Life of Sant Tulsidas

  • By Swami Durgananda
  • September 2009

Bhakti, as an intense love for God, is an existential fact. It is ever present a deeper level within us. Time and again mahatmas come and wake us to the truth of this already existing wealth within us, our possession, our birth-right, which we must strive to reclaim.

Sant Tulsidas was one such mahatma whose heart melted in the white heat of love for God, whose pure, home-spun, and simple longing for God was to show direction not only to a few individuals, but to humankind at large, not only to one particular nation, but also across all borders, not only for a decade or two but for centuries. Such saints do not direct just a small number of persons but wake the divine consciousness of all humanity.

The Beginning
In the 16th century Rajapur – about 200 km east of Allahabad – in the Banda district of Uttar Pradesh, there live a rather gullible brahamana couple: Atmaram Dube and Hulsi Devi. The year 1532. One day, at a somewhat inauspicious moment, was born to them a make child. Even at this happy moment the mother was frightened. Born after 12 months of gestation, the baby was rather huge and had a full complement of teeth! Under which unfortunate star this child was born is not known for certain. But it is belied that it was asterism mula that was on the ascent then – a period of time known as abhuktamula. According to the then popular belief, a child born during this period was destined to bring death to its parents. The only remedy, it was believed, was for the parents to abandon the child at birth – or atleast not to look at it for the first 8 years!

The utterly poor father had nothing in his house for the celebration of the child’s birth or for the naming ceremony. Meanwhile, the mother died. Weighed down circumstances and superstition, the father abandoned the child. Chuniya, the mother-in-law of the midwife who had helped during the birth of the child, wet-nursed him. Such was the child’s fate that Chuniya too died after five years and he was left wandering, looking for morsels of food here and there, taking occasional shelter at a Hanuman temple. This was the boy who would later be recognized as Sant Tulsidas and excite bhakti en masse with soul inspiring couplets.

Biographical Sources
The penchant of saints for self-abnegation and their aversion to renown and recognition make it difficult for biographers to obtain details about their lives. This is also true of Tulsidas. Benimadhavdas, a contemporary of Tulsidas, wrote two different biographies, Gosai Charit and Mula Gosai Charit, the latter included more incidents. However, both these books are full of fanciful details; they also contradict each other and the biographies written by others.

Tulsi Charit, a large volume of undated origin, was written by Raghuvardas. Although this work contains a lot of information, it cannot be accepted in toto as it too contradicts Tulsi’s own works and those of other writers. The Gosai Charit, believed to have been written in 1754 by Bhavanidas, is another biography.

However, from Tulsi’s own works, and through commendable scholarly research, a lot of information has been gathered about his life. But in his own works Tulsidas gave no information about his youth or the grihastha period of his life. He does not even tell us his father’s name, though his mother does find mention in the Ramcharitmanas: ‘Tulsidas hit hiyan hulsi si, the story of Ram is truly beneficent to Tulsidas, like (his own mother) Hulsi’.

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