This is a very touching story of a small boy called Rambola, who became a great devotee of Rama and wrote the entire Ramayana in Hindi.
Tulasi as he was later commonly known was born in 1554 in the Shravan (August) month on Shukla Saptami in Rajapur, Uttar Pradesh. His father’s name was Atmaram Dubey and mother was Hulasibai. They were a very god-fearing and conservative couple.
As soon as Rambola was born, to everyone’s astonishment, the baby had 32 teeth intact!! Also, instead of crying like all other babies, he chanted “Ram, Ram”!! Hence his parents named him Rambola. His father was a very superstitious man. “A new born baby chanting Rama’s name, is not natural. This is sure to bring some misfortune”, he thought. Rambola’s mother too was sad by the strangeness of her baby. Expecting that the father may cause harm to the baby, mother Hulasi, sent away her baby with her servant Muniya. Muniya took the baby to her village called Haripur and lovingly brought up this baby. As luck would have it, Rambola’s mother soon died within a few days of his birth, confirming Atmaram’s worst fears.
Sadly, soon Muniya too died and the young child Rambola was orphaned. He brought up by the people of the village. He lived in the Hanuman temple just outside the village. Worshippers would bring offerings of fruits and sweets for the Lord and would also bring milk and food for the child. So Rambola grew up on the affectionate offerings that the village people made to Lord Hanuman.
Some years passed. When Rambola was a young boy of about 5 years or so, a great saint Swami Naraharidasji came to the village. Swamiji stayed in the village and recited the Valmiki Ramayana at the Hanuman temple. The little boy was totally mesmerized by the epic work and thus Rama touched his soul!
Rambola sat right in the front row during all the discourses. At the end of the entire Ramayana discourse, Swami Naraharidas ji called Rambola to him and asked , “Son who are you? I have been observing you all these days. You have sat through the entire Ramayana discourse and I can see that you have been moved by it!” Rambola replied with tears in his eyes, “Swami, I am Rambola. I don’t have any parents and I live here in this temple. Hanumanji takes care of all my needs”. Swamiji further smiled and asked, “Is that so? Who gave you this name, son?” Rambola replied, “Lord Ram himself gave me this name when I was born. They say that as soon as I was born, I chanted Rama’s name.” “Oh! So what do you do now?” asked Swamiji. “Well, I chant Rama’s name sometimes. But I also want to learn about Rama, Swamiji,” said a tearful Rambola. Swamiji immediately took the young child along with him to his ashram at Sookar. There he initiated Rambola into the devotion of Rama by teaching him to chant the Rama nama. He also recited the Ramayana to him many times. Soon the bright child learnt the scriptures, Vedas and all there was to learn very quickly. Since he was given the responsibility of taking care of Swamiji’s Tulasi garden, swamiji named him Tulasidas, and the name stuck!
As he years rolled by, Tulasidas, became absorbed in chanting Rama’s name all the time and tending to his Tulasi garden. He also traveled with Swamiji to all the places and helped him all the while listening to swamiji’s discourses. He soon began to write small couplets in local Hindi dialect.
As time passed, with swamiji’s blessings, Tulasidas was married to a very beautiful girl called Ratnavali from a nearby village. Ratna’s father was a very rich business man. Since Tulasidas now needed a source of income, his father-in-law setup a shop for him to manage at Sookar itself. Days passed by very happily for the newly wedded couple. However, it became embarrassingly apparent to everyone and to Ratna that, Tulasidas could not stay without seeing Ratnavali even for a few moments. He would follow her to the ghat when she went to wash clothes and fetch water! Or would leave the shop unattended just to come and see her. It disturbed Ratnavali that her husband was so besotted by her. She was often upset that her husband, a great scholar, who had till then been such a devout Rama devotee had now all but forgotten Rama in his love for her!
One day, when Tulasidas had gone to the market to purchase goods for his shop, Ratnavali’s brother suddenly arrived at their home. He had come to take Ratnavali home for the annual festival. Besides, their father too was unwell and wanted urgently to see Ratna. It was obvious that Ratna had not visited her parents home in a long time since Tulasidas never gave her permission to go. Ratna asked her brother to wait since Tulasidas was not at home. Ratna’s brother suggested that they leave a note for Tulasidas and leave immediately, since a storm was brewing and they had to cross the river to go home. Ratna agreed reluctantly and left a note for Tulasidas, packed her clothes and left for her parents home with her brother.
