Role of Tulsidas in Hindu Renaissance 

Tulsidas appeared at a time when the Hindu society was groping in dark and was losing luster of life. The foreign invaders, with a few exceptions, had found the land suitable for making it their homeland and settle in India permanently. With the mentality of a ruling class, they got engaged in converting people into their religion of Islam. to widen their support base. Hinduism was being challenged in its own land. Moreover there were inner challenges as well. The differences in sects and within sects were weakening the grip of religion over the people. The Shaivites and the Vaishnavites were at loggerheads and quarreled with and criticized each other. Even the Shaiva sect was sub-divided into a number of sects, united in disagreeing with and opposing one another. Rituals had become commercialized. Differences, distortion of values, divisions, and sub-division in religion and society was sapping its very vitality and the whole society was crumbling. India needed a co-ordinator, integrator, and reformer and in Tulsidas, she found a safe haven. He rose equal to the occasion and infused the Hindu life and religion with vigor and freshness. He coordinated various sects and gods. He exposed real religion in his epic RamCarit Manas for the understanding of common people. It is important to glance at the political map of the time in order to valuate his contribution.

During the barbaric tide of Mogul invasion, there were Hindu forces else where to face them but not in the Indo- Gangetic planes. The Sikhs in the Northwest, the Rajputs in Rajasthan, the Marathas in the South and Bundelas in Bundelkhand saved Hindus by stopping their tide. No ruler ever was born on the Indo- Gangetic planes to stop their unleashed forces of horror and violence, hurts and insults. Zia- Ud- Din Burani writes, ‘The obligation to be refuge of faith can not be fulfilled until they (Islam) have utterly destroyed infidelity, unbelief, polytheism, and idolatry. —They will not be less meritorious if for the sake of Islam, — they use their efforts to insult, humiliate and cause grief and bring ridicule and shame upon the polytheists’ (Hindus). The Sufi saint Abd- al- Quddus says, ‘non-Muslims should not wield the pen in offices – In the Shariyat, the subordination of Kafir (Hindu) is enjoined if in accordance with it, they are humbled and subordinated,’ Another Sufi saint Sirhind pleads that the ‘Kafir’s should be kept at arms length like the dog. and that one who respects the Kafirs (Infidels or Hindus ) dishonors the muslims.’The famous historian RCMajumdar says, ‘The worship of images which forms the most cherished element in the religious beliefs of the Hindus was anathema in the eyes of the Muslims and the long tradition of the ruthless destruction of temples by them for nearly a thousand years formed a wide gulf between the two.’ Against this background Tulsidas proved that pen is mightier than sword. Tulsidas described his hero Rama in Manas as the incarnation of justice, the embodiment of Beauty, Righteousness and Truth, and another poet Surdas depicted the hero Krsna in Sursagar as the embodiment of innocence and sweetness, incarnation of Pure Love and Detachment, equality and fair play. The lives of these heroes brought ripples of love for worldly life and a sense of pride and assertiveness befitting Hindus. The people found the life worth living. Ram Lila and Rasa Lila kept alive the fire and assertiveness and restored luster in life.

