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Thursday, June 7, 2012

TULSI DAS --துளசி தாஸ்




Short story about Tulsidas who wrote the RAMAYAN and was brother of Nanddas.

He was one of the best poets ever to have graced BhArata Varsha. His verses were written in Hindi and accessible to everyone. He is well known for the work 'Ramacharita manasa'. It is impossible to write a brief note about Tulasidas and be content about it. It is said that one has to read in detail Rama charita manasa for a deeper appreciation of Tulasidas, as a person, as a poet, as a philosopher, as a saint and, above all as a true devotee of Lord Rama.

Tulasidas was born in the year 1532 to a brahmin family in the town of Rajapur. He suffered separation from his parents at a very young age and was not taken care of by his relatives. He came into contact with some saints who advised him to surrender to Lord Rama. Thus, he got associated with a Hanuman temple and ate whatever was given to him. Not much is known about Tulasi's guru, but he met him in Sukarkheta. Since tulasidas was not mentally equipped at that time for complex philosophies, his guru advised him to take up the path of devotion to Rama. As time grew on, Tulasi's love for Rama grew deeper and deeper.

It is also said that one day, a wandering holy man became compassionate for the young boy and gave Tulsidas a statue of Lord Ram and advised the young boy to make his home in the holy name of Rama. Tulsidas made his way to the village temple. When the Brahmins at the temple saw this poor beggar with a statue of Rama, they assumed he must have stolen it. Running away from the Brahmins, Tulsidas bumped on a holy man, the Guru Narahari Das. Narahari Das protected the boy from the Brahmins and invited him to come live at his ashram on the banks of the river Ganga.

Narahari Das could see that this young boy is very special indeed, so he decides to instill in him all of his own knowledge and love. Though he loved Tulsidas like a son, Narahari Das did not want his own affection for the boy to hold Tulsidas back. He could see it is time for Tulsidas to study with a different master and encouraged him to continue his studies in Benares. Fifteen years later, Tulsidas grew into one of the most learned and respected young men in that land.

However, in his youth, he got married to a woman named Ratnavali. Tulsidas becomes so infatuated with his beautiful wife he can hardly think about anything else! Even in meditation, his mind rests not on Ram, but on his wife’s lovely form. Ratnavali herself was a great devotee of Ram. The last thing she wanted is to distract her husband on his path of union with the Lord. Because of her deep love for him, and her devotion to Lord Rama, she knew that she must leave Tulsidas. She wrote him a letter of farewell and left for her brother’s house. Finding Ratnavali's letter, Tulsidas went out of his mind with despair. Even though a huge storm was raging outside, he rushed from his house to find her. As he tried to cross a river, he was swept along in a fierce flood. Catching hold of a log, he managed to struggle ashore.

Barely surviving the journey to Ratnavali’s brother’s house, Tulsidas climbed a rope onto her balcony. She was shocked to see him there and told him that the “log” he caught hold of in the river was actually a dead body, and the “rope” he climbed onto her balcony was really a huge python! Ratnavali implored Tulsidas to focus his love not on her but on the Lord. She also told that she was just a bag of flesh and bones. With these words, Tulsidas realized that in his mad infatuation for his wife, he had indeed forsaken Lord Rama.

After bidding goodbye to family life, he lived in Chitrakuta for some time before 1564. He used to go around houses for alms. Tulsidas’ one-pointed devotion to Lord Rama was rekindled with Ratnavali’s words. He immediately set off on a pilgrimage to all places auspicious to Rama. Resting one day in a forest, Tulsidas helped a tree to become free from an ancient curse. The tree spirit reminded him of the vow Tulsidas had made as a boy -- to make the Ramayana available to all people. The tree spirit foretold that Hanuman himself would come to listen to Tulsidas’ tales of Lord Rama!

One day, he came to the house where his wife and father-in-law lived, but he did not recognize them. Though the wife recognized him, she just gave him alms and food. When she insisted that he partake spices like pepper, salt etc, he replied that he had his own supply of spices in his possession. Early next morning, when Tulasidas was preparing to leave the house, his wife requested him to take her with him. But, he refused saying that he has renounced family life. Ratnavali was angered and remarked, 'You have spices in your possession, but not wife. What kind of renunciate are you ?.' Tulasidas recognized the folliness of being attached to food, and thanked his wife for the lesson and threw away all his remaining possessions. He, then, migrated to Kashi. Scholars have rightly pointed out that Rama charita manasa would never have been written if not for Ratnavali's remarks. Though he made several pilgrimages throughout the country, his permanent residence was in Kashi. He commenced writing rama charita manasa in Ayodhya but came back to Kashi.

Nabhaji, the author of Bhaktamala (1600), writes that Tulasidas was an incarnation of Valmiki itself born again to explain Ramayana in the vernacular langauge. This raise in his fame naturally created many enemies, who attacked his caste, his asceticism etc, but Tulasi does not seem to have been bothered by this.

Tulasi was a personification of humility. He has declared in the Manasa that he is not a poet and he is imperfect and only sings the excellence of Rama according to his poor wit and understanding. This is the case in his other works Gitavali (1571), Kavitavali (1612), Barvairamayana (1612) and one of the best works, Vinaya Patrika (request to Rama). Tulasi, should not, however, be considered partial to Rama in exclusion to others. He appreciated the diverse tenets of Saiva, advaita and sAnkhya philosophies. He authored 22 different works. He never became attracted to miracles or money. Once the powerful king Jahangir offered him money in return for the performance of some miracles. Tulasi retorted 'Who needs money when one has the love of (and for) Rama ? What use is miracles before his glory ?'

In Kashi, he became the head of the monastery in lolarka kunda and was designated 'Gosain.' Around 1612, he started to suffer from acute arm pain, boils causing uprooting of his hair and also seems to have suffered from the epidemic in the local area. Having dedicated his life to Lord Rama, these were considered to mere trifles and Tulasi passed away on the third day of the dark fortnight in the month of ShrAvana in 1623

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