As night came, Tulasidas reached home to a darkening sky and heavy rains. He entered his home to find it pitch dark and not a soul in sight. He called out to Ratna but there was no answer. Suddenly his eyes fell on the note left by Ratna. As he read that Ratna had left for her parents’ home and would be away for a week, he broke out in cold sweat! How could he bear to be without her for a week? Dazed by sorrow, he went to the river ghat in the hope that he could be ferried across. But the river was already in spate and no boat was in sight. In the darkness, Tulasidas saw something floating by. It looked like a log of wood. He jumped into the water, held on to the log and swam across to the other end, against the current. Only when he left the log, he looked back to find that it was actually a dead body that had come floating down from the burial ghat! Focussed as his mind was on meeting Ratna, this didn’t shock him. He walked to Ratna’s house. It was already late night and the household had retired for the night. Not knowing what to do, he went around the back of the house and stood under Ratna’s balcony. He saw a rope hanging down. He caught it and climbed up to the balcony. He knocked on the door. As Ratna opened the door she saw her exhausted husband standing at her doorstep, completely drenched with a snake in his hand. Tulasidas had in his anxiety to reach his wife, mistaken the snake for a rope! She was so shocked, she asked, “How did you come in this storm? Why did you bother to come – I would have come back in a week isn’t it? I had left a note for you.” Tulasidas, stood there petrified that his wife could stay away for a week. He answered, “Yes I saw that note. But Ratna, how could I stay away from you for such a long time? You shouldn’t have left me like that. That’s why I decided to come and stay here with you. I braved the storm and crossed the river on a dead body to be able to see you! I love you so much!” A shocked Ratna was speechless. Such madness! She turned around in anger and lashed out at Tulasidas, “ What is this madness that you have? So much attachment just for this bundle of bones and flesh? If only you had shown even a part of this madness and devotion to your Rama then you would have become immortal by now!” The harsh words pierced Tulasidas’s heart and he stood shell-shocked. For a moment, it was like he had turned to stone. Then he just quietly turned around and went out of the house into the raging night , never to return.
Tulasidas abandoned his home and for the next fourteen years, he wandered as an ascetic, from one sacred place of pilgrimage to another. While he was at Kashi, everyday after his ablutions, Tulasidas used to pour the water from his pot at the foot of a tree. It so happened that there was a spirit that lived in that tree. Pleased with this kind act of Tulasidas, one day, the spirit asked Tulasidas to seek a boon from him. Tulasidas said with tears in his eyes, “Sir, give me the darshan of my Rama”. The spirit then said, “I don’t have that power. But I can tell you how to get the darshan. Ask this boon of Lord Hanuman. He comes in the guise of an old leper to listen to the Ramayan at the Hanuman temple everyday. You will recognize him easily. He will be the first to come and last to go” Overjoyed by this, Tulasidas, thanked the spirit and ran to the temple. That evening, as predicted, an old leper came and sat down to listen to the Ramayan discourse. Throughout the discourse, Tulasidas, did not take his eyes off the leper. Much after the discourse was over, the leper got up slowly and painfully to leave. Tulasidas ran and fell at his feet and cried, “Master, I know who you are! I have recognized you. Please give me darshan of my lord Rama!” The leper cringed and said, “Son, what are you talking? Have you mistaken me for someone else? I am only a poor leper. Don’t touch me!” When Tulasidas held on to his feet even more tightly and cried bitterly, then a smiling Hanuman showed himself and blessed Tulasidas, “I am pleased with your devotion. Come to Chitrakoot, where you shall have darshan of your Lord”. Overjoyed at the prospect of being able to see Rama, Tulasidas immediately rushed to Chitrakoot where he waited for that beautiful moment.
One day at Chitrakoot, while he was doing parikrama atKaamadgiri (a hill in Chitrakoot where Lord Rama had stayed), he saw 2 very handsome young men riding towards him, on horseback. One was dark complexioned and another was fair. He was mesmerized by their beauty and kept looking as they passed by, without realizing that he was actually seeing his chosen idol. When Hanuman told him later, of what he had missed, he was very upset. He pleaded with Hanuman for another opportunity. Hanuman promised him that he would see the Lord again. So Tulasidas began his chanting of Rama nama all over again, this time with greater fervour.
