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Books > Hindu > Shri Ramacharitamanasa (Tulasidasa's Ramayana)
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Shri Ramacharitamanasa (Tulasidasa's Ramayana)
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Shri Ramacharitamanasa (Tulasidasa's Ramayana)
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About The Book

Shri Ramacharitamanasa of Tulasidasa is the single most popular book of the Hindus, which, for over four centuries, has greatly appealed equally to the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate, the old and the young, and the scholar and the common man.

Its popularity is by no means limited to India, or are the Hindus its only readers. The message of the Ramacharitamanasa is all the more relevant today as it reiterates man's faith in the soundness of moral order that sustain the world. Dark and evil forces may, and will, on occasions, threaten to disrupt that order but divine intervention will ultimately chasten and subdue those forces.

Keeping in mind people's ever-increasing quest for the epic, this unique edition of the Ramacharitamanasa with verse-to-verse Hindi and English translation along with Tulasidasa's original text has been prepared. The translation rendered by an accomplished scholar maintains the intrinsic richness of the original. Special care has been taken for making it useful to the Indian brethren living abroad to whom the dialect of Tulasidasa's original may be somewhat incomprehensible. There has been a long-standing demand from the vast Indian community settled abroad for a standard and authentic edition of the Ramacharitamanasa. The present edition has been designed to meet their requirement by using the most modern printing and processing techniques to make it a work of international standard.

A special feature of this edition is the inclusion of Lavakushakanda, Shri Hanumanchalisa and Shri Ramashalaka Prashnavali. The mode of its recitation is given as a separate appendix. Adding to its uniqueness is the important section containing Indian, and European and American scholar's criticisms on Tulasidasa's Ramacharitamanasa. A glossary of important proper nouns and epithets is given at the end.

 

About The Author

Dr. R.C. Prasad translated Shri Ramacharitamanasa into simple and lucid English and Hindi, passed away recently in Patna. He was a University Professor of English in Patna University where he taught for about three decades. He was eminently associated as an author, translator and friend with Motilal Banarsidass and his sad demise has been taken as a personal loss.

 

Preface

'This Holy Lake of Rama's Acts,' says Tulasidasa, 'is a lake of merit that destroys all defilements and ever blesses the soul, granting wisdom and faith and washing away the filth of ignorance and illusion by its pure, clear waters brimful with love. Those who plunge with faith into it are never burnt by the scorching rays of the sun of birth and death.' This is a claim that no critic of the poem has refuted, either in India or in the West, so firm is his belief in the nobility and relevance of the poet's message. From each and every act performed by Tulasi's Rama, holy and never-ending evidence of unimaginable compassion appears, and out of every manifestation of his invincible power oceans of eternal light pour forth. This magnificent epic reveals Tulasi as a saint poet athirst for Rama's favour and eager to discover his essence, a poet yearning for a drop of the billowing ocean of the Lord's endless mercy, and a votary awaiting a sprinkling from the unfathomed deep of his master's sovereign and all-pervasive glory. The wonders of Rama's bounty, believes the poet, shall never cease, and the stream of his merciful grace can never be arrested. The process of his creation has had no beginning and can have no end.

Tulasi dwells again and again on the all-encompassing wonders of Rama's boundless grace and would like his reader to behold how they have pervaded all creation, moving or unmoving, animate or inanimate. Such is their virtue, declares the poet, that not a single atom in the three spheres of existence - triloka - can be found which does not declare the evidence of Rama's might, which does not glorify his holy name, or is not expressive of the effulgent light of Hari himself. So mysterious are his acts that no mind nor heart, however keen Or pure, can ever grasp the nature of the most insignificant of his movements, much less fathom the mystery of him who is the lord of all creation and who is adored by Brahma, Shiva, Shesha, and all the high sages, masters of the Vedas. The conceptions of the devoutest of mystics, the attainments of the most accomplished among men, the highest praise which human tongue or pen can render are all the product of man's finite mind and are con- ditioned by its limitations; nevertheless, Tulasi makes that supreme seer Atri his mouthpiece and, growing lyrical, describes Rama as the 'Lord of immeasurable power, dark and exquisitely beautiful, Mount Mandara to churn the ocean of mundane existence, with eyes like the full-blown lotus, the dispeller of pride and every other vice, ... the ornament of the Solar race, the breaker of Shiva's bow, the delight of the greatest saints and sages, the destroyer of the demon hosts ... .' Like Atri, Tulasi adores Rama, 'the one mysterious Lord, the passionless and all-pervading sovereign, the eternal guru of the world, the perfect mystic, one alone; lover of love, whom the sensual can by no means comprehend, a tree of Paradise to his worshippers, impartial, ever worthy to be worshipped'.

From time immemorial Rama, the Blessed Lord, has been veiled in the ineffable sanctity of his exalted Self, and will everlastingly continue to be wrapt in the impenetrable mystery of his unknowable, elusive essence. The Holy Lake of the Acts of Rama is Tulasi's attempt to attain to an understanding of Rama's inaccessible Reality and to approach his exalted self and envisage his essence. He is convinced that the way to Rama's realm is the way of bhakti or devotion to a personal God characterized by ungrudging submission unto his command and contentment with his holy will and pleasure. The source of all good for Tulasi is devotion to Rama and the essence of wisdom is faith in him, trust in his sovereignty and the apprehension that 'I am the servant and he my master'. The essence of righteousness is to hold fast to this doctrine, and worship the lotus-feet of Rama. The source of all glory is love of Rama, and contentment with that which the Blessed Lord has ordained. The essence of love is for man to turn his heart to Raghunatha, and to sever himself from all else but him, and desire naught save that which the Lord desires. True worship is for the devotee to hold fast unto Rama the Lord, to seek naught but his grace, inasmuch as in his hands lies the destiny of all his servants. The essence of detachment is for man to endure pain to give pleasure to others, and good men are like the birch-tree, ready in their compassion to suffer the direst affliction if so they can help their neighbours. Ignorance is the root of all sicknesses, from which again spring many torments. Lust is wind; insatiable greed is phlegm; choler is bile, that continually inflames the soul.

Views such as these are now rooted in the Indian psyche, so popular is this Holy Lake among the common people here. It was the story of Rama, and not that of any other epic hero, that the Hindus took with them as a holy book on their adventurous journeys to such distant countries and islands as Jamaica, Surinam, Guyana, Fiji and Mauritius. This text and translation is intended for them and for those for whom English is either their mother tongue or a language they learn. The basic text for the first seven Books is the Kashi Raj edition of the Ramacharitamanasa, edited by Vishvanath Prasad Mishra, In some instances I have also used the Oita Press edition of the epic, but where no available sources yielded a satisfactory meaning, the translation has followed one or more of the popular versions or has adopted a reconstructed text, especially in the eighth canto, which by no means was written by Tulasidasa himself. The basic text for this eighth Book, given in Appendix A is the popular Goswami Tulasidasakrit Ramayana published by Shri Venkateshwar Steam Press, Bombay (1985), but in quite a few instances the text is based on a variant reading supported by one or more popular versions. Since the eighth Book, an elaborate interpolation, is not as popular as the first seven sopanas, the inclusion of it in the present volume has an incidental importance in making the Western reader familiar with the story of Ram a In Its entirety. If my efforts serve to make the Manasa more relevant for the twentieth-century reader and if they may help to show how far he has departed from truth and from Tulasi's ideals, they will serve their purpose.

For his kindness In supplying me with a large number of commentaries on the Manasa, especially its English rendering published by the Gita Press, Gorakhpur, which has been my primary source, I am very greatly indebted to Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder chairman of Sulabh International. Who loves to bathe in the pellucid stream of knowledge and is pre-eminent in apprehension of the divine in man. To Dr. Kameshwar Prasad, University Professor of English. Patna University. I am indebted for his assistance in the translation of the Lavakushakanda. I should like to thank him for his patience during the many laborious hours we spent in my home translating page after page of the eighth Book of the Manasa. Special thanks are also due to Acharva Ram Khelawan Roy, University Professor and Head of the Department of Hindi, Patna University, whose scholarship has contributed Significantly to my understanding of Tulasi's epic. Without his selfless and exhausting work on the annotation of the first seven Books, the present volume could not have appeared in print for several years.

