of Valmiki
Valmiki
Valmiki is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e...

, the composer of the original Ramayana in Sanskrit. He is also considered to be the composer of the Hanuman Chalisa
Hanuman Chalisa
Hanuman Chalisa |Forty chaupai]]s on Hanuman") is a devotional song based on Lord Hanuman as the model devotee. It is a poem written by Tulsidas in the Awadhi language, and is his best known Hindu text apart from the Ramcharitmanas...

, a popular devotional hymn dedicated to Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

, the divine monkey helper and devotee of Rama. Tulsidas lived permanently and died in the city of Varanasi
Varanasi
-Etymology:The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi, for the old city lies in the north shores of the Ganga bounded by its two tributaries, the Varuna and the Asi, with the Ganges being to its south...

. The Tulsi Ghat in Varnasi is named after him. He founded the Sankatmochan Temple
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple (Varanasi)
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is one of the sacred temples of Hindu god Hanuman in the city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is situated by the Assi river stream, on the way of the Durga Temple and the New Vishwanath temple within the Banaras Hindu University campus. The word Sankat Mochan in...

 dedicated to Hanuman in Varanasi, believed to stand at the place where he had the sight of Hanuman. Tulsidas started the Ramlila
Ramlila
Ramlila is a dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Lord Ram, ending up in ten day battle between Lord Ram and Ravan, as described in the Hindu religious epic, the Ramayana...

 plays, a folk-theatre adaption of the Ramayana. He has been acclaimed as one of the greatest poets in Hindi
Hindi literature
Hindi literature , is broadly divided into four prominent forms or styles, being Bhakti ; Shringar ; Veer-Gatha ; and Adhunik...

, Indian
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

, and world
World literature
World literature refers to literature from all over the world, including African literature, American literature, Arabic literature, Asian literature, Australasian literature, Caribbean Literature, English literature, European literature, Indian literature, Latin American literature, Persian...

 literature. The impact of Tulsidas and his works on the art, culture and society in India is widespread and is seen to date in vernacular language, Ramlila plays, Hindustani classical music
Hindustani classical music
Hindustani classical music is the Hindustani or North Indian style of Indian classical music found throughout the northern Indian subcontinent. The style is sometimes called North Indian Classical Music or Shāstriya Sangeet...

, popular music, and television series.

Transliteration and Etymology

The Sanskrit name of Tulsidas can be transliterated in two ways. Using the IAST
IAST
The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration is a transliteration scheme that allows a lossless romanization of Indic scripts as employed by the Sanskrit language.-Popularity:...

 transliteration scheme, the name is written as Tulasīdāsa, as pronounced in Sanskrit. Using the Hunterian
Hunterian transliteration
The Hunterian transliteration system is the "national system of romanization in India" and the one officially adopted by the Government of India. Hunterian transliteration was sometimes also called the Jonesian transliteration system because it derived closely from a previous transliteration method...

 transliteration scheme, it is written as Tulsidas or Tulsīdās, as pronounced in Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

. The name is a compound
Sanskrit compounds
One notable feature of the nominal system of Sanskrit is the very common use of nominal compounds , which may be huge , as in some modern languages such as German...

 of two Sanskrit words: Tulasī, which is an Indian variety of the basil plant considered auspicious by Vaishnavas (devotees of god Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 and his avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

s like Rama), and Dāsa, which means a slave or servant and by extension, a devotee. Tulsidas, thus means a servant of the plant Tulsi.

Sources

Tulsidas himself has given only a few facts and hints about events of his life in various works. Till late nineteenth century, the two widely known ancient sources on Tulsidas' life were the Bhaktamal composed by Nabhadas between 1583 and 1639, and a commentary on Bhaktamal titled Bhaktirasbodhini composed by Priyadas in 1712. Nabhadas was a contemporary of Tulsidas and wrote a six-line stanza on Tulsidas describing him as an incarnation of Valmiki. Priyadas' work was composed around a hundred years after the death of Tulsidas and had eleven additional stanzas, describing seven miracles or spiritual experiences from the life of Tulsidas. During the 1920s, two more ancient biographies of Tulsidas were published based on old manuscripts – the Mula Gosain Charit composed by Veni Madhav Das in 1630 and the Gosain Charit composed by Dasanidas (also known as Bhavanidas) around 1770. Veni Madhav Das was a disciple and contemporary of Tulsidas and his work gave a new date for Tulsidas' birth. The work by Bhavanidas presented more narratives in greater detail as compared to the work by Priyadas. In the 1950s a fifth ancient account was published based on an old manuscript, the Gautam Chandrika composed by Krishnadatta Misra of Varanasi in 1624. Krishnadatta Misra's father was a close companion of Tulsidas. The accounts published later are not considered authentic by some modern scholars, whereas some other scholars have been unwilling to dismiss them. Together, these five works form a set of traditional biographies on which modern biographies of Tulsidas are based.

Incarnation of Valmiki

Tulsidas is believed to be a reincarnation of Valmiki
Valmiki
Valmiki is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e...

. In the Hindu scripture Bhavishyottar Purana
Bhavishya Purana
The Bhavishya Purana is one of the eighteen major Hindu Puranas. It is written in Sanskrit and attributed to Rishi Vyasa, the compiler of the Vedas. The title Bhavishya Purana signifies a work that contains prophecies regarding the future...

, the god Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 tells his wife Parvati
Parvati
Parvati is a Hindu goddess. Parvati is Shakti, the wife of Shiva and the gentle aspect of Mahadevi, the Great Goddess...

 how Valmiki, who got a boon from Hanuman to sing the glory of Rama in vernacular language, will incarnate in future in the Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga is the last of the four stages that the world goes through as part of the cycle of yugas described in the Indian scriptures. The other ages are Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga...

 (the present and last Yuga
Yuga
Yuga in Hindu philosophy is the name of an 'epoch' or 'era' within a cycle of four ages. These are the Satya Yuga, the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga. According to Hindu cosmology, life in the universe is created, destroyed once every 4.1 to 8.2 billion years, which is...

 or epoch within a cycle of four Yugas).

Devanagari
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

                     
IAST
वाल्मीकिस्तुलसीदासः कलौ देवि भविष्यति ।                      vālmīkistulasīdāsaḥ kalau devi bhaviṣyati ।
रामचन्द्रकथामेतां भाषाबद्धां करिष्यति ॥                      rāmacandrakathāmetāṃ bhāṣābaddhāṃ kariṣyati ॥




Nabhadas wrote in the Bhaktamal (literally, the Garland of Saints) that Tulsidas was the incarnation of Valmiki in the Kali Yuga. The Ramanandi
Ramanandi
Ramanandi are the followers of saint Ramananda. Ramanandi are spread across India, mainly in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Agravat, Nimavat, Kubavat, Tilavat, Devmurari, Ramavat, Nenuji, Sukhanandi and Yoganandi are the most prominent last names in Ramanandi cast. Ramanandi worship Shri Ram...

 sect believes that it was Valmiki himself who incarnated as Tulsidas in the Kali Yuga.

According to a traditional account, Hanuman went to Valmiki several times to hear him sing the Ramayana, but Valmiki turned down the request saying that Hanuman being a monkey was unworthy of hearing the epic. After the victory of Rama over Ravana
Ravana
' is the primary antagonist character of the Hindu legend, the Ramayana; who is the great king of Lanka. In the classic text, he is mainly depicted negatively, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita, to claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister...

, Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

 went to the Himalayas to continue his worship of Rama. There he scripted a play version of the Ramayana called Mahanataka or Hanuman Nataka engraved on the Himalayan rocks using his nails. When Valmiki saw the play written by Hanuman, he anticipated that the beauty of the Maha Nataka would eclipse his own Ramayana. On Valmiki's request, Hanuman cast all the rocks into the ocean, some parts of which are available today as Hanuman Nataka. After this, Valmiki was instructed by Hanuman to take birth as Tulsidas and compose the Ramayana in the vernacular.

Birth

Tulsidas was born on the seventh day of the bright half of the lunar Hindu month Shraavana
Shraavana
Shraavana is a month of the Hindu calendar, also known as Sawan. In India's national civil calendar, Shraavan is the fifth month of the Hindu year, beginning in late July and ending in the third week of August. In the Tamil calendar, it is known as Aavani and is the fifth month of the solar year...

 (July–August). Although as many as seven places are mentioned as his birth-place, most scholars identify the place with Rajapur
Rajapur, Uttar Pradesh
Sukarkhet Rajapur is a town and a in Chitrakoot district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.-Demographics: India census, Rajapur had a population of 12,728. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Rajapur has an average literacy rate of 64%, higher than the national average of...

 (Chitrakuta
Chitrakuta
Chitrakuta is a town and a nagar panchayat in Satna district in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India....

), a village on the banks of the Yamuna
Yamuna
The Yamuna is the largest tributary river of the Ganges in northern India...

 river in modern-day Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh abbreviation U.P. , is a state located in the northern part of India. With a population of over 200 million people, it is India's most populous state, as well as the world's most populous sub-national entity...

. His parents were Hulsi and Atmaram Dubey. Most sources identify him as a Saryupareen Brahmin of the Parashar Gotra
Gotra
In the Hindu society, the term Gotra broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor. Panini defines gotra for grammatical purposes as apatyam pautraprabhrti gotram , which means "the word gotra denotes the progeny beginning with the son's son"...

(lineage), although some sources claim he was a Kanyakubja
Kanyakubja Brahmins
Kanyakubj Brahmins are a Brahmin community found in central India, mainly in the states of Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The word Kanyakubja means Brahmins of the Kannauj region. Kannauj region was spread to border of Vidisha in ancient times...

 or Sanadhya
Sanadhya Brahmin
Sanadya Brahmin are a community of Brahmins, living prominently in Western Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh area of India...

 Brahmin.

There is difference of opinion among biographers regarding the year of birth of Tulsidas. Many sources rely on Veni Madhav Das' account in the Mula Gosain Charita, which gives the year of Tulsidas' birth as Vikrami Samvat
Bikram Samwat
Vikram Samvat is the calendar established by Indian emperor Vikramaditya...

 1554 (1497 CE). These sources include Shivlal Pathak, popular editions of Ramcharitmanas (Gita Press, Naval Kishore Press and Venkateshvar Press), Edwin Greaves, Hanuman Prasad Poddar
Hanuman Prasad Poddar
Hanuman Prasad Poddar was an author and freedom fighter of India.Lovingly called as Bhaijee, he was a multifaceted personality...

, Ramanand Sarasvati, Ayodhyanath Sharma, Ramchandra Shukla, Narayandas, and Rambhadracharya
Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya
Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Swami Rambhadracharya, born 14 January 1950 as Giridhar Mishra, is a Hindu religious leader, educationist, Sanskrit scholar, polyglot, poet, author, commentator, philosopher, composer, singer, playwright and Katha artist based in Chitrakoot, India. He is one of four...

. A second group of biographers led by Sant Tulsi Sahib of Hathras and Sir George Grierson
George Abraham Grierson
Sir George Abraham Grierson OM KCIE was born to a prominent Dublin family in 1851. His father and grandfather, both also named George, were well-known printers and publishers.-Biography:Educated at St...

 give the year as Vikram 1589 (1532 CE). These biographers include Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Ramghulam Dwivedi, James Lochtefeld, Swami Sivananda and others. A third small group of authors which includes H. H. Wilson
Horace Hayman Wilson
Horace Hayman Wilson was an English orientalist.He studied medicine at St Thomas's Hospital, and went out to India in 1808 as assistant-surgeon on the Bengal establishment of the British East India Company....

, Garse De Tasse and Krishnadatta Mishra gives the year as Vikram 1600 (1543 CE).

The year 1497 appears in most current-day biographies and in popular culture. Biographers who disagree with this year argue that it makes the life span of Tulsidas equal 126 years, which in their opinion is unlikely if not impossible. In contrast, Ramchandra Shukla says that an age of 126 is not impossible for Mahatma
Mahatma
Mahatma is Sanskrit for "Great Soul". It is similar in usage to the modern Christian term saint. This epithet is commonly applied to prominent people like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jyotirao Phule and Branch Rickey...

s (great souls) like Tulsidas. The Government of India
Government of India
The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories, collectively called the Republic of India...

 and provincial governments celebrated the 500th birth anniversary of Tulsidas in the year 1997 CE, according to the year of Tulsidas' birth in popular culture.

Childhood

Legend goes that Tulsidas was born after staying in the womb for 12 months, he had all 32 teeth in his mouth at birth, his health and looks were like that of a five-year old boy, and he did not cry at the time of his birth but uttered Rama instead. He was therefore named Rambola (literally, he who uttered Rama), as Tulsidas himself states in Vinayapatrika.Poddar 1997, pp. 112–113 (Stanza 76). As per the Mula Gosain Charita, he was born under the Abhuktamūla constellation, which according to Jyotisha
Jyotisha
Hindu astrology , also Jyotish or Jyotisha, from Sanskrit , from "light, heavenly body") is the ancient Indian system of astronomy and astrology...

 (Hindu astrology) causes immediate danger to the life of the father. Due to the inauspicious events at the time of his birth, he was abandoned by his parents on the fourth night, sent away with Chuniya (some sources call her Muniya), a female servant of Hulsi. In his works Kavitavali and Vinayapatrika, Tulsidas attests to his parents abandoning him after birth due to an inauspicious astrological configuration.

Chuniya took the child to her village of Haripur and looked after him for five and a half years after which she died. Rambola was left to fend for himself as an impoverished orphan, and wandered from door to door begging for alms. It is believed that the goddess Parvati assumed the form of a Brahmin woman and fed Rambola every day.

Initiation from guru and learning

At the age of five years, Rambola was adopted by Narharidas, a Vaishnava ascetic of Ramananda
Ramananda
Ramananda , also referred to as Sant Ramanand or Swami Ramanand, was a Vaishnava sant. He is considered to be the reviver of the Ramanandi sect. Ramananda for the most part of his life lived in the holy city of Varanasi, and was a pioneer of the Bhakti movement, as well as a social reformer in...

's monastic order who is believed to be the fourth disciple of Ramananda, or alternately, the disciple of Anantacharya. Rambola was given the Virakta Diksha (Vairagi initiation) with the new name of Tulsidas. Tulsidas narrates the dialogue that took place during the first meeting with his guru in a passage in the Vinayapatrika. When he was seven years old, his Upanayana
Upanayana
Upanayana is the initiation ritual by which initiates are invested with a sacred thread, to symbolize the transference of spiritual knowledge .- Significance of the sacred thread :...

