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Tulsidas ( Hindi तुलसीदास Tulsīdās , also Tulasidas , Gosvāmī Tulsīdās , Tulasī Dāsa ; * probably around 1532 or around 1543 , probably in Rajapur , Banda district in Uttar Pradesh ; † 1623 in Asi Ghat , Varanasi ) was an Indian poet, mystic, reformer, Saint and philosopher.

Live and act


Little historically reliable is known about Tulsidas; there are numerous legends about his life; Life dates and works are therefore fraught with many uncertainties.

A curse is said to have lain on Tulsida's life: according to legend, the son of the brahmin and pundit (scholar) Atmaram Shukla Dube (or Dubey, a subcaste of the Sarayuparina Brahmin) and his wife Hulsa, who was born under an ominous celestial position, the mother died afterwards the birth, whereupon the father rejected him. The stepmother who took him in later also died, and Tulsidas was expelled from this family as a cursed man at the age of seven.

Because of his admiration for Rama , he was already called Tulsiram or Rambola ("the one who always calls Rama", "Rama-teller") in his youth ; The word Tulsidas itself means "slave of the Tulsi bush", whereby Tulsi (or Tulasi) is the basil as a vegetable manifestation of Vishnu or his wife Lakshmi , which still plays an important role in a Hindu household in religious terms. It was one of the treasures that, according to mythology, appeared when the sea of ​​milk was whisked and is therefore highly admired. Tulsidas was already recognizable as Vishnuit by name.

Tulsidas was briefly married and is said to have loved his wife Ratna (eigtl. Buddhimati Ratnavali) very much. Despite their son Tarak, however, she advised him to follow his religious destiny.

Ascetic and preacher of Ramas

Tulsidas renounced the world, but without rejecting marriage as an institution, became an ascetic and pervaded India for fourteen years as a preacher and pilgrim, where he propagated the belief in Rama everywhere. At the confluence of the holy rivers Ganges , Yamuna and the mythical river Sarasvati , in the city of Prayagraj (in Sanskrit Prayag ), which is holy for Hindus , according to other sources in Ayodhya , Rama is said to have commissioned him in a dream to write the epic Ramayana in a language that the people can understand. Other people from the circle of myths (such as Rama's brother Lakshmana and his faithful servant Hanuman ) are said to have appeared to him. In Ayodhya, however, he split as Smarta-Vaishnava because of the eating habits with the other Brahmins and moved on.

His pilgrimages took him to Vrindavan , the capital of the Krishna cult , to Rameshvaram in the south and to Chitrakut , the place of exile of Rama south of Prayagraj. Wherever he went, Tulsidas campaigned for the lifting of narrow caste barriers and religious toleration between followers of the various Hindu faiths and between Hindus and Muslims.

As a mediator between the expelled Hindu prince Pratap of Mewar and his opponent, the also Hindu Rajput ruler Man Singh of Gwalior , the commander in chief of the Muslim Mogul forces, Tulsidas is said to have intervened and restored peace.

The main work of Ramacaritmana

Tulsidas while writing the Ramacaritmanas . Popular illustration from the 1940s.

In later years Tulsidas lived in Varanasi / Benares, where he translated his main work, the Ramacaritmanas (also Ramcharitmanasa , "Lake of the Deeds of God Rama") from Sanskrit into the national language Hindi in the vernacular Hindi from 1574–1576 / 77 , however also heavily edited and reinterpreted. His book is considered a masterpiece of medieval Hindi literature with a significant influence on Hindu culture in northern India.

Since until then the legendary life story of the hero and Hindu god Rama , an incarnation of Vishnu , was only presented in the scholarly and priestly language Sanskrit, its version became widespread and pushed the Krishna cult that had prevailed up to that point into the background, which initially led to tensions led his followers.

The original Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana of the mythical author Valmiki , describes the fate of Prince Rama, who is robbed of his throne through intrigue and ends up in exile with his faithful wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana. There Sita is kidnapped by the demon king Ravana and only freed again after long battles and with the help of the Hanuman's monkey army . However, since her husband accuses her of unfaithfulness, Sita subjects herself to a divine judgment that reveals her innocence and is accepted again by the earth, her mother.

Tulsidas differs in content from the original version of Sanskrit: His version deified Rama, who was originally portrayed as a prince: the prince's son becomes an avatar (appearance, incarnation, descent) of the god Vishnu , whose worship and love Tulsidas preaches as a means of grace for redemption. Offensive passages such as the attempts at seduction by the demon king Ravana are deleted. The rhyme form and the constant change of meters, the hymns and theological insertions give the work a different character. The artfully composed poetic moods also distinguish his work from that of his predecessors.

