Life of Goswami Tulasidas

Life of Goswami Tulasidas

Tulsidas was born in Rajpur, in the district of Banda in Uttar Pradesh, in Samvat 1589 or 1532 A.D. He was a Sarayuparina Brahmin by birth. His father’s name was Atmaram Shukla Dube and his mother’s name Hulsi.

Early Years

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 was that 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. He was born under the Abhuktamūla constellation, which according to Jyotisha causes immediate danger to the father of the infant. 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, a female servant of Hulsi. Tulsidas attests to his parents abandoning him after birth in his works Kavitavali and Vinayapatrika.

Chuniya looked after the child for five and a half years after which she passed away. Rambola was left an orphan, and wandered from door to door begging for alms. It is believed that Parvati assumed the form of a Brahmin woman and fed Rambola every day.

Initiation from Guru

At the age of five years, Rambola was adopted by Narharidas, a Vaishnava ascetic of the Ramananda’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. Tulidas 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 Saṃskāra was performed by Narharidas on the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Magha (January-February) at Ayodhya. Tulsidas started his learning at Ayodhya. After some time, Narharidas took him to Sukarkshetra (modern day Soron), where he first narrated the Ramayana to Tulsidas. Tulsidas mentions this in the Ramcharitmanas.

maiʼn puni nija gura sana sūnī kathā so sūkarakheta ।

samujhī nahiʼn tasa bālapana taba ati raheuʼn aceta ॥

“And then, I heard the same narrative from my Guru in Sukarkshetra. I did not understand it then, since I was totally without cognition in childhood.

Tulsidas later came to Varanasi and studied the six Vedanga and the four Vedas for fifteen years from Sheshasanatana.

Tulsidas’s wife’s name was Buddhimati (Ratnavali). Tulsidas’s son’s name was Tarak. Tulsidas was passionately attached to his wife. He could not bear even a day’s separation from her. One day his wife went to her father’s house without informing her husband. Tulsidas stealthily went to see her at night at his father-in-law’s house. This produced a sense of shame in Buddhimati. She said to Tulsidas, "My body is but a network of flesh and bones. If you would develop for Lord Rama even half the love that you have for my filthy body, you would certainly cross the ocean of Samsara and attain his Lotus Feet". These words pierced the heart of Tulsidas like an arrow. He did not stay there even for a moment. He abandoned home and became an ascetic. He spent fourteen years in visiting the various sacred places of pilgrimage.

While returning from answering the calls of nature, Tulsidas used to throw the water that was left in his water-pot at the roots of a tree which a spirit was occupying. The spirit was very much pleased with Tulsidas. The spirit said, "O man! Get a boon from me". Tulsidas replied, "Let me have Darshan of Lord Rama". The spirit said, "Go to the Hanuman temple. There Hanuman comes in the guise of a leper to hear the Ramayan as the first hearer and leaves the place last of all. Get hold of him. He will help you". Accordingly, Tulsidas met Hanuman, and through His grace, had Darshan of Lord Rama.

Tulsidas wrote twelve books. The most famous book is his Ramayan, Ram-charit-manas in Hindi. He wrote this book under the directions of Hanuman. This Ramcharitmanas is read and worshipped with great reverence in every Hindu home in Northern India. It is an inspiring book. It contains sweet couplets in beautiful rhyme. Vinaya Patrika is another important book written by Tulsidas.

He is also considered to be the composer of the Hanuman Chalisa, a popular devotional hymn dedicated to Hanuman. Tulsidas lived for a long time and died in the city of Varanasi, the Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi is named after him. He founded the Sankatmochan Temple in Varanasi, believed to stand at the place where he had the sight of Hanuman. He has been acclaimed as one of the greatest poets in Hindi, Indian, and world literature. The impact of Tulsidas on the art, culture and society in India is widespread and is seen to date in Ramlila plays.

Some thieves on the order of a local scholar came to Tulsidas’s Ashram to take away his written manuscripts of Ramcharitmanas. They saw a blue-complexioned guard, with bow and arrow in his hands, keeping watch at the gate. Wherever they moved, the guard followed them. They were frightened. In the morning they asked Tulsidas, "O venerable saint! We saw a young guard with bow and arrow in his hands at the gate of your residence. Who is this man?" Tulsidas remained silent and wept. He came to know that Lord Rama Himself had been protecting Ramcharitmanas.

Tulsidas lived in Ayodhya for some time. Then he shifted to Varanasi. One day a murderer came and cried, "For the love of Rama give me alms. I am a murderer". Tulasidas called him to his house, gave him sacred food which had been offered to the Lord and declared that the murderer was purified. The Brahmins of Varanasi reproached Tulsidas and said, "How can the sin of a murderer be absolved? How could you eat with him? If the sacred bull of Siva—Nandi—would eat from the hands of the murderer, then only we would accept that he had been purified". Then the murderer was taken to the temple and the bull ate from his hands. The Brahmins were put to shame.

Tulsidas once went to Vrindavan. He visited a temple. He saw the image of Lord Krishna. He said, "How shall I describe Thy beauty, O Lord! But Tulasi will bow his head only when You take up bow and arrow in Your hands". The Lord revealed Himself before Tulsidas in the form of Lord Rama with bow and arrows.

Tulsidas’s blessings brought the dead husband of a poor woman back to life. The Moghul emperor at Delhi came to know of the great miracle done by Tulsidas. He sent for Tulsidas. Tulsidas came to the emperor’s court. The emperor asked the saint to perform some miracle. Tulsidas replied, "I have no superhuman power. I know only the name of Rama". The emperor put Tulasi in prison and said, "I will release you only if you show me a miracle". Tulasi then prayed to Hanuman. Countless bands of powerful monkeys entered the royal court. The emperor got frightened and said, "O saint, forgive me. I know your greatness now". He at once released Tulasi from prison.

Tulasi left his mortal coil and entered the Abode of Lord Ramachandra in 1623 A.D. at the age of ninety-one at Asighat in Varanasi.

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