Acharya Giridhar Mishra is responsible for many of my Interpretations of the epic. The meticulousness of his pro- found scholarship and his extraordinary dedication to all aspect s of Rama's story have led to his recognition as one of the greatest authorities on Tulasidasa in India today. Help has also come from two of his well-known disciples, Gopal Sharan Singh and Arjun Prasad Singh, who not only introduced me to their gum but also made available to me his scholarly works on the Manasa. I owe to them the revelation that the Acharya's knowledge of the Ramacharitamanasa is vast and breathtaking and that he is one of those rare scholars who know the text of the epic virtually by heart. Those to whom I am grateful for discussion of the material or advice which goes beyond that, or is not otherwise acknowledged, are Professor G. Mukherjee, Professor K.N. Sharma, Professor J.P. Singh, Dr Ashok Kumar Sinha, Professor Bijay Pratap Singh, Dr V.N. Mishra, Dr Siyaram Tiwary, Dr Bachandeo Kumar, Dr Gopal Rai, Dr Awadhesh Kumar Sharma. Dr Ajit Kumar Mishra, Miss Amrita Ojha, Shashi Bhushan Kumar, Jadugar Anand of Jabalpur, M.P., Chandramauli Prasad. Shri Somnath Singh, and Dr. Sitaram Jha 'Shyam'.

My special thanks are due to Shri J. P. Jain of Messrs Motilal Banarsidass. The initiator and publisher of this vitally needed project, for his advice, friendly regard, and unfailing support and especially for his patient recognition that a project of this magnitude cannot be rushed for deadlines without losing much of its value. I thank him again and again for his readiness, ungrudgingly shown, to accommodate his plans to mine.

I also wish to thank Shri Satya Narayan Prasad, who with infinite patience and understanding has worked with me on this programme through the years and typed the rough and final drafts of this book.

The work owes, in addition, countless debts to F.S. Growse, W.D. P. Hill and others whose translations of the Manasa have contributed enormously to my own. There is hardly a line of the translation that has not benefited in some way from their excellent rendering of the epic.

Finally, I wish to mention two of my unfailing sources of inspiration, Captain Awadhesh Kumar, my son-in-law, and Sumitra, my Wife, whose advice, encouragement, and deep solicitude for my welfare enabled me to intensify my efforts on the editing, explication and translation of the Ramacharitamanasa.

 

Introduction

When a new age of Indian thought and literature began, during the years of the Bhakti Movement, Tulasidasa's importance as its most outstanding leader and prophet was clearly revealed. To study him, however briefly, is to delineate the main features of the period that may be called Bhakti; it is even beyond this, to sketch the essential traits of Vaishnava devotionalism, the upsurge of which in the North synchronized with the appearance of a galaxy of saint-poets, reformers and preachers whose utterances remain un- paralleled in profundity and sincerity. Earlier theories that the movement originated under the impact of Islam or that the rich devotional poetry which came in its wake resulted from a sharp reaction to contemporary social and political conditions are now negated by the simple fact that there is so much genuine faith and hope embodied in the Bhakti cult that any suggestion of a mere negative outlook on life cannot be entertained. Though Islamic, and particularly Sufi, influences may have been felt later, there is no denying the fact that the earliest genuine devotional poetry of Tamil Nadu precedes the coming of Islam.

One of the factors that gave the new movement a decisive impetus was that Hinduism in the medieval North, overlaid as it was with all kinds of decadent notions and superstitions, did not answer the spiritual cravings of the common man and Inspire him with faith and hope. Divided and subdivided into so. many cults and sects, the Siddhas of the Vajrayana denomination and Kapalikas dominated the eastern region while the Natha Yogis filled the western parts. It was obvious that the ordinary man was beginning to lose all faith in Hinduism and was gradually getting alienated from it. His religious performances were confined to certain ritualistic formalities and observances, to the undertaking of pilgrimages and bathing in the sacred rivers on certain holy occasions. Neither the Buddhist Siddhes nor the Yogis of the Natha sect were concerned with resurrecting Hinduism or galvanizing it into some sort of life.

No sooner was the spark of the popular religious movement ignited in the Hindi-speaking areas than the whole of North India was aflame with this resurgent and fervent faith. A new attitude to God-emotional, passionate bhakti-replaced the age-old attitudes which demanded sacrificial rite and ascetic, monistic meditation. Love songs sung to the Lord replaced the older forms of religious expression and encouraged group singing - a new popular cultural form- of kirtans. With the change in the, forms of religious expression not only were the old gods, old attitudes, and old cultural forms pushed aside but the new movement relegated Sanskrit, the sacred language, back Into the memory of the pandits. The first and greatest among the leaders of the movement was the Vaishnava mystic Ramanuja (d. 1137), founder of the Shrivaishnava sect. Madhva (1197-1276), a Kanarese Brahman, founded the Madhva sect, while the Telugu Brahman Nimbarka (13th century) settled near Mathura where he sang the songs of bhakti and the praises of Krishna and Radha. The famous Telugu-born philosopher, saint Vallabha(1479-1531), wielded tremendous influence on the movement. The sect of the Lingayats was Shaivite and had considerable influence on several north Indian saints.

Ramananda (1400-70), who was the chief figure and recognized leader of the movement in the Hindi-speaking areas, was at first a follower of Ramanuja's Shrivaishnava sect and in his early days resided in South India. On his return to the North he is said to have settled down at Varanasi where he established the sect popularly called the 'Ramanandi'. What set the adherents of this sect apart from others was their frank egalitarian basis, which was possibly influenced by the contemporary Muslim Sufis, and the exclusive use of the vernacular with a flavour of the soil.

Kabir (1440 - 1518), a disciple of Ramananda preached antinomian theism through verses written in an unpolished, colloquial style suited to the taste of the people for whom it was written. Kabir's poetry is devotional and mystical and thoroughly imbued with religious ardour. An important trait of his religion is that God is conceived as a completely spiritual Being whom one should endeavour to discover in the depths of one's own interiority. Consequently the illusory manifestations of the divine under the form of avataras should be rejected. The influence of the Natha sect is particularly noticeable in Kabir's rejection of Brahmanical authority regarding prescribed ceremonies, varna distinctions, sacred languages, and scriptures; in his emphasis on mystical unity with God and his search for introspection based on experimental truth. The Influence of the Sufis on Kabir may also account for the latter's tendency to oppose traditional duties and love of God. The Sufis were well known for their antinomian tendencies, and these tendencies were particularly noticeable among medieval Indian Sufis who claimed for themselves a way reserved for the initiates.

Kabir's community, known as the 'Kabirpanth', exists to this day. It gave rise to a dozen other sects, the most important of them being that of the Sikhs, founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1538), a disciple of Kabir. A large number of Kabir's compositions are found among the texts of the Adi Granth; his influence is further seen in the doctrines of Nanak, and in Sikhism. Nanak was followed by nine gurus, most of whom were poets, The tenth guru, whose name Was Govind Singh, held office from 1675 to 1708. He composed many verses, mostly in Hindi (Brajabhasha), but some also in Persian and Punjabi.

Dadu (1544-1603) founded another community, known as the 'Dadupanth' His spirit of forgiveness and kindness (daya), which earned for him the title of Dayal, reminds one of kabir minus the latter's Muhammadan ideas. Dadu's doctrines are contained in the Bani, a book of about five thousand mellifluous verses divided into thirty-seven chapters dealing with such subjects as the Divine Teacher, Remembrance, Separation, Meeting, Mind, Truth, God, Faith, Prayer, etc. The sect which he founded has a rich literature in Hindi. His two sons were poets, and all his fifty-two disciples arc reported to have composed verses.

Besides the Sufis who enriched Hindi literature, there were other sects too whose followers wrote and preached in Hindi. The contributions of the Lal Dasis, the Sadhus, the Charan Dasis, the Shiva Narayanis, the Garib Dasis, the Rama Sanchis, the Satnamis, the Prem Nathis, etc. cannot in this context be ignored.

The movement included two other important groups, namely the Krishnaite saints and the Ramaite saints. Like the Ramaite cult, the worship of Krishna had its beginnings in the centuries before this period, but about this time it received a new impetus, which was marked, as well as furthered, by the use of the vernacular for its religious Iiterature. It was the child Krishna who was often-and especially-thought of as an object of worship, but more often it was that aspect of Krishna's life which was concerned with his relation to Radha and the other Gopis that received most attention.

The greatest Ramaite poet was Tulasidasa (1532-1623). another spiritual heir of Ramananda. Tulasi belongs to the tradition of the Vaishnava poets who were devoted to Rama and who wrote their poetry mostly in Awadhi. He is not only the supreme poet, but the unofficial poet-laureate of India. A religious thinker and reformer as well as a poet, he strove, like the Italian poet Dante, to translate his dream from the sphere of ideas to the sphere of facts: first, his dream of a living Hindu culture, for which he strove to "revitalize every aspect of Hindu society and culture as he found it, '" and then, his dream of integrating this culture into his own devotional ideology, for which he strove to harmonize the divergent facets of Hindu culture by standing firmly in the existing tradition of which the Sanskrit Adhyatma Ramayana is an example, and translating it into the vernacular language.