The proclamation of a “Vishnuitic monotheism” and redemption through pious love for God are in the tradition of the philosophers Ramanuja , Madhva , Vallabha and Chaitanya , who went one step further by founding their own sects. Tulsidas' version is characterized by the representation of a personal God to whom the believer can turn in love, as well as by the representation of exemplary characters: Rama represents the ideal ruler and husband, Sita the exemplary wife and wife, Lakshmana the image of the faithful brother .

Tulsidas did not fall back on the Sanskrit epic of Valmiki itself, but on a medieval adaptation, Adhyaatma Ramayana , which had already tried to reconcile the existing Ramakult and the theological-philosophical system of Advaita . The influence of the Bhagavatapurana , the main script of the Krishna cult, can also be felt.

In the framework story, which traditionally has a god as the narrator, Tulsidas also includes the Shivaites in his worship of Vishnu: he lets the story of the god Rama be told by God Shiva to his wife Parvati . The epic was hidden inside like a lake - hence the title - similar to Manasarovar , the sacred lake near Shiva's seat, Mount Kailash . Only after Parvati's demand for the true nature of Rama does this lake emerge for the benefit of the people, just as the four rivers Ganges , Brahmaputra , Sutlej and Ghaghara originate from Kailas.

Many Hindus see Tulsidas as an incarnation of the Sanskrit author Valmiki. In order to give him a reputation among scholars, his work was even translated back into Sanskrit.

Other works, tradition

Tulsidas are ascribed twelve works with some certainty, mainly shorter poetic treatises on deities, according to Krsna gitavali , a series of 61 songs in honor of Krishna, Vinaya Patrika (“Modest Letter, Humble Petition”), a collection of devotional hymns in 279 verses Honoring the gods, especially Rama and Sita and the holy places as well as Kavitavali , stories from the life of Rama. Vinaya Patrika is considered to be one of the most famous Indian books of psalms.

There are a number of early manuscripts, mostly fragmentary, one of which is said to come from his hand. The oldest completely preserved manuscript dates from 1647; it consists of seven stanzas of different lengths and is written in Avadhi , which Tulsidas thus gave literary status .

Bhakti and mysticism, political effect

Tulsidas' bhakti piety ("devotion, love") and its emphasis on grace is the counterpart to the righteousness of works of the orthodox Hindu teaching with its emphasis on sacrifice, prayer and good works. Albert Schweitzer therefore counted Tulsidas, like Luther, among the great reformers.

His period of activity also fell under the government of the Mughal ruler Akbar I , who, as a Sunni Muslim in the interests of the empire , endeavored to create a worldview beyond the religions established in India ( Hinduism , Islam , Jainism , Parisma , Christianity ) and even strove to fuse them. Not only did Muslims compete with Hindus, but within Hinduism Shivaites with Vishnuits, in the latter case the Krishna and the Rama worshipers. So it made sense to use Tulsida's integrative mysticism, which respected the other faiths, as the starting point for a dialogue that Akbar also took up with the Indian musicians (see Tansen )

According to his written statements, Tulsidas felt a great dislike for Buddhism , which hardly existed in India at this time, was perceived as heretical and disreputed as atheism . In Ramacaritmanas , Book 1, Chaupai 6, the Ganges and the holy city of Varanasi with the bright day, with lust and the sky, while the Karamnasa River in Bihar and the city of Magadha - both in the birthplace of Buddha - are associated with night, suffering and hell become.


Although Tulsidas reveals himself to be a special follower of the Vishnu Avatar Rama, as a Smarta Vishnuit he remained connected to the general beliefs and customs of Hinduism and therefore did not become the founder of his own sect . His philosophical beliefs united the monistic Advaita philosophy with the polytheism of Hindu mythology, which explains the success of his comprehensive, eclectic view. He was firmly convinced of the superiority of the Brahmins, and even advocated the “oppression” of women, which made him especially acceptable to conservative Hindus.

In the house where he died at the Tulsi Ghat in Varanasi, some relics are still kept, including his clogs, his pillow and a small statue of Hanumans , whom he particularly venerated.


  • Tulsidas is said to have had all 32 teeth at birth.
  • In order to be close to his beloved wife, he crossed the Ganges despite torrential floods and torrential rains - on a drifting corpse. When he arrived at the beloved's house, he managed to pull himself up by a rope - a snake.
  • When, as a Vishnuit, he was refused entry to the temple of Shiva by Rameshvaram, Shiva himself is said to have appeared to him and ordered him to return to Varanasi.
  • An attempt to steal from Tulsidas failed because Rama and Lakshmana were guarding his house themselves.
  • One day the Shivaite brahmins of the Vishveshvara temple asked the Vishnuit Tulsidas with hostility to provide his Ramacaritmanas for a divine judgment. The work was placed in front of the lingam , the symbol of Shiva, in a pile with other scriptures and the shrine was locked; the next morning it was found that his book was on top: Shiva himself had justified Tulsidas.
  • The Mughal Emperor Akbar I is said to have imprisoned Tulsidas when he refused to perform a miracle; But God Rama released him from prison.

