वाल्मीकिस्तुलसीदासः कलौ देवि भविष्यति। रामचन्द्रकथामेतां भाषाबद्धां करिष्यति।।
-Bhavishyottar Purana, Pratisarga Parva, 4.20
In Bhavishyottar Purana, Lord Shiva tells mother Parvati how Maharshi Valmiki got a boon from Lord Hanuman to sing Shri Ram Katha in vernacular language in the age of Kaliyuga. This prophecy of Lord Shiva materialised on the Shraavan Shukla Saptami, Vikrami Samvat 1554 when Maharshi Valmiki took birth as Tulsidas ji in a Saryuparin Brahmin family in a village named Rajapur situated on the banks of the river Yamuna.
पन्द्रह सौ चौवन बिसै कालिन्दी के तीर । श्रावण शुक्ला सप्तमी तुलसी धरे शरीर ।।
His parents were Atmaram Dubey and Hulasi. At the time of birth, Goswamiji was as healthy as a five-year old boy and instead of crying, He uttered the word “Raam”. At this moment, Lord Rama made an aakaashvaani and named the divine child as “Rambola” (one who uttered Raam). Goswamiji Himself attests this.
राम को गुलाम नाम रामबोला राख्यो राम ।
At this auspicious event, gods started playing celestial instruments to celebrate the birth. Becoming apprehensive and unable to understand the strangeness of events, Shri Atmaram Dubey abandoned his son. Goswamiji writes.
जायो कुलमंगन बधावनो बजायो सुनि । भयो परिताप पाप जननी जनक को ।।
Ameans the paranormal events caused grief (परिताप) to mother and sinful feeling (पाप) to father and that is the reason the child could not get parental care, as he says.
मातु पिता जग जाइ तज्यो । बिधि हूँ न लिखी कछु भाल भलाई ।।
In the last eight stanzas of Vinaypatrika, Goswamiji has repeatedly described His miserable condition.
Expecting bad behaviour from father towards the son, mother Hulasi sent the child away to Haripur with her servant (daasi) named Muniya. Haripur was Muniya’s own village. Very soon mother Hulasi also went to “Haripur”, i.e. she left the world. Goswamiji remembers Haripur in His literature.
हरिपुर गयेउ परम बड़भागी।
– Ramcharitmanas, 4.27.8
सुखी हरिपुर बसत होत परीक्षितहिं पछताव।
Mata Hulasi had love for her son, which is why Goswamiji pays tribute to her by mentioning her name in Ramcharitmanas.
Soon Muniya also left the world, leaving the boy on His own fate. Now, mother Parvati Herself started nurturing the boy. Goswamiji remembers this.
रामहिं प्रिय पावनि तुलसी सी । तुलसिदास हित हिय हुलसी सी ।।
गुरु पितु मातु महेश भवानी।
मेरे गुरु मातु पितु शंकर भवानियै।
After five years, there occurred a dramatic event in Rambola’s life. When He was living under the trees just outside Haripur, Lord Shiva inspired Shri Narharidas ji to meet Rambola. Shri Narharidas ji or Shri Narharyanand ji was the fourth disciple among the twelve chief disciples of Adya Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Ji and also an incarnation of four Sankadik sages. A little conversation took place when Shri Narharidas ji met the boy.
Narharidasji : Boy! What is your name?
Tulsidasji : Rambola.
Narharidasji : Why?
Tulsidasji : Because “Ram” was the first word that came out from my mouth when I was born.
Narharidasji : Who gave you this name?
Tulsidasji : Lord Ram Himself.
Narharidasji : What do you do?
Tulsidasji : I utter “Ram-Ram” sometimes.
राम को गुलाम नाम रामबोला राख्यो राम । काम यहै नाम द्वै हों कबहुँ कहत हौं ।।
Narharidasji : What will you do?
Tulsidasji : I will become your disciple.
Narharidasji : Is anybody there in your family?
Tulsidasji : Nobody.
Narharidasji : What about marriage?
Tulsidasji : Not interested.
That was it. Shri Narharidas Ji showered divine grace on the boy and gave Him the Virakta Shri Vaishnav Diksha in Shri Ramanandi Parampara, i.e. initiated Him in the Ramanandi sect with due rituals, and presented Him the name “Tulsidas”. Goswamiji describes His Diksha and the above conversation in the following verses.
