Famous Personalities of India : Tulsidas
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TULSI DAS (c. 1552-1623). Tulsi Das has been hailed for several hundred years as the greatest of Hindi poets for his composition of Ramcharitmanas, which means "The Spritual Lake of the Acts of Ram" in the vernacular language of the mid-Ganges valley. This verse epic set to music about the god-king Ram and his wife Sita is probably the most frequently read and heard work in modem India. It is chanted and enacted during the autumnal weeks of ram tila or "play of Ram" throughout northern India, especially in Ayodhya where Ram is believed to have been born in human shape, and in Varanasi, stronghold of orthodox Hinduism, where Tulsi Das spent much of his life. Little is known about Tulsi Das's life beyond what he implies himself and the legends recorded in some later hagiographies. He was a brahman who turned to Bhakti, or the path of devotion and mysticism through the name of Ram. He probably incurred the displeasure of orthodox brahmans for his deviance from conventional behavior, and especially for daring to render the Ramayana in the vernacular and so make it available to the common people; the classical Sanskrit of Valmiki was accessible only to learned brahmans. Later on, Tulsi Das was deemed to be an incarnation of Valmiki and an advocate of reformed brahmanism.

Equally important, Tulsi Das was a theological bridge builder, spanning the gap between various communities as well as the deities they revered, notably the Vaishnavas worshipping Krishna) as another avatar (see Glossary) of Vishnu and the Shaivites worshipping Shiva (q.v.) and Parvati, all of whom he showed to be inextricably linked with Ram. Tuisi Das is categorized as a saint of the saguna or "with attributes" school, but his emphasis on Ram nam, or the name of Ram, is similar to that by nirguna or "without attributes" poetsaints as well. In common with other saints of the Bhakti movement, Tulsi Das showed a path to spiritual liberation open to all, irrespective of caste (q.v.), creed, or sex.

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