Tulsidas, the world’s greatest mobilizer of people after Buddha, was born in Raipur, a small village in Banda district of Uttar Pradesh. His father was Atmaram Dwevedi and mother was Hulsi. He was born on the seventh day of the bright half of the lunar month of S’ravan (Corresponding to July and August) in 1554 vikram era or 1497 AD.The year of his birth is disputed. Some people think that he was born in 1523 and some speak of 1527. He was born in Mula constellation, which is not good for either parent. It is said that they should not see the child’s face for next six months. He was born twelve months after conception and his weight was as of a five-year child. At time of his birth he had all the thirty-three teeth in his mouth. Moreso he did not cry at time of birth but uttered Ramaka. All this was strange and ominous. Owing to bad conjunction of stars, he was abandoned by his parents. In Vinaya Patrika, he has described his agony in clear terms. A saint Narhari Swami picked him up and gave him the name Rambola. after his very first utterance of birth. He was the sixth saint in the perceptorial succession of Ramanand He took him to Ayodhya in 1505 AD On the fifth day of bright half of the lunar month of Magha, Tulsidas was given initiation. At that time with no previous education, he, to the surprise of all, uttered Gayatri Mantra. Tulsidas was very intelligent and sharp to grasp instantly whatever was taught to him. From Ayodhya, he went to Sukar Ksetra (Soron in UP) and it was here that he heard the story of Rama from his Guru Narhari Swami. Then he reached Kashi (Varanasi) Here he studied Vedas and other scriptures for 15 years. After completion, he returned to his ancestral home to find his family ruined. He performed Shradha ceremony of his parents there. Tulsidas was married to Ratnavali, the daughter of Deenbandhu Pathak, on the 13th day of bright half of lunar month of Jyeshth (corresponding to May and June) She was possessed of enticing beauty and charm. Tulsidas was infatuated with love and this resulted in changing his life. On one occasion when, out of sheer madness, Tulsi reached her in her father’s house unexpectedly, she chided and said, ‘Had you loved Rama half of much as you love this material perishable body, your sorrows would have vanished away.’ Stung by this, Tulsi left the house never to return to family life. He went to Prayag (Allahabad) and made pilgrimage to holy places. There are a number of legends about Tulsi meeting saints like Bharadwaj, Yajnavalkya, Hanuman, Kakbhusund and having seen Rama with his own eyes. From Ayodhya he came to Varanasi and began to write the story of Rama in Sanskrit. For seven anxious days he noticed that whatever he composed got out of print during the night. Then he had a dream in which he was asked to write for the common people in Hindi. Now he reached Ayodhya and started writing in Hindi, the great epic of Manas It was in 1631 Vikram samvat, on Ramnavami day, the birthday of Rama, when he started the writing of Ramcarit Manas. He describes this in Balkand that ‘ On the ninth day of bright half of lunar month Caitra, Ramnavami, the birth day of Rama, he starts with Manas in Avadhpuri on Tuesday.’It was about 1575 AD. He completed the work in 2 years 5 months and 26 the year 1633 vikrasamvat on the day, which coincides with the anniversary of Rama’s wedding. After this he went to Varanasi and recited Manas before Kashi Vishwanath. He kept the book in the temple for the night and found next morning the phrase Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram (Truth, Righteousness, Beauty) written on the cover. Tulsi wrote in conformity with different scriptures. He was a true integrationist. He incorporated different groups as equals in society. He starts with reverence to Vani (God of speech) and Vinayaka (God of welfare) as they are the originators of sounds represented by alphabets, the meanings the sounds contain, the objects they describe and the poetic sentiments they carry. Thereafter he greets the goddess Parvati and her consort Sankar. He makes obeisance to Sankar as an Eternal Preceptor. He pays homage to his Guru and all other pious souls in various spheres of life. He acknowledges the gift of Valmiki, Narada and Agastya for speaking out Rama’s story on various occasions.