 ("sacred thread ceremony") was performed by Narharidas on the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Magha (January–February) at Ayodhya, a pilgrimage-site related to Rama. Tulsidas started his learning at Ayodhya. After some time, Narharidas took him to a particular Varaha Kshetra (a holy place with temple dedicated to Varaha
Varaha
Varaha is the third Avatar of the Hindu Godhead Vishnu, in the form of a Boar. He appeared in order to defeat Hiranyaksha, a demon who had taken the Earth and carried it to the bottom of what is described as the cosmic ocean in the story. The battle between Varaha and Hiranyaksha is believed to...

 - the boar avatar of Vishnu), where he first narrated the Ramayana to Tulsidas. Tulsidas mentions this in the Ramcharitmanas.

Devanagari                      IAST
मैं पुनि निज गुर सन सुनी कथा सो सूकरखेत ।                      maı̐ puni nija gura sana sunī kathā so sūkarakheta ।
समुझी नहिं तस बालपन तब अति रहेउँ अचेत ॥                      samujhī nahi̐ tasa bālapana taba ati raheu̐ aceta ॥



Most authors identify the Varaha Kshetra referred to by Tulsidas with the Varaha temple on the second entrance of the pilgrimage of Kamadgiri in Chitrakuta. Some biographers believe this Sukarkshetra is the Soron
Soron
Soron is a town and a municipal board in Kanshiram Nagar district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.-Geography:Soron is located at . It has an average elevation of 179 m ....

 Varaha Kshetra in modern-day Kanshi Ram Nagar, while some others believe it to be Paska-Rajapur Varaha Kshetra in current-day Gonda
Gonda District
Gonda is one of the districts of Uttar Pradesh, India. Gonda is the district headquarters, and also the administrative centre for the Devipatan Division....

. Tulsidas further mentions in the Ramcharitmanas that his guru repeatedly narrated the Ramayana to him, which led him to understand it somewhat.

Tulsidas later came to the sacred city of Varanasi and studied Sanskrit grammar
Vyakarana
The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, ...

, four Vedas, six Vedanga
Vedanga
The Vedanga are six auxiliary disciplines traditionally associated with the study and understanding of the Vedas.#Shiksha : phonetics, phonology and morphophonology #Kalpa : ritual#Vyakarana : grammar...

s, Jyotisha and the six schools of Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

 over a period of 15–16 years from guru Shesha Sanatana who was based at the Pancaganga Ghat in Varanasi. Shesha Sanatana was a friend of Narharidas and a renowned scholar on literature and philosophy. After completing his studies, Tulsidas came back to his birthplace Rajapur with the permission of Shesha Sanatana. Here he found that his family was no more, with his parents dead. Tulsidas performed the Shraddha
Śrāddha
Śrāddha or Shraaddha is a Sanskrit word which literally means anything or any act that is performed with all sincerity and faith . In the Hindu religion, it is the ritual that one performs to pay homage to one’s 'ancestors' , especially to one’s dead parents...

 ceremony (which deals with giving offerings to the ancestors) of his parents. He started living in his ancestral home and narrating the Katha
Katha (storytelling format)
Katha is an Indian style of religious storytelling, whose performances are a ritual event in Hinduism, and often involves professional storytellers called kathavahchak or vyas, who recite the Hindu religious texts, such as the Puranas, Ramayana or Bhagavata Purana, often followed by a commentary,...

 ("story") of Ramayana in Chitrakuta.

Marriage and renunciation

According to the Mula Gosain Charita and some other works, Tulsidas was married to Ratnavali on the thirteenth day of the bright half of the Jyeshta
Jyeshta
Jyeshta is a month of the Hindu calendar, also known as Jeth or Iethe. In India's national civil calendar, Jyestha is the third month of the year, beginning on 21 May and ending on 22 June...

 month (May–June) in Vikram 1583 (1526 CE). Ratnavali was the daughter of Dinbandhu Pathak, a Brahmin of the Bharadwaja
Bharadwaja
Bharadwaja was one of the greatest Hindu Arya sages descendant of rishi Angirasa, whose accomplishments are detailed in the Puranas. He was one of the Saptarshis in the present Manvantara; with others being Atri, Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni, Kashyapa.Bhardwaj Rishi was father of...

 Gotra, who belonged to Mahewa village of Kaushambi district
Kaushambi District
Kaushambi district is one of the districts of Uttar Pradesh state of India, and Manjhanpur town is the district headquarters. Kaushambi district is a part of Allahabad Division.- History :...

. They had a son named Tarak who died as a toddler. Once when Tulsidas had gone to a Hanuman temple, Ratnavali went to her father's home with her brother. When Tulsidas came to know this, he swam across the Yamuna river in the night to meet his wife. Ratnavali chided Tulsidas for this, and remarked that if Tulsidas was even half as devoted to God as he was to her body of flesh and blood, he would have been redeemed. Tulsidas left her instantly and left for the holy city of Prayag. Here, he renounced the Grihastha
Grihastha
Grihasthya refers to the second phase of an individual's life in the Vedic ashram system. It is often called 'the householders life' revolving as it does around the duties of maintaining a household and leading a family-centred life.-Usage:...

 (householder's life) stage and became a Sadhu
Sadhu
In Hinduism, sādhu denotes an ascetic, wandering monk. Although the vast majority of sādhus are yogīs, not all yogīs are sādhus. The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa , the fourth and final aśrama , through meditation and contemplation of brahman...

 (Hindu ascetic).

Some authors consider the marriage episode of Tulsidas to be a later interpolation and maintain that he was a bachelor. They include Rambhadracharya, who interprets two verses in the Vinayapatrika and Hanuman Bahuka to mean that Tulsidas never married and was a Sadhu from childhood.

Later life

Travels

After renunciation, Tulsidas spent most of his time at Varanasi, Prayag, Ayodhya, and Chitrakuta but visited many other nearby and far-off places. He traveled across India to many places, studying different people, meeting saints and Sadhus and meditating. The Mula Gosain Charita gives an account of his travels to the four pilgrimages
Char Dham
The Chota Char Dham , is an important Hindu pilgrimage circuit in the Indian Himalayas...

 of Hindus (Badrinath, Dwarka
Dwarka
Dwarka also spelled Dvarka, Dwaraka, and Dvaraka, is a city and a municipality of Jamnagar district in the Gujarat state in India. Dwarka , also known as Dwarawati in Sanskrit literature is rated as one of the seven most ancient cities in the country...

, Puri
Puri
Puri is district headquarter, a city situated about south of state capital Bhubaneswar, on the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal in the Indian state of Orissa. It is also known as Jagannath Puri after the Jagannath Temple . It is a holy city of the Hindus as a part of the Char Dham pilgrimages...

 and Rameshwaram) and the Himalayas
Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

. He visited the Manasarovar lake
Lake Manasarovar
Lake Manasarovar, Mapam Yumco , or Manasa Sarovar/Lake Manas , is a fresh-water lake in Tibet Autonomous Region of China approximately from Lhasa. To the west of Lake Manasa Sarovar is Lake Rakshastal and towards the north is Mount Kailash...

 in current-day Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

, where tradition holds he had Darshan (sight) of Kakabhushundi, the crow who is one of the four narrators in the Ramcharitmanas.

Darshan of Hanuman

Tulsidas hints at several places in his works, that he had met face to face with Hanuman and Rama. The detailed account of his meetings with Hanuman and Rama are given in the Bhaktirasbodhini of Priyadas. According to Priyadas' account, Tulsidas used to visit the woods outside Varanasi for his morning ablutions with a water pot. On his return to the city, he used to offer the remaining water to a certain tree. This quenched the thirst of a Preta
Preta
Preta, प्रेत or Peta is the name for a type of being described in Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, and Jain texts that undergoes more than human suffering, particularly an extreme degree of hunger and thirst...

 (a type of ghost believed to be ever thirsty for water), who appeared to Tulsidas and offered him a boon. Tulsidas said he wished to see Rama with his eyes, to which the Preta responded that it was beyond him. However, the Preta said that he could guide Tulsidas to Hanuman, who could grant the boon Tulsidas asked for. The Preta told Tulsidas that Hanuman comes everyday disguised in the mean attire of a leper to listen to his Katha, he is the first to arrive and last to leave.

That evening Tulsidas noted that the first listener to arrive at his discourse was an old leper, who sat at the end of the gathering. After the Katha was over, Tulsidas quietly followed the leper to the woods. In the woods, at the spot where the Sankat Mochan Temple stands today, Tulsidas firmly fell at the leper's feet, shouting "I know who you are" and "You cannot escape me". At first the leper feigned ignorance but Tulsidas did not relent. Then the leper revealed his original form of Hanuman and blessed Tulsidas. When granted a boon, Tulsidas told Hanuman he wanted to see Rama face to face. Hanuman told him to go to Chitrakuta where he would see Rama with his own eyes.

At the beginning of the Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas bows down to a particular Preta and asks for his grace (Ramcharitmanas, Doha 1.7). According to Rambhadracharya, this is the same Preta which led Tulsidas to Hanuman.

Darshan of Rama

As per Priyadas' account, Tulsidas followed the instruction of Hanuman and started living in an Ashram at Ramghat in Chitrakuta. One day Tulsidas went to perform the Parikrama (circumambulation) of the Kamadgiri mountain. He saw two princes, one dark and the other fair, dressed in green robes pass by mounted on horsebacks. Tulsidas was enraptured at the sight, however he could not recognize them and took his eyes off them. Later Hanuman asked Tulsidas if he saw Rama and his brother Lakshmana
Lakshmana
Lakshmana was the brother and close companion of Rama, and himself a hero in the famous epic Ramayana...

 on horses. Tulsidas was disappointed and repentful. Hanuman assured Tulsidas that he would have the sight of Rama once again the next morning. Tulsidas recalls this incident in a song of the Gitavali and laments how "his eyes turned his own enemies" by staying fixed to the ground and how everything happened in a trice.

Tulsidas (Devanāgarī
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

: तुलसीदास, t̪uls̪iːd̪ɑːs̪, also known as Goswami Tulsidas), (1497/1532–1623) was a Hindu
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 poet-saint, reformer and philosopher renowned for his devotion for the god Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

. A composer of several popular works, he is best known for being the author of the epic Ramcharitmanas, a retelling of the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

 in the vernacular Awadhi
Awadhi language
Awadhi is an Indo-Aryan language, part of the Hindi-Urdu continuum. It is spoken chiefly in the Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh, although its speakers are also found in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Nepal. Furthermore, the Fiji Hindi dialect spoken by Indo-Fijians is considered a variant of Awadhi,...

, which is a popular Hindu scripture often referred to as the Bible of North India. Tulsidas was acclaimed in his lifetime to be a reincarnation of Valmiki
Valmiki
Valmiki is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e...

, the composer of the original Ramayana in Sanskrit. He is also considered to be the composer of the Hanuman Chalisa
Hanuman Chalisa
Hanuman Chalisa |Forty chaupai]]s on Hanuman") is a devotional song based on Lord Hanuman as the model devotee. It is a poem written by Tulsidas in the Awadhi language, and is his best known Hindu text apart from the Ramcharitmanas...

, a popular devotional hymn dedicated to Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

, the divine monkey helper and devotee of Rama. Tulsidas lived permanently and died in the city of Varanasi
Varanasi
-Etymology:The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi, for the old city lies in the north shores of the Ganga bounded by its two tributaries, the Varuna and the Asi, with the Ganges being to its south...

. The Tulsi Ghat in Varnasi is named after him. He founded the Sankatmochan Temple
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple (Varanasi)
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is one of the sacred temples of Hindu god Hanuman in the city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is situated by the Assi river stream, on the way of the Durga Temple and the New Vishwanath temple within the Banaras Hindu University campus. The word Sankat Mochan in...

 dedicated to Hanuman in Varanasi, believed to stand at the place where he had the sight of Hanuman. Tulsidas started the Ramlila
Ramlila
Ramlila is a dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Lord Ram, ending up in ten day battle between Lord Ram and Ravan, as described in the Hindu religious epic, the Ramayana...

 plays, a folk-theatre adaption of the Ramayana. He has been acclaimed as one of the greatest poets in Hindi
Hindi literature
Hindi literature , is broadly divided into four prominent forms or styles, being Bhakti ; Shringar ; Veer-Gatha ; and Adhunik...

, Indian
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

, and world
World literature
World literature refers to literature from all over the world, including African literature, American literature, Arabic literature, Asian literature, Australasian literature, Caribbean Literature, English literature, European literature, Indian literature, Latin American literature, Persian...

 literature. The impact of Tulsidas and his works on the art, culture and society in India is widespread and is seen to date in vernacular language, Ramlila plays, Hindustani classical music
Hindustani classical music
Hindustani classical music is the Hindustani or North Indian style of Indian classical music found throughout the northern Indian subcontinent. The style is sometimes called North Indian Classical Music or Shāstriya Sangeet...

, popular music, and television series.

Transliteration and Etymology

The Sanskrit name of Tulsidas can be transliterated in two ways. Using the IAST
IAST
The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration is a transliteration scheme that allows a lossless romanization of Indic scripts as employed by the Sanskrit language.-Popularity:...

 transliteration scheme, the name is written as Tulasīdāsa, as pronounced in Sanskrit. Using the Hunterian
Hunterian transliteration
The Hunterian transliteration system is the "national system of romanization in India" and the one officially adopted by the Government of India. Hunterian transliteration was sometimes also called the Jonesian transliteration system because it derived closely from a previous transliteration method...

 transliteration scheme, it is written as Tulsidas or Tulsīdās, as pronounced in Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

. The name is a compound
Sanskrit compounds
One notable feature of the nominal system of Sanskrit is the very common use of nominal compounds , which may be huge , as in some modern languages such as German...

 of two Sanskrit words: Tulasī, which is an Indian variety of the basil plant considered auspicious by Vaishnavas (devotees of god Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 and his avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

s like Rama), and Dāsa, which means a slave or servant and by extension, a devotee. Tulsidas, thus means a servant of the plant Tulsi.

Sources

Tulsidas himself has given only a few facts and hints about events of his life in various works. Till late nineteenth century, the two widely known ancient sources on Tulsidas' life were the Bhaktamal composed by Nabhadas between 1583 and 1639, and a commentary on Bhaktamal titled Bhaktirasbodhini composed by Priyadas in 1712. Nabhadas was a contemporary of Tulsidas and wrote a six-line stanza on Tulsidas describing him as an incarnation of Valmiki. Priyadas' work was composed around a hundred years after the death of Tulsidas and had eleven additional stanzas, describing seven miracles or spiritual experiences from the life of Tulsidas. During the 1920s, two more ancient biographies of Tulsidas were published based on old manuscripts – the Mula Gosain Charit composed by Veni Madhav Das in 1630 and the Gosain Charit composed by Dasanidas (also known as Bhavanidas) around 1770. Veni Madhav Das was a disciple and contemporary of Tulsidas and his work gave a new date for Tulsidas' birth. The work by Bhavanidas presented more narratives in greater detail as compared to the work by Priyadas. In the 1950s a fifth ancient account was published based on an old manuscript, the Gautam Chandrika composed by Krishnadatta Misra of Varanasi in 1624. Krishnadatta Misra's father was a close companion of Tulsidas. The accounts published later are not considered authentic by some modern scholars, whereas some other scholars have been unwilling to dismiss them. Together, these five works form a set of traditional biographies on which modern biographies of Tulsidas are based.