The story of Rama appears again and again in the works of Tulasi, especially in his Ramacharitamanasa (1574-77), Gitavali (1571), Kavitavali (1612) and Barvairamayana (1612), while his Vinaya Patrika (Petition to Rama) consists of a large number of hymns to Rama.

Of Krishnaite works of the Vaishnava poets, mention should first be made of the love songs of Vidyapati, one of the contemporaries of Ramananda. His importance cannot be overestimated for the simple reason that though essentially a poet of love, his sweet warblings inspired devotional writings in Hindi, Bengali and Assamese, notably those of the Bengali poet Chaitanya. The latter's contemporary, Vallabha, bequeathed nothing remarkable to Hindi, but his teaching of the acquisition of divine grace called pushti- marga is embedded in the works of the four of his disciples and in those of the four disciples of his son, Vitthalanatha, collectively called the ashta-chhapa (eight die-stamps), the trailblazers of Krishnaite literature. Of these Suradasa (1483-1563) is the most outstanding devotional poet whose Surasagara, directly inspired as it is by the Sanskrit Bhagavata Purana, presents a pellucid, vivid account of Krishna's childhood pranks and youthful dalliance. Another poet of note belonging to the same tradition of Krishna worship is Nandadasa (b. 1528), whose poetry is suffused with a superb polish and urbanity and who excelled in describing the manifold merits of the impersonal and personal concepts of the Deity in the Bhramaragita. Mira Bai (1503-73), a Rajput princess who was widowed at an early age, was the first to achieve poetic fame as a devotee of Krishna and as one whose poetry is alive with a remarkable freshness and femininity, pathos and simplicity, without the frills and flowers of rhetoric.

But there is nothing in Hindi, or in any other Indian language, comparable to Tulasidasa's Ramacharitamanasa. It is acknowledged not merely as the greatest modem Indian epic, but as something like a living sum of Indian culture. Second only to the Gita in its influence, it has come to dominate not only the literature of the Hindi language. where even some of the avant-garde poets and humanists have been unable to resist its influence, but the whole field of our culture in Northern India. It appears that apart from educational compulsion, the professional studies of scholars and college teachers, and the devotion of a few most sensitive and spiritual-minded among the Hindus and men of letters, it is unusual for a young North-Indian Hindu to read the Sanskrit Ramayana of Valmiki at all. But as literature and popular religious poem, the Manasa ministers munificently to the imagination and fancy of millions of people in Northern India who have made the poety of Tulasidasa one of their most frequent and precious companions. The distinct infusion of the values which their mind usually associates with the 'Hindu genius', the variety of human experience gathered into its vast embrace, the boundless inventiveness and ingenuity of the author, the thrills awakened by marvellous episodes and the endless surprise of unexpected events-all add to its popularity, even though the original poems on which it is based have fallen into neglect.

The Manasa has apparently gone too deep. Like all normal people, the Hindus cannot saturate themselves for centuries with a book like the Ramacharitamanasa and throw off the spell in a couple of generations. Tulasi for them is not just a poet believing, as did Milton, in his destiny as a poet and despising prose; he is a seer, a law-giver, a liberator. When the country was plunged in that sinister, gloomy and morbid atmosphere which the Muslim rule had from time to time unleashed, it was Tulasi, they feel, who brought them hope and liberation. They got a new and fresh inspiration, an inspiration not only from the MaJJ8sa:s literary beauty but from its real religious significance. For them it is the huge gamut of religious beliefs that mount Up in its cresting tide that proves this Hindu epic to be a greater book than any other written in India except the Upanishads and the Gita. Tulasi is so passionately devoted to the son of Dasharath, so intensely in love with him, that by the sheer liveliness of his poetic imagination he transforms the hero of the Solar race, first into the qualified incarnation of Vishnu, and then into the Lord himself whom even the Vedas and the Puranas cannot fully comprehend, in other words into the Nameless Absolute or attributeless, formless, imperceptible and unborn Brahman.

The basic religious principles of Tulasidasa, so far as they can be known, are contained in the dialogue between Bhushundi and Garuda in the Epilogue (Uttarakanda). His religion is a religion of being wholeheartedly devoted to Rama whose Name itself, he says, is like a sun to dispel the darkness of ignorance. Tulasi's Rama is Truth, Consciousness and Bliss, untouched by the night of delusion. He is the Blessed Hari, whose being is Light itself. Joy and sorrow, knowledge and ignorance, egoism and pride - these are the characteristics of a jiva or mortal man; but Rama is the all-pervading Brahman; he is Supreme Bliss personified, the highest Lord and the most ancient Being. Tulasi makes Shiva describe the story of Ram a as "the cow of heaven that grants all joys to those who tend her". "It is," as Shiva fur- ther says, "the pleasant clapping of the hands to scare away the birds of doubt; the story of Rama is an axe to fell the tree of the Kaliyuga."

There is utter humility, often reminiscent of the 'gentler qualities of Christian virtue', in Tulusidasa's religion, the humility of losing oneself in the service of Rama, the humility of beating down one's ego and surrendering oneself, body and soul, to the Lord himself. It is not a religion of being friends with the Lord, as Suradasa's is, or his spouse, as Mira's is, so as to sport with him like the Gopis. It is a religion of universal charity and of being pure and humble and looking upon the Lord as one's master, finding one's heaven in his service as well as in his grace, and obeying his mind in one's own soul. Essentially in keeping with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, it is a religion in which God has a total claim on his devotees.

Sooner may hair grow on the shell of a tortoise, sooner may a barren woman's progeny slay anyone, sooner may flowers of every description appear in the air than a creature find happiness even though hostile to Hari. Sooner may thirst be quenched by drinking of a mirage or horns sprout on a hare's head, or darkness efface the sun than a soul at odds with Rama find happiness. Sooner may fire appear out of snow than an enemy of Rama find peace. Sooner shall buttcr be churned out of water or oil be extracted by crushing sand than the ocean of worldly existence be crossed without worshipping Hari. This is a conclusion which call not be set aside.

Few Catholic saints would have found these lines savouring of anything exclusively Hindu or pagan. Nor would Tulasi have found their message of humility and charity incompatible with his own. There is nothing sectarian in the Christian belief (he would have said) that a man who serves the King of kings has nothing to fear but his own shortcomings, or that the Christ.ian magnanimous man will receive rewards beyond all human ambition. He must not, therefore, waste his energies on trivialities. I Ie needs no possessions. In God he has the highest rank of all. To serve God is to rule.

And Tulasidasa would surely have agreed with 'the man on the palliasse', who taught St. Francis Xavier the importance of poverty. "Begging," he had told St. Francis, "is only a very small part of the matter. It is good for our humility. It is good also for the charity in the hearts of others. Poverty makes a man free, People will not envy him-except for a few and they can easily satisfy their envy by imitating him. A man who is not carrying possessions has his mind free as well as his hands.” Tulasi, who had refused to serve Mammon, was certainly envied by some of his contemporaries, especially the Brahmans of Kashi. But he never abandoned his humility or his potent talisman of faith in Rama. "Rama I adore, I adore, I adore!" he cried." The imperishable I adore, by seeking sanctuary with whom even such guilt-stained sinners as myself are purified!” And he refused to be cowed down by those who envied him but dedicated himself to his master, Hari, full of the humble realization of his entire dependence upon him for all that he was and had, and of the fact that whatever he had was derived from Rama not entirely for himself but also in trust for his neighbours. For him there is only one thing that matters, one word, one power, one magic touch, that ends the ignorance of men and enables them to cross the ocean of birth and death.

'I am the servant and he my master'-without this relationship, Garuda, the ocean of birth and death cannot be crossed. Hold fast to this doctrine and worship the lotus feet of Rama.

And Again:

'I am That' - this unbroken mental state is the lamp's brightly burning flame. Then on the soul's experience dawns the fair light of bliss, and all distinction and error, source of rebirth, are destroyed.

