Nagasaki, Hiroko: Encounter with the Hagiographies of the Poet-Saint Tulsīdās, in Bornet, Philippe und Cattoni, Nadia (Hrsg.): Significant Others, Significant Encounters: Essays on South Asian History and Literature, Heidelberg: Heidelberg Asian Studies Publishing, 2023, S. 221–235. https://doi.org/10.11588/hasp.1155.c16221

Identifier (Buch)

ISBN 978-3-948791-50-6 (PDF)
ISBN 978-3-948791-51-3 (Hardcover)




Hiroko Nagasaki

Encounter with the Hagiographies of the Poet-Saint Tulsīdās

This chapter investigates how Tulsīdās, a poet-saint devoted to Rāma living in sixteenth-century North India, was portrayed in the hagiographies of different periods and how his image changed over time. Nābhādās, an author of one of the early hagiographies, the Bhaktamāl, described him as an incarnation of Vālmīki and a sincere devotee of Rāma. Priyādās provides further details in his commentary on the Bhaktamāl. Several legends that circulate today about Tulsīdās are based on Priyādās’s commentary. However, the provenance of the other legends is unclear. The Mūl Gosāī Carit, composed of a surprisingly large number of episodes, might be one of the sources of those legends. The author of the Mūl Gosāī Carit, Beṇī Mādhav Dās (Bhavānīdās), claimed to be a direct disciple of Tulsīdās, and the alleged year of the composition of this work is 1687 in Vikram Saṁvat (1630 CE), only seven years after Tulsīdās’s death. The life of Tulsīdās as told in the Mūl Gosāī Carit abounds in miraculous events; Tulsīdās was a great traveller, could appease ghosts, could bring back the dead, and lived to be 126 years old. The respect for the underprivileged, especially women and people of the lower castes, that is found in the Mūl Gosāī Carit sounds more modern than the date of composition would imply. One of the reasons behind this might be to avert criticism regarding the controversial line in the Rāmacaritamānas in which Tulsīdās is said to have discriminated against women and śūdras. To counteract criticism of this line, the Mūl Gosāī Carit might have had Tulsīdās save more women and lower-caste peoples with his miracles than is depicted in the Bhaktirasabodhinī.

Keywords Tulsidas, Hagiography, Mul Gosai Carit, Ramacaritamanas, Beni Madhav Das, Hindu Pilgrimage sites