Incarnation of Valmiki

Tulsidas is believed to be a reincarnation of Valmiki
Valmiki
Valmiki is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e...

. In the Hindu scripture Bhavishyottar Purana
Bhavishya Purana
The Bhavishya Purana is one of the eighteen major Hindu Puranas. It is written in Sanskrit and attributed to Rishi Vyasa, the compiler of the Vedas. The title Bhavishya Purana signifies a work that contains prophecies regarding the future...

, the god Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 tells his wife Parvati
Parvati
Parvati is a Hindu goddess. Parvati is Shakti, the wife of Shiva and the gentle aspect of Mahadevi, the Great Goddess...

 how Valmiki, who got a boon from Hanuman to sing the glory of Rama in vernacular language, will incarnate in future in the Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga is the last of the four stages that the world goes through as part of the cycle of yugas described in the Indian scriptures. The other ages are Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga...

 (the present and last Yuga
Yuga
Yuga in Hindu philosophy is the name of an 'epoch' or 'era' within a cycle of four ages. These are the Satya Yuga, the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga. According to Hindu cosmology, life in the universe is created, destroyed once every 4.1 to 8.2 billion years, which is...

 or epoch within a cycle of four Yugas).

Devanagari
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

                     
IAST
वाल्मीकिस्तुलसीदासः कलौ देवि भविष्यति ।                      vālmīkistulasīdāsaḥ kalau devi bhaviṣyati ।
रामचन्द्रकथामेतां भाषाबद्धां करिष्यति ॥                      rāmacandrakathāmetāṃ bhāṣābaddhāṃ kariṣyati ॥




Nabhadas wrote in the Bhaktamal (literally, the Garland of Saints) that Tulsidas was the incarnation of Valmiki in the Kali Yuga. The Ramanandi
Ramanandi
Ramanandi are the followers of saint Ramananda. Ramanandi are spread across India, mainly in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Agravat, Nimavat, Kubavat, Tilavat, Devmurari, Ramavat, Nenuji, Sukhanandi and Yoganandi are the most prominent last names in Ramanandi cast. Ramanandi worship Shri Ram...

 sect believes that it was Valmiki himself who incarnated as Tulsidas in the Kali Yuga.

According to a traditional account, Hanuman went to Valmiki several times to hear him sing the Ramayana, but Valmiki turned down the request saying that Hanuman being a monkey was unworthy of hearing the epic. After the victory of Rama over Ravana
Ravana
' is the primary antagonist character of the Hindu legend, the Ramayana; who is the great king of Lanka. In the classic text, he is mainly depicted negatively, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita, to claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister...

, Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

 went to the Himalayas to continue his worship of Rama. There he scripted a play version of the Ramayana called Mahanataka or Hanuman Nataka engraved on the Himalayan rocks using his nails. When Valmiki saw the play written by Hanuman, he anticipated that the beauty of the Maha Nataka would eclipse his own Ramayana. On Valmiki's request, Hanuman cast all the rocks into the ocean, some parts of which are available today as Hanuman Nataka. After this, Valmiki was instructed by Hanuman to take birth as Tulsidas and compose the Ramayana in the vernacular.

Birth

Tulsidas was born on the seventh day of the bright half of the lunar Hindu month Shraavana
Shraavana
Shraavana is a month of the Hindu calendar, also known as Sawan. In India's national civil calendar, Shraavan is the fifth month of the Hindu year, beginning in late July and ending in the third week of August. In the Tamil calendar, it is known as Aavani and is the fifth month of the solar year...

 (July–August). Although as many as seven places are mentioned as his birth-place, most scholars identify the place with Rajapur
Rajapur, Uttar Pradesh
Sukarkhet Rajapur is a town and a in Chitrakoot district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.-Demographics: India census, Rajapur had a population of 12,728. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Rajapur has an average literacy rate of 64%, higher than the national average of...

 (Chitrakuta
Chitrakuta
Chitrakuta is a town and a nagar panchayat in Satna district in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India....

), a village on the banks of the Yamuna
Yamuna
The Yamuna is the largest tributary river of the Ganges in northern India...

 river in modern-day Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh abbreviation U.P. , is a state located in the northern part of India. With a population of over 200 million people, it is India's most populous state, as well as the world's most populous sub-national entity...

. His parents were Hulsi and Atmaram Dubey. Most sources identify him as a Saryupareen Brahmin of the Parashar Gotra
Gotra
In the Hindu society, the term Gotra broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor. Panini defines gotra for grammatical purposes as apatyam pautraprabhrti gotram , which means "the word gotra denotes the progeny beginning with the son's son"...

(lineage), although some sources claim he was a Kanyakubja
Kanyakubja Brahmins
Kanyakubj Brahmins are a Brahmin community found in central India, mainly in the states of Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The word Kanyakubja means Brahmins of the Kannauj region. Kannauj region was spread to border of Vidisha in ancient times...

 or Sanadhya
Sanadhya Brahmin
Sanadya Brahmin are a community of Brahmins, living prominently in Western Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh area of India...

 Brahmin.

There is difference of opinion among biographers regarding the year of birth of Tulsidas. Many sources rely on Veni Madhav Das' account in the Mula Gosain Charita, which gives the year of Tulsidas' birth as Vikrami Samvat
Bikram Samwat
Vikram Samvat is the calendar established by Indian emperor Vikramaditya...

 1554 (1497 CE). These sources include Shivlal Pathak, popular editions of Ramcharitmanas (Gita Press, Naval Kishore Press and Venkateshvar Press), Edwin Greaves, Hanuman Prasad Poddar
Hanuman Prasad Poddar
Hanuman Prasad Poddar was an author and freedom fighter of India.Lovingly called as Bhaijee, he was a multifaceted personality...

, Ramanand Sarasvati, Ayodhyanath Sharma, Ramchandra Shukla, Narayandas, and Rambhadracharya
Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya
Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Swami Rambhadracharya, born 14 January 1950 as Giridhar Mishra, is a Hindu religious leader, educationist, Sanskrit scholar, polyglot, poet, author, commentator, philosopher, composer, singer, playwright and Katha artist based in Chitrakoot, India. He is one of four...

. A second group of biographers led by Sant Tulsi Sahib of Hathras and Sir George Grierson
George Abraham Grierson
Sir George Abraham Grierson OM KCIE was born to a prominent Dublin family in 1851. His father and grandfather, both also named George, were well-known printers and publishers.-Biography:Educated at St...

 give the year as Vikram 1589 (1532 CE). These biographers include Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Ramghulam Dwivedi, James Lochtefeld, Swami Sivananda and others. A third small group of authors which includes H. H. Wilson
Horace Hayman Wilson
Horace Hayman Wilson was an English orientalist.He studied medicine at St Thomas's Hospital, and went out to India in 1808 as assistant-surgeon on the Bengal establishment of the British East India Company....

, Garse De Tasse and Krishnadatta Mishra gives the year as Vikram 1600 (1543 CE).

The year 1497 appears in most current-day biographies and in popular culture. Biographers who disagree with this year argue that it makes the life span of Tulsidas equal 126 years, which in their opinion is unlikely if not impossible. In contrast, Ramchandra Shukla says that an age of 126 is not impossible for Mahatma
Mahatma
Mahatma is Sanskrit for "Great Soul". It is similar in usage to the modern Christian term saint. This epithet is commonly applied to prominent people like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jyotirao Phule and Branch Rickey...

s (great souls) like Tulsidas. The Government of India
Government of India
The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories, collectively called the Republic of India...

 and provincial governments celebrated the 500th birth anniversary of Tulsidas in the year 1997 CE, according to the year of Tulsidas' birth in popular culture.

Childhood

Legend goes that Tulsidas was born after staying in the womb for 12 months, he had all 32 teeth in his mouth at birth, his health and looks were like that of a five-year old boy, and he did not cry at the time of his birth but uttered Rama instead. He was therefore named Rambola (literally, he who uttered Rama), as Tulsidas himself states in Vinayapatrika.Poddar 1997, pp. 112–113 (Stanza 76). As per the Mula Gosain Charita, he was born under the Abhuktamūla constellation, which according to Jyotisha
Jyotisha
Hindu astrology , also Jyotish or Jyotisha, from Sanskrit , from "light, heavenly body") is the ancient Indian system of astronomy and astrology...

 (Hindu astrology) causes immediate danger to the life of the father. Due to the inauspicious events at the time of his birth, he was abandoned by his parents on the fourth night, sent away with Chuniya (some sources call her Muniya), a female servant of Hulsi. In his works Kavitavali and Vinayapatrika, Tulsidas attests to his parents abandoning him after birth due to an inauspicious astrological configuration.

Chuniya took the child to her village of Haripur and looked after him for five and a half years after which she died. Rambola was left to fend for himself as an impoverished orphan, and wandered from door to door begging for alms. It is believed that the goddess Parvati assumed the form of a Brahmin woman and fed Rambola every day.

Initiation from guru and learning

At the age of five years, Rambola was adopted by Narharidas, a Vaishnava ascetic of Ramananda
Ramananda
Ramananda , also referred to as Sant Ramanand or Swami Ramanand, was a Vaishnava sant. He is considered to be the reviver of the Ramanandi sect. Ramananda for the most part of his life lived in the holy city of Varanasi, and was a pioneer of the Bhakti movement, as well as a social reformer in...

's monastic order who is believed to be the fourth disciple of Ramananda, or alternately, the disciple of Anantacharya. Rambola was given the Virakta Diksha (Vairagi initiation) with the new name of Tulsidas. Tulsidas narrates the dialogue that took place during the first meeting with his guru in a passage in the Vinayapatrika. When he was seven years old, his Upanayana
Upanayana
Upanayana is the initiation ritual by which initiates are invested with a sacred thread, to symbolize the transference of spiritual knowledge .- Significance of the sacred thread :...

 ("sacred thread ceremony") was performed by Narharidas on the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Magha (January–February) at Ayodhya, a pilgrimage-site related to Rama. Tulsidas started his learning at Ayodhya. After some time, Narharidas took him to a particular Varaha Kshetra (a holy place with temple dedicated to Varaha
Varaha
Varaha is the third Avatar of the Hindu Godhead Vishnu, in the form of a Boar. He appeared in order to defeat Hiranyaksha, a demon who had taken the Earth and carried it to the bottom of what is described as the cosmic ocean in the story. The battle between Varaha and Hiranyaksha is believed to...

 - the boar avatar of Vishnu), where he first narrated the Ramayana to Tulsidas. Tulsidas mentions this in the Ramcharitmanas.

Devanagari                      IAST
मैं पुनि निज गुर सन सुनी कथा सो सूकरखेत ।                      maı̐ puni nija gura sana sunī kathā so sūkarakheta ।
समुझी नहिं तस बालपन तब अति रहेउँ अचेत ॥                      samujhī nahi̐ tasa bālapana taba ati raheu̐ aceta ॥



Most authors identify the Varaha Kshetra referred to by Tulsidas with the Varaha temple on the second entrance of the pilgrimage of Kamadgiri in Chitrakuta. Some biographers believe this Sukarkshetra is the Soron
Soron
Soron is a town and a municipal board in Kanshiram Nagar district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.-Geography:Soron is located at . It has an average elevation of 179 m ....

 Varaha Kshetra in modern-day Kanshi Ram Nagar, while some others believe it to be Paska-Rajapur Varaha Kshetra in current-day Gonda
Gonda District
Gonda is one of the districts of Uttar Pradesh, India. Gonda is the district headquarters, and also the administrative centre for the Devipatan Division....

. Tulsidas further mentions in the Ramcharitmanas that his guru repeatedly narrated the Ramayana to him, which led him to understand it somewhat.

Tulsidas later came to the sacred city of Varanasi and studied Sanskrit grammar
Vyakarana
The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, ...

, four Vedas, six Vedanga
Vedanga
The Vedanga are six auxiliary disciplines traditionally associated with the study and understanding of the Vedas.#Shiksha : phonetics, phonology and morphophonology #Kalpa : ritual#Vyakarana : grammar...

s, Jyotisha and the six schools of Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

 over a period of 15–16 years from guru Shesha Sanatana who was based at the Pancaganga Ghat in Varanasi. Shesha Sanatana was a friend of Narharidas and a renowned scholar on literature and philosophy. After completing his studies, Tulsidas came back to his birthplace Rajapur with the permission of Shesha Sanatana. Here he found that his family was no more, with his parents dead. Tulsidas performed the Shraddha
Śrāddha
Śrāddha or Shraaddha is a Sanskrit word which literally means anything or any act that is performed with all sincerity and faith . In the Hindu religion, it is the ritual that one performs to pay homage to one’s 'ancestors' , especially to one’s dead parents...

 ceremony (which deals with giving offerings to the ancestors) of his parents. He started living in his ancestral home and narrating the Katha
Katha (storytelling format)
Katha is an Indian style of religious storytelling, whose performances are a ritual event in Hinduism, and often involves professional storytellers called kathavahchak or vyas, who recite the Hindu religious texts, such as the Puranas, Ramayana or Bhagavata Purana, often followed by a commentary,...

 ("story") of Ramayana in Chitrakuta.

Marriage and renunciation

According to the Mula Gosain Charita and some other works, Tulsidas was married to Ratnavali on the thirteenth day of the bright half of the Jyeshta
Jyeshta
Jyeshta is a month of the Hindu calendar, also known as Jeth or Iethe. In India's national civil calendar, Jyestha is the third month of the year, beginning on 21 May and ending on 22 June...

 month (May–June) in Vikram 1583 (1526 CE). Ratnavali was the daughter of Dinbandhu Pathak, a Brahmin of the Bharadwaja
Bharadwaja
Bharadwaja was one of the greatest Hindu Arya sages descendant of rishi Angirasa, whose accomplishments are detailed in the Puranas. He was one of the Saptarshis in the present Manvantara; with others being Atri, Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni, Kashyapa.Bhardwaj Rishi was father of...

 Gotra, who belonged to Mahewa village of Kaushambi district
Kaushambi District
Kaushambi district is one of the districts of Uttar Pradesh state of India, and Manjhanpur town is the district headquarters. Kaushambi district is a part of Allahabad Division.- History :...