Recognizing that there exists no duality and every one is a part of the Eternal Being, he pays homage to the good and the bad; the gentle and the wicked alike and to every thing that constitute the 84 lakhs yonis of Jarayuj (viviparous), Andaja (oviparous), Swedaja (born of sweat), and Udbhijya (Sprouting from soil) He developed a large following behind Rama’s worship In Valmiki Ramayana, Rama is described as a man but in Tulsi’ Manas, Rama is possessed of super powers. Siva speaks to Parvati about the greatness of Rama. He says,’ Rama is the sun, the True Being, Consciousness, Bliss; the pair of opposites are the lot of the common man, but Rama is omnipotent, omnipresent and Supreme Bliss. (1/115) Tulsi believes in the formless God but with attributes. Siva says,’ There is no difference between the Personal and the Impersonal; He who is the Impersonal without form and unborn, becomes Personal for love of his devotees. – Just as water transforms itself into ice.’(Ibid.) All that is illuminable is illuminated by Rama. He is the Lord of Maya (cosmic illusion) and is possessed of all virtue and wisdom. As an adept integrator, Tulsi brought the different sects together. In Manas Rama says, “Those who love me but dislike Siva or love Siva and dislike me go to hell. My devotee if he dislikes Siva can not reach me even in dream.’( 6/1/4&6/2)Through such depictions Tulsi set aside the differences and united the sects. He adopted both the prevalent dialects of the time, Braj and Avadhi, though in his Manas, he predominantly uses Avadhi. He also adopts in his epic Manas all the prevalent styles of expression like couplets, quadruplets, sestets and quartets etc. He imbibes all the nine Rasas (Sentiments of poetry)—Srngar (Love), Hasya (Humor) Karuna (Pathos) Veer (Valor) Bibhatsya (Disgust) Bhayanaka (Terror) Adbhuta (Marvelous) and Santa (quietude) and Raudra (wrath, fury) He was absolutely all inclusive and versatile. He wrote for the common people and his Manas is read and sung by all people, regardless of age, caste and sex. Thus he successfully embraces in his fold the different sections of society and gives them hope. Ramcarit Manas is a world-class voluminous work. It is divided into seven Kandas (chapters)-1- Balkand,2- Ayodhya kand,3- Aranya Kand,4- Kishkindhya kand,5- Sunder Kand 6-Lanka kand, and 6-Uttar Kand respectively. In this sacred work, he revives the religious and spiritual message of Upanishads and Geeta. He describes the golden age of Rama and his kingdom. He picks up almost every sphere of life and human behavior and inspires us to act and behave in that ancestral way and according to the ethical code as laid down by scriptures. We find ideal examples of relationship between father and son, brother and brother, master and servant, Guru and disciple, man and man, ruler and the ruled, etc. Tulsi well understood that the object of life is salvation. and this can not be achieved without living an ethical and moral life. He says that in days of Rama,people lived according to Varna Ashram 7/20 and the family life was well knit. Rama obeyed his parents and even felt that the Vanvasa (14-year exile) was like living in Ayodhya. 2/74/3 He always served the elderly and the Gurus, father, mother, brothers and the deserving. (2/74/5 )Without any argument, he accepts father’s words. Tulsi says that the son who obeys parents is a fortunate soul (2/41/8; 2/46/2)He deals with relationship between brother and brother in 2/240-305; with husband and wife 2/17&65; with Guru in (1/2/1&45—1/80/8) and says that one can not acquire real knowledge without the guidance of a Guru 7/89 –99 and Guru helps in salvation (7/93&99 & 7/89/9) He says that the real friend is a friend in need and feels for the other sincerely (4/7/1,4,5,6)

