Thursday, September 2, 2010

Goswami Tulsidas

Goswami Tulsidas also known as simply Tulsidas was a medieval Hindi poet and philosopher.

He was born in Rajpur in the district of Banda in Uttar Pradesh, during the reign of Humayun. Tulsidas wrote twelve books and is considered the greatest and most famous of Hindi poets. He is regarded as an incarnation of Valmiki, the author of Ramayana written in Sanskrit. He wrote Ram Charita Manas, an epic devoted to Rama. This Ramayana is read and worshipped with great reverence in every Hindu home in India. It is an inspiring book that contains sweet couplets in beautiful rhyme. Vinaya Patrika is another important book written by Tulsidas.

Tulsidas lives in between 1527-1623. He was a Sarayuparina Brahmin by birth. His father's name was Atma Ram Sukal Dube; that of his mother is said to have been Hulasi. A legend relates that, having been born under an unlucky conjunction of the stars, he was abandoned in infancy by his parents, and was adopted by a wandering sadhu or ascetic, with whom he visited many holy places in the length and breadth of India; and the story is in part supported by passages in his poems. He studied, apparently after having rejoined his family, at Sukar-khet, a place generally identified with Sor in the Etah district of the Uttar Pradesh, but more probably the same as Varahakshetra on the Gogra River, 30 miles west of Ayodhya.(Varahakshetra and Sukar-khet have the same meaning; Varaha or Sukara means a wild boar).

He married in his father's lifetime, and begat a son. His wife's name was Ratnavali, daughter of Dinabandhu Pathak, and his son's Tarak. The latter died at an early age, and Tulsi's wife, who was devoted to the worship of Rama, left her husband and returned to her fathers house to occupy herself with religion. Tulsidas followed her, and endeavoured to induce her to return to him, but in vain; she reproached him (in verses which have been preserved) with want of faith in Rama, and so moved him that he renounced the world, and entered upon an ascetic life, much of which was spent in wandering as a preacher of the necessity of a loving faith in Rama.

He first made Ayodhya his headquarters, frequently visiting distant places of pilgrimage in different parts of India. During his residence at Ayodhya the Lord Rama is said to have appeared to him in a dream, and to have commanded him to write a Ramayana in the language used by the common people. He began this work in the year 1574, and had finished the third book (Aranyakanda), when differences with the Vairagi Vaishnavas at Ayodhya, to whom he had attached himself, led him to migrate to Benares. Here he died in 1623, during the reign of the emperor Jahangir, at the age of 91.

The period of his greatest activity as an author synchronized with the latter half of the reign of Akbar (1556-1605), and the first portion of that of Jahangir, his dated works being as follows: commencement of the Ramayan, 1574; Ram-satsai, 1584; Parvati-mangal, 1586; Ramajna Prashna, 1598; Kabitta Ramayan, between 1612 and 1614.

Tulsidas's greatest poem, popularly called Tulsi-krita Ramayana, but entitled by its author Ram Charita Manas, or the Lake of Rama's Deeds, was begun in the year 1574, and completed in two years and seven months. A large portion of the poem was composed at Banaras, where the poet spent most of his later life.

The Ram Charita Manas is as well known among Hindus in upper India as is the Bible among the rural population of England. Many of its verses are popular proverbs in that region; an apt quotation from them by a stranger has the immediate effect of instilling confidence in the listener. Tulsidas 's 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 Ram Charita Manas. (Narhari-Das was the sixth in spiritual descent from Ramananda, the founder of popular Vaishnavism in northern India.)

Besides the Lake of Rama's deeds, Tulsidas was 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

The Dohavali, 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

The Kabitta Ramayan or Kavitavali, which is a history of Rama in the kavitta, ghanakshari, chaupaï and savaiya metres; like the Ramacharitamanas, it is divided into seven kandas or cantos, and is devoted to setting forth the majestic side of Rama's character

The Gitavali, also in seven kands, aiming at the illustration of the tender aspect of the Lord's life; the metres are adapted for singing

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

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.

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' most famous and read piece of literature apart from the Ramayana is the Hanuman Chalisa, a poem primarily praising the Hanuman. Although it is not one of his best poems, it has gained popularity among the modern-day Hindus. Many of them recite it as a prayer every week.

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