. They had a son named Tarak who died as a toddler. Once when Tulsidas had gone to a Hanuman temple, Ratnavali went to her father's home with her brother. When Tulsidas came to know this, he swam across the Yamuna river in the night to meet his wife. Ratnavali chided Tulsidas for this, and remarked that if Tulsidas was even half as devoted to God as he was to her body of flesh and blood, he would have been redeemed. Tulsidas left her instantly and left for the holy city of Prayag. Here, he renounced the Grihastha
Grihastha
Grihasthya refers to the second phase of an individual's life in the Vedic ashram system. It is often called 'the householders life' revolving as it does around the duties of maintaining a household and leading a family-centred life.-Usage:...

 (householder's life) stage and became a Sadhu
Sadhu
In Hinduism, sādhu denotes an ascetic, wandering monk. Although the vast majority of sādhus are yogīs, not all yogīs are sādhus. The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa , the fourth and final aśrama , through meditation and contemplation of brahman...

 (Hindu ascetic).

Some authors consider the marriage episode of Tulsidas to be a later interpolation and maintain that he was a bachelor. They include Rambhadracharya, who interprets two verses in the Vinayapatrika and Hanuman Bahuka to mean that Tulsidas never married and was a Sadhu from childhood.

Later life

Travels

After renunciation, Tulsidas spent most of his time at Varanasi, Prayag, Ayodhya, and Chitrakuta but visited many other nearby and far-off places. He traveled across India to many places, studying different people, meeting saints and Sadhus and meditating. The Mula Gosain Charita gives an account of his travels to the four pilgrimages
Char Dham
The Chota Char Dham , is an important Hindu pilgrimage circuit in the Indian Himalayas...

 of Hindus (Badrinath, Dwarka
Dwarka
Dwarka also spelled Dvarka, Dwaraka, and Dvaraka, is a city and a municipality of Jamnagar district in the Gujarat state in India. Dwarka , also known as Dwarawati in Sanskrit literature is rated as one of the seven most ancient cities in the country...

, Puri
Puri
Puri is district headquarter, a city situated about south of state capital Bhubaneswar, on the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal in the Indian state of Orissa. It is also known as Jagannath Puri after the Jagannath Temple . It is a holy city of the Hindus as a part of the Char Dham pilgrimages...

 and Rameshwaram) and the Himalayas
Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

. He visited the Manasarovar lake
Lake Manasarovar
Lake Manasarovar, Mapam Yumco , or Manasa Sarovar/Lake Manas , is a fresh-water lake in Tibet Autonomous Region of China approximately from Lhasa. To the west of Lake Manasa Sarovar is Lake Rakshastal and towards the north is Mount Kailash...

 in current-day Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

, where tradition holds he had Darshan (sight) of Kakabhushundi, the crow who is one of the four narrators in the Ramcharitmanas.

Darshan of Hanuman

Tulsidas hints at several places in his works, that he had met face to face with Hanuman and Rama. The detailed account of his meetings with Hanuman and Rama are given in the Bhaktirasbodhini of Priyadas. According to Priyadas' account, Tulsidas used to visit the woods outside Varanasi for his morning ablutions with a water pot. On his return to the city, he used to offer the remaining water to a certain tree. This quenched the thirst of a Preta
Preta
Preta, प्रेत or Peta is the name for a type of being described in Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, and Jain texts that undergoes more than human suffering, particularly an extreme degree of hunger and thirst...

 (a type of ghost believed to be ever thirsty for water), who appeared to Tulsidas and offered him a boon. Tulsidas said he wished to see Rama with his eyes, to which the Preta responded that it was beyond him. However, the Preta said that he could guide Tulsidas to Hanuman, who could grant the boon Tulsidas asked for. The Preta told Tulsidas that Hanuman comes everyday disguised in the mean attire of a leper to listen to his Katha, he is the first to arrive and last to leave.

That evening Tulsidas noted that the first listener to arrive at his discourse was an old leper, who sat at the end of the gathering. After the Katha was over, Tulsidas quietly followed the leper to the woods. In the woods, at the spot where the Sankat Mochan Temple stands today, Tulsidas firmly fell at the leper's feet, shouting "I know who you are" and "You cannot escape me". At first the leper feigned ignorance but Tulsidas did not relent. Then the leper revealed his original form of Hanuman and blessed Tulsidas. When granted a boon, Tulsidas told Hanuman he wanted to see Rama face to face. Hanuman told him to go to Chitrakuta where he would see Rama with his own eyes.

At the beginning of the Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas bows down to a particular Preta and asks for his grace (Ramcharitmanas, Doha 1.7). According to Rambhadracharya, this is the same Preta which led Tulsidas to Hanuman.

Darshan of Rama

As per Priyadas' account, Tulsidas followed the instruction of Hanuman and started living in an Ashram at Ramghat in Chitrakuta. One day Tulsidas went to perform the Parikrama (circumambulation) of the Kamadgiri mountain. He saw two princes, one dark and the other fair, dressed in green robes pass by mounted on horsebacks. Tulsidas was enraptured at the sight, however he could not recognize them and took his eyes off them. Later Hanuman asked Tulsidas if he saw Rama and his brother Lakshmana
Lakshmana
Lakshmana was the brother and close companion of Rama, and himself a hero in the famous epic Ramayana...

 on horses. Tulsidas was disappointed and repentful. Hanuman assured Tulsidas that he would have the sight of Rama once again the next morning. Tulsidas recalls this incident in a song of the Gitavali and laments how "his eyes turned his own enemies" by staying fixed to the ground and how everything happened in a trice.

Tulsidas (Devanāgarī
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

: तुलसीदास, t̪uls̪iːd̪ɑːs̪, also known as Goswami Tulsidas), (1497/1532–1623) was a Hindu
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 poet-saint, reformer and philosopher renowned for his devotion for the god Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

. A composer of several popular works, he is best known for being the author of the epic Ramcharitmanas, a retelling of the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 Ramayana
Ramayana
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

 in the vernacular Awadhi
Awadhi language
Awadhi is an Indo-Aryan language, part of the Hindi-Urdu continuum. It is spoken chiefly in the Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh, although its speakers are also found in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Nepal. Furthermore, the Fiji Hindi dialect spoken by Indo-Fijians is considered a variant of Awadhi,...

, which is a popular Hindu scripture often referred to as the Bible of North India. Tulsidas was acclaimed in his lifetime to be a reincarnation of Valmiki
Valmiki
Valmiki is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e...

, the composer of the original Ramayana in Sanskrit. He is also considered to be the composer of the Hanuman Chalisa
Hanuman Chalisa
Hanuman Chalisa |Forty chaupai]]s on Hanuman") is a devotional song based on Lord Hanuman as the model devotee. It is a poem written by Tulsidas in the Awadhi language, and is his best known Hindu text apart from the Ramcharitmanas...

, a popular devotional hymn dedicated to Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

, the divine monkey helper and devotee of Rama. Tulsidas lived permanently and died in the city of Varanasi
Varanasi
-Etymology:The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi, for the old city lies in the north shores of the Ganga bounded by its two tributaries, the Varuna and the Asi, with the Ganges being to its south...

. The Tulsi Ghat in Varnasi is named after him. He founded the Sankatmochan Temple
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple (Varanasi)
Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is one of the sacred temples of Hindu god Hanuman in the city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is situated by the Assi river stream, on the way of the Durga Temple and the New Vishwanath temple within the Banaras Hindu University campus. The word Sankat Mochan in...

 dedicated to Hanuman in Varanasi, believed to stand at the place where he had the sight of Hanuman. Tulsidas started the Ramlila
Ramlila
Ramlila is a dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Lord Ram, ending up in ten day battle between Lord Ram and Ravan, as described in the Hindu religious epic, the Ramayana...

 plays, a folk-theatre adaption of the Ramayana. He has been acclaimed as one of the greatest poets in Hindi
Hindi literature
Hindi literature , is broadly divided into four prominent forms or styles, being Bhakti ; Shringar ; Veer-Gatha ; and Adhunik...

, Indian
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

, and world
World literature
World literature refers to literature from all over the world, including African literature, American literature, Arabic literature, Asian literature, Australasian literature, Caribbean Literature, English literature, European literature, Indian literature, Latin American literature, Persian...

 literature. The impact of Tulsidas and his works on the art, culture and society in India is widespread and is seen to date in vernacular language, Ramlila plays, Hindustani classical music
Hindustani classical music
Hindustani classical music is the Hindustani or North Indian style of Indian classical music found throughout the northern Indian subcontinent. The style is sometimes called North Indian Classical Music or Shāstriya Sangeet...

, popular music, and television series.

Transliteration and Etymology

The Sanskrit name of Tulsidas can be transliterated in two ways. Using the IAST
IAST
The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration is a transliteration scheme that allows a lossless romanization of Indic scripts as employed by the Sanskrit language.-Popularity:...

 transliteration scheme, the name is written as Tulasīdāsa, as pronounced in Sanskrit. Using the Hunterian
Hunterian transliteration
The Hunterian transliteration system is the "national system of romanization in India" and the one officially adopted by the Government of India. Hunterian transliteration was sometimes also called the Jonesian transliteration system because it derived closely from a previous transliteration method...

 transliteration scheme, it is written as Tulsidas or Tulsīdās, as pronounced in Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

. The name is a compound
Sanskrit compounds
One notable feature of the nominal system of Sanskrit is the very common use of nominal compounds , which may be huge , as in some modern languages such as German...

 of two Sanskrit words: Tulasī, which is an Indian variety of the basil plant considered auspicious by Vaishnavas (devotees of god Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

 and his avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

s like Rama), and Dāsa, which means a slave or servant and by extension, a devotee. Tulsidas, thus means a servant of the plant Tulsi.

Sources

Tulsidas himself has given only a few facts and hints about events of his life in various works. Till late nineteenth century, the two widely known ancient sources on Tulsidas' life were the Bhaktamal composed by Nabhadas between 1583 and 1639, and a commentary on Bhaktamal titled Bhaktirasbodhini composed by Priyadas in 1712. Nabhadas was a contemporary of Tulsidas and wrote a six-line stanza on Tulsidas describing him as an incarnation of Valmiki. Priyadas' work was composed around a hundred years after the death of Tulsidas and had eleven additional stanzas, describing seven miracles or spiritual experiences from the life of Tulsidas. During the 1920s, two more ancient biographies of Tulsidas were published based on old manuscripts – the Mula Gosain Charit composed by Veni Madhav Das in 1630 and the Gosain Charit composed by Dasanidas (also known as Bhavanidas) around 1770. Veni Madhav Das was a disciple and contemporary of Tulsidas and his work gave a new date for Tulsidas' birth. The work by Bhavanidas presented more narratives in greater detail as compared to the work by Priyadas. In the 1950s a fifth ancient account was published based on an old manuscript, the Gautam Chandrika composed by Krishnadatta Misra of Varanasi in 1624. Krishnadatta Misra's father was a close companion of Tulsidas. The accounts published later are not considered authentic by some modern scholars, whereas some other scholars have been unwilling to dismiss them. Together, these five works form a set of traditional biographies on which modern biographies of Tulsidas are based.

Incarnation of Valmiki

Tulsidas is believed to be a reincarnation of Valmiki
Valmiki
Valmiki is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e...

. In the Hindu scripture Bhavishyottar Purana
Bhavishya Purana
The Bhavishya Purana is one of the eighteen major Hindu Puranas. It is written in Sanskrit and attributed to Rishi Vyasa, the compiler of the Vedas. The title Bhavishya Purana signifies a work that contains prophecies regarding the future...

, the god Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 tells his wife Parvati
Parvati
Parvati is a Hindu goddess. Parvati is Shakti, the wife of Shiva and the gentle aspect of Mahadevi, the Great Goddess...

 how Valmiki, who got a boon from Hanuman to sing the glory of Rama in vernacular language, will incarnate in future in the Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga is the last of the four stages that the world goes through as part of the cycle of yugas described in the Indian scriptures. The other ages are Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga...

 (the present and last Yuga
Yuga
Yuga in Hindu philosophy is the name of an 'epoch' or 'era' within a cycle of four ages. These are the Satya Yuga, the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga. According to Hindu cosmology, life in the universe is created, destroyed once every 4.1 to 8.2 billion years, which is...

 or epoch within a cycle of four Yugas).

Devanagari
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

                     
IAST
वाल्मीकिस्तुलसीदासः कलौ देवि भविष्यति ।                      vālmīkistulasīdāsaḥ kalau devi bhaviṣyati ।
रामचन्द्रकथामेतां भाषाबद्धां करिष्यति ॥                      rāmacandrakathāmetāṃ bhāṣābaddhāṃ kariṣyati ॥




Nabhadas wrote in the Bhaktamal (literally, the Garland of Saints) that Tulsidas was the incarnation of Valmiki in the Kali Yuga. The Ramanandi
Ramanandi
Ramanandi are the followers of saint Ramananda. Ramanandi are spread across India, mainly in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Agravat, Nimavat, Kubavat, Tilavat, Devmurari, Ramavat, Nenuji, Sukhanandi and Yoganandi are the most prominent last names in Ramanandi cast. Ramanandi worship Shri Ram...

 sect believes that it was Valmiki himself who incarnated as Tulsidas in the Kali Yuga.

According to a traditional account, Hanuman went to Valmiki several times to hear him sing the Ramayana, but Valmiki turned down the request saying that Hanuman being a monkey was unworthy of hearing the epic. After the victory of Rama over Ravana
Ravana
' is the primary antagonist character of the Hindu legend, the Ramayana; who is the great king of Lanka. In the classic text, he is mainly depicted negatively, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita, to claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister...

, Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

 went to the Himalayas to continue his worship of Rama. There he scripted a play version of the Ramayana called Mahanataka or Hanuman Nataka engraved on the Himalayan rocks using his nails. When Valmiki saw the play written by Hanuman, he anticipated that the beauty of the Maha Nataka would eclipse his own Ramayana. On Valmiki's request, Hanuman cast all the rocks into the ocean, some parts of which are available today as Hanuman Nataka. After this, Valmiki was instructed by Hanuman to take birth as Tulsidas and compose the Ramayana in the vernacular.

Birth

Tulsidas was born on the seventh day of the bright half of the lunar Hindu month Shraavana
Shraavana
Shraavana is a month of the Hindu calendar, also known as Sawan. In India's national civil calendar, Shraavan is the fifth month of the Hindu year, beginning in late July and ending in the third week of August. In the Tamil calendar, it is known as Aavani and is the fifth month of the solar year...

 (July–August). Although as many as seven places are mentioned as his birth-place, most scholars identify the place with Rajapur
Rajapur, Uttar Pradesh
Sukarkhet Rajapur is a town and a in Chitrakoot district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.-Demographics: India census, Rajapur had a population of 12,728. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Rajapur has an average literacy rate of 64%, higher than the national average of...