Where there is faith in Rama, the mind of material objects does not lead reason astray. Where there is genuine piety, one does not fall a prey to infatuation even in a dream. Like the Sufi mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi, or like St. Paul, Tulasi does not tire of stressing the value of self-loss for one seeking to attain the supreme state of final beatitude. The following passage in 'The Beautiful" sums up his attitude to selfless love:

Even though a man should be the enemy of all creation, if he comes terror-striken to me, seeking my protection and discarding vanity, infatuation, hypocrisy and trickeries of various kinds, I speedily make him the very like of a saint. The ties of affection that bind a man to his mother, father, brother, son, wife, body, wealth, house, friends and relations arc like so many threads which a pious soul gathers up and twists into a string wherewith he binds his soul to my feet. Nay, he looks on all with an impartial eye and abandons all desire, grief and fear. A saint of this description abides in my heart, even as Mammon resides in the heart of a covetous man.

Rama makes it clear that those who surrender ther selfhood to God abide in his heart; they are 'deified', they have 'become' or 'been made' God. Therefore, when animated by a passionate and selfless love, they look to their centre, they see only God.

As he was looked upon as the greatest poet of his time, it would be easy to expect that there should be in him some signs of consciousness of this, and, as a consequence, some of that unpleasant self-assertion which so often makes great. creative and intellectual geniuses unpopular. Tulasi, however, never seems to have had any over-appreciation of his own talents, but, realizing how little he knew compared to the whole round of knowledge, and how imperfect he was compared to the perfection of the Lord about whom he was writing, it must be admitted that there is no question of conceit having a place in his life. There are scores of passages in the Manasa alone in which this humility finds expression and the poet tells us that he has sung of the glory of Rama to sanctify his voice, "I am no poet," he declares early in his Manasa, "nor am I called clever, but I sing the excellence of Rama according to the measure of my understanding; how wondrous are the acts of Raghupati, how poor my wit, devoted to this world!" Poets like Chaucer often appear to show the same urbanity and charity but not the same humility. Tulasi did not possess their courtly sophistication or their inimitable ingenuity and skill in using subtle ironies and innuendoes.

While, with characteristic humility, Tulasi considered himself scarcely more than a childish babbler and his com- position clumsy and devoid of all poetic charm, his natural genius was eminently original and he added much more of his own than what he took from the Adhyatma Ramayana, Valmiki's Ramayana, the Hanumannataka and the Prasan- Naraghava. There can be no doubt that his Rama- charitamanasa is a classical monument of the first importance for the exposition of the doctrines and the ritual of the Advaita Vedanta and the Ramaite teachings of Ramananda's disciples. In the variety of its contents, allusions and doctrinal teachings, it is a perfect encyclopaedia of the learning of the ancient Indian sages, especially of the learning contained in the Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras and the Gita. By it we can fix the high watermark of Vaishnava Ideals, for it contains the thoughts and doctrines of a poet who considered Rama to be an incarnation of Vishnu and derived his doctrine of jiva from the Vaishnava Vedantins, whose views he synthesized.

It is by the study of such books that one enters into the mental life of the period in which they were written, not by the hasty perusal of histories of religious thought, No student of the Manasa, however, is likely to acquiesce In the belief that Tulasi was a religious bigot or that his work is limited in its appeal to those already acquainted with the Sanskrit Adhyatma Ramayana, Ramanuja’s Visishtadvaita teachings and the Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharya. Tulasi was a liberal, who made Rama, his hero, the sum of True Being, Thought and Bliss, the uncreated dwelling- place of wisdom, beauty and might, pervading all and all that is pervaded, undivided, infinite, entire, the Blessed Lord of never-failing power, impersonal, supreme, whom neither speech nor sense can grasp, all-seeing, faultless and invincible, disinterested, formless, everlasting, void of emotion, transcending nature, etc. Rama is not just a sectarian hero, a Hindu god. He is the gracious Lord himself in mortal form; the Word becomes Flesh to save the human race.

 

Contents

 

Preface ix
Introduction xi
BALAKANDA  
Invocation 1
Salutations 2
Glory of the Name of Rama 15
The Greatness of Rama's Story 23
Dialogue between Yajnavalkya and Bharadvaja 34
Sati's Folly 42
Birth of Parvati 43
Parvati's Penance 47
The Destruction of Kama 52
Marriage of Shiva and Parvati 55
Dialogue between Shiva and Parvati 66
Narada's Pride 75
The Penance of Manu and Shatarupa 84
The Story of King Pratapabhanu 90
Birth of Ravana 101
Birth of Rama 110
Protection of Vishvamitra's Sacrifice 121
Deliverance of Ahalya 121
Rama and Lakshmana in Janakapura 122
The Breaking of the Bow 148
Wrath of Parashurama 152
Wedding of Rama 175
Return to Ayodhya 199
AYODHYAKANDA  
Invocation 207
Preparations of Rama's Coronation 209
Kaikeyi's Opposition and Rama's Banishment 219
Rama's Arrival at Shringaverapura and Meeting with Nishada 253
With Bharadvaja in Prayaga 263
Dialogue with Valmiki 273
Living at Chitrakuta 277
Sumantra Return to Ayodhaya 285
Death of King Dasharatha 288
Summons to Bharata 290
Bharata Returns 291
Dasharatha's Cremation 296
Bharata's Grief 301
Bharata's Journey to Chitrakuta 306
Bharata with Bharadvaja 315
Bharata Meets Rama 345
Janaka's Arrival at Chitrakuta 354
Dialogue between Rama and Bharata 366
Bharata Returns to Ayodhya 381
ARANYAKANDA  
Invocation 385
Jayanta's Mischief 386
In Atri's Hermitage 387
Sita Meets Anasuya 389
The Killing of Viradha: The Episode of Sage Sharabhanga 391
Sutikshna's Devotion 392
In Agastya's Hermitage 395
Residence at Panchavati 397
The Story of Shurpanakha 399
Khara and Dushana Slain 402
Shurpanakha in Ravana's Court 404
The Slaying of Maricha in Golden Deer's Guise 408
The Abduction of Sita by Ravana 409
Death of Jatayu 410
Deliverance of Kabandha 414
Meeting with Shabari 414
Dialogue between Rama and Narada 419
KISHKINDHAKANDA  
Invocation 425
Rama and Hanuman 426
Alliance between Rama and Sugriva 427
The Slaying of Bali 431
Sugirva's Coronation 433
Search for Sita 439
Sampati's Advice to the Monkeys 443
Hanuman plans his leap to Lanka 445
SUNDARAKANDA  
Invocation 447
The Killing of Surasa and the Image catching Demoness 449
Hanuman meets Vibhishana 451
Conversation of Sita and Hanuman 455
Hanuman captured by Meghanada 459
Dialogue between Hanuman and Ravana 460
The Burning of Lanka 462
Hanuman Returns from Lanka 464
Vibhishana offers Advice to Ravana 470
Vibhishana Received and Blessed by Rama 473
Ravana's Spies 477
The Ocean Submits to Rama 482
LANKAKANDA  
Invocation 485
The Bridge 486
The Crossing 488
Mandodari Pleads with Ravana 489
Prahasta's Plea 490
Rama on Mount Suvela 495
Angada Goes as Envoy to Ravana 496
Dialogue between Angada and Ravana 497
Mandodari Reiterates her plea 508
The Battle begins 511
Meghanada Strikes Lakshmana with a spear 519
Hanuman Brings the Physician Sushena and Proceeds in search of the Life-giving Herbs 519
Kumbhakarna Killed 530
Meghanada Killed 534
Ravana Enters the Battle 538
Encounter between Lakshmana and Ravana 538
Ravana's Sacrifice Foiled 540
Fierce Battle 541
Ravana Employs Magic 543
Battle of Rama and Ravana 544
Death of Ravana 554
Vibhishana Enthroned 557
Meeting of Rama and Sita 560
Gods Praise Rama 561
Rama Leaves for Ayodhya 567
Rama in Ayodhya 569
UTTARAKANDA  
Invocation 571
Rama Reunited with his people 572
The Enthronement of Rama 579
Vedas and Gods praise Rama 580
Rama's Allies Return Home 585
Rama's Reign and Kingdom 587
Sanaka and Other Saints Talk with Rama 594
Characteristics of the Saintly and Unsaintly 595
True Religion and Virtue Expounded 600
Dialogue between Bhushundi and Garuda 606
Rama's Illusive power 619
Bhushundi Tells his life story 630
Learning and love expounded 648
Greatness of Rama's Story 662
APPENDICES  
A. Lavakusakanda 665
B. Shri Hanumanchalisa 713
C. Shri Ramashataka Prashnavali 717
D. Mode of Recitation 719
E. (i) Indian Criticisms 721
(ii) European and American Criticisms 735
Glossary 743

 

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Shri Ramacharitamanasa (Tulasidasa's Ramayana)

Item Code:
NAF978
Cover:
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Edition:
2009
ISBN:
9788120806801
Language:
Original Text with Hindi and English Translation
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10.0 inch X 6.5 inch
Pages:
778 (9 Color Illustrations)
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Weight of the Book: 1.1 kg
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About The Book

Shri Ramacharitamanasa of Tulasidasa is the single most popular book of the Hindus, which, for over four centuries, has greatly appealed equally to the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate, the old and the young, and the scholar and the common man.