Tulsi knows that in this world, the good and the bad have to co-exist.5/40/5 Where there is wisdom, prosperity is guaranteed; where perversity dominates, misfortunes hover never to leave.5/40/6 He describes that a real saint is pure, chaste and possessed of spotless character. He is a man of compassion and equanimity. (1/2/5-6; 1/3/13-14; 2/129-7; 4/16/4) He observes the wicked and cautions us to keep away. (¼; 7/106&116) and do not heed their advise 2/24/8as they are like serpents 7/121/18 Tulsi is didactic and clearly sets up a behavior-pattern. Rama says to Laksman that it is not proper to request a fool, love a crooked, cast pearls before a swine and advise spirituality to a staunch materialist etc. (5/58/2-3-4) Tulsi pleads for freedom of speech but says that example is better than precept and there should be no gulf between practice and preaching.6/78/2. The speech has to be sweet and not piercing. He discusses cause and effect relationship (2/178&188) He wishes for the welfare of all 1/14/9 As the word Manas in Ramcarit manas indicates, Tulsi pays special consideration to the reader and the listener. He stands for a free mind, away from the illusion, which binds it. 7/117/4-5 He stands for a healthy mind in a healthy body 7/122/9-10 He discusses Kama (3/17/5-6; 2/65/3to7; 7/70-99)He declares that Kama, (passion) Krodha (anger) Lobha (avarice) Moha (infatuation) Mada (ego) lead us to decay and hell. (5/38/9; 3/43 )Krodh is product of duality 7/111 and Moha is blind ,the root cause of all agonies and pains (7/70/7; 7/21/9) Lobha is limitless desires (7/70/9-10 )and Mada leads us to jealousy, anxiety and ambition (3/71/1-2; 7/71/3; 7/121/32; 7/71/5) Tulsi explains these agonies thus-The five great elements, water, air, fire, ether and earth combine into three basic energies in varying degrees in every body and in every thing, they are Vata (constitute space and air) Pitta (fire and Water) and Kapha (Water and earth) Kama is like Vata ; Lobha is Kapha and Krodh is Pitta. When the three combine, they create havoc. (7/121/29to31) He asks us to get rid of these (2/93/2; 1/267/3; 7/21/29) and remain detached from the root of all evils (7/70/7; 5/23) The medieval age of Tulsi was influenced by Islam and remained man- dominated. For consideration of security and escape from imitation of Muslims, the attitude towards woman remained reserved. The woman has a charm of her own. She is a spring of desire.3/44/1 She can easily seduce a man (7/99/1; 3/5/7) She is possessed of daredevil nature but is wavering and undecided. She suffers from egoism and attachment.6/16/2-3 Tulsi says that woman is wonderful creation of God1/102/5 He describes four types of woman3/5/11 and stresses upon devotion to husband. (1/102/3-5; 3/5/10.) He says that woman is as tender as a flower but in need becomes as hard as rock. The true test is held at time of need (2/46 -47; 3/5/7) He establishes checks. He says that the wife of younger brother, sister, son’s wife should not be seen with unwanted eyes.4/9/7-8 The man who flirts or loves another’s wife commits grave offence and is an evil 3/46 The speech of Ocean god before Rama in his defense refers to woman ,in unhealthy way ,as an object of physical torture but it simply depicts other influences and the failings of society. Tulsi simply presents the factual image of the age and desirable checks. Tulsi asked us to go above pair of opposites, as they will always exist. He discusses the role of King 1/28/8, minister and subjects 2/171/4, official policy 7/112/6, enemy (3/21/12 & 2/228/2) and officials 3/37/8 He prohibits mistreatment of ambassadors 5/24/7 He says that the ruler should be free from corruption, evil thoughts and actions and be righteous for the subjects. The ruler, who brings misery to its people .is denounced.2/71/6 Tulsi does not forget to picture the glorious age of Hindus. It is Ram Rajya. He describes that the people then knew no fear, no sorrow, and no disease. Every one was devoted to his duty in conformity to Vedic precepts. No one suffered from any ailment or affliction.of Adhibhautic (Positive), Adhidaivik (Theological) or Adhyatmik (Metaphysical) (7/21/1) there was no premature death. Every one was comely and of sound body and lead pious life (7/1to4) The kingdom town of Ayodhya was well-built and prosperous .He presents Hanuman as a bhakta –incarnate, Bharat as an ideal of brotherhood, Lakshman as a man of action , an ideal Karmayogi. Rama is Maryada Purushottam, the embodiment of virtue and valor, who establishes a reign of righteousness and justice after attaining victory over evil forces ; a victory of good over evil. Thus Tulsi atonce makes us feel proud of our heritage and culture.