 (Chitrakuta
Chitrakuta
Chitrakuta is a town and a nagar panchayat in Satna district in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India....

), a village on the banks of the Yamuna
Yamuna
The Yamuna is the largest tributary river of the Ganges in northern India...

 river in modern-day Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh abbreviation U.P. , is a state located in the northern part of India. With a population of over 200 million people, it is India's most populous state, as well as the world's most populous sub-national entity...

. His parents were Hulsi and Atmaram Dubey. Most sources identify him as a Saryupareen Brahmin of the Parashar Gotra
Gotra
In the Hindu society, the term Gotra broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor. Panini defines gotra for grammatical purposes as apatyam pautraprabhrti gotram , which means "the word gotra denotes the progeny beginning with the son's son"...

(lineage), although some sources claim he was a Kanyakubja
Kanyakubja Brahmins
Kanyakubj Brahmins are a Brahmin community found in central India, mainly in the states of Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The word Kanyakubja means Brahmins of the Kannauj region. Kannauj region was spread to border of Vidisha in ancient times...

 or Sanadhya
Sanadhya Brahmin
Sanadya Brahmin are a community of Brahmins, living prominently in Western Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh area of India...

 Brahmin.

There is difference of opinion among biographers regarding the year of birth of Tulsidas. Many sources rely on Veni Madhav Das' account in the Mula Gosain Charita, which gives the year of Tulsidas' birth as Vikrami Samvat
Bikram Samwat
Vikram Samvat is the calendar established by Indian emperor Vikramaditya...

 1554 (1497 CE). These sources include Shivlal Pathak, popular editions of Ramcharitmanas (Gita Press, Naval Kishore Press and Venkateshvar Press), Edwin Greaves, Hanuman Prasad Poddar
Hanuman Prasad Poddar
Hanuman Prasad Poddar was an author and freedom fighter of India.Lovingly called as Bhaijee, he was a multifaceted personality...

, Ramanand Sarasvati, Ayodhyanath Sharma, Ramchandra Shukla, Narayandas, and Rambhadracharya
Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya
Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Swami Rambhadracharya, born 14 January 1950 as Giridhar Mishra, is a Hindu religious leader, educationist, Sanskrit scholar, polyglot, poet, author, commentator, philosopher, composer, singer, playwright and Katha artist based in Chitrakoot, India. He is one of four...

. A second group of biographers led by Sant Tulsi Sahib of Hathras and Sir George Grierson
George Abraham Grierson
Sir George Abraham Grierson OM KCIE was born to a prominent Dublin family in 1851. His father and grandfather, both also named George, were well-known printers and publishers.-Biography:Educated at St...

 give the year as Vikram 1589 (1532 CE). These biographers include Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Ramghulam Dwivedi, James Lochtefeld, Swami Sivananda and others. A third small group of authors which includes H. H. Wilson
Horace Hayman Wilson
Horace Hayman Wilson was an English orientalist.He studied medicine at St Thomas's Hospital, and went out to India in 1808 as assistant-surgeon on the Bengal establishment of the British East India Company....

, Garse De Tasse and Krishnadatta Mishra gives the year as Vikram 1600 (1543 CE).

The year 1497 appears in most current-day biographies and in popular culture. Biographers who disagree with this year argue that it makes the life span of Tulsidas equal 126 years, which in their opinion is unlikely if not impossible. In contrast, Ramchandra Shukla says that an age of 126 is not impossible for Mahatma
Mahatma
Mahatma is Sanskrit for "Great Soul". It is similar in usage to the modern Christian term saint. This epithet is commonly applied to prominent people like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jyotirao Phule and Branch Rickey...

s (great souls) like Tulsidas. The Government of India
Government of India
The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories, collectively called the Republic of India...

 and provincial governments celebrated the 500th birth anniversary of Tulsidas in the year 1997 CE, according to the year of Tulsidas' birth in popular culture.

Childhood

Legend goes that Tulsidas was born after staying in the womb for 12 months, he had all 32 teeth in his mouth at birth, his health and looks were like that of a five-year old boy, and he did not cry at the time of his birth but uttered Rama instead. He was therefore named Rambola (literally, he who uttered Rama), as Tulsidas himself states in Vinayapatrika.Poddar 1997, pp. 112–113 (Stanza 76). As per the Mula Gosain Charita, he was born under the Abhuktamūla constellation, which according to Jyotisha
Jyotisha
Hindu astrology , also Jyotish or Jyotisha, from Sanskrit , from "light, heavenly body") is the ancient Indian system of astronomy and astrology...

 (Hindu astrology) causes immediate danger to the life of the father. Due to the inauspicious events at the time of his birth, he was abandoned by his parents on the fourth night, sent away with Chuniya (some sources call her Muniya), a female servant of Hulsi. In his works Kavitavali and Vinayapatrika, Tulsidas attests to his parents abandoning him after birth due to an inauspicious astrological configuration.

Chuniya took the child to her village of Haripur and looked after him for five and a half years after which she died. Rambola was left to fend for himself as an impoverished orphan, and wandered from door to door begging for alms. It is believed that the goddess Parvati assumed the form of a Brahmin woman and fed Rambola every day.

Initiation from guru and learning

At the age of five years, Rambola was adopted by Narharidas, a Vaishnava ascetic of Ramananda
Ramananda
Ramananda , also referred to as Sant Ramanand or Swami Ramanand, was a Vaishnava sant. He is considered to be the reviver of the Ramanandi sect. Ramananda for the most part of his life lived in the holy city of Varanasi, and was a pioneer of the Bhakti movement, as well as a social reformer in...

's monastic order who is believed to be the fourth disciple of Ramananda, or alternately, the disciple of Anantacharya. Rambola was given the Virakta Diksha (Vairagi initiation) with the new name of Tulsidas. Tulsidas narrates the dialogue that took place during the first meeting with his guru in a passage in the Vinayapatrika. When he was seven years old, his Upanayana
Upanayana
Upanayana is the initiation ritual by which initiates are invested with a sacred thread, to symbolize the transference of spiritual knowledge .- Significance of the sacred thread :...

 ("sacred thread ceremony") was performed by Narharidas on the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Magha (January–February) at Ayodhya, a pilgrimage-site related to Rama. Tulsidas started his learning at Ayodhya. After some time, Narharidas took him to a particular Varaha Kshetra (a holy place with temple dedicated to Varaha
Varaha
Varaha is the third Avatar of the Hindu Godhead Vishnu, in the form of a Boar. He appeared in order to defeat Hiranyaksha, a demon who had taken the Earth and carried it to the bottom of what is described as the cosmic ocean in the story. The battle between Varaha and Hiranyaksha is believed to...

 - the boar avatar of Vishnu), where he first narrated the Ramayana to Tulsidas. Tulsidas mentions this in the Ramcharitmanas.

Devanagari                      IAST
मैं पुनि निज गुर सन सुनी कथा सो सूकरखेत ।                      maı̐ puni nija gura sana sunī kathā so sūkarakheta ।
समुझी नहिं तस बालपन तब अति रहेउँ अचेत ॥                      samujhī nahi̐ tasa bālapana taba ati raheu̐ aceta ॥



Most authors identify the Varaha Kshetra referred to by Tulsidas with the Varaha temple on the second entrance of the pilgrimage of Kamadgiri in Chitrakuta. Some biographers believe this Sukarkshetra is the Soron
Soron
Soron is a town and a municipal board in Kanshiram Nagar district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.-Geography:Soron is located at . It has an average elevation of 179 m ....

 Varaha Kshetra in modern-day Kanshi Ram Nagar, while some others believe it to be Paska-Rajapur Varaha Kshetra in current-day Gonda
Gonda District
Gonda is one of the districts of Uttar Pradesh, India. Gonda is the district headquarters, and also the administrative centre for the Devipatan Division....

. Tulsidas further mentions in the Ramcharitmanas that his guru repeatedly narrated the Ramayana to him, which led him to understand it somewhat.

Tulsidas later came to the sacred city of Varanasi and studied Sanskrit grammar
Vyakarana
The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of ' is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, ...

, four Vedas, six Vedanga
Vedanga
The Vedanga are six auxiliary disciplines traditionally associated with the study and understanding of the Vedas.#Shiksha : phonetics, phonology and morphophonology #Kalpa : ritual#Vyakarana : grammar...

s, Jyotisha and the six schools of Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

 over a period of 15–16 years from guru Shesha Sanatana who was based at the Pancaganga Ghat in Varanasi. Shesha Sanatana was a friend of Narharidas and a renowned scholar on literature and philosophy. After completing his studies, Tulsidas came back to his birthplace Rajapur with the permission of Shesha Sanatana. Here he found that his family was no more, with his parents dead. Tulsidas performed the Shraddha
Śrāddha
Śrāddha or Shraaddha is a Sanskrit word which literally means anything or any act that is performed with all sincerity and faith . In the Hindu religion, it is the ritual that one performs to pay homage to one’s 'ancestors' , especially to one’s dead parents...

 ceremony (which deals with giving offerings to the ancestors) of his parents. He started living in his ancestral home and narrating the Katha
Katha (storytelling format)
Katha is an Indian style of religious storytelling, whose performances are a ritual event in Hinduism, and often involves professional storytellers called kathavahchak or vyas, who recite the Hindu religious texts, such as the Puranas, Ramayana or Bhagavata Purana, often followed by a commentary,...

 ("story") of Ramayana in Chitrakuta.

Marriage and renunciation

According to the Mula Gosain Charita and some other works, Tulsidas was married to Ratnavali on the thirteenth day of the bright half of the Jyeshta
Jyeshta
Jyeshta is a month of the Hindu calendar, also known as Jeth or Iethe. In India's national civil calendar, Jyestha is the third month of the year, beginning on 21 May and ending on 22 June...

 month (May–June) in Vikram 1583 (1526 CE). Ratnavali was the daughter of Dinbandhu Pathak, a Brahmin of the Bharadwaja
Bharadwaja
Bharadwaja was one of the greatest Hindu Arya sages descendant of rishi Angirasa, whose accomplishments are detailed in the Puranas. He was one of the Saptarshis in the present Manvantara; with others being Atri, Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni, Kashyapa.Bhardwaj Rishi was father of...

 Gotra, who belonged to Mahewa village of Kaushambi district
Kaushambi District
Kaushambi district is one of the districts of Uttar Pradesh state of India, and Manjhanpur town is the district headquarters. Kaushambi district is a part of Allahabad Division.- History :...

. They had a son named Tarak who died as a toddler. Once when Tulsidas had gone to a Hanuman temple, Ratnavali went to her father's home with her brother. When Tulsidas came to know this, he swam across the Yamuna river in the night to meet his wife. Ratnavali chided Tulsidas for this, and remarked that if Tulsidas was even half as devoted to God as he was to her body of flesh and blood, he would have been redeemed. Tulsidas left her instantly and left for the holy city of Prayag. Here, he renounced the Grihastha
Grihastha
Grihasthya refers to the second phase of an individual's life in the Vedic ashram system. It is often called 'the householders life' revolving as it does around the duties of maintaining a household and leading a family-centred life.-Usage:...

 (householder's life) stage and became a Sadhu
Sadhu
In Hinduism, sādhu denotes an ascetic, wandering monk. Although the vast majority of sādhus are yogīs, not all yogīs are sādhus. The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa , the fourth and final aśrama , through meditation and contemplation of brahman...

 (Hindu ascetic).

Some authors consider the marriage episode of Tulsidas to be a later interpolation and maintain that he was a bachelor. They include Rambhadracharya, who interprets two verses in the Vinayapatrika and Hanuman Bahuka to mean that Tulsidas never married and was a Sadhu from childhood.

Later life

Travels

After renunciation, Tulsidas spent most of his time at Varanasi, Prayag, Ayodhya, and Chitrakuta but visited many other nearby and far-off places. He traveled across India to many places, studying different people, meeting saints and Sadhus and meditating. The Mula Gosain Charita gives an account of his travels to the four pilgrimages
Char Dham
The Chota Char Dham , is an important Hindu pilgrimage circuit in the Indian Himalayas...

 of Hindus (Badrinath, Dwarka
Dwarka
Dwarka also spelled Dvarka, Dwaraka, and Dvaraka, is a city and a municipality of Jamnagar district in the Gujarat state in India. Dwarka , also known as Dwarawati in Sanskrit literature is rated as one of the seven most ancient cities in the country...

, Puri
Puri
Puri is district headquarter, a city situated about south of state capital Bhubaneswar, on the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal in the Indian state of Orissa. It is also known as Jagannath Puri after the Jagannath Temple . It is a holy city of the Hindus as a part of the Char Dham pilgrimages...

 and Rameshwaram) and the Himalayas
Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

. He visited the Manasarovar lake
Lake Manasarovar
Lake Manasarovar, Mapam Yumco , or Manasa Sarovar/Lake Manas , is a fresh-water lake in Tibet Autonomous Region of China approximately from Lhasa. To the west of Lake Manasa Sarovar is Lake Rakshastal and towards the north is Mount Kailash...

 in current-day Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

, where tradition holds he had Darshan (sight) of Kakabhushundi, the crow who is one of the four narrators in the Ramcharitmanas.

Darshan of Hanuman

Tulsidas hints at several places in his works, that he had met face to face with Hanuman and Rama. The detailed account of his meetings with Hanuman and Rama are given in the Bhaktirasbodhini of Priyadas. According to Priyadas' account, Tulsidas used to visit the woods outside Varanasi for his morning ablutions with a water pot. On his return to the city, he used to offer the remaining water to a certain tree. This quenched the thirst of a Preta
Preta
Preta, प्रेत or Peta is the name for a type of being described in Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, and Jain texts that undergoes more than human suffering, particularly an extreme degree of hunger and thirst...

 (a type of ghost believed to be ever thirsty for water), who appeared to Tulsidas and offered him a boon. Tulsidas said he wished to see Rama with his eyes, to which the Preta responded that it was beyond him. However, the Preta said that he could guide Tulsidas to Hanuman, who could grant the boon Tulsidas asked for. The Preta told Tulsidas that Hanuman comes everyday disguised in the mean attire of a leper to listen to his Katha, he is the first to arrive and last to leave.

That evening Tulsidas noted that the first listener to arrive at his discourse was an old leper, who sat at the end of the gathering. After the Katha was over, Tulsidas quietly followed the leper to the woods. In the woods, at the spot where the Sankat Mochan Temple stands today, Tulsidas firmly fell at the leper's feet, shouting "I know who you are" and "You cannot escape me". At first the leper feigned ignorance but Tulsidas did not relent. Then the leper revealed his original form of Hanuman and blessed Tulsidas. When granted a boon, Tulsidas told Hanuman he wanted to see Rama face to face. Hanuman told him to go to Chitrakuta where he would see Rama with his own eyes.

