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Tulsidas (also Tulasidas, Gosvāmī Tulsīdās, Tulasī Dāsa) (1532-1623) Devanāgarī: तुलसीदास) was a great Awadhi bhakta (devotee), philosopher, composer, and the author of Ramacharitamanasa, an epic poem and scripture devoted to the Hindu god Rama.


Tulsidas was born on the Shraavan Shukla Saptami, Vikrami Samvat 1554 (1532 A.D.) in Sukarkhet Rajapur Uttar Pradeshmarker, Indiamarker in the present day Gonda, , during the reign of Akbar to Hulsi and Atmaram Dubey. The popular verse in this regard is. Tulsidas was a saryupareen Brahmin of Parashara gotra

"पन्द्रह सौ चौवन बिसै कालिन्दी के तीर |

श्रावण शुक्ला सप्तमी तुलसी धरे शरीर ||"

"Tulsi got parasar dube patiaunja"

Incarnation of Valmiki

Tulsidas is regarded as an incarnation of the great sage Valmiki. In Bhavishyottar Purana, Lord Shiva tells Parvati how Valmiki got a boon from Hanuman to sing the glories of Lord Rama in vernacular language in the Kali Yuga. This prophecy of Lord Shiva materialised on the Shraavan Shukla Saptami, Vikrami Samvat 1554 when Valmiki reincarnated as Tulsidas.

"वाल्मीकिस्तुलसीदासः कलौ देवि भविष्यति |

रामचन्द्रकथामेतां भाषाबद्धां करिष्यति ||"

-Bhavishyottar Purana, Pratisarga Parva, 4.20

Nabhadas, a contemporary of Tulsidas and a great devotee, also describes Tulsidas as incarnation of Valmiki in his work Bhaktmaal.Even the Ramanandi sect (Tulsidas belonged to this sect) firmly believes that it was Valmiki himself who incarnated as Tulsidas in the Kali Yuga.


The name may be written in various ways. It is written as Tulasī Dāsa when the name is a transliteration of the Devanagari letters (as is the practice with most library catalogue systems) to indicate Sanskrit pronunciation of the letters or as Tulsidas when it is a transcription of the pronunciation in Hindi). Regardless of the way it is written, the name comes from two words: Tulasī, which is an Indian variety of the basil plant, and Dāsa, which means "servant" or, by extension, "devotee".

Literary career


Ramacharitamanasa, an epic devoted to Rama, was the Awadhi version of Ramayana of Valmiki.It is not exactly the "Awadhi version", but the original one of its kind. Apart from "Awadhi"- three other languages are also seen in the epic Ramacharitamanasa- they are "Bhojpuri", " Brijbhasa" and "the local language of people of Chitrakut".Like many translations of the original Sanskrit Ramayana, it is read and worshipped with great reverence in many Hindu homes in India. It is an inspiring book that contains couplets in verse form called chaupai.

It is also called Tulsi-krita Ramayana and is as well known among Hindi-speaking Hindus in Indiamarker. Many of its verses are popular proverbs in that region. Tulsidas' phrases have passed into common speech, and are used by millions of Hindi speakers (and even speakers of Urdu) without the speakers being conscious of their origin. Not only are his sayings proverbial: his doctrine actually forms the most powerful religious influence in present-day Hinduism; and, though he founded no school and was never known as a guru or master, he is everywhere accepted as both poet and saint, an inspired and authoritative guide in religion and the conduct of life.

Tulsidas professed himself the humble follower of his teacher, Narhari Das, from whom as a boy in Sukar-khet he first heard the tale of Rama's exploits that would form the subject of the Rāmacaritamānasa. Narhari Das was the sixth in spiritual descent from Ramananda, a founder of popular Vaishnavism in northern India, who was also known for his famous poems.

There are numerous differences between Tulsi Rāmacaritamānasa and Valmiki Ramayana. One example is the scene in which Kaikayi forces her husband to exile Rama. In Tulsi Das it becomes considerably longer and more psychological, with intense characterisation and brilliant similes.