Its popularity is by no means limited to India, or are the Hindus its only readers. The message of the Ramacharitamanasa is all the more relevant today as it reiterates man's faith in the soundness of moral order that sustain the world. Dark and evil forces may, and will, on occasions, threaten to disrupt that order but divine intervention will ultimately chasten and subdue those forces.

Keeping in mind people's ever-increasing quest for the epic, this unique edition of the Ramacharitamanasa with verse-to-verse Hindi and English translation along with Tulasidasa's original text has been prepared. The translation rendered by an accomplished scholar maintains the intrinsic richness of the original. Special care has been taken for making it useful to the Indian brethren living abroad to whom the dialect of Tulasidasa's original may be somewhat incomprehensible. There has been a long-standing demand from the vast Indian community settled abroad for a standard and authentic edition of the Ramacharitamanasa. The present edition has been designed to meet their requirement by using the most modern printing and processing techniques to make it a work of international standard.

A special feature of this edition is the inclusion of Lavakushakanda, Shri Hanumanchalisa and Shri Ramashalaka Prashnavali. The mode of its recitation is given as a separate appendix. Adding to its uniqueness is the important section containing Indian, and European and American scholar's criticisms on Tulasidasa's Ramacharitamanasa. A glossary of important proper nouns and epithets is given at the end.

 

About The Author

Dr. R.C. Prasad translated Shri Ramacharitamanasa into simple and lucid English and Hindi, passed away recently in Patna. He was a University Professor of English in Patna University where he taught for about three decades. He was eminently associated as an author, translator and friend with Motilal Banarsidass and his sad demise has been taken as a personal loss.

 

Preface

'This Holy Lake of Rama's Acts,' says Tulasidasa, 'is a lake of merit that destroys all defilements and ever blesses the soul, granting wisdom and faith and washing away the filth of ignorance and illusion by its pure, clear waters brimful with love. Those who plunge with faith into it are never burnt by the scorching rays of the sun of birth and death.' This is a claim that no critic of the poem has refuted, either in India or in the West, so firm is his belief in the nobility and relevance of the poet's message. From each and every act performed by Tulasi's Rama, holy and never-ending evidence of unimaginable compassion appears, and out of every manifestation of his invincible power oceans of eternal light pour forth. This magnificent epic reveals Tulasi as a saint poet athirst for Rama's favour and eager to discover his essence, a poet yearning for a drop of the billowing ocean of the Lord's endless mercy, and a votary awaiting a sprinkling from the unfathomed deep of his master's sovereign and all-pervasive glory. The wonders of Rama's bounty, believes the poet, shall never cease, and the stream of his merciful grace can never be arrested. The process of his creation has had no beginning and can have no end.

Tulasi dwells again and again on the all-encompassing wonders of Rama's boundless grace and would like his reader to behold how they have pervaded all creation, moving or unmoving, animate or inanimate. Such is their virtue, declares the poet, that not a single atom in the three spheres of existence - triloka - can be found which does not declare the evidence of Rama's might, which does not glorify his holy name, or is not expressive of the effulgent light of Hari himself. So mysterious are his acts that no mind nor heart, however keen Or pure, can ever grasp the nature of the most insignificant of his movements, much less fathom the mystery of him who is the lord of all creation and who is adored by Brahma, Shiva, Shesha, and all the high sages, masters of the Vedas. The conceptions of the devoutest of mystics, the attainments of the most accomplished among men, the highest praise which human tongue or pen can render are all the product of man's finite mind and are con- ditioned by its limitations; nevertheless, Tulasi makes that supreme seer Atri his mouthpiece and, growing lyrical, describes Rama as the 'Lord of immeasurable power, dark and exquisitely beautiful, Mount Mandara to churn the ocean of mundane existence, with eyes like the full-blown lotus, the dispeller of pride and every other vice, ... the ornament of the Solar race, the breaker of Shiva's bow, the delight of the greatest saints and sages, the destroyer of the demon hosts ... .' Like Atri, Tulasi adores Rama, 'the one mysterious Lord, the passionless and all-pervading sovereign, the eternal guru of the world, the perfect mystic, one alone; lover of love, whom the sensual can by no means comprehend, a tree of Paradise to his worshippers, impartial, ever worthy to be worshipped'.

From time immemorial Rama, the Blessed Lord, has been veiled in the ineffable sanctity of his exalted Self, and will everlastingly continue to be wrapt in the impenetrable mystery of his unknowable, elusive essence. The Holy Lake of the Acts of Rama is Tulasi's attempt to attain to an understanding of Rama's inaccessible Reality and to approach his exalted self and envisage his essence. He is convinced that the way to Rama's realm is the way of bhakti or devotion to a personal God characterized by ungrudging submission unto his command and contentment with his holy will and pleasure. The source of all good for Tulasi is devotion to Rama and the essence of wisdom is faith in him, trust in his sovereignty and the apprehension that 'I am the servant and he my master'. The essence of righteousness is to hold fast to this doctrine, and worship the lotus-feet of Rama. The source of all glory is love of Rama, and contentment with that which the Blessed Lord has ordained. The essence of love is for man to turn his heart to Raghunatha, and to sever himself from all else but him, and desire naught save that which the Lord desires. True worship is for the devotee to hold fast unto Rama the Lord, to seek naught but his grace, inasmuch as in his hands lies the destiny of all his servants. The essence of detachment is for man to endure pain to give pleasure to others, and good men are like the birch-tree, ready in their compassion to suffer the direst affliction if so they can help their neighbours. Ignorance is the root of all sicknesses, from which again spring many torments. Lust is wind; insatiable greed is phlegm; choler is bile, that continually inflames the soul.

Views such as these are now rooted in the Indian psyche, so popular is this Holy Lake among the common people here. It was the story of Rama, and not that of any other epic hero, that the Hindus took with them as a holy book on their adventurous journeys to such distant countries and islands as Jamaica, Surinam, Guyana, Fiji and Mauritius. This text and translation is intended for them and for those for whom English is either their mother tongue or a language they learn. The basic text for the first seven Books is the Kashi Raj edition of the Ramacharitamanasa, edited by Vishvanath Prasad Mishra, In some instances I have also used the Oita Press edition of the epic, but where no available sources yielded a satisfactory meaning, the translation has followed one or more of the popular versions or has adopted a reconstructed text, especially in the eighth canto, which by no means was written by Tulasidasa himself. The basic text for this eighth Book, given in Appendix A is the popular Goswami Tulasidasakrit Ramayana published by Shri Venkateshwar Steam Press, Bombay (1985), but in quite a few instances the text is based on a variant reading supported by one or more popular versions. Since the eighth Book, an elaborate interpolation, is not as popular as the first seven sopanas, the inclusion of it in the present volume has an incidental importance in making the Western reader familiar with the story of Ram a In Its entirety. If my efforts serve to make the Manasa more relevant for the twentieth-century reader and if they may help to show how far he has departed from truth and from Tulasi's ideals, they will serve their purpose.

For his kindness In supplying me with a large number of commentaries on the Manasa, especially its English rendering published by the Gita Press, Gorakhpur, which has been my primary source, I am very greatly indebted to Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder chairman of Sulabh International. Who loves to bathe in the pellucid stream of knowledge and is pre-eminent in apprehension of the divine in man. To Dr. Kameshwar Prasad, University Professor of English. Patna University. I am indebted for his assistance in the translation of the Lavakushakanda. I should like to thank him for his patience during the many laborious hours we spent in my home translating page after page of the eighth Book of the Manasa. Special thanks are also due to Acharva Ram Khelawan Roy, University Professor and Head of the Department of Hindi, Patna University, whose scholarship has contributed Significantly to my understanding of Tulasi's epic. Without his selfless and exhausting work on the annotation of the first seven Books, the present volume could not have appeared in print for several years.