Tulsi did not propound any new philosophy or establish any sect. He simply reproduced the scriptures for the common lot of people in a language they easily followed and understood. He emphasized on the supreme object of human life, the four goals of life—Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. He showed the way to a religious life. He considered the universe as the manifestation of Sita Rama He said that. Rama and Sita are one and identical like word and its meaning, water and its waves on the surface. 1/18 He makes no distinction between Personal and Impersonal God as it is love that makes the Impersonal Personal.with attributes. (1/116/1-2) The very belief that God incarnates in name and form, as expressed in Geeta 4/7-8, is quoted by Tulsi in Manas1 /121/6-8 Tulsi’ Brahma is formless but with attributes. He can work without organs, walk without feet, and listen without ears. (1 /118/5to8) It is nirgun, Nirakar sagun, as described by Sancaracarya. Tulsi speaks of the same God which is described in Upanishads as ‘ not this, not this’ and from whom has sprung forth the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (1/144/5-6) God is omnipresent like fire in the wood and is unattached but can be attained through love. 1/185/5 Tulsi describes the world as a dream.3/39/5 It is Illusion that alludes the world. 3/15/2 every one is born under Maya according to his Karmas. Maya is all-powerful supervisor, under it Prakriti (nature) produces the moving and the unmoving and thus the world resolves. (1/128/8; 7/78/6) Tulsi says that the human body is the greatest creation of God. (7/41-44-121) It is possessed of virtue and wisdom 2/263/4 It is attained only by performing good karmas in the previous life.7/33/8 Even the gods desire to have human form 7/43/7 as it is the gateway to salvation and ladder to Bliss. (7/121/9-10) It is the physical body that is born. and not the soul. Body is prone to changes that cause joys and sorrows. Body is composed of five elements of water, air, fire, ether and earth. The soul is different, It is a fragment of God (.7/117/2) In Geeta the Lord says,’ An eternal portion of myself becomes a living soul in the world and abides in nature and draws into self the five senses and the mind.’Unlike the body Self is not born (4/11/4-5) and does not die. Tulsi was essentially a devotee. He derived immense joy in unswering devotion to Rama and Sita.He follows Bhakti Marga (Path of Devotion) (7/119/8; 7/86/10; 3/16/4,3/35/6) He considers Rama’s servant as more important than Rama He worshipped with a feeling of Dasya Bhava (master – servant relationship)(7/119&120) He believes that the path of knowledge is difficult like a razor’s edge. 7/119/1 Knowledge is love and love of God gives heavenly pleasure 5/4 There is no difference between the two paths.7/115/13 where there is no love for Rama, there cannot be any knowledge or Yoga. 2/290/2 Hence he stresses on Nam Jap, chanting of Rama’ name. Even the dacoit king Valmiki got salvation by chanting the name of Rama, albeit in a reciprocal way (2/193/8; 7/103/4&35&90,7/90/8) Rama’devotees remains free from sorrows (5/52/3, 5/7.4, 7/120/9) By the grace of God even the poison becomes nectar for them. 5/52/3 Tulsi says that every one is free to choose the form of worship that suits him. Thus he stresses that God is one and the way to God are many. In his case, he finds among the many names of God, the name of Rama attractive3/42/7-8 and like a lamp put on the doorway, the chanting of Rama’s name illuminates both the inner and outer sides.1/21

Tulsi stresses on religion and says that Religion is Truth and helps in attaining salvation. (2/72&95&142; 3/16/1,3/5/14) The greatest religion is engaging in the welfare of others 7/141/1 He stands for Karma Yoga He says that the world is mainly a field of action.2/218/4. As you sow so shall you reap. 2/77/8 Only the lazy and the idlers depend on destiny. 5/51/4 we have to do our duty with out desire for reward. Whatever is destined is bound to happen. We have simply to reap our Prarabhdha (Action in present life) and the consequences of our actions (2/271/7-8) So we have to act. The whole world is guided mainly by actions. No one gives joys and sorrows. It is our deeds that constitute it (.2/92/4; 2/218/4) Tulsi presents Lakshman as an embodiment of Karma (action) About twenty works are attributed to Tulsidas, out of which twelve are said to be authentic, which include Ramcarit Manas, kavitavali, Dohavali and Geetavali. In the year 1680, 7th day of bright half of Sravan on Asi bank of river Ganges, Tulsi left for his heavenly abode. His last desire was,’ Having described Rama’s glory, nothing but silence is my need. So give a leaf of tulsi (basil) in the mouth of Tulsi.’ (Leaf of sacred Tulsi plant is put in the mouth of the dying person in India.) The teachings of Tulsidas are relevant even to this day. Gandhji says, ‘Hindu Dharma is like a boundless ocean, teeming with priceless gems. —It is the way trodden by some of the greatest sages of India who were men of God: to take Rama’s name from the heart means driving help from an incomparable power. This power is capable of removing all pain.’ Tulsi accomplished it in action .He inspired us to the life divine devoted to Rama. He lifted us from meaningless sectarian differences and chaos and confusion of life to a life of action, creativity and Karma. The life of man found its divinity in the individual.

The vitality, energy and the very integrity of one’s being were restored. Tulsi was the Savior of his age. He successfully integrated the society into one entity and drifted its currents to a more swift and progressive flow with a pride of Hindu self-assertion. Tulsi was essentially a saint, a devotee of Rama and Sita. He was pure, chaste and passions free in love and hate, in honor and dishonor, in attachments and repulsion He easily identified himself with his surroundings. The devotee sang Rama’ saga in a poetic vein.for self-aggrandizement. It is said of the poet Tulsi that the goddess Poetry found herself graced with the gift of Tulsi’ poetic diction.’

Source: INDOlink