TULSIDAS- THE STORY OF A SAINT

Tulsidas or Goswami Tulsidas was a 16th century great Hindu poet and saint, acclaimed as one of the Greatest Poet in Hindi, Indian and World literature. He is renowned for his dedication and devotion to the Lord Ram. He wrote several popular works in Sanskrit and Awadhi but is best known as the author of the epic Ramcharitmanas, a retelling of the Sanskrit Ramayana based on Rama’s life in the vernacular Awadhi. The word Ramcharitmanas literally means “lake of the deeds of Ram”. He is also considered to be the composer of Hanuman Chalisa, a popular devotional Hymn, dedicated to Hanuman- the divine devotee of lord Ram.

According to the sources, Tulsidas was born in the year 1497 at the banks of the river Ganga in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. After he was born, instead of crying he spoke the word “Ram” because of which he was named as “Rambola” meaning “one who utters Ram”. Tulsidas’s parents abandoned him after his birth because according to the Hindu Astrology he was born under the Abhuktamula constellation which was believed to cause immediate danger to the life of his father. He was sent away with Chuniya, a female servant who used to work at Tulsidas’s home. She took him to her village of Haripur and looked after him for five and a half years after which she died. Tulsidas was left to fend 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 Tulsidas every day.

At the age of five years, Tulsidas was adopted by Narharidas, a Vaishnava ascetic(worshiping the god Vishnu), of Ramananda’s monastic order who was believed to be the fourth disciple of Ramananda or alternately the disciple of Anantarcharya. Tulsidas was given the “Diksha” that is “initiation” and here he was given the name “Tulsidas”. His Guru repeatedly narrated the Ramayan to him which led him to understand it. Tulsidas later came to the sacred city of Varanasi and studied Sanskrit Grammar, scriptural reading of four Vedas, six Vedangas, Jyotisha and the six schools of Hindu Philosophy over a period of 15-16 years from Guru Shesha Santana who was based at a Ghat in Varanasi. After studying, by the permission of his Guru he started to live with his family and narrated the story of “Ramayan”.

Tulsidas got married to Ratnavali and 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 about this, he Swam across the Yamuna river in the night to meet her. 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 stage(householder’s life) and became a Sadhu(Hindu ascetic).

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. Tulsidas dreamt of composing a poetry in the vernacular instead of Sanskrit. Tulsidas woke up and saw both Shiva and Parvati who blessed him. He is also credited with having composed a number of wise saying and ‘Dohas’ on lessons for life.

Categories: Culture and History

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