Acharya Giridhar Mishra is responsible for many of my Interpretations of the epic. The meticulousness of his pro- found scholarship and his extraordinary dedication to all aspect s of Rama's story have led to his recognition as one of the greatest authorities on Tulasidasa in India today. Help has also come from two of his well-known disciples, Gopal Sharan Singh and Arjun Prasad Singh, who not only introduced me to their gum but also made available to me his scholarly works on the Manasa. I owe to them the revelation that the Acharya's knowledge of the Ramacharitamanasa is vast and breathtaking and that he is one of those rare scholars who know the text of the epic virtually by heart. Those to whom I am grateful for discussion of the material or advice which goes beyond that, or is not otherwise acknowledged, are Professor G. Mukherjee, Professor K.N. Sharma, Professor J.P. Singh, Dr Ashok Kumar Sinha, Professor Bijay Pratap Singh, Dr V.N. Mishra, Dr Siyaram Tiwary, Dr Bachandeo Kumar, Dr Gopal Rai, Dr Awadhesh Kumar Sharma. Dr Ajit Kumar Mishra, Miss Amrita Ojha, Shashi Bhushan Kumar, Jadugar Anand of Jabalpur, M.P., Chandramauli Prasad. Shri Somnath Singh, and Dr. Sitaram Jha 'Shyam'.

My special thanks are due to Shri J. P. Jain of Messrs Motilal Banarsidass. The initiator and publisher of this vitally needed project, for his advice, friendly regard, and unfailing support and especially for his patient recognition that a project of this magnitude cannot be rushed for deadlines without losing much of its value. I thank him again and again for his readiness, ungrudgingly shown, to accommodate his plans to mine.

I also wish to thank Shri Satya Narayan Prasad, who with infinite patience and understanding has worked with me on this programme through the years and typed the rough and final drafts of this book.

The work owes, in addition, countless debts to F.S. Growse, W.D. P. Hill and others whose translations of the Manasa have contributed enormously to my own. There is hardly a line of the translation that has not benefited in some way from their excellent rendering of the epic.

Finally, I wish to mention two of my unfailing sources of inspiration, Captain Awadhesh Kumar, my son-in-law, and Sumitra, my Wife, whose advice, encouragement, and deep solicitude for my welfare enabled me to intensify my efforts on the editing, explication and translation of the Ramacharitamanasa.

 

Introduction

When a new age of Indian thought and literature began, during the years of the Bhakti Movement, Tulasidasa's importance as its most outstanding leader and prophet was clearly revealed. To study him, however briefly, is to delineate the main features of the period that may be called Bhakti; it is even beyond this, to sketch the essential traits of Vaishnava devotionalism, the upsurge of which in the North synchronized with the appearance of a galaxy of saint-poets, reformers and preachers whose utterances remain un- paralleled in profundity and sincerity. Earlier theories that the movement originated under the impact of Islam or that the rich devotional poetry which came in its wake resulted from a sharp reaction to contemporary social and political conditions are now negated by the simple fact that there is so much genuine faith and hope embodied in the Bhakti cult that any suggestion of a mere negative outlook on life cannot be entertained. Though Islamic, and particularly Sufi, influences may have been felt later, there is no denying the fact that the earliest genuine devotional poetry of Tamil Nadu precedes the coming of Islam.

One of the factors that gave the new movement a decisive impetus was that Hinduism in the medieval North, overlaid as it was with all kinds of decadent notions and superstitions, did not answer the spiritual cravings of the common man and Inspire him with faith and hope. Divided and subdivided into so. many cults and sects, the Siddhas of the Vajrayana denomination and Kapalikas dominated the eastern region while the Natha Yogis filled the western parts. It was obvious that the ordinary man was beginning to lose all faith in Hinduism and was gradually getting alienated from it. His religious performances were confined to certain ritualistic formalities and observances, to the undertaking of pilgrimages and bathing in the sacred rivers on certain holy occasions. Neither the Buddhist Siddhes nor the Yogis of the Natha sect were concerned with resurrecting Hinduism or galvanizing it into some sort of life.

No sooner was the spark of the popular religious movement ignited in the Hindi-speaking areas than the whole of North India was aflame with this resurgent and fervent faith. A new attitude to God-emotional, passionate bhakti-replaced the age-old attitudes which demanded sacrificial rite and ascetic, monistic meditation. Love songs sung to the Lord replaced the older forms of religious expression and encouraged group singing - a new popular cultural form- of kirtans. With the change in the, forms of religious expression not only were the old gods, old attitudes, and old cultural forms pushed aside but the new movement relegated Sanskrit, the sacred language, back Into the memory of the pandits. The first and greatest among the leaders of the movement was the Vaishnava mystic Ramanuja (d. 1137), founder of the Shrivaishnava sect. Madhva (1197-1276), a Kanarese Brahman, founded the Madhva sect, while the Telugu Brahman Nimbarka (13th century) settled near Mathura where he sang the songs of bhakti and the praises of Krishna and Radha. The famous Telugu-born philosopher, saint Vallabha(1479-1531), wielded tremendous influence on the movement. The sect of the Lingayats was Shaivite and had considerable influence on several north Indian saints.

Ramananda (1400-70), who was the chief figure and recognized leader of the movement in the Hindi-speaking areas, was at first a follower of Ramanuja's Shrivaishnava sect and in his early days resided in South India. On his return to the North he is said to have settled down at Varanasi where he established the sect popularly called the 'Ramanandi'. What set the adherents of this sect apart from others was their frank egalitarian basis, which was possibly influenced by the contemporary Muslim Sufis, and the exclusive use of the vernacular with a flavour of the soil.

Kabir (1440 - 1518), a disciple of Ramananda preached antinomian theism through verses written in an unpolished, colloquial style suited to the taste of the people for whom it was written. Kabir's poetry is devotional and mystical and thoroughly imbued with religious ardour. An important trait of his religion is that God is conceived as a completely spiritual Being whom one should endeavour to discover in the depths of one's own interiority. Consequently the illusory manifestations of the divine under the form of avataras should be rejected. The influence of the Natha sect is particularly noticeable in Kabir's rejection of Brahmanical authority regarding prescribed ceremonies, varna distinctions, sacred languages, and scriptures; in his emphasis on mystical unity with God and his search for introspection based on experimental truth. The Influence of the Sufis on Kabir may also account for the latter's tendency to oppose traditional duties and love of God. The Sufis were well known for their antinomian tendencies, and these tendencies were particularly noticeable among medieval Indian Sufis who claimed for themselves a way reserved for the initiates.

Kabir's community, known as the 'Kabirpanth', exists to this day. It gave rise to a dozen other sects, the most important of them being that of the Sikhs, founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1538), a disciple of Kabir. A large number of Kabir's compositions are found among the texts of the Adi Granth; his influence is further seen in the doctrines of Nanak, and in Sikhism. Nanak was followed by nine gurus, most of whom were poets, The tenth guru, whose name Was Govind Singh, held office from 1675 to 1708. He composed many verses, mostly in Hindi (Brajabhasha), but some also in Persian and Punjabi.

Dadu (1544-1603) founded another community, known as the 'Dadupanth' His spirit of forgiveness and kindness (daya), which earned for him the title of Dayal, reminds one of kabir minus the latter's Muhammadan ideas. Dadu's doctrines are contained in the Bani, a book of about five thousand mellifluous verses divided into thirty-seven chapters dealing with such subjects as the Divine Teacher, Remembrance, Separation, Meeting, Mind, Truth, God, Faith, Prayer, etc. The sect which he founded has a rich literature in Hindi. His two sons were poets, and all his fifty-two disciples arc reported to have composed verses.

Besides the Sufis who enriched Hindi literature, there were other sects too whose followers wrote and preached in Hindi. The contributions of the Lal Dasis, the Sadhus, the Charan Dasis, the Shiva Narayanis, the Garib Dasis, the Rama Sanchis, the Satnamis, the Prem Nathis, etc. cannot in this context be ignored.

The movement included two other important groups, namely the Krishnaite saints and the Ramaite saints. Like the Ramaite cult, the worship of Krishna had its beginnings in the centuries before this period, but about this time it received a new impetus, which was marked, as well as furthered, by the use of the vernacular for its religious Iiterature. It was the child Krishna who was often-and especially-thought of as an object of worship, but more often it was that aspect of Krishna's life which was concerned with his relation to Radha and the other Gopis that received most attention.

The greatest Ramaite poet was Tulasidasa (1532-1623). another spiritual heir of Ramananda. Tulasi belongs to the tradition of the Vaishnava poets who were devoted to Rama and who wrote their poetry mostly in Awadhi. He is not only the supreme poet, but the unofficial poet-laureate of India. A religious thinker and reformer as well as a poet, he strove, like the Italian poet Dante, to translate his dream from the sphere of ideas to the sphere of facts: first, his dream of a living Hindu culture, for which he strove to "revitalize every aspect of Hindu society and culture as he found it, '" and then, his dream of integrating this culture into his own devotional ideology, for which he strove to harmonize the divergent facets of Hindu culture by standing firmly in the existing tradition of which the Sanskrit Adhyatma Ramayana is an example, and translating it into the vernacular language.

