Goswami Tulsidas, or simply Tulsidas, was an eminent Hindu saint and a poet. He was a great devotee of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnated form of Lord Vishnu. Throughout his lifetime, he has written numerous texts and books but is remembered mainly for his work for Ramcharitmanas – an epic poem showcasing Lord Rama’s life.
Tulsidas had spent his whole life at Vanarasa and Faizabad. There are 88 ghats in Vanarasa. One of them is Tulsighat, dedicated to Goswami Tulsidas, where he wrote Ramcharitmanas.
Tulsidas was the one who introduced Ramlila – a dramatic play based on Rama’s life from epic Ramayana in Hindu culture. Apart from that, Tulsidas built Sankat Mochan Temple at Varanasi, which honors Mahabali Hanuman.
In Arts and Literature field, Tulsidas is a highly reputed and well-known poet in India and the world. Thus, swami Tulsidas influences modern-day education, popular music, arts, movies, and television.
The word “Tulsidas” has its roots in the Sanskrit word “Tulasidasa.” Tulasi refers to sacred Hindu basil plant used to worship Lord Vishnu, and “Dasa” means maid, servant, or slave.
Biography of Goswami Tulsidas
Many historical texts and scriptures mentioned three places for the birth of Goswami Tulsidas. In 2012, Uttar Pradesh Government officially announced Soron Shookar Kshetra, Kasganj district, Uttar Pradesh, as the saint’s birthplace Tulsidas. His father’s name was Atmaram Dubey, while his mother was Hulsi. Many people believed mahatma Tulsidas as the Saryupariya Brahmin of the Maharishi Parashara’s Gotra; however, some argue that Kanyakubja or Sanadhya Brahmin.
As for the Tulsidas’s real birth year, the actual date varies from one biographer to another. One biographers’ group mentioned 1554 Bikram Sambat as Tulsidas birth year based on Mula Gosain Charita. On the contrary, another biographers’ group under Sant Tulsi Sahib’s supervision of Hathras declared 1568 Bikram Sambat as the birth year. Modern-day biographers and even the Government of India believe 1554 B.S as the actual birth year of Tulsidas.
One story related to Tulsidas’s birth says that he was born after 12 months. He was born with 32 teeth, a body like a five-year-old child, and did not cry like other babies; instead, speak up “Rama” So, he got the name Rambola. Mula Gosain Charita state that Tulsidas was born in Abhuktamūla nakshatra, which indicates risk for parents. That’s why his parents abandoned him on the fourth day after his birth.
Narharidas, a Vaishnava muni, adopted Rambola at the age of five and started teaching him. Rambola started his philosophical journey with a new name Tulsidas after Virakta Diksha. At the holy city of Vanarasa, he studied Sanskrit grammar, Vedas, Vedangas, and Jyotisha.
Tulsidas married a Ratnavali, Dinbandhu Pathak’s daughter, belonging to Bharadwaja Gotra at Mahewa village of Kaushambhi district. From Ratnavali, he had a child called Tarak, but the child died as a toddler. After separation from Ratnavali, he started his journey to live an ascetic life.
Contribution of Tulsidas
Tulsidas’s philosophical journey to Awadi literature started after receiving blessings from Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati in his dream and awaken state. Even he mentioned this incident in Ramcharitmanas.
Throughout his lifetime, Goswami Tulsidas wrote texts, books, and even composed poems and songs. The biographers split the 12 works into two groups based on the language. They are;
Awadi language works
This epic poem was written by the Indian devotional poet Tulsidas around 1523-1623 B.S. It was one of the greatest and earliest works of Tulsidas, which is a long poem describing all the events of Lord Rama from the Valmiki’s Ramayana. The word “Ramcharitmanas” means “lake of achievements of Lord Rama.” Ramcharitmanas has several honorable titles like “the living sum of Indian culture,” and “the greatest book of all devotional literature.”
It describes the Nahachhu events of Lord Rama in childhood and consist of 20 Awadi verse created in a Sohar metre. Nahachhu is a Hindu ceremony of cutting a child’s feet nails.
It is a 69-verse composed in Barvai metre, a shortened version of Valmiki’s Ramayana in Awadhi.
Also, it means the wedding of Devi Parvati. It is a 162 verse, where 148 verse is in Sohar metre while 16 verse is in Harigitika metre. It describes the austerity of Devi Parvati to obtain Lord Shiva as her husband and their marriage.
It denotes the wedding of Devi Sita. It includes 216 stanzas composed in Hamsagati metre (192 stanzas) and Harigitika metre (24 stanzas). This work of Awadi narrates the events of Lord Rama and Devi Sita’s marriage from the original Ramayana.
Translate as Inquiring the will of Lord Rama. It is an Awadhi work composed of 343 Dohas divided into seven kandas or books.
Braj Language works
Krishna Gitavali or Krishnavali is a compilation of devotional songs attributed to Lord Krishna. It incorporates 61 songs, out of which 32 hymns depict Krishna’s childhood play (Bala Lila) and Ras Lila, 27 songs show the conversation between Krishna and Uddhava. The last two verses reflect the undressing events of Draupadi.
Gitavali is a set of Braj language songs that expressed epic Ramayana into 328 hymns.
Dohavali is a collection of 573 Doha and Sortha verses in the Braja language. It talks about a subject like a delicacy, goodness, political knowledge, and objectives of life.
Vairagya Sandipini is a Braja work of 60 verses that discusses the situation of Jnana (knowledge, realization) and Vairagya (detachment, renunciation), ethical behavior, and saint’s eminence.
Vinaya Patrika, which means “Letter of Petition,” is a 279 songs collection. It was written as a petition against six passions (lust, anger, greed, drunkenness, closeness, and self-esteem) in front of the judges’ Lord Rama, Sita, Laxman, Bharat, and Shatrughan.
Sahitya Ratna is a 325 verse on Braj language composed entirely on the Kavitta family’s metres.
Apart from these significant works of Tulsidas, his minor works include Hanuman Chalisa, Hanuman Ashtak, Hanuman Bahuk, and Tulsi Satsai.
Teachings of Tulsidas
- God is the one who is the source of all goodness and who is formless, nameless, and birthless. Everything lies within himself and takes the human form to help those who have faith in him.
- There is only one God, but conceited ones have created numerous forms of God.
- Every living thing contains god particles. So, do respect all of them.
- Good intention leads to happiness and wealth, whereas bad will brings unhappiness and suffering.
There can be no happiness for a being nor can its mind know any peace even in a dream so long as it does not relinquish desire, which is an abode of sorrow.
No virtue is equal to the good of others and no vice greater than hurting others.”