A few days later, one morning as Tulasidas sat at the Ram ghat on the banks of the Mandakini river rubbing sandalwood, two young boys came to him. They very beautiful to look at. The darker of the boys smiled at Tulasidas and requested, “Swamiji, please apply tilak on our foreheads.” Tulasidas asked them to wait a bit, ground some more fresh sandalwood and chanting all the while, he offered the paste to the boys. The dark boy applied the paste on His own forehead, and his brother’s. Then he took some more paste and applied it to Tulasidas’ forehead. Tulasidas was mesmerized by the boy’s touch and beauty. As he watched transfixed, Hanuman in the form of a parrot on a nearby mango tree, sang this popular doha pointing out to Tulasidas, that these two boys were none other than his Rama & Lakshmana
चित्रकूट के घाट पर भइ सन्तन की भीर |
तुलसिदास चन्दन घिसें तिलक देत रघुबीर ||
Immediately Tulasidas cried out and fell at Rama’s feet. His heart filled with Rama, Tulasidas spent a few more days at Chitrakoot chanting and praying.
One night, Lord Siva came in his dream and asked him to write the Ramayana in the local language. The next morning, Tulasidas, left for Ayodhya to pay homage to the lord. As he sat in meditation there , the whole Ramacharitamanas came to his mind as an inspiration. Over the next 2 years and more, he wrote the 7 chapters of the Ramcharitamanas (in Maithili and Avadhi language) while traveling between Ayodhya, Kashi and Chitrakoot.
Soon the Ramacharitamanas in its simple poetic beauty, charmed its way into the hearts of the people. However, some learned scholars objected to the Ramayana being recited in any other language other than Sanskrit. With the aim of testing this new scripture, Ramcharitamanas was put at the top of all scriptures in thetempleof Shri Vishvanath in Kashi. The door was closed for the night. Early the next day, when the temple door was opened, to everyone’s astonishment and joy, Ramcharitamanas was found lying at the bottom of all scriptures. Its first page had the signature of Lord Vishvanath Himself- "सत्यं शिवं सुन्दरं" (Satyam Shivam Sundaram). This incident forced everyone to accept the greatness of this epic and of Swami Tulasidas.
After this many events happened in Tulasidas’ life, that proved that Rama was a constant presence in his life.
Once a gang of thieves heard that Tulasidas had some wealth and that he lived alone. So in the stealth of night, they came with the objective of taking it all away. They assumed that there would be little or no resistance. To their shock despite repeated efforts over many nights, they just could not enter his hut. They found 2 princes with bow and arrow were guarding the hut from all sides. They kept moving wherever the thieves moved! The next morning they came and fell at Tulasidas’ feet and asked to be forgiven. Tulasidas wept to think of his Lord working to protect him. He immediately gave away whatever little wealth he had.
While he was at Varanasi, one day a beggar came to Tulasidas’s home and pleaded, “Swami, I am a murderer. No one is willing to give me any food. I am sorry for my act. For the love of Rama, please forgive me and give me some food.” Tulasidas called the beggar in, helped him have a wash, and gave him the sacred food that had been made for Rama. Tulasidas believed that since the man had repented, and he had taken the sacred food of Rama, his sin had been washed away. The Brahmins of Varanasi were very upset with this. They demanded, “How can such a serious sin as murder be washed away by just eating your food. No! no! We shall only believe you if the stone bull at the Shiva temple eats grass from his hands. And lo! When the man gave grass to the stone bull, it actually ate the grass! All the men who had objected now apologized for not trusting Tulasidas and his bhakthi.
Once Tulasidas brought back to life the dead husband of a woman. The Moghul emperor heard of this and ordered Tulasidas to be brought to his court. When Tulasidas came, he ordered him to show him a miracle else he would put him in jail. Tulasidas pleaded, “I don’t have any powers. I know only how to chant my Rama’s name.” But the emperor would not leave him. Not knowing what to do, Tulasidas prayed to Hanuman to help. Suddenly, the palace began filling with monkeys of all shapes, colours and sizes. The emperor got very frightened and begged forgiveness!
Such was the greatness and humility of this great saint. Sant Tulasidas died at the age of 126 in Varanasi. In his lifetime, he wrote 12 major works. Other than Ramacharitamanas, the other important work is Vinaya Patrika. Other scriptures composed by him were Kavitaavali, Hanumaan Baahuk, VrihadBarwai Ramayana, LaghuBarwai Ramayana, JaanakiMangal, PaarvatiMangal, Dohaavali, VairaagyaSandiipanii, Tulsi DohaaShatak, Hanumaan Chaalisaa, Geetaavali Ramayana, Krishna Geetaavali,
He is considered by many as the incarnation of Valmiki since it was Lord Shiva’s desire that Valmiki Ramayana be written in the local language. His life was one of devotion, love & implicit faith in Rama – his chosen idol.