Mahakavi Tulsidas

राम नाम मनिदीप धरु जीह देहरीं द्वार।

तुलसी भीतर बाहेरहुँ जौं चाहसि उजिआर॥

If the name of Ram is there in heart, every where you go is your home. Every definition of progress that you ever had will usher in from all sides and you would do well in your life.

Goswami Tulsidas has been aptly titled as ‘Mahakavi’ for his tremendous contribution to Indian Literature. His command over Awadhi and Maithli proved to be a stepping stone in the way Indian Mythological Classics were perceived for years to come. Having discussed at length about some of the turning points of Tulsidas’ life and the major events that led him to the world of Ram Bhakti in our previous blog post (do give it a read if you haven’t yet!) we feel its our moral obligation to speak about some of his classic and most-read pieces. Frankly, it is difficult for us to include details and tales related to each of these pieces, but we hope we do our best in delivering the essence of each of them.

Mahakavi Goswami Tulsidas in penance


Ramacharitamanas is an Awadhi rendering of the Ramayana narrative. It is the longest and earliest work of Tulsidas, and draws from various sources including the Ramayana of Valmiki, the Adhyatma Ramayana, the Prasannaraghava and Hanuman Nataka. The work consists of around 12,800 lines divided into 1073 stanzas, which are groups of Chaupais separated by Dohas or Sorthas. The work is composed in 18 metres which include ten Sanskrit metres (Anushtup, Shardulvikridit, Vasantatilaka, Vamshashta, Upajati, Pramanika, Malini, Sragdhara, Rathoddhata and Bhujangaprayata) and eight Prakrit metres (Soratha, Doha, Chaupai, Harigitika, Tribhangi, Chaupaiya, Trotaka and Tomara). Talking of Ramcharitmanas is impossible without the mention of the following Chaupai that is supposed to be repeated after every Doha when you are reading it.

मंगल भवन अमंगल हारी

द्रवहु सुदसरथ अजिर बिहारी ।।

Ram, you are the abode of everything good and auspicious for all causes and destroyer of all that is bad. Please take compassion on me, O Dashrath Beloved, the one who plays in the courtyard

Tulsidas started composing the Ramcharitmanas in Ayodhya on Tuesday, Ramnavami day (ninth day of the bright half of the Chaitra month, which is the birthday of Ram). Tulsidas himself attests this date in the Ramcharitmanas. He composed the epic over two years, seven months and twenty-six days, and completed the work on the Vivaha Panchami day (fifth day of the bright half of the Margashirsha month, which commenrates the wedding of Ram and his wife Sita).

The coverpage of Ramcharitmanas

Tulsidas came to Varanasi and recited the Ramcharitmanas to Shiva (Vishwanath) and Parvati (Annapurna) at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. A popular legend goes that the Brahmins of Varanasi, who were critical of Tulsidas for having rendered the Sanskrit Ramayana in the Awadhi, decided to test the worth of the work. A manuscript of the Ramcharitmanas was kept at the bottom of pile of Sanskrit scriptures in the sanctum sanctorum of the Vishvanath temple in the night, and the doors of the sanctum sanctorum were locked. In the morning when the doors were opened, the Ramcharitmanas was found at the top of the pile. The words Satyam Shivam Sundaram (Sanskrit: सत्यं शिवं सुन्दरम्, literally “truth, auspiciousness, beauty”) were inscribed on the manuscript with the signature of Shiva.

Mentioning about the beauty of Ramcharitmanas, Rahim writes:

रामचरितमानस बिमल संतनजीवन प्रान ।

हिन्दुवान को बेद सम जवनहिं प्रगट कुरान ॥

The immaculate Ramcharitmanas is the breath of the life of saints. It is similar to the Vedas for the Hindus, and it is the Quran manifest for the Muslims.

Other Literary pieces

Dohavali is a work consisting of 573 miscellaneous Doha and Sortha verses mainly in Braja with some verses in Awadhi. The verses are aphorisms on topics related to tact, political wisdom, righteousness and the purpose of life. 85 Dohas from this work are also found in the Ramcharitmanas, 35 in Ramagya Prashna, two in Vairagya Sandipani and some in Rama Satsai, another work of 700 Dohas attributed to Tulsidas.

One of the most widely read Hindu religious text – Hanuman Chalisa

Hanuman Chalisa is an Awadhi work of 40 Chaupais and two Dohas in obeisance to Hanuman. It is one of the most read short religious texts in northern India, and is recited by millions of Hindus on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It is believed to have been uttered by Tulsidas in a state of Samadhi at the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. Speaking of Hanuman Chalisa, the following is the first doha of the chalisa.

श्री गुरु चरण सरोज रज, निज मन मुकुर सुधार

बरनौ रघुवर बिमल जसु, जो दायक फल चारि

बुद्धिहीन तनु जानि के, सुमिरौ पवन कुमार

बल बुद्धि विद्या देहु मोहि हरहुं कलेश विकार ।।

With the dust of Guru’s Lotus feet, I clean the mirror of my mind and then narrate the sacred glory of Sri Ram Chandra, The Supreme among the Raghu dynasty. The giver of the four attainments of life. Knowing myself to be ignorant, I urge you, O Hanuman, The son of Pavan! O Lord! kindly Bestow on me strength, wisdom and knowledge, removing all my miseries and blemishes.

Parvati Mangal is an Awadhi work of 164 verses describing the penance of Parvati and the marriage of Parvati and Shiva. It consists of 148 verses in the Sohar metre and 16 verses in the Harigitika metre.

Janaki Mangal is an Awadhi work of 216 verses describing the episode of marriage of Sita and Ram from the Ramayana. The work includes 192 verses in the Hamsagati metre and 24 verses in the Harigitika metres. The narrative differs from the Ramcharitmanas at several places.

Sankatmochan Hanumanashtak is said to be the most concise description of Hanuman’s devotion towards Ram

Sankatmochan Hanumanashtak is an Awadhi work of eight verses in the Mattagajendra metre, devoted to Hanuman. It is believed to have been composed by Tulsidas on the occasion of the founding of the Sankatmochan Temple in Varanasi. The work is usually published along with Hanuman Chalisa. The final doha of it has been composed into various bhajans in praise of Hanuman.

लाल देह लाली लसे , अरु धरि लाल लंगूर

वज्र देह दानव दलन , जय जय जय कपि सूर ।।

You have the red body that enlightens the world. You disguised yourself as the long-tailed monkey when you spied Lanka. Your body is as strong as the thunderbolt that can kill any enemy. I meditate upon you, My Lord

Try This! Lets check how much of the Ramcharitmanas do we still remember.

The following are some Youtube videos reciting some of the above mentioned works of Tulsidas. We hope you would like these.

Sankatmochan Hanumanashtak
Hanuman Chalisa
Famous dohas of Tulsidas

Concept and text by Sanskar Jhajharia

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