Other works

Besides the Rāmacaritamānasa, Tulsidas the author of five longer and six shorter works, most of them dealing with the theme of Rama, his doings, and devotion to him. The former are

  1. the Doha, consisting of, 573 miscellaneous doha and sortha verses; of this there is a duplicate in the Ram-satsai, an arrangement of seven centuries of verses, the great majority of which occur also in the Dohavali and in other works of Tulsi,
  2. the Kabitta Ramayan or Kavitavali, which is a history of Rama in the kavitta, ghanakshari, chaupaï and savaiya metres; like the Rāmacaritamānasa, it is divided into seven kandas or cantos, and is devoted to setting forth the majestic side of Rama's character,
  3. the Gitavali, also in seven kandas, aiming at the illustration of the tender aspect of the Lord's life; the metres are adapted for singing
  4. the Krishnavali or Krishna gitavali, a collection of 61 songs in honor of Krishna, in the Kanauji dialect of Hindi: the authenticity of this is doubtful,
  5. the Vinaya Patrika, or Book of petitions, a series of hymns and prayers of which the first 43 are addressed to the lower gods, forming Rama's court and attendants, and the remainder, Nos. 44 to 279, to Rama himself.

His minor works include Baravai Ramayana, Janaki Mangal, Ramalala Nahachhu, Ramajna Prashna, Parvati Mangal, Krishna Gitavali, Hanuman Bahuka, Sankata Mochana and Vairagya Sandipini . Of the smaller compositions the most interesting is the Vairagya Sandipani, or Kindling of continence, a poem describing the nature and greatness of a holy man, and the true peace to which he attains.

Tulsidas's most famous and read piece of literature apart from the Ramayana is the "Hanuman Chalisa", a poem praising Hanuman. Many Hindus recite it daily as a prayer.

The entire collection of compositions by Tulsi Das, consisting of 13 books, has been translated into English (as poems) by Binda Prasad Khattri (1898-1985). The work is however, yet unpublished.


Tulsi's doctrine encompasses and includes almost all major streams of thought of the Sanatana Dharma as an amalgamation. According to Tulsi, there is no difference in Saguna and Nirguna, Bhakti and Jnana, Vishnu and Siva, Rama and Krishna. His verses on Maya concur with the concept in Sankaracharya's monism, while his recommendation of surrender to the lord (Sharanagati) can be compared to the concept of Prapatti in Ramanuja's qualified monism. In the Rama Gita of Ramcharitmanas, the difference between Jiva and Brahman is also explained. In his works like Ramcharitmanas and Vinaypatrika, he refers to the elements (tattvas) of Sankhya philosophy, and also to Yama and Niyama as defined by Patanjali's system of Yoga. At the beginning of the Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas himself attests that his work is in accordance with numerous Puranas, Vedas and (Tantric) Agamas -

नानापुराणनिगमागमसम्मतं यद् (RCM Balkand seventh verse)

Like Ramanuja, Tulsi believes in a supreme personal God, possessing all gracious qualities (sadguna), as well as in the quality-less (nirguna) neuter impersonal Brahman of Sankaracharya; this Lord Himself once took the human form, and became incarnate, for the blessing of mankind, as Rama. The body is therefore to be honored, not despised. The Lord is to be approached by faith (bhakti) disinterested 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); 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 don't 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. Tulsi, as a Saryupareen Brahmin, venerates the whole Hindu pantheon, and is especially careful to give Shiva or Mahadeva, the special deity of the Brahmins, his due, and to point out that there is no inconsistency between devotion to Rama and attachment to Shiva (Ramayana, Lankakanda, Doha 3). 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 Brahmins.