At the beginning of the Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas bows down to a particular Preta and asks for his grace (Ramcharitmanas, Doha 1.7). According to Rambhadracharya, this is the same Preta which led Tulsidas to Hanuman.

Darshan of Rama

As per Priyadas' account, Tulsidas followed the instruction of Hanuman and started living in an Ashram at Ramghat in Chitrakuta. One day Tulsidas went to perform the Parikrama (circumambulation) of the Kamadgiri mountain. He saw two princes, one dark and the other fair, dressed in green robes pass by mounted on horsebacks. Tulsidas was enraptured at the sight, however he could not recognize them and took his eyes off them. Later Hanuman asked Tulsidas if he saw Rama and his brother Lakshmana
Lakshmana
Lakshmana was the brother and close companion of Rama, and himself a hero in the famous epic Ramayana...

 on horses. Tulsidas was disappointed and repentful. Hanuman assured Tulsidas that he would have the sight of Rama once again the next morning. Tulsidas recalls this incident in a song of the Gitavali and laments how "his eyes turned his own enemies" by staying fixed to the ground and how everything happened in a trice.


On the next morning, Wednesday, the new-moon day of Magha, Vikram 1607 (1551 CE) or 1620 (1564 CE) as per some sources, Rama again appeared to Tulsidas, this time as a child. Tulsidas was making sandalwood paste when a child came and asked for a sandalwood Tilaka
Tilaka
200px|thumb|right|Indian woman with tilaka and [[Bindi |bindi]]In Hinduism, the tilaka or tika or tilak is a mark worn on the forehead and other parts of the body...

 (a religious mark on the forehead). This time Hanuman gave a hint to Tulsidas and he had a full view of Rama. Tulsidas was so charmed that he forgot about the sandalwood. Rama took the sandalwood paste and put a Tilaka himself on his forehead and Tulsidas' forehead before disappearing.

In a verse in the Vinayapatrika, Tulsidas alludes to a certain "miracle at Chitrakuta", and thanks Rama for what he did for him at Chitrakuta. Some biographers conclude that the deed of Rama at Chitrakuta referred to by Tulsidas is the Darshan of Rama.

Darshan of Yajnavalkya and Bharadvaja

In Vikram 1628 (1572 CE), Tulsidas left Chitrakuta for Ayodhya where he stayed during the Magha Mela (the annual fair in January). Six days after the Mela ended, he had the Darshan of the sages Yajnavalkya
Yajnavalkya
Yajnavalkya of Mithila was a legendary sage of Vedic India, credited with the authorship of the Shatapatha Brahmana , besides Yogayajnavalkya Samhita and the Yājñavalkya Smṛti...

 and Bharadvaja
Bharadwaja
Bharadwaja was one of the greatest Hindu Arya sages descendant of rishi Angirasa, whose accomplishments are detailed in the Puranas. He was one of the Saptarshis in the present Manvantara; with others being Atri, Vashishtha, Vishvamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni, Kashyapa.Bhardwaj Rishi was father of...

 under a banyan tree. In one of the four dialogues in the Ramcharitmanas, Yajnavalkya is the speaker and Bharadvaja the listener. Tulsidas describes the meeting between Yajnavalkya and Bharadvaja after a Magha Mela festival in the Ramcharitmanas, it is this meeting where Yajnavalkya narrates the Ramcharitmanas to Bharadvaja.

Attributed Miracles

In Priyadas' biography, Tulsidas is attributed with the power of working miracles. In one such miracle, he is believed to have brought back a dead Brahmin to life. While the Brahmin was being taken for cremation, his widow bowed down to Tulsidas on the way who addressed her as Saubhagyavati (a woman whose husband is alive). The widow told Tulsidas her husband had just passed away, so his words could not be true. Tulsidas said that the word has passed his lips and so he would restore the dead man to life. He asked everybody present to close their eyes and utter the name of Rama, on doing which the dead Brahmin was raised back to life.

In another miracle described by Priyadas, the emperor of Delhi summoned Tulsidas on hearing of his bringing back a dead man to life. Tulsidas was asked to perform a miracle, which Tulsidas declined by saying "It's a lie, all I know is Rama." The emperor imprisoned Tulsidas saying, "We will see this Rama." Tulsidas prayed to Hanuman and an army of monkeys wreaked havoc in all corners of Delhi, entering each home and the emperor's harem, scratching people and throwing bricks from ramparts. An old Hafiz told the emperor that this was the miracle of the imprisoned Fakir
Fakir
The fakir or faqir ; ) Derived from faqr is a Muslim Sufi ascetic in Middle East and South Asia. The Faqirs were wandering Dervishes teaching Islam and living on alms....

. The emperor fell at Tulsidas' feet, released him and apologized. Tulsidas stopped the menace of monkeys and asked the emperor to abandon the place. The emperor agreed and moved his fort to a new location.

Priyadas narrates a miracle of Tulsidas at Vrindavan, when he visited a temple of Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

. When he began bowing down to the idol of Krishna, the Mahant
Mahant
A mahant is a religious superior, in particular the chief priest of a temple or the head of a monastery. The Hindi word mahant is from Prakrit mahanta-, from Sanskrit mahat "great". The priest, pundit, gyani, or pastor of any well-known religious place would be a mahant...

 of the temple named Parshuram decided to test Tulsidas. He told Tulsidas that he who bows down to any deity except their Ishta Devata (cherished form of divinity) is a fool, as Tulsidas' Ishta Devata was Rama. In response, Tulsidas recited the following extemporaneously composed couplet

Devanagari                      IAST
काह कहौं छबि आजुकि भले बने हो नाथ ।                      kāha kahau̐ chabi ājuki bhale bane ho nātha ।
तुलसी मस्तक तब नवै धरो धनुष शर हाथ ॥                      tulasī mastaka taba navai dharo dhanuṣa śara hātha ॥



When Tulsidas recited this couplet, the idol of Krishna holding the flute and stick in hands changed to the idol of Rama holding the bow and arrow in hands. Some authors have expressed doubts on the couplet being composed by Tulsidas.

Literary life

Tulsidas started composing poetry in Sanskrit in Varanasi on the Prahlada Ghat. Tradition holds that all the verses that he composed during the day, would get lost in the night. This happened daily for eight days. On the eighth night, Shiva - whose famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located in Varanasi - is believed to have ordered Tulsidas in a dream to compose poetry in the vernacular instead of Sanskrit. Tulsidas woke up and saw both Shiva and Parvati who blessed him. Shiva ordered Tulsidas to go to Ayodhya and compose poetry in Awadhi. Shiva also predicted that Tulsidas' poetry would fructify like the Sama Veda. In the Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas hints at having the Darshan of Shiva and Parvati in both dream and awakened state.

Composition of Ramcharitmanas

In the year Vikram 1631 (1575 CE), Tulsidas started composing the Ramcharitmanas in Ayodhya on Tuesday, Ramnavami day (ninth day of the bright half of the Chaitra
Chaitra
Chaitra is a month of the Hindu calendar....

 month, which is the birthday of Rama). Tulsidas himself attests this date in the Ramcharitmanas. He composed the epic over two years, seven months and twenty-six days, and completed the work in Vikram 1633 (1577 CE) on the Vivaha Panchami
Vivaha Panchami
Vivah Panchami is a Hindu festival celebrating the marriage of Ram and Sita. It is observed on the fifth day of the Shukla paksha or waxing phase of moon in the Margashirsha month as per Hindu calendar....

 day (fifth day of the bright half of the Margashirsha
Agrahayana
Agrahayana or Margashirsha, is a month of the Hindu calendar and Tamil calendar. In India's national civil calendar, Agrahayana is the ninth month of the year, beginning on 22 November and ending on 21 December. Since Vedic times, this month is known as Maargashirsha after the Nakshatra ...

 month, which commenrates the wedding of Rama and his wife Sita
SITA
SITA is a multinational information technology company specialising in providing IT and telecommunication services to the air transport industry...

).

Tulsidas came to Varanasi and recited the Ramcharitmanas to Shiva (Vishwanath) and Parvati (Annapurna
Annapoorna devi
Annapurna or Annapoorna is the Hindu Goddess of nourishment. Anna means food and grains. Purna means full, complete and perfect. She is a form of Parvati, the consort of Shiva. Annapurna is eulogised in Annada Mangal, a narrative poem in Bengali by Bharatchandra Ray.-City of Kashi:Annapurna is the...

) at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. A popular legend goes that the Brahmins of Varanasi, who were critical of Tulsidas for having rendered the Sanskrit Ramayana in the vernacular, decided to test the worth of the work. A manuscript of the Ramcharitmanas was kept at the bottom of pile of Sanskrit scriptures in the sanctum sanctorum of the Vishvanath temple in the night, and the doors of the sanctum sanctorum were locked. In the morning when the doors were opened, the Ramcharitmanas was found at the top of the pile. The words Satyam Shivam Sundaram (Sanskrit: सत्यं शिवं सुन्दरम्, literally "truth, auspiciousness, beauty") were inscribed on the manuscript with the signature of Shiva. The words were also heard by the people present.

Per traditional accounts, some Brahmins of Varanasi were still not satisfied, and sent two thieves to steal the manuscript. The thieves tried to break into the Ashram of Tulsidas, but were confronted by two guards with bows and arrows, of dark and fair complexion. The thieves had a change of heart and came to Tulsidas in the morning to ask who the two guards were. Believing that the two guards could be none other than Rama and Lakshmana, Tulsidas was aggrieved to know that they were guarding his home at night. He sent the manuscript of Ramcahritmanas to his friend Rai Todar Mal, the finance minister of Akbar, and donated all his money. The thieves were reformed and became devotees of Rama.

Last compositions

Around Vikram 1664 (1607 CE), Tulsidas was afflicted by acute pain all over his body, especially in his arms. He then composed the Hanuman Bahuk, where he describes his bodily pain and suffering in several stanzas. He was relieved of his pain after this composition. Later he was also afflicted by Bartod boils (Hindi: बरतोड़, furuncles caused by pulling out of the hair), which may have been the cause of his death.

The Vinaypatrika
Vinaya Patrika
Vinaya Patrika is a devotional poem composed by the 16th-century Indian poet, Goswami Tulsidas , containing hymns to different Hindu deities especially to Lord Rama in extreme humility .Vinaya Patrika is an important work of medieval Hindi Literature and Bhakti...

 is considered as the last compositions of Tulsidas, believed to be written when Kali Yuga started troubling him. In this work of 279 stanzas, he beseeches Rama to give him Bhakti ("devotion"), and to accept his petition. Tulsidas attests in the last stanza of Vinaypatrika that Rama himself signed the manuscript of the work. The 45th stanza of the Vinaypatrika is sung as the evening Aarti
Aarti
Aarti , also spelled arathi, aarthi is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a form of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee or camphor is offered to one or more deities...

 by many Hindus.

Death

Tulsidas passed away at the Assi Ghat on the bank of the river Ganga in the Shraavan (July–August) month of the year Vikram 1680 (1623 CE). Like the year of his birth, traditional accounts and biographers do not agree on the exact date of his death. Different sources give the date as the third day of the bright half, seventh day of the bright half, or the third day of the dark half.

Works

Twelve works are widely considered by biographers to be written by Tulsidas, six major works and six minor works. Based on the language of the works, they have been classified into two groups as follows–
  1. Awadhi works – Ramcharitmanas, Ramlala Nahachhu, Barvai Ramayan, Parvati Mangal, Janaki Mangal and Ramagya Prashna.
  2. Braja works – Krishna Gitavali, Gitavali, Kavitavali, Dohavali, Vairagya Sandipani and Vinaya Patrika.

Besides these twelve works, four more works are popularly believed to be composed by Tulsidas which include Hanuman Chalisa, Hanuman Ashtak, Hanuman Bahuk and Tulsi Satsai.

Ramcharitmanas

Ramacharitamanas (1574–1576), literally The Holy Lake of Acts of Rama, is the Awadhi rendering of the Ramayana narrative. It is the longest and earliest work of Tulsidas, and draws from various sources including the Ramayana of Valmiki, the Adhyatma Ramayana
Adhyatma Ramayana
Adhyatma Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit work extolling the spiritual virtues of the story of Ramayana. It comprises around 4200 double verses embedded in the latter portion of Brahmānda Purana and is traditionally believed to be authored by Vyasa...

, the Prasannaraghava and Hanuman Nataka. The work consists of around 12,800 lines divided into 1073 stanzas, which are groups of Chaupai
Chaupai (poetry)
A chaupai is a quatrain verse of Indian poetry, especially medieval Hindi poetry, that uses a metre of four syllables.Famous chaupais include those of poet-saint Tulsidas, used in his classical texts of Ramcharitamanas and in the Hanuman Chalisa and also in Sikh prayer Chaupai.Chaupai is...

s separated by Doha
Doha (poetry)
namshka:For the town in Kuwait, see Doha and For the city in Qatar, see DohaDoha is a form of self-contained rhyming couplet in poetry...

s or Sorthas. It is divided into seven books (Kands) like the Ramayana of Valmiki, and is around one-third of the size of Valmiki's Ramayana. The work is composed in 18 metres which include ten Sanskrit metres (Anushtup, Shardulvikridit, Vasantatilaka, Vamshashta, Upajati, Pramanika, Malini, Sragdhara, Rathoddhata and Bhujangaprayata) and eight Prakrit metres (Soratha, Doha, Chaupai, Harigitika, Tribhangi, Chaupaiya, Trotaka and Tomara). It is popularly referred to as Tulsikrit Ramayana, literally The Ramayana composed by Tulsidas. The work has been acclaimed as "the living sum of Indian culture", "the tallest tree in the magic garden of medieval Indian poesy", "the greatest book of all devotional literature", "the Bible of Northern India", and "the best and most trustworthy guide to the popular living faith of its people."

Several manuscripts of the Ramcharitmanas are claimed to have been written down by Tulsidas himself. Grierson wrote in the late nineteenth century, two copies of the epic were said to have existed in the poet's own handwriting. One manuscript was kept at Rajapur, of which only the Ayodhyakand is left now, which bears marks of water. A legend goes that the manuscript was stolen and thrown into Yamuna river when the thief was being pursued, and only the second book of the epic could be rescued. Grierson wrote that the other copy was at Malihabad in Lucknow
Lucknow
Lucknow is the capital city of Uttar Pradesh in India. Lucknow is the administrative headquarters of Lucknow District and Lucknow Division....

 district, of which only one leaf was missing. Another manuscript of the Ayodhyakanda claimed to be in the poet's own hand exists at Soron in Etah district, one of the places claimed to be Tulsidas' birthplace. One manuscript of Balakanda, dated Samvat 1661, nineteen years before the poet's death, claimed to be corrected by Tulsidas, is at Ayodhya. Some other ancient manuscripts are found in Varanasi, including one in possession of the Maharaja of Benares that was written in Vikram 1704 (1647), twenty-four years after the death of Tulsidas.