बूझ्यो ज्यों ही कह्यौं मैं हूँ चेरा ह्वैहौं रावरो जू, मेरो कोउ कहूँ नहिं चरण गहत हौं । मींज्यो गुरु पीठि अपनाई बोलि बाँह गहि, सेवक सुखद बाँको बिरुद बहत हौं । बलोग कहें पोच, सो न सोच न संकोच मेरे, ब्याह न बरेखी जात पाँत न चहत हौं । तुलसी अकाज काज राम ही के रीझे खीझे, प्रीति की प्रतीति ताते मुदित रहत हौं ।
ब्याह न बरेखी जात पाँत न चहत हौं ।
These words of Tulsidas Ji clearly affirm the fact that He never married. He was an ascetic right from childhood and did not marry ever in His life. The popular belief that He married a woman named Ratnavali is nothing more than a myth. In Hanumaan Baahuka too, Goswamiji affirms He’s been an ascetic since childhood
बालपने सूधमन रामसनमुख भयो । रामनाम लेत माँगि खात टूक टाक हौं ।।
-Hanuman Bahuk, 40
Gurudev Shri Narharidasji took Tulsidasji to a place called Sookar (सूकर), now known as Soron. There He narrated the ShriRamcharitmanas Katha to Tulsidasji several times which He had received in tradition from Maharshi Yajnavalkya ji. Shri Narharidasji had received the Katha from Maharshi in the form of the four Sankadik sages. Goswamiji writes.
मैं पुनि निज गुरु सन सुनी कथा सो सूकर खेत । समझी नहिं तस बालपन तब अति रहेउँ अचेत ।।
-Ramcharitmanas, 1.3. क
Goswamiji remembers His Guruji’s name figuratively in the Manas.
बन्दउं गुरुपद कंज कृपासिन्धु नररूप हरि ।
-सो. Ramcharitmanas, 1.5
With the grace of Gurudev, Tulsidasji easily mastered all Puranas, Nigamas, Agamas and other scriptures.
With the help from a pret (प्रेत), Tulsidasji had a darshan of Lord Hanuman in Kashi Karnghanta. In the nearby Sankatmochan place, Hanumanji told Tulsidasji to visit Chitrakoot to have darshan of Lord Ram. Hanumanjitold this by putting one hand on His own chest and indicating to the south with the other hand. The indication was that one who resides inside my heart, i.e. Lord Raam, will give you darshan in the southern direction (in Chitrakoot).
Today an idol of Hanumanji can be seen with the same hand postures at that place. It is considered that Goswamiji praises that pret (प्रेत) in the following verse in Manas.
Following this instruction of Hanumanji, Tulsidasji visited Chitrakoot and constantly chanted the pious name of Lord Ram. One day while doing parikrama of Kamadgiri (a hill in Chitrakoot where Lord Ram had stayed), Tulsidasji saw two handsome princes, one dark complexioned and one fair complexioned, riding beautiful horses in front of Him at some distance. Though the beauty of two princes mesmerized Tulsidasji, He could not recognize that they were actually Lord Ram and Lakshman. When Hanumaanji met Him again and told Him the reality, Goswamiji felt very sad. Hanumanji then gave assurance and Goswamiji restarted His Jaap Sadhna.
देव दनुज नर नाग खग प्रेत पितर गन्धर्व । बन्दउं किन्नर रजनिचर कृपा करहु अब सर्व ।।
On Maagh Krishna Amaavasyaa, that is Mauni Amaavasyaa, of Samvat 1620, Shri Ram and Lakshman ji came inside Tulsidasji’s hut, situated on Ram Ghat on the banks of the holy river Mandakini in Chitrakoot. Tulsidasji was rubbing Chandan (sandalwood-paste) and Lord Ram and Lakshman ji, in the form of two boys, appeared before Him and said, “Baba! Give us Chandan too!”. Baba got mesmerized at this. Lord Ram put Chandan on His own forehead and then made a Tilak on Baba’s forehead. At this moment, Hanumanji turned into a parrot, sat on the nearby mango tree, and uttered the following popular doha lest the Baba should fail to recognize the Lord once again.
चित्रकूट के घाट पर भइ सन्तन की भीर । तुलसिदास चन्दन घिसें तिलक देत रघुबीर ।।
and then Tulsidasji recognized His Lord, Lord Ram. In Vinaypatrika, Goswamjji gives indication of this event.
तुलसी तोकौ कृपाल जो कियौ कोसलपाल । चित्रकूट के चरित चेत चित करि सो ।।
In Kashi, on the night of Chaitra Shukla Saptami, Vikrami Samvat 1631, Lord Shiva came in the dream of Tulsidasji and inspired Him to write Shri Ram Katha in vernacular language. Tulsidasji mentions this.
सपनेहुँ साँचेहु मोहि पर जौ हरगौरि पसाउ । तौ फुर होउ जो कहेउँ सब भाषा भनिति प्रभाउ ।।
Goswamiji then visited Ayodhya ji and on Chaitra Ram Navmi of the same year, during Abhijit Muhoort, Shri Ramcharitmanas appeared inside Him and illuminated His heart, as is evident.