However it is important to understand that for Tulsidas "doctrine" is not so important. Far more relevant is practise, the practise of repeating Rama-Nama, the name of the Rama. In fact, Tulsidas goes as far as to say that the name of Rama is bigger than Rama Himself (कहउँ नामु बड़ राम तें निज बिचार अनुसार, ). Why is the name of Rama bigger than Rama? Because "Rama" is a mantra, a sound, the repetition of which can lead one to higher states of consciousness. Thus it is not Rama that "saves", but the name of Rama.

The literary worth of Tulsidas has been highlighted by Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla in his critical work Hindi Sahitya Ka Itihaas.Acharya Shukla has elaborated Tulsi's Lokmangal as the doctrine for social upliftment which made this great poet immortal and comparable to any other world littérateur.

Sources and manuscripts

In Growse's translation of the Rāmacaritamānasa, will be found the text and translation of the passages in the Bhagatmala of Nabhaji and its commentary, which are the main original authority for the traditions relating to the poet. Nabhaji had himself met Tulsidas; but the stanza in praise of the poet gives no facts relating to his life – these are stated in the tika or gloss of Priya Das, who wrote in A.D. 1712, and much of the material is legendary and untrustworthy. Unfortunately, the biography of the poet, called Gosai-charitra, by Benimadhab Das, who was a personal follower and constant companion of the Master, and died in 1642, has disappeared, and no copy of it is known to exist.

In the introduction to the edition of the Ramayana by the Nagri Pracharni Sabha all the known facts of Tulsi's life are brought together and critically discussed. For an exposition of his religious position and his place in the popular religion of northern India, see Dr. Grierson's paper in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, July 1903, pp. 447-466. (C. J. L.)

A manuscript of the Ayodhya-kanda, said to be in the poets own hand, exists at Rajapur in Banda, his reputed birthplace. One of the Bala-kanda, dated Samvat 1661, nineteen years before the poet's death, and carefully corrected, it is alleged by Tulsidas himself, is at Ayodhya. Another autograph is reported to be preserved at Maliabad in the Lucknowmarker district, but has not, so far as known, been verified. Other ancient manuscripts are to be found at Benaresmarker. An excellent translation of the whole into English was made by F. S. Growse, of the Indian Civil Service (5th edition, Cawnpore, Kanpurmarker, 1891).

A person from non-Hindi background may find Sri Ramcharitmanas bit difficult to understand. This mainly arise from the colloquialisms, and the idiomatic and elliptical structure of the sentences. These very difficulties constitute its peculiar value to the student who wishes to learn the Sri Ramcharitmanas. It disciplines the mind into recognizing words which have been distorted and twisted, and teaches one that a sentence can be turned upside down and inside out and yet remain intelligible. A nice introduction to the grammar of the Sri Ramcharitmanas was written by Edwin Greaves titled "Notes on the grammar of the Ramayan of Tulsi Das" (1895).

A bhajan of Tulsidas

O mind! Worship the compassionate Shree Ramachandra
Who destroys fear of the phenomenal world
His eyes are like fresh lotuses. He is lotus faced.
His hands are like lotuses, his feet are like lotuses.
His beauty excels that of myriad Cupids,
He is handsomely blue-hued like a cloud.
I bow before the one who wed the daughter of Janaka,
Who wears the yellow garment, the pure one who destroys arrogance.
Worship the friend of the poor,
The Sun who destroys the families of demons.
The progeny of Raghu, the son of Dasharatha,
The reservoir of bliss, the moon to Kosala.
Worship the one who wears the crown on his head,
Ear ornaments and crimson mark on the forehead
Whose every limb is decorated beautifully and generously,
Who is tall of stature, well built with strong arms,
Carrying bow and the arrows and victorious over evil demons in battle.
Thus says Tulsidas, worship Him who pleases Shankara and all the sages,
Reside in the lotus of my heart, destroying evil feelings like lust.

shrI rAmacandra = Oh SrI rAmAkrpAlu = the ever compassionate onebhajumana = Let my mind pray to (him)haraNa = one who destroys or chases awaybhavabhaya = the fear of this world (bhavsAgar) - of the cycle of birth and rebirthdAruNam = the harsh (world)