Other major works

The five major works of Tulsidas apart from Ramcharitmanas include–
  1. Dohavali (दोहावली, 1581), literally Collection of Dohas, is a work consisting of 573 miscellaneous Doha and Sortha verses mainly in Braja with some verses in Awadhi. The verses are aphorisms on topics related to tact, political wisdom, righteousness and the purpose of life. 85 Dohas from this work are also found in the Ramcharitmanas, 35 in Ramagya Prashna, two in Vairagya Sandipani and some in Rama Satsai, another work of 700 Dohas attributed to Tulsidas.
  2. Kavitavali or Kavitta Ramayan (कवितावली, 1608–1614), literally Collection of Kavittas, is a Braja rendering of the Ramayana, composed entirely in metres of the Kavitta family – Kavitta, Savaiya, Ghanakshari and Chhappaya. It consists of 325 verses including 183 verses in the Uttarkand. Like the Ramcharitmanas, it is divided into seven Kands or books and many episodes in this work are different from the Ramcharitmanas.
  3. Gitavali (गीतावली), literally Collection of Songs, is a Braja rendering of the Ramayana in songs. All the verses are set to Raga
    Raga
    A raga is one of the melodic modes used in Indian classical music.It is a series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is made...

    s of classical music and suitable for singing. It consists of 328 songs divided into seven Kands or books. Many episodes of the Ramayana are elaborated while many others are abridged.
  4. Krishna Gitavali or Krishnavali (कृष्णगीतावली, 1607), literally Collection of Songs to Krishna, is a collection of 61 songs in honor of Krishna
    Krishna
    Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

     in Braja. There are 32 songs devoted to the childhood sports (Balalila) and Rasa Lila
    Rasa lila
    The Rasa lila or Rasa dance is part of the traditional story of Krishna described in Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavata Purana and literature such as the Gita Govinda, where he dances with Radha and her sakhis...

     of Krishna, 27 songs form the dialogue between Krishna and Uddhava
    Uddhava
    Uddhava is a character from the Puranic texts of Hinduism, who is the friend and counsellor of Krishna the Avatar. He plays a significant role in the Bhagavata Purana, being taught the processes of yoga and bhakti directly by Krishna...

    , and two songs describe the episode of disrobing of Draupadi
    Draupadi
    In the epic Mahābhārata, Draupadi, also known as ' is the "emerged" daughter of King Drupada of Panchāla and the wife of the five Pandavas. When Yudhisthira becomes the king of Hastinapura at the end of the war, Draupadi becomes the queen of Indraprastha...

    .
  5. Vinaya Patrika
    Vinaya Patrika
    Vinaya Patrika is a devotional poem composed by the 16th-century Indian poet, Goswami Tulsidas , containing hymns to different Hindu deities especially to Lord Rama in extreme humility .Vinaya Patrika is an important work of medieval Hindi Literature and Bhakti...

    (विनयपत्रिका), literally Petition of Humility, is a Braja work consisting of 279 stanzas or hymns. The stanzas form a petition in the court of Rama asking for Bhakti
    Bhakti
    In Hinduism Bhakti is religious devotion in the form of active involvement of a devotee in worship of the divine.Within monotheistic Hinduism, it is the love felt by the worshipper towards the personal God, a concept expressed in Hindu theology as Svayam Bhagavan.Bhakti can be used of either...

    . It is considered to be the second best work of Tulsidas after the Ramcharitmanas, and is regarded as important from the viewpoints of philosophy, erudition, and eulogistic and poetic style of Tulsidas. The first 43 hymns are addressed to various deities and Rama's courtiers and attendants, and remaining are addressed to Rama.

Minor works

Minor works of Tulsidas include–
  1. Barvai Ramayana (बरवै रामायण, 1612), literally The Ramayana in Barvai metre, is an abridged rendering of the Ramayana in Awadhi. The works consists of 69 verses composed in the Barvai metre, and is divided into seven Kands or books. The work is based on a psychological framework.
  2. Parvati Mangal (पार्वती मंगल), literally The marriage of Parvati, is an Awadhi work of 164 verses describing the penance of Parvati and the marriage of Parvati and Shiva. It consists of 148 verses in the Sohar metre and 16 verses in the Harigitika metre.
  3. Janaki Mangal (जानकी मंगल), literally The marriage of Sita, is an Awadhi work of 216 verses describing the episode of marriage of Sita and Rama from the Ramayana. The work includes 192 verses in the Hamsagati metre and 24 verses in the Harigitika metres. The narrative differs from the Ramcharitmanas at several places.
  4. Ramalala Nahachhu (रामलला नहछू), literally The Nahachhu ceremony of the child Rama, is an Awadhi work of 20 verses composed in the Sohar metre. The Nahachhu ceremony involves cutting the nails of the feet before the Hindu Samskaras
    Samskara
    Samskara may refer to:* Saṃskāra, Hindu rites* Saṃskāra , in Buddhism, mental and volitional formations* Samskara , a technique in ayurvedic medicine...

     (rituals) of Chudakarana
    Chudakarana
    The Chudakarana or the Mundana , is the eighth of the sixteen Hindu saṃskāras , in which a child receives his/her first haircut....

    , Upanayana, Vedarambha
    Praishartha
    Praishartha also known as Vedarambha is the learning of Vedas and Upanishads in‘Gurukulam’ or ‘Pāṭhaśāla’. In the beginning of each academic period there is a ceremony called Upakarma and at the end of each academic period there is another ceremony called Upasarjana....

    , Samavartana or Vivaha. In the work, events take place in the city of Ayodhya, so it is considered to describe the Nahachhu before Upanayana, Vedarambha and Samavartana.
  5. Ramagya Prashna (रामाज्ञा प्रश्न), literally Querying the Will of Rama, is an Awadhi work related to both Ramayana and Jyotisha
    Jyotisha
    Hindu astrology , also Jyotish or Jyotisha, from Sanskrit , from "light, heavenly body") is the ancient Indian system of astronomy and astrology...

     (astology). It consists of seven Kands or books, each of which is divided into seven Saptakas or Septets of seven Dohas each. Thus it contains 343 Dohas in all. The work narrates the Ramayana non-sequentially, and gives a method to look up the Shakuna
    Hora (astrology)
    Horā is a branch of the traditional Indian system of astrology known as . It deals with the finer points of predictive methods, as distinct from Siddhānta and ....

     (omen or portent) for astrological predictions.
  6. Vairagya Sandipini (वैराग्य संदीपनी, 1612), literally Kindling of Detachment, is a philosophical work of 60 verses in Braja which describe the state of Jnana
    Jnana
    Jñāna or gñāna is a Sanskrit and Pali word that means knowledge. It has various nuances of meaning depending on the context. The idea of jnana centers around a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced...

     (realization) and Vairagya
    Vairagya
    Vairāgya is a Sanskrit term used in Hindu philosophy that roughly translates as dispassion, detachment, or renunciation, in particular renunciation from the pains and pleasures in the material world...

     (dispassion), the nature and greatness of saints, and moral conduct. It consists of 46 Dohas, 2 Sorathas and 12 Chaupai metres.

Popularly attributed works

The following four works are popularly attributed to Tulsidas–
  1. Hanuman Chalisa
    Hanuman Chalisa
    Hanuman Chalisa |Forty chaupai]]s on Hanuman") is a devotional song based on Lord Hanuman as the model devotee. It is a poem written by Tulsidas in the Awadhi language, and is his best known Hindu text apart from the Ramcharitmanas...

    (हनुमान चालीसा), literally, Forty Verses to Hanuman
    Hanuman
    Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

    , is an Awadhi work of 40 Chaupais and two Dohas and is a prayer to Hanuman. Although some authors do not consider it to be authored by Tulsidas, it is attributed to Tulsidas universally in popular belief and also contains the signature line of Tulsidas. It is one of the most read short religious texts in northern India, and is recited by millions of Hindus on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It is believed to have been uttered by Tulsidas in a state of Samadhi
    Samadhi
    Samadhi in Hinduism, Buddhism,Jainism, Sikhism and yogic schools is a higher level of concentrated meditation, or dhyāna. In the yoga tradition, it is the eighth and final limb identified in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali....

     at the Kumbh Mela
    Kumbh Mela
    Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage in which Hindus gather at the Ganges river.The normal Kumbh Mela is celebrated every 3 years, the Ardh Kumbh Mela is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Prayag, the Purna Kumbh takes place every twelve years, at four places Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain,...

     in Haridwar
    Haridwar
    Haridwar is an important pilgrimage city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India...

    .
  2. Sankatmochan Hanumanashtak (संकटमोचन हनुमानाष्टक), literally Eight verses for Hanuman, the Remover of Afflictions, is an Awadhi work of eight verses in the Mattagajendra metre, devoted to Hanuman. It is believed to have been composed by Tulsidas on the occasion of the founding of the Sankatmochan Temple in Varanasi. The work is usually published along with Hanuman Chalisa.
  3. Hanuman Bahuka (हनुमान बाहुक), literally The Arm of Hanuman, is a Braja work of 44 verses believed to have been composed by Tulsidas when he suffered acute pain in his arms at an advanced age. Tulsidas describes the pain in his arms and also prays to Hanuman for freedom from the suffering. The work has two, one, five and 36 verses respectively in the Chhappaya, Jhulna, Savaiya and Ghanakshari metre.
  4. Tulsi Satsai (तुलसी सतसई), literally Seven Hundred Verses by Tulsidas, is a work in both Awadhi and Braja and contains 747 Dohas divided in seven Sargas or cantos. The verses are same as those in Dohavali and Ramagya Prashna but the order is different.


Doctrine

The philosophy and principles of Tulsidas are found across his works, and are especially outlined in the dialogue between Kakbhushundi and Garuda
Garuda
The Garuda is a large mythical bird or bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology.From an Indian perspective, Garuda is the Hindu name for the constellation Aquila and...

 in the Uttar Kand of the Ramcharitmanas. Tulsidas' doctrine has been described as an assimilation and reconciliation of the diverse tenets and cultures of Hinduism. At the beginning of the Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas says that his work is in accordance with various scriptures - the Puranas, Vedas, Upavedas, Tantra
Tantra
Tantra , anglicised tantricism or tantrism or tantram, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, expressed in scriptures ....

 and Smriti
Smriti
Smriti literally "that which is remembered," refers to a specific body of Hindu religious scripture, and is a codified component of Hindu customary law. Smṛti also denotes non-Śruti texts and is generally seen as secondary in authority to Śruti. The literature which comprises the Smrti was...

. Ram Chandra Shukla in his critical work Hindi Sahitya Ka Itihaas elaborates on Tulsidas' Lokmangal as the doctrine for social upliftment which made this great poet immortal and comparable to any other world littérateur.

Nirguna and Saguna Brahman

As per Tulsidas, the Nirguna Brahman
Nirguna Brahman
Nirguna Brahman, signifies in Hindu philosophy the Brahman that pervades the Universe, considered without form , as in the Advaita school or else as without material form, as in Dvaita schools of philosophy.-Advaita:According to Adi Shankara, the famous reviver of Advaita...

 (quality-less impersonal God) and Saguna Brahman
Saguna brahman
Saguna Brahman came from the Sanskrit "with qualities" and Brahman "The Absolute".-Advaita:...

 (personal God with qualities) are one and the same. It is the devotion (Bhakti) of the devotee that forces the Nirguna Brahman which is quality-less, formless, invisible and unborn, to become Saguna Brahman with qualities. Tulsidas gives the example of water, snow and hail to explain this – the substance is the same in all three, but the same formless water solidifies to become hail or a mountain of snow – both of which have a form. Tulsidas also gives the simile of a lake – the Nirguna Brahman is like the lake with just water, while the Saguna Brahman is a lake resplendent with blooming lotuses. In the Uttar Kand of Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas describes in detail a debate between Kakbhushundi and Lomasha about whether God is Nirguna (as argued by Lomasha adhering to monism) or Saguna (as argued by Kakbhushundi adhering to dualism). Kakbhushundi repeatedly refutes all the arguments of Lomasha, to the point when Lomasha becomes angry and curses Kakbhushundi to be a crow. Lomasha repents later when Kakbhushundi happily accepts the curse but refuses to give up the Bhakti of Rama, the Saguna Brahman. Though Tulsidas holds both aspects of God to be equal, he favours the qualified Saguna aspect and the devotees of the highest category in the Ramcharitmanas repeatedly ask for the qualified Saguna aspect of Rama to dwell in their mind. Tulsidas has at multiple places vigorously contradicted the denial of Avatar by Kabir
Kabir
Kabīr was a mystic poet and saint of India, whose writings have greatly influenced the Bhakti movement...

. In several of his works, Kabir had said that the actual Rama is not the son of Dasharatha. In the Balkand of Ramcharitmanas, Shiva tells Parvati – those who say that the Rama whom the Vedas sing of and whom the sages contemplate on is different from the Rama of Raghu's race are possessed by the devil of delusion and do not know the difference between truth and falsehood.

The name of Rama

At the beginning of the Ramcharitmanas, there is a section devoted to the veneration of the name of Rama. As per Tulsidas, repeating the name of Rama is the only means to attain God in the Kali age where the means suited for other ages like meditation, Karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

, and Puja are ineffective. He says in Kavitavali that his own redemption is because of the power, glory and majesty of the name of Rama. In a couplet in the Gitavali, Tulsidas says that wishing for liberation without refuge in the name of Rama is like wishing to climb to the sky by holding on to the falling rain. In his view, the name of Rama is greater than both Nirguna and Saguna aspects of God – it controls both of them and is illuminates both like a bilingual interpreter. In a verse in the Dohavali, Tulsidas says that the Nirguna Brahman resides in his heart, the Saguna Brahman resides in his eyes and the name of Rama resides on his tongue, as if a radiant gemstone is kept between the lower and upper halves of a golden casket. He holds that Rama is superior to all other names of God, and argues that ra and ma being are the only two consonants that are written above all other consonants in the conjunct form in Sanskrit because they are the two sounds in the word Rama.

