Today, 30 July, is the birth anniversary of Tulsidas, the great Saint poet of India.
Written in Awadhi, in the 16th century, Tulsidas’ Ram Charita Maanas is considered the ‘bible of the Indo-Gangetic belt’, the heartland of India.
Ram Charit Manas is considered by national and International scholars as one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written in the world.
Tulsidas was a contemporary of Mughal emperor Akbar. But Hindutva forces have generally pitted Tulsidas against Akbar. The reason is that Akbar with his liberal, tolerant and eclectic policies, disturbs the false Sangh narrative of clubbing Mughals and British and talking of 1000 years of ‘Ghulami (slavery)’ of India.
Mughals were Indian Proto-nationalists and circulated India’s wealth within the country, taking India’s GDP to 20% and India’s share in International trade to 22%.
Since the the majority of India’s population was Hindu, Mughal rule, as chronicled in the records of Jat Khaps, Jain literature, Brahmin texts, Christian travelogues, and the account books of big trading families of Rajasthan (Marwaris), Gujarat (Baniyas and Vohras), Bengal and the present-day Uttar Pradesh area, brought peace, security and untold prosperity to the people.
On the other hand, the British de-industrialised India, looted the country’s wealth to finance the English Industrial revolution, brought down India’s share in International trade to 2% and by 1947, India’s growth to negative.
India was on the cusp of its own Industrial revolution in the 18th century. We did not require British intervention to build railways, systems of laws, and all the trappings of ‘modernity’ and democracy. We could have done all this without the trauma of colonialism on our own with healthy results.
In fact, one of the first statements made by UP chief minister, Adityanath Yogi, was regarding Tulsidas and Akbar.
On 25 March, Yogi said in Gorakhpur that Akbar wanted to meet Tulsidas. But the latter rejected the offer, claiming that Ram was the only ‘Emperor’ he recognised. Yogi also called Akbar an invader and anti-Hindu.
Otherwise also, members of Sangh are known to circulate false myths about Akbar imprisoning Tulsidas and what not.
Dr. Ishwari Prasad, the famous historian of the pre-Independence ‘Allahabad school of Indian history’–a school that demolished the pro-colonial, anti-Mughal ‘Bengal school of history’–wrote in his book on the ‘Muslim phase’ of Indian history that Akbar never imprisoned Tulsidas.
For some reason, in contrast to Dr. RP Tripathi, Dr. Tarachand, and Dr. Satish Chandra, the other doyens of the Allahabad school, Sangh hold Dr. Ishwari Prasad in high regard.
But Dr. Prasad rejected the Sangh theory outright.
What Yogi said was humbug
There is evidence that Tulsidas not only met Akbar in Kashi but that through, Abdur Rahim Khanekhana, a Bhakti poet who wrote about Krishna like Tulsidas wrote about Ram, Akbar protected Tulsidas from the wrath of Sankritised scholars.
Tulsidas completed Ram Charit Manas in Kashi. Orthodox forces were outraged by Tulsidas’ attempts to retell and redefine Ram’s tale, written originally by Valmiki in Sanskrit, in Awadhi, the language of the common folk. They tried to even humiliate Tulsidas while also making several attempts to even kill him.
Tulsidas was so annoyed by these attacks that he wrote:
धूत कहौ, अवधूत कहौ, रजपूत कहौ, जोलहा कहौ कोऊ ।
काहूकी बेटीसो बेटा न ब्याहब, काहूकी जाति बिगार न सोऊ॥
तुलसी सरनाम गुलामु है रामको, जाको रुचै सो कहै कछु ओऊ।
माँगि कै खैबौ, मसीतको सोइबो, लैबोको एकु न दैबेको दोऊ॥
“Call me cunning or a heretic; call me Rajput or a weaver; I don’t have to marry my son to someone’s daughter; nor do I want to be in contact with someone whose caste I might pollute; say what you want, Tulsidas is a slave of Ram; I will beg for alms to eat and sleep in a mosque; I don’t have to take or give anyone a farthing.”
Imagine the Brahmin author of the most widely read and recited text of Hinduism is actually complaining about being mistreated by high and powerful, orthodox Hindu. He also goes on to denounce his conservative fellow Brahmins; he refuses to marry his son within caste boundaries; he calls himself a heretic; he almost declares himself as an outcaste; above all, he swears to sleep in a mosque WHILE taking Ram’s name and writing about his lord’s glory.
Now this is explosive
Several scholars have even interpreted that Tulsidas actually wrote Ram Charit Manas while living in a mosque, as this was the only place safe enough for him to survive. It is at this point that Tulsidas came in contact with Rahim Das Khanekhana.
Tulisdas came to know about the strange manner in which Rahim, a Muslim by birth but a devotee of Lord Krishna. While giving alms to the poor, Rahim never looked at the person he was giving alms to, keeping his gaze downwards towards the earth, in extreme humility, rather than look towards the face of alms seekers.
Tulsidas, a great poet himself, wrote the following couplet and sent it to Rahim.
“ऐसी देनी देंन ज्यूँ, कित सीखे हो सैन
ज्यों ज्यों कर ऊंच्यो करो, त्यों त्यों निचे नैन”
“Sir, Where have you learn that peculiar way of giving alms (Why give alms like this)?
As your hands go up (to give alms to others), your eyes start going low staring down)”
Rahim knew Tulsidas well and realised that he is well aware of the reasons and is merely giving him an opportunity to explain it to others who may have the same question in their mind.
In today’s social media context, we could say that Tulsidas was ribbing/trolling Rahim in a friendly manner.
Rahim replied to Tulsidas in extreme humility, completing the couplet which Tulsidas wrote with the following words:
“देनहार कोई और है, भेजत जो दिन रैन
लोग भरम हम पर करे, तासो निचे नैन”
“The Giver is someone else (the God almighty), giving day and night. But the world gives me the credit, unnecessarily, so I lower my eyes in embarrassment.”
Following this exchange, Rahim arranged a meeting between Akbar and Tulsidas. The records of this meeting are kept in the Tulsi museum in Jaipur. I will quote the Hindi text directly from the museum sources translated in English as follows :
“Emperor Akbar and Sant Tulsidas met in Lakkha Mela at Kashi. In the religious town of Kashi, Emperor Akbar also had a look at the exhibition of Naag Natthaiya. The main aim of the Emperor here was to attend the festival and enjoy the good fortune of meeting Goswami Tulsidas. A painting preserved in Jaipur Museum bears witness to this historic moment.
This painting shows Emperor Akbar and Goswami Tulsidas conversing with each other while sitting in two separate boats. This incident took place almost four hundred years ago in 1590 AD. When the Emperor came to Chunar and was drawn towards Tulsi ghat in Kashi, the presence of elephants, horses and other grandiose, royal paraphernalia is enough to prove that the occasion was of the Naag Natthaiya fair. The painter focusses on the conversation between the Emperor and Goswamiji. According to documents, the Emperor had invited Goswamiji to his court. Goswamiji declined the offer politely.
Akbar was so impressed that he decided to meet Goswamiji personally. The painting also tells us that on the day of the meeting Tulsi ghat was dressed up in a festive manner. After studying the painting deeply, Dr. Uday Shankar Dubey, the famous authority on medieval manuscripts, tells us that after this meeting Emperor Akbar ordered Rahim Khanekhana to take Tulsidasji under royal protection and translate Ram Charit Manas in Persian. These documents are preserved in Tulsi museum.”
(Amaresh Misra is an author and views expressed here are his own. Janta Ka Reporter doesn’t necessarily endorse his views)