The story of Rama appears again and again in the works of Tulasi, especially in his Ramacharitamanasa (1574-77), Gitavali (1571), Kavitavali (1612) and Barvairamayana (1612), while his Vinaya Patrika (Petition to Rama) consists of a large number of hymns to Rama.

Of Krishnaite works of the Vaishnava poets, mention should first be made of the love songs of Vidyapati, one of the contemporaries of Ramananda. His importance cannot be overestimated for the simple reason that though essentially a poet of love, his sweet warblings inspired devotional writings in Hindi, Bengali and Assamese, notably those of the Bengali poet Chaitanya. The latter's contemporary, Vallabha, bequeathed nothing remarkable to Hindi, but his teaching of the acquisition of divine grace called pushti- marga is embedded in the works of the four of his disciples and in those of the four disciples of his son, Vitthalanatha, collectively called the ashta-chhapa (eight die-stamps), the trailblazers of Krishnaite literature. Of these Suradasa (1483-1563) is the most outstanding devotional poet whose Surasagara, directly inspired as it is by the Sanskrit Bhagavata Purana, presents a pellucid, vivid account of Krishna's childhood pranks and youthful dalliance. Another poet of note belonging to the same tradition of Krishna worship is Nandadasa (b. 1528), whose poetry is suffused with a superb polish and urbanity and who excelled in describing the manifold merits of the impersonal and personal concepts of the Deity in the Bhramaragita. Mira Bai (1503-73), a Rajput princess who was widowed at an early age, was the first to achieve poetic fame as a devotee of Krishna and as one whose poetry is alive with a remarkable freshness and femininity, pathos and simplicity, without the frills and flowers of rhetoric.

But there is nothing in Hindi, or in any other Indian language, comparable to Tulasidasa's Ramacharitamanasa. It is acknowledged not merely as the greatest modem Indian epic, but as something like a living sum of Indian culture. Second only to the Gita in its influence, it has come to dominate not only the literature of the Hindi language. where even some of the avant-garde poets and humanists have been unable to resist its influence, but the whole field of our culture in Northern India. It appears that apart from educational compulsion, the professional studies of scholars and college teachers, and the devotion of a few most sensitive and spiritual-minded among the Hindus and men of letters, it is unusual for a young North-Indian Hindu to read the Sanskrit Ramayana of Valmiki at all. But as literature and popular religious poem, the Manasa ministers munificently to the imagination and fancy of millions of people in Northern India who have made the poety of Tulasidasa one of their most frequent and precious companions. The distinct infusion of the values which their mind usually associates with the 'Hindu genius', the variety of human experience gathered into its vast embrace, the boundless inventiveness and ingenuity of the author, the thrills awakened by marvellous episodes and the endless surprise of unexpected events-all add to its popularity, even though the original poems on which it is based have fallen into neglect.

The Manasa has apparently gone too deep. Like all normal people, the Hindus cannot saturate themselves for centuries with a book like the Ramacharitamanasa and throw off the spell in a couple of generations. Tulasi for them is not just a poet believing, as did Milton, in his destiny as a poet and despising prose; he is a seer, a law-giver, a liberator. When the country was plunged in that sinister, gloomy and morbid atmosphere which the Muslim rule had from time to time unleashed, it was Tulasi, they feel, who brought them hope and liberation. They got a new and fresh inspiration, an inspiration not only from the MaJJ8sa:s literary beauty but from its real religious significance. For them it is the huge gamut of religious beliefs that mount Up in its cresting tide that proves this Hindu epic to be a greater book than any other written in India except the Upanishads and the Gita. Tulasi is so passionately devoted to the son of Dasharath, so intensely in love with him, that by the sheer liveliness of his poetic imagination he transforms the hero of the Solar race, first into the qualified incarnation of Vishnu, and then into the Lord himself whom even the Vedas and the Puranas cannot fully comprehend, in other words into the Nameless Absolute or attributeless, formless, imperceptible and unborn Brahman.

The basic religious principles of Tulasidasa, so far as they can be known, are contained in the dialogue between Bhushundi and Garuda in the Epilogue (Uttarakanda). His religion is a religion of being wholeheartedly devoted to Rama whose Name itself, he says, is like a sun to dispel the darkness of ignorance. Tulasi's Rama is Truth, Consciousness and Bliss, untouched by the night of delusion. He is the Blessed Hari, whose being is Light itself. Joy and sorrow, knowledge and ignorance, egoism and pride - these are the characteristics of a jiva or mortal man; but Rama is the all-pervading Brahman; he is Supreme Bliss personified, the highest Lord and the most ancient Being. Tulasi makes Shiva describe the story of Ram a as "the cow of heaven that grants all joys to those who tend her". "It is," as Shiva fur- ther says, "the pleasant clapping of the hands to scare away the birds of doubt; the story of Rama is an axe to fell the tree of the Kaliyuga."

There is utter humility, often reminiscent of the 'gentler qualities of Christian virtue', in Tulusidasa's religion, the humility of losing oneself in the service of Rama, the humility of beating down one's ego and surrendering oneself, body and soul, to the Lord himself. It is not a religion of being friends with the Lord, as Suradasa's is, or his spouse, as Mira's is, so as to sport with him like the Gopis. It is a religion of universal charity and of being pure and humble and looking upon the Lord as one's master, finding one's heaven in his service as well as in his grace, and obeying his mind in one's own soul. Essentially in keeping with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, it is a religion in which God has a total claim on his devotees.

Sooner may hair grow on the shell of a tortoise, sooner may a barren woman's progeny slay anyone, sooner may flowers of every description appear in the air than a creature find happiness even though hostile to Hari. Sooner may thirst be quenched by drinking of a mirage or horns sprout on a hare's head, or darkness efface the sun than a soul at odds with Rama find happiness. Sooner may fire appear out of snow than an enemy of Rama find peace. Sooner shall buttcr be churned out of water or oil be extracted by crushing sand than the ocean of worldly existence be crossed without worshipping Hari. This is a conclusion which call not be set aside.

Few Catholic saints would have found these lines savouring of anything exclusively Hindu or pagan. Nor would Tulasi have found their message of humility and charity incompatible with his own. There is nothing sectarian in the Christian belief (he would have said) that a man who serves the King of kings has nothing to fear but his own shortcomings, or that the Christ.ian magnanimous man will receive rewards beyond all human ambition. He must not, therefore, waste his energies on trivialities. I Ie needs no possessions. In God he has the highest rank of all. To serve God is to rule.

And Tulasidasa would surely have agreed with 'the man on the palliasse', who taught St. Francis Xavier the importance of poverty. "Begging," he had told St. Francis, "is only a very small part of the matter. It is good for our humility. It is good also for the charity in the hearts of others. Poverty makes a man free, People will not envy him-except for a few and they can easily satisfy their envy by imitating him. A man who is not carrying possessions has his mind free as well as his hands.” Tulasi, who had refused to serve Mammon, was certainly envied by some of his contemporaries, especially the Brahmans of Kashi. But he never abandoned his humility or his potent talisman of faith in Rama. "Rama I adore, I adore, I adore!" he cried." The imperishable I adore, by seeking sanctuary with whom even such guilt-stained sinners as myself are purified!” And he refused to be cowed down by those who envied him but dedicated himself to his master, Hari, full of the humble realization of his entire dependence upon him for all that he was and had, and of the fact that whatever he had was derived from Rama not entirely for himself but also in trust for his neighbours. For him there is only one thing that matters, one word, one power, one magic touch, that ends the ignorance of men and enables them to cross the ocean of birth and death.

'I am the servant and he my master'-without this relationship, Garuda, the ocean of birth and death cannot be crossed. Hold fast to this doctrine and worship the lotus feet of Rama.

And Again:

'I am That' - this unbroken mental state is the lamp's brightly burning flame. Then on the soul's experience dawns the fair light of bliss, and all distinction and error, source of rebirth, are destroyed.