Rama as Brahman

At several places in Tulsidas' works, Rama is seen to be the higher than Vishnu and not as an avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

 of Vishnu, which is the general portrayal of Rama. In the episode of the delusion of Sati in Ramcharitmanas, Sati sees many a Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu serving Rama and bowing at his feet. When Manu
Sraddhadeva Manu
In Hindu mythology, Sraddhadeva Manu or Vaivasvata Manu is one of the 14 Manus, and the son of Vivasvat, hence his other name Vaivasvata Manu...

 and Shatarupa
Shatarupa
In Hindu mythology, when Brahma was creating the universe, he made a female deity known as Shatarupa . According to the Matsya Purana, Shatarupa was known by different names, including Satarupa, Sarasvati, Sandhya, or Brahmi.Hindu mythology uses her story to explain Brahma's four heads...

 perform penance, they crave to see that Supreme Lord "from a part of whose being emanate a number of Shivas, Brahmas and Vishnus." Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva come to them many times tempting them with a boon, but Manu and Shatarupa do not stop their penance. They are finally satisfied only by the appearance of Rama, on whose left side is Sita, from a part of whom are born "countless Lakshmis, Umas (Parvatis) and Brahmanis (Sarasvatis)." In the episode of marriage of Sita and Rama in Balkand, the trio of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are present - Brahma is astounded as he finds nowhere anything that is his own handiwork, while Vishnu is enchanted with Lakhmi on seeing Rama. In the Sundarkand, Hanuman tells Ravana that Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva can create, preserve and destroy by the might of Rama. In the Lankakand, Tulsidas presents the universe as the cosmic form of Rama, in which Shiva is the consciousness, Brahma is the reason and Vishnu is his intelligence. As per Tulsidas, Rama is not only an avatar, but also the source of avatars – Krishna is also an Avatar of Rama.

In the opinion of Urvashi Soorati, the Rama of Tulasidasa is an amalgamation of Vishnu who takes avatars, Vishnu in the abode of Ksheera Sagara, Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

 and the Para manifestation of the Pancharatra
Pañcaratra
Pāñcarātra are the Vaishnava Sanskrit texts dedicated to worship of Narayana and form part of the Agamas.Unlike Vaikhanasa tradition, the Pancaratric tradition of Agamas prescribe image worship in the place of rituals like Yajnas, mentioned in the Vedas...

. Macfie concludes that Tulsidas makes a "double claim", i.e. Rama is an incarnation of both Vishnu and Brahman. In the words of Lutgendorf, Tulsidas' Rama is at once "Valmiki's exemplary prince, the cosmic Vishnu of Puranas, and the transcendent brahman of the Advaitins."

Vedanta, World and Maya

In the Sundarkand of Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas says that Rama is knowable by Vedanta
Vedanta
Vedānta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = "Veda-end" = "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal...

.

As per Tulsidas, Rama is the efficient and material cause (Nimitta and Upadana) of the world, which is real since Rama is real. In several verses of the Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas says that the animate and inanimate world is a manifestation of Rama, and the universe is the cosmic form of Rama. Authors interpret these verses to mean that the world is real according to Tulsidas, in keeping with the Vishishtadvaita
Vishishtadvaita
Vishishtadvaita Vedanta is a sub-school of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy, the other major sub-schools of Vedānta being Advaita, Dvaita, and Achintya-Bheda-Abheda. VishishtAdvaita is a non-dualistic school of Vedanta philosophy...

 philosophy of Ramanuja
Ramanuja
Ramanuja ; traditionally 1017–1137, also known as Ramanujacharya, Ethirajar , Emperumannar, Lakshmana Muni, was a theologian, philosopher, and scriptural exegete...

. However, at some places in the Ramcharitmanas and Kavitavali, Tulsidas compares the world to a night or a dream and says it is Mithya (false or unreal). Some commentators interpret these verses to mean that in Tulsidas' opinion the world is unreal as per the Vivartavada doctrine of Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara Adi Shankara Adi Shankara (IAST: pronounced , (Sanskrit: , ) (788 CE - 820 CE), also known as ' and ' was an Indian philosopher from Kalady of present day Kerala who consolidated the doctrine of advaita vedānta...

, while some others interpret them to mean that the world is transient yet real as per the Satkhyativada doctrine of Ramananda. Uday Bhanu Singh concludes that in Tulsidas' view, the world is essentially the form of Rama and appears to be different from Rama due to Maya
Maya (illusion)
Maya , in Indian religions, has multiple meanings, usually quoted as "illusion", centered on the fact that we do not experience the environment itself but rather a projection of it, created by us. Maya is the principal deity that manifests, perpetuates and governs the illusion and dream of duality...

. Its visible form is transient, which is what Tulsidas means by Mithya. In the Vinayapatrika, Tulsidas says that the world in itself is neither true (Satya), nor false (Asatya), nor both true and false together (Satyasatya) – one who casts aside all these three illusions, knows oneself. This has been interpreted to mean that as per Tulsidas, the entire world is a Lila of Rama. At the beginning of the Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas performs Samasti Vandana (obeisance to all beings) in which he bows down to the world also, saying it is "pervaded by" or "born out of" Sita and Rama. As per some verses in Ramcharitmanas and Vinaypatrika, when a Jiva
Jiva
In Hinduism and Jainism, a jiva is a living being, or more specifically, the immortal essence of a living organism which survives physical death. It has a very similar usage to atma, but whereas atma refers to "the cosmic self", jiva is used to denote an individual 'living entity' or 'living...

 (living being) knows the Self, Maya and Rama, it sees the world as being pervaded by Rama.

In the Balkand episode of the marriage of the princes of Ayodhya with the princesses of Mithila, Tulsidas presents a metaphor in which the four brides are compared with the four states of consciousness – the waking state (Jagrat), sleep with dreams (Swapna), dreamless sleep (Sushupti) and the fourth self-conscious state (Turiya
Turiya
In Hindu philosophy, turiya is the experience of pure consciousness. It is the background that underlies and transcends the three common states of consciousness: the state of waking consciousness , the state of dreaming , and dreamless sleep .-Advaita concept:The first two states are not true...

). The four grooms are compared with the presiding divinity (Vibhu) of the four states – Vishva, Taijasa, Prajna and Brahman. Tulsidas says as the four states of consciousness with the their presiding divinities reside in the mind of a Jiva, so the four brides with their grooms are resplendent in the same pavilion.

Tulsidas identifies Maya with Sita, the inseparable energy of Rama which takes avatar along with Rama. In his view, Maya is of two types – Vidya and Avidya
Avidya
Avidyā is a Sanskrit word that means "ignorance", "delusion", "unlearned", "unwise" and that which is not, or runs counter to, vidya. It is used extensively in Hindu texts, including the Upanishads and as well in Buddhist thought...

. Vidya Maya is the cause of creation and the liberation of Jiva. Avidya Maya is the cause of illusion and bondage of the Jiva. The entire world is under the control of Maya. Maya is essentially the same but the two divisions are made for cognitive purposes, this view of Tulsidas is in accordance with Vaishnava teachers of Vedanta.

Views on other Hindu deities

As per Tulsidas, there is no incompatibility between devotion to Rama and attachment to Shiva. Tulsidas equates the Guru as an incarnation of Shiva, and a considerable part of the Balkand of Ramcharitmanas is devoted to the narrative of Shiva including the abandonment of Sati, the penance of Parvati, the burning of Kamadeva and the marriage of Parvati and Shiva. In addition, Tulsidas venerates the whole Hindu pantheon. The Ramcharitmanas begins with reverence of Ganesh, Sarasvati, Parvati, Shiva, the Guru, Valmiki and Hanuman. At the beginning of the Vinayapatrika, he bows to Ganesh, Surya, Shiva, Devi, Ganga, Yamuna, Varanasi and Chitrakoot, asking them for devotion towards Rama.

Bhakti

The Lord is to be approached by faith (bhakti
Bhakti
In Hinduism Bhakti is religious devotion in the form of active involvement of a devotee in worship of the divine.Within monotheistic Hinduism, it is the love felt by the worshipper towards the personal God, a concept expressed in Hindu theology as Svayam Bhagavan.Bhakti can be used of either...

) single minded devotion and surrender of self in perfect love, and all actions are to be purified of self-interest in contemplation of Him. Show love to all creatures, and thou wilt be happy; for when thou lovest all things, thou lovest the Lord, for He is all in all. The soul is from the Lord, and is submitted in this life to the bondage of works (karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

); Mankind, in their obstinacy, keep binding themselves in the net of actions, and though they know and hear of the bliss of those who have faith in the Lord, they do not attempt the only means of release. The bliss to which the soul attains, by the extinction of desire, in the supreme home, is not absorption in the Lord, but union with Him in abiding individuality. This is emancipation (mukti) from the burden of birth and rebirth, and the highest happiness. But the practical end of all his writings is to inculcate bhakti addressed to Rama as the great means of salvation and emancipation from the chain of births and deaths, a salvation which is as free and open to men of the lowest caste as to Brahmin
Brahmin
Brahmin Brahman, Brahma and Brahmin.Brahman, Brahmin and Brahma have different meanings. Brahman refers to the Supreme Self...

s.

Critical reception

From his time, Tulsidas has been acclaimed by Indian and Western scholars alike for his poetry and his impact on the Hindu society. Tulsidas mentions in his work Kavitavali that he was considered a great sage in the world. Madhusūdana Sarasvatī
Madhusudana Sarasvati
Madhusūdana Sarasvatī was an Indian philosopher in the Advaita Vedānta tradition. He is disciple of viSveSvara sarasvatI and mAdhava sarasvatI, is the most celebrated name in the annals of the great dvaita-advaita debate. He also flourished in the 16th century...

, one of the most acclaimed philosophers of the Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta is considered to be the most influential and most dominant sub-school of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy. Other major sub-schools of Vedānta are Dvaita and ; while the minor ones include Suddhadvaita, Dvaitadvaita and Achintya Bhedabheda...

 tradition based in Varanasi and the composer of Advaitasiddhi, was a contemporary of Tulsidas. On reading the Ramcharitmanas, he was astonished and composed the following Sanskrit verse in praise of the epic and the composer.



आनन्दकानने कश्चिद्जङ्गमस्तुल्सीतरुः ।

कविता मञ्जरी यस्य रामभ्रमरभूषिता ॥




ānandakānane kaścidjaṅgamastulsītaruḥ ।

kavitā mañjarī yasya rāmabhramarabhūṣitā ॥



Surdas
Surdas
Surdas, the 15th century sightless saint, poet and musician, is known for his devotional songs dedicated to Lord Krishna. Surdas is said to have written and composed a hundred thousand songs in his magnum opus the 'Sur Sagar' , out of which only about 8,000 are extant...

, a devotee of Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 and a contemporary of Tulsidas, called Tulsidas as Sant Shiromani (the highest jewel among holy men) in an eight-line verse extolling Ramcharitmanas and Tulsidas. Abdur Rahim Khankhana
Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana
Khanzada Mirza Khan Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana , also known as Rahim was a composer in the times of Mughal emperor Akbar, and one of his main nine ministers in his court, also known as the Navaratnas; he is most known for his Hindi couplets and his books on Astrology...

, famous Muslim poet who was one of the Navaratnas
Navaratnas
Navaratnas Nauratan was a term applied to a group of nine extraordinary people in a emperor's court in India...

 (nine-gems) in the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar, was a personal friend of Tulsidas. Rahim composed the following couplet describing the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas –



रामचरितमानस बिमल संतनजीवन प्रान ।

हिन्दुवान को बेद सम जवनहिं प्रगट कुरान ॥




rāmacaritamānasa bimala santanajīvana prāna ।

hinduvāna ko beda sama javanahi̐ pragaṭa kurāna ॥



The historian Vincent Smith
Vincent Arthur Smith
Vincent Arthur Smith was born in 1843 in Dublin which was then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. He was an Indologist, historian and art historian who worked in the Indian Civil Service and retired early to devote himself to his writing.His Oxford History of India, covering...

, the author of a biography of Tulsidas' contemporary Akbar, called Tulsidas as the greatest man of his age in India and greater than even Akbar himself. The Indologist and linguist Sir George Grierson called Tulsidas "the greatest leader of the people after the Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

" and "the greatest of Indian authors of modern times"; and the epic Ramcharitmanas "worthy of the greatest poet of any age." The work Ramcharitmanas has been called "the Bible of North India" by both nineteenth century Indologists including Ralph Griffith, who translated the four Vedas and Valmiki's Ramayana into English, and modern writers. Mahatma Gandhi held Tulsidas in high esteem and regarded the Ramcharitmanas as the "greatest book in all devotional literature". The Hindi poet Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala'
Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala'
Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala' was one of the most famous figures of the modern Hindi literature. He was a poet, novelist, essayist and story-writer...

 called Tulsidas "the most fragrant branch of flowers in the garden of the world's poetry, blossoming in the creeper of Hindi". Nirala considered Tulsidas to be a greater poet than Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore , sobriquet Gurudev, was a Bengali polymath who reshaped his region's literature and music. Author of Gitanjali and its "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse", he became the first non-European Nobel laureate by earning the 1913 Prize in Literature...

, and in the same league as Kalidasa
Kalidasa
Kālidāsa was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language...

, Vyasa
Vyasa
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa , or Krishna Dvaipayana...

, Valmiki, Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

 and William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

. Edmour J. Babineau, author of the book Love and God and Social Duty in Ramacaritmanasa, says that if Tulsidas was born in Europe or the Americas, he would be considered a greater personality than William Shakespeare. In the words of the archaeologist F. R. Allchin, who translated Vinaypatrika and Kavitavali into English, "for people of a large part of North India Tulsidas claims reverence comparable to that accorded to Luther as translator of the Bible into the native German". Allchin also mentions that the work Ramcharitmanas has been compared to not only the Ramayana of Valmiki, but the Vedas themselves, the Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

, the Kuran and the Bible. Ernest Wood
Ernest Wood
Professor Ernest Egerton Wood was a noted yogi, theosophist, Sanskrit scholar, and author of numerous books, including Concentration - An Approach to Meditation and Yoga.-Youth and Education:Wood was educated at the Manchester Municipal College of Technology, where he studied chemistry,...

 in his work An Englishman Defends Mother India considered the Ramcharitmanas to be "superior to the best books of the Latin and Greek languages." Tulsidas is also referred to as Bhaktaśiromaṇi, meaning the highest jewel among devotees.

Specifically about his poetry, Tulsidas has been called the "emperor of the metaphor" and one who excels in similes by several critics. The Hindi poet Ayodhyasingh Upadhyay 'Hariaudh' said of Tulsidas –



कविता करके तुलसी न लसे

कविता लसी पा तुलसी की कला ।




kavitā karake tulasī na lase

kavitā lasī pā tulasī kī kalā ।



The Hindi poetess Mahadevi Verma said commenting on Tulsidas that in the turbulent Middle Ages, India got light from Tulsidas. She further went on to say that the Indian society as it exists today is an edifice built by Tulsidas, and the Rama as we know today is the Rama of Tulsidas.

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