सम्वत सोरह सै एकतीसा । करउं कथा हरिपद धरि सीसा ।। नौमी भौम वार मधुमासा । अवधपुरी यह चरित प्रकासा ।।
He completed Ramcharitmanas with seven chapters (Kandas) while staying at Shri Ayodhya, Shri Kashi and Shri Chitrakoot.
Ramcharitmanas soon gained popularity far and wide, so much so that jealous pandits created a hue and cry in Kashi. They protested that composing Shri Ram Katha in vernacular language inflicted insult on Sanskrit, a language of gods. But truth remains truth. With the aim of testing this new scripture, Ramcharitmanas was put at the top of all scriptures in the temple of Shri Vishvanath ji in Kashi and the door was closed. Next day in the morning, when the temple door was opened, Ramcharitmanas was found lying at the bottom of all scriptures and its first page had the signature of Lord Vishvanath Himself- “सत्यं शिवं सुन्दरं” (Satyam Shivam Sundaram). The incident left everyone dumbstruck. It made everyone accept the fact that if Sanskrit is “devbhasha”, then the language of ShriRamcharitmanas is “Mahadevbhasha”! Because despite being a great scholar of Sanskrit himself, Goswamiji chose vernacular language due to Lord Shiva’s will and instructions.
When the great contemporary Advait scholar Shri Madhusoodan Saraswati ji saw ShriRamcharitmanas, he felt overjoyed and praised Goswamiji and His composition in the following popular Shloka.
आनन्दकानने कश्चिद् जंगमस्तुलसीतरुः । कविता मंजरी यस्य रामभ्रमरभूषितः ।।
Goswamiji is a moving Tulasi plant in this blissful Kashi, on whose poem-manjari (blossom) Lord Ram hovers as a bumblebee always. Indeed, just as the bumblebee never leaves Tulsi flowers, Lord Ram also never moves away from Tulsidasji’s compositions.
There is another magical event associated with ShriRamcharitmanas. Goswamiji had good terms with the ruler of Kashi. And the Kashi lord had very good friendship with Dravid king. Both the rulers entered into a treaty, according to which, they would hold marriage between their children. The first son of Dravid king would be married to the first daughter of Kashi king and vice versa. But, fate has its own course. Daughters were born to both the kings the first time. The Kashi king cheated and presented his daughter in the form of son. As per the treaty, the marriage was finalised.
But the spies of Dravid king found the reality and told everything to their lord. The Dravid king now decided to launch an attack on Kashi. The Kashi king, frightened, sought refuge in Goswami Tulsidasji, who decided to do Navahparayana (nine-day recitation) of ShriRamcharitmanas. The following line of Manas was made the Samput (refrain line) for each doha of Manas.
Navahparayana was done by Goswamiji and lo! divine magic was in front of everyone. The daughter of Kashi king got transformed into a son. And his marriage with the daughter of Dravid king was completed with grand celebrations. Such is the magic of Ramcharitmanas.
मंत्र महा मनि बिषय ब्याल के । मेटत कठिन कुअंक भाल के ।।
Apart from ShriRamcharitmanas, Goswamiji also composed scriptures such as Kavitavali, Hanuman Bahuk, VrihadBarwai Ramayana, LaghuBarwai Ramayana, JanakiMangal, ParvatiMangal, Dohavali, VairagyaSandipani, Tulsi DohaShatak, Hanuman Chalisa, Geetavali Ramayana, Krishna Geetaavali, Vinaypatrika.
At the age of 126, Goswamiji left his body on the Shraavan Shukla Tritaya, Saturday, Samvat 1680 on the Asee Ghat of Varanasi.
सम्वत सोरह सै असी असी गंग के तीर । श्रावण शुक्ला तीज शनि तुलसी तज्यौ शरीर ।।
When devotees asked for a teaching from Goswamiji about His experience, He spoke golden words.
अलप तो अवधि तामें जीव बहु सोच पोच, करिबे को बहुत है कहा कहा कीजिए । ग्रन्थन को अन्त नाहिं काव्य की कला अनन्त, राग है रसीलो रस कहाँ कहाँ पीजिए । वेदन को पार न पुरानन को भेद बहु, वाणी है अनेक चित कहाँ कहाँ दीजिए । लाखन में एक बात तुलसी बताए जात, जन्म जो सुधारा चाहो रामनाम लीजिए ।
Thus spoke the last composer of Shri Ram Katha. His last words were –
रामचंद्र गुण बरनि के भयो चहत अब मौन । तुलसी के मुख दीजिए बेगहि तुलसी सोन ।।