Sunday, February 21, 1999
GOSWAMI Tulsi Das was the "tallest tree in the magic garden of medieval Hindi poetry". He was born in a Saryuparin family of Gonda district, western U.P. in 1532. His fathers name was Atma Ram Dubey and his mother was called Hulsi. The various traditions about him affirm that he was deeply in love with his wife Ratnawali. On one occasion due to her sarcastic reproach, he renounced her and became an ascetic. He is believed to have started his magnum opus, the Ram Charit Manas in A.D. 1574, at the age of 42, on the sacred banks of Ganges in Banaras and completed it in A.D. 1584. He spent most of his later life in Banaras, engaged in his literary career. Tulsi Das wrote a number of poems between 1574-1614. He died at the ripe age of 91 (1623).
His notable works were Dohawali, (containing more than 700 dohas), Kavita Ramayan, Gitawali, Vinay Patrika and Ram Charit Manas. While as his smaller works include Ram Lala Nahachhu, Parvati Mangal, Janaki Mangal and Barvai Ramayan. The last one was composed at the instance of Abdur Rahim Khan Khana, the son of Bairam Khan and one of the greatest poets of Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. He imbibed the Hindu spirit and in Braj-Bhasha wrote poems on Krishna and other themes. He was patronised by Akbar.
The Ram Charit Manas, written by Tulsi Das is an outstanding work of great literary merit. It was written in the Avadhi dialect of the eastern Hindi also known as Baiswari which has been adopted by all writers of epic poetry. Tulsi, however, uses many words from other dialects especially Braj -Bhasha. He also employed Sanskrit words and had no hesitation in altering a word or employing a corrupt one to suit metre and rhyme. This produced a synthesis of simple avadhi and classical Sanskrit.
Tulsi Das was, of all the varieties from the simple flowing narration to the most complex verses. The Ram Charit Manas written in the Awadhi of Ayodhya became so popular because, "He appealed not to scholars but to the voiceless millions of his native country, the people that he knew".
Literary growth reached its acme with the liberal patronage Akbar provided to Hindu religious expression. Literature in Braj-Bhasha flourished under this patronage. Literary growth was enriched by the poets and musicians of Akbars court, including Tansen who wrote, "highly poetic and sometimes profound songs on various themes, devotional, panegyrical and descriptive."
Tulsi Das was indeed "the greatest man of the age greater than Akbar himself as far as the conquests of the minds of the people was concerned". Another interesting fact was that Tulsi Das "flourished" without royal patronage of any kind. He composed his "master piece" in the heyday of Muslim rule in India. The epic which attained unbounded popularity throughout the length and breadth of the country, an eloquent testimony to the fact that the fine literature needs no patronage. Though living at Banaras, not far from the Mughal court, Tulsi Das was neither discovered by Akbar nor his courtiers.
The presumption that Tulsi Das was patronised by Raja Man Singh or Abdur Rahim is absolutely incorrect as this would have certainly impaired or tarnished his glorious image.
Both eastern and western writers have, equivocally, showered praise on Ram Charit Manas" Grierson writes, "Looking back along the vista of centuries, we see his noble figure unapproached and solitary in its niche in the temple of fame, shining in its own pure radiance".
Tulsi Das was not merely a poet of great excellence but a spiritual teacher. His name has become a household word and his memory is worshipped by millions. Grouses tribute" that his book is in everyones hands, from the court to the cottage and is read and heard and appreciated alike by every class of the Hindu community whether high or low, rich or poor, young or old" is quite appropriate.
Tulsi Das is sometimes blamed for having taken up the theme from Valmikis Sanskrit Ramayana. His work is certainly not a translation of Valmikis Ramayana but quite independent in its treatment. The latter can be considered as the main source of Tulsi Dass inspired work and its treatment of the subject matter. The difference lies in each minute detail and description the main forte of Tulsi Das.
Ram depicted by Tulsi is no longer a human being of the original text. He appears an incarnation of the supreme spirit as Vishnu. Less wordy and diffused, it is free from repetition and interpolations of the Sanskrit text. Though devotional in spirit, the works of Tulsi Das also display a purely humanistic approach based upon a knowledge of man and things around him. He was a path-finder and showed a keen sense of human duty and dignity and urged upon all for the pursuit of highest virtues in life.
Sardar Pannikar has
rightly observed that "Tulsi Das saved
Hinduism from schisms and cults, for the religion of Ram
Charit Manas in spite of the exaltation of Rama as
the supreme being, was catholic enough to hold all sects
and provided the strong motive force of Bhakti which has
since then remained the basic factor of Indian popular
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