Work editions

  • Tulsi-granthavali . Edited by vRCSukla u. a. 4 vols. Varanasi: Nagaripracarini Sabha 1973–1977.
  • Tulasidasa. Complete Works. Translated into English by Satya Prakash Bahadur . 2 vols. Varanasi: Prachya Prakashan 1978–1979.
  • Goswami Tulsidas' Vinai-patrika. Original Text with Complete English Translation and Brief Commentaries . Compiled and Translated by Ajai Kumar Chhawchharia. Delhi: Abhishek Prakashan 2006. - In Awadhi and English.
  • Tulasidasa: The Holy Lake of the Acts of Rama . Edited by W [illiam] Douglas P. Hill. London: Oxford University Press 1952. - Prose version with useful introduction.
  • Tulasidasa: Ramcaritmanas. An Indian poem about God's walk on earth . Selected, translated from the Avadhi, with an introduction a. Explanations published by Peter Gaeffke. Stuttgart: Reclam 1975.
  • Tulsi Das: The petition to Ram. Hindi devotional Hymns of the Seventeenth Century . A Translation of Vinaya-patrika with Introduction, Notes and Glossary by FR Allchin.
  • Tulsidas: prayers of a Hindu . Edited and undertaken by Hubert Hänggi. Munich: Diederichs 2010. - A selection of 100 of the 279 poems by Vinaya Patrika .

Individual evidence

  1. Saryupari or Sarwaría; HHRisley: The Tribes and Castes of Bengal. 2 vols. Calcutta: Mukherjee 1998. ND d. EA Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press 1891. Vol. 2, p. 239.
  2. Abbé Dubois: Life and Rites of the Indians. Bielefeld: Reise-Know-How 2002. Part 3, Chapter 7 “The tulasi plant”.
  3. ^ Gonda, Hinduism, p. 175
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: EB 2010. Sv "Tulsidas"
  5. ^ Helmuth von Glasenapp: India. Georg Müller, Munich 1925. p. 45
  6. ^ Gonda, Hinduism, p. 175
  7. Helmuth von Glasenapp: The literatures of India from their beginnings to the present. Athenaion, Potsdam 1929. (Handbuch der Literaturwissenschaft, edited by Oskar Walzel) p. 194.
  8. Since many of the verses of Vinaya Patrika also appear in other poems of Tulsidas, it is possible that this is an anthology by another hand. The work is also no longer written in Avadhi , the language around the former capital Avadh (or Oudh ), an Eastern Hindi dialect, but in Braj-Bhasa , the most common dialect of Bhakti poetry; Peter Gaeffke: Tulsidas . In: KNLL
  9. ^ Gonda, Hinduism, p. 175
  10. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: EB 2010. Sv "Tulsidas"
  11. ^ Albert Schweitzer: Weltanschauung.
  12. "Bihar is so notorious among the Hindus because it was the birthplace and main seat of heretical Buddhism"; Helmuth von Glasenapp: Holy places of India. The pilgrimage sites of the Hindus, Jainas and Buddhists, their legends and their cult. Munich: Georg Müller 1928. (Individual representations of the Indian culture. Edited by Karl Döhring). P. 41.
  13. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: EB 2010. Sv "Tulsidas"
  14. Axel Michaels: The Hinduism. History and present. Munich: Beck 1998. p. 282
  15. http://www.varanasicity.com/tulsi-ghat.html .
  16. For all legends: http://www.dlshq.org/saints/tulsidas.htm and Tulsidas (Amar Chitra Katha, vol. 551).
  17. For the Vishvanath Temple see http://www.varanasicity.com/temples/vishwanath-temple.html ; http://maavindhyavasini.com/kashi_vishwanath/


  • Peter Gaeffke : Tulsidas . In: KNLL Vol. 16 (1991), pp. 820-822.
  • Jan Gonda : The Religions of India II. The younger Hinduism . Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 1963. (The religions of mankind. Vol. 12). Pp. 173-177.
  • Albert Schweitzer : The worldview of the Indian thinkers. Mysticism and ethics . Munich: Beck 2010. (Beck series 332).
  • Helmuth von Glasenapp : The literatures of India from their beginnings to the present . Potsdam: Athenaion 1929. (Handbuch der Literaturwissenschaft. Edited by Oskar Walzel.). P. 194, p. 206 f.
  • Tulsidas . (Amar Chitra Katha. The Glorious Heritage of India. Vol. 551). - From the popular, but seriously researched picture book series.

Web links

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