Art & Culture

Goswami Tulsidas (1511-1623)

Tulsidas has sparked debate because some of his verses (Chaupai) are mentioned in the Ramcharitmanas.

Tulsidas, who was he?

  • Tulsidas, a Brahmin whose real name was Ram Bola Dubey, is thought to have been born in Rajapur by the Yamuna, which is now part of the Banda district.
  • He wrote the Ramcharitmanas on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi, starting on Ram Navami day in 1574 and finishing it over the next few years.
  • Tulsidas lived during the reign of Emperor Akbar, and some believe he corresponded with Abdurrahim Khan-e-Khanan, Akbar’s commander Bairam Khan’s son.

The Ramcharitmanas

  • The poem was written in the 16th century in the Awadhi dialect, which is primarily spoken in the districts of Lucknow, Prayagraj, and Ayodhya today.
  • It was written in the Avdhi language. The sacred chant ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ is included.
  • It is divided into seven chapters (Kand), which tell the story of Lord Ram from his birth to his ascension to the throne of Ayodhya.

Why is Ramcharitmanas so famous?

  • The Ramcharitmanas is based on the Ramayana, the great epic of sage Valmiki.
  • It is the holiest book in the Indo-Gangetic region, as well as one of the world’s most widely read holy books — according to one estimate, Geeta Press (Gorakhpur) has sold nearly 7 crore copies.
  • Throughout the Hindi heartland, “Ramayan” often refers to Ramcharitmanas.
  • Tulsidas popularised the story of Lord Ram because he wrote in the regional dialect that most people understood.

Tulisdas and political squabbles

  • While Lord Ram is described in the Ramcharitmanas as maryada purushottam, the epitome of righteousness, his actions have been criticised by anti-Brahmin activists such as E V Ramasamy Periyar.
  • “I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna, who are believed to be incarnations of God, nor shall I worship them,” one of the 22 pledges Dr. B R Ambedkar administered to his followers while embracing Buddhism in October 1956.
  • In politics, non-upper caste assertion has occasionally manifested itself in criticism of the Ramcharitmanas.
  • Critics have used these sections of the poem to accuse Tulsidas of being anti-upper castes and women, as well as a proponent of Brahminical superiority.
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