Tulsidas urges his mind to meditate on SrI rAmA, the ever compassionate one who will destroy all the fears that we have during this harsh life of ours.

nava kanjalOcana = [He has] eyes (lOcana) like a newly formed/tender (nava) lotus (kanj)kunjamukha = and a lovely face (mukha) like a lotus(kanj)karakanja = with soft hands like the lotus (kanj)pada kanjAruNam = and his feet (pada) are like the red (aruAa) lotus (kanj)

My Lord has large, lovely eyes like a tender/newly formed lotus, his arms and feet are like lotuses and his face is like the fully-blossomed lotus.

kandarpa = manmathaagaNita = countlessamita = unmeasurablechavi = face/countenancenavanIla = newly formed (nava) blue = (nIl)nIraja = lotus (blue lotus - nIlOtpalam) likesundaram = handsomepaTa pIta = wearing pItAmbarmAnO taDita = my mind (not sure what taDita means)ruci Sucinaumi = I bow (naumi) to the pure one (Suci) whojanaka sutA varam = is the husband (var) of the daughter (sutA) of janakA (sItA)

With a face like the nIlOtpalam, my lord's beauty exceeds that of countless manmathAs. I mentally bow down to him, who wears golden hued garments (pItAmbar), is pristine in his purity, and is the chosen lord of SrI sItA.

bhaju = pray todInabandhu = friend (bandhu) of the downtrodden/poor/powerless (dIna)dinEsha = a scion of the sUrya vamSadAnava daitya vamsha nikakandanam = (He) destroyed (nikandanam) the lineage (vamSa) of the demons (dAnav and daityas)

Pray to the Lord who is the friend and protector of the weak, the scion of the dynasty of the Sun is the destroyer of demons.

raghunanda = son of the raghUs (kula)Anandakanda = an ocean (kanda) of happiness (Ananda)kOshlacanda = darling (canda) of the kOsala dynastydasharatha nandanam = son (nandanam) of King daSrath

This son of King daSrath, of raghuvamSa, is the darling of the kOsalas (the family/dynasty of his mother - kausalyA), and a never ending ocean of unending bliss.

shira mukuTa = with a crown (mukuTa) on his head (sir)kuNDala = dangling ear-ringstilaka = and a lovely tilaka on his foreheadcAru = (looks) lovelyudAra anga = his mighty (udAr) limbs (anga)vibhUSaNam = (are) decorated with ornaments

He wears a crown on his head, dangling ear-rings, and a lovely tilak on his forehead. His mighty arms are decorated with bracelets and armulets.

AjAnubhuja = his arms (bhuja) are long (AjAnu) - literally means when the hands reach the persons kneessharacApa dhara = wielding (dhara) a bow (cApa) and arrows (Sara)sangrAma jita khara duSaNam = who defeated (jita) khara and dUSaNa in a battle (sangrAm)

With long arms wielding a bow and arrows, he defeated khara dUSaNa (SUrpanakhAs brothers) in a battle.

iti vadati = thus (iti) says (vadati)tulasIdAs = the poet tulsIdAsshankara = Lord SivashESa muni = (and) other (shESa) munismana ranjanam = pleaser (ranjana) of their mindsmama hrdaya kanja = in the lotus (kanj) of my (mama) heart (hriday)nivAsakuru = please reside (nivAs kuru)kAmAdi khaladala ganjanam = Oh Destroyer (ganjanam) of lust (kAma) and other vile deeds (khaladala)

See also


  1. Goswami Tulsidas Biography By Swami Sivananda at Divine Life Society.
  2. Manas published from Shri Tulsi Peeth, Chitrakoot
  3. Tulsidas
  4. Ramacharitamanas, Bal Kand, Doha 23
  5. The Rámáyana of Tulsi Dás
  6. Notes on the grammar Ramayana of Tulsi Das

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