Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Who was Goswami Tulsidas (1511–1623)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ramchatrimanas, Tulsidas

Mains level: Bhakti Movement


Tulsidas has come into controversy due to some of its verses (Chaupai) mentioned in the Ramcharitmanas.

Who was Tulsidas?

  • Tulsidas, a Brahmin whose original name was Ram Bola Dubey, is believed to have been born in Rajapur by the Yamuna in today’s Banda district.
  • He composed the Ramcharitmanas on the bank of the Ganga in Varanasi — he is said to have begun writing on Ram Navami day in 1574, and completed the poem over the next few years.
  • Tulsidas lived in the time of Emperor Akbar, and some believe that he was in touch with Abdurrahim Khan-e-Khanan, the son of Akbar’s commander Bairam Khan.

The Ramcharitmanas

  • The poem was written in the 16th century in the Awadhi dialect that is mainly spoken in the areas that are today’s Lucknow, Prayagraj, and Ayodhya districts.
  • It was written in the Avdhi dialect. The sacred chant ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ is a part of it.
  • It is divided into seven chapters (Kand) that tell the story of Lord Ram from birth to his becoming King of Ayodhya.

Why is Ramcharitmanas so famous?

  • The Ramcharitmanas is based on the Ramayana, sage Valmiki’s great epic.
  • It is the holiest book of the Indo-Gangetic region, and among the world’s most read holy books — by one estimate, Geeta Press (Gorakhpur) has sold almost 7 crore copies.
  • Across the Hindi heartland, a reference to “Ramayan” often actually means Ramcharitmanas.
  • Tulsidas made the story of Lord Ram popular among the masses because he wrote in the regional dialect that most people understood.

Tulisdas and political controversies

  • While in the Ramcharitmanas, Lord Ram is maryada purushottam, the epitome of righteousness, his conduct has been criticised by leaders of anti-Brahmin movements like E V Ramasamy Periyar.
  • One of the 22 pledges that Dr B R Ambedkar administered to his followers while embracing Buddhism in October 1956 was: “I shall have no faith in Rama and Krishna, who are believed to be incarnation of God, nor shall I worship them.”
  • Non-upper caste assertion in politics has sometimes been manifested in criticism of the Ramcharitmanas.
  • Critics have used these parts of the poem to accuse Tulsidas of being against the non-upper castes and women, and a flagbearer of the idea of Brahminical superiority.


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