Where there is faith in Rama, the mind of material objects does not lead reason astray. Where there is genuine piety, one does not fall a prey to infatuation even in a dream. Like the Sufi mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi, or like St. Paul, Tulasi does not tire of stressing the value of self-loss for one seeking to attain the supreme state of final beatitude. The following passage in 'The Beautiful" sums up his attitude to selfless love:

Even though a man should be the enemy of all creation, if he comes terror-striken to me, seeking my protection and discarding vanity, infatuation, hypocrisy and trickeries of various kinds, I speedily make him the very like of a saint. The ties of affection that bind a man to his mother, father, brother, son, wife, body, wealth, house, friends and relations arc like so many threads which a pious soul gathers up and twists into a string wherewith he binds his soul to my feet. Nay, he looks on all with an impartial eye and abandons all desire, grief and fear. A saint of this description abides in my heart, even as Mammon resides in the heart of a covetous man.

Rama makes it clear that those who surrender ther selfhood to God abide in his heart; they are 'deified', they have 'become' or 'been made' God. Therefore, when animated by a passionate and selfless love, they look to their centre, they see only God.

As he was looked upon as the greatest poet of his time, it would be easy to expect that there should be in him some signs of consciousness of this, and, as a consequence, some of that unpleasant self-assertion which so often makes great. creative and intellectual geniuses unpopular. Tulasi, however, never seems to have had any over-appreciation of his own talents, but, realizing how little he knew compared to the whole round of knowledge, and how imperfect he was compared to the perfection of the Lord about whom he was writing, it must be admitted that there is no question of conceit having a place in his life. There are scores of passages in the Manasa alone in which this humility finds expression and the poet tells us that he has sung of the glory of Rama to sanctify his voice, "I am no poet," he declares early in his Manasa, "nor am I called clever, but I sing the excellence of Rama according to the measure of my understanding; how wondrous are the acts of Raghupati, how poor my wit, devoted to this world!" Poets like Chaucer often appear to show the same urbanity and charity but not the same humility. Tulasi did not possess their courtly sophistication or their inimitable ingenuity and skill in using subtle ironies and innuendoes.

While, with characteristic humility, Tulasi considered himself scarcely more than a childish babbler and his com- position clumsy and devoid of all poetic charm, his natural genius was eminently original and he added much more of his own than what he took from the Adhyatma Ramayana, Valmiki's Ramayana, the Hanumannataka and the Prasan- Naraghava. There can be no doubt that his Rama- charitamanasa is a classical monument of the first importance for the exposition of the doctrines and the ritual of the Advaita Vedanta and the Ramaite teachings of Ramananda's disciples. In the variety of its contents, allusions and doctrinal teachings, it is a perfect encyclopaedia of the learning of the ancient Indian sages, especially of the learning contained in the Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras and the Gita. By it we can fix the high watermark of Vaishnava Ideals, for it contains the thoughts and doctrines of a poet who considered Rama to be an incarnation of Vishnu and derived his doctrine of jiva from the Vaishnava Vedantins, whose views he synthesized.

It is by the study of such books that one enters into the mental life of the period in which they were written, not by the hasty perusal of histories of religious thought, No student of the Manasa, however, is likely to acquiesce In the belief that Tulasi was a religious bigot or that his work is limited in its appeal to those already acquainted with the Sanskrit Adhyatma Ramayana, Ramanuja’s Visishtadvaita teachings and the Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharya. Tulasi was a liberal, who made Rama, his hero, the sum of True Being, Thought and Bliss, the uncreated dwelling- place of wisdom, beauty and might, pervading all and all that is pervaded, undivided, infinite, entire, the Blessed Lord of never-failing power, impersonal, supreme, whom neither speech nor sense can grasp, all-seeing, faultless and invincible, disinterested, formless, everlasting, void of emotion, transcending nature, etc. Rama is not just a sectarian hero, a Hindu god. He is the gracious Lord himself in mortal form; the Word becomes Flesh to save the human race.

 

Contents

 

Preface ix
Introduction xi
BALAKANDA  
Invocation 1
Salutations 2
Glory of the Name of Rama 15
The Greatness of Rama's Story 23
Dialogue between Yajnavalkya and Bharadvaja 34
Sati's Folly 42
Birth of Parvati 43
Parvati's Penance 47
The Destruction of Kama 52
Marriage of Shiva and Parvati 55
Dialogue between Shiva and Parvati 66
Narada's Pride 75
The Penance of Manu and Shatarupa 84
The Story of King Pratapabhanu 90
Birth of Ravana 101
Birth of Rama 110
Protection of Vishvamitra's Sacrifice 121
Deliverance of Ahalya 121
Rama and Lakshmana in Janakapura 122
The Breaking of the Bow 148
Wrath of Parashurama 152
Wedding of Rama 175
Return to Ayodhya 199
AYODHYAKANDA  
Invocation 207
Preparations of Rama's Coronation 209
Kaikeyi's Opposition and Rama's Banishment 219
Rama's Arrival at Shringaverapura and Meeting with Nishada 253
With Bharadvaja in Prayaga 263
Dialogue with Valmiki 273
Living at Chitrakuta 277
Sumantra Return to Ayodhaya 285
Death of King Dasharatha 288
Summons to Bharata 290
Bharata Returns 291
Dasharatha's Cremation 296
Bharata's Grief 301
Bharata's Journey to Chitrakuta 306
Bharata with Bharadvaja 315
Bharata Meets Rama 345
Janaka's Arrival at Chitrakuta 354
Dialogue between Rama and Bharata 366
Bharata Returns to Ayodhya 381
ARANYAKANDA  
Invocation 385
Jayanta's Mischief 386
In Atri's Hermitage 387
Sita Meets Anasuya 389
The Killing of Viradha: The Episode of Sage Sharabhanga 391
Sutikshna's Devotion 392
In Agastya's Hermitage 395
Residence at Panchavati 397
The Story of Shurpanakha 399
Khara and Dushana Slain 402
Shurpanakha in Ravana's Court 404
The Slaying of Maricha in Golden Deer's Guise 408
The Abduction of Sita by Ravana 409
Death of Jatayu 410
Deliverance of Kabandha 414
Meeting with Shabari 414
Dialogue between Rama and Narada 419
KISHKINDHAKANDA  
Invocation 425
Rama and Hanuman 426
Alliance between Rama and Sugriva 427
The Slaying of Bali 431
Sugirva's Coronation 433
Search for Sita 439
Sampati's Advice to the Monkeys 443
Hanuman plans his leap to Lanka 445
SUNDARAKANDA  
Invocation 447
The Killing of Surasa and the Image catching Demoness 449
Hanuman meets Vibhishana 451
Conversation of Sita and Hanuman 455
Hanuman captured by Meghanada 459
Dialogue between Hanuman and Ravana 460
The Burning of Lanka 462
Hanuman Returns from Lanka 464
Vibhishana offers Advice to Ravana 470
Vibhishana Received and Blessed by Rama 473
Ravana's Spies 477
The Ocean Submits to Rama 482
LANKAKANDA  
Invocation 485
The Bridge 486
The Crossing 488
Mandodari Pleads with Ravana 489
Prahasta's Plea 490
Rama on Mount Suvela 495
Angada Goes as Envoy to Ravana 496
Dialogue between Angada and Ravana 497
Mandodari Reiterates her plea 508
The Battle begins 511
Meghanada Strikes Lakshmana with a spear 519
Hanuman Brings the Physician Sushena and Proceeds in search of the Life-giving Herbs 519
Kumbhakarna Killed 530
Meghanada Killed 534
Ravana Enters the Battle 538
Encounter between Lakshmana and Ravana 538
Ravana's Sacrifice Foiled 540
Fierce Battle 541
Ravana Employs Magic 543
Battle of Rama and Ravana 544
Death of Ravana 554
Vibhishana Enthroned 557
Meeting of Rama and Sita 560
Gods Praise Rama 561
Rama Leaves for Ayodhya 567
Rama in Ayodhya 569
UTTARAKANDA  
Invocation 571
Rama Reunited with his people 572
The Enthronement of Rama 579
Vedas and Gods praise Rama 580
Rama's Allies Return Home 585
Rama's Reign and Kingdom 587
Sanaka and Other Saints Talk with Rama 594
Characteristics of the Saintly and Unsaintly 595
True Religion and Virtue Expounded 600
Dialogue between Bhushundi and Garuda 606
Rama's Illusive power 619
Bhushundi Tells his life story 630
Learning and love expounded 648
Greatness of Rama's Story 662
APPENDICES  
A. Lavakusakanda 665
B. Shri Hanumanchalisa 713
C. Shri Ramashataka Prashnavali 717
D. Mode of Recitation 719
E. (i) Indian Criticisms 721
(ii) European and American Criticisms 735
Glossary 743

 

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