8. Political Philosophy of Tulsidas Niraj Kumar Jha – Indian Political Thought, 2nd Edition


Political Philosophy of Tulsidas

Niraj Kumar Jha

Goswami Tulsidas (1497-1623 C.E.), a great devotional poet, did not write on political philosophy per se. Basically, he was a great devotee and rendered the saga of Lord Ram in excellent poetry. The exploits of Ram had originally been narrated in Sanskrit by Valmiki and thereafter have been retold by many enlightened souls at different times and at different places; and even today the retellings of the great saga continue to cut across different mediums of communication. The story espouses the best values of Indian civilization, one of the oldest in the world. The various versions seek to adapt the old values to the needs of time and space; and among them Tulsidas’ rendering, the Ramcharitmanas, stands apart as it is not only the most popular version of the Ram’s saga but even otherwise is the most influential piece of literature in Hindi. In the backdrop of the civilizational unity of India and the ever operating intercultural dialogues within, the greater influence and legacies of this stupendous creation are bound to be far greater than one can visualise. The great poet has put the story in the popular language of Awadhi in a lucid verse which is very easy to recite and understand. The book is thus a great source to understand India, and therefore of its political philosophy too. This chapter seeks to explore his political philosophy through the contemporary idioms.

Tulsi’s writings are the ready reckoner of individual conducts in different familial and social settings, and suggests valuable lessons in public morals. The scope of their application is universal and possesses the genius of guiding humanity even during this age of post-modern perplexity. Camille Bulcke has observed, “The real truth is that Tulsidas is so great a poet as to transcend the barriers of time, country and religion: he is a poet of all humanity.1 For people, his works have already been serving as very effective and practical tools for making sense in their life through all these centuries. He was and has continued to be for three centuries and more, not only the most popular poet of North India but its most powerful moulder of public opinions.”2 He made keen observations and great normative assertions in his great epic, Ramcharitmanas, and in other works; a good number of them are political in nature. His narratives and thoughts, if viewed from a political perspective, offer great understanding of the moorings of India’s political culture. The scholars who find the concepts and methods originating from other civilizations misleading in the Indian context should read Goswami to know India.

There are various accounts and interpretations regarding the date3 and place of Goswami’s birth.4 But as per the most popular account he was born in 14975 at the Rajapur village of Chitrakoot district of present day Uttar Pradesh. Relevant to this study is that Tulsidas was a contemporary of the Mughal emperor Akbar and Jahangir and lived in Avadh, a part of today’s Uttar Pradesh. He had spent a major part of his life in the holy city of Banaras. Vincent Smith finds his works best of his times and him as a figure greater than Akbar. It would be very pertinent to quote Smith in some detail as Tulsidas is hardly reckoned so in social sciences in India. “It is a relief to turn from the triviality and impurity of most of the versifiers in Persian to the virile, pure work of a great Hindu the tallest tree in the ‘magic garden’ of medieval Hindu poetry. His name would not be found in the Āιˉn-i Akbarιˉ, or in the pages of any Muslim analyst, or in the books by European authors based on the narratives of the Persian historians. Yet, that Hindu was the greatest man of his age in India greater than even Akbar himself, inasmuch as the conquest of the hearts and minds of millions of men and women were affected by the poet was an achievement infinitely more lasting and important than any or all of the victories gained in war by the monarch.”6

A large number of works have been accredited to Tulsidas but among them only twelve are considered his authentic works. These are the Vairagya Sandipani, the Ramgya Prashna, the Ramlala Nahacchu, the Janaki Mangal, the Ramcharitmanas, the Parvati Mangal, the Krishna Gitavali, the Gitavali, the Vinay Patrika, the Dohavali, the Baravai Ramayana and the Kavitavali.7 Tulsidas records the date he started writing the Ramcharitmanas, recognized as his magnum opus. It was the ninth day of Chaitra in Samvat 1631, which is the last day of March in the year 1574 A.D. About the book Vincent Smith writes: “The poem is to the Hindus of northern India even more than the Bible is to ordinary British Christians.’’ And he cites Grierson to underscore his point: “In its own country it is supreme above all other literature and exercises an influence which would be difficult to exaggerate.”8 Tulsidas passed away in the year 1623 on the banks of the Ganga in the month of July.

Tulsidas lived in an age of civilizational decadence. The Indic civilization had lost its organic political suzerainty, and the social norms were in disarray. The decline however had set in much earlier. During the earlier medieval period, India had been losing its political vitality and it crumbled under the renewed invasions from across its civilizational faultiness in the twelfth century. The state of society is clearly depicted in the art and literature of the times. During the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries, as historian K.S. Lal notes, there was ‘a life of complacency, confidence, mirth and festivity. Men are bedecked with all kinds of ornaments, women are made divinely beautiful. Our sculptors make innumerable gods and goddesses to tread this happy land like other human beings and every other day is a day of religious festivity. While there is too much on the fine arts, especially architecture and sculpture, mechanical arts are neglected. The plough, the axe, the weaver’s implements are never tried to be improved. Improvement of weapons and strategy of war too hardly seem to have received any attention. The society is inapprehensive of any foreign invasion; the last of the Hunas had occurred centuries ago. The motifs and sculptures in the temples of Khajuraho (in Madhya Pradesh), Bhubaneshwar, Puri and Konark (in Orissa), which are only a few remnants of the age, are enough to bear out this fact. If the art of the time represents the wealth which made its creation possible and the beauty which it manifests, then there were enough attractions for any foreign invader to attack India, while the country was unprepared for any emergency.’9 Qutbuddin Aibak’s conquests in the west and Bakhtiyar Khilji’s successful forays into the east were rather rapid. The invasions were not only military or political but multipronged. They were destroying places of worship; proselytizing people by force, marriage, and through missionary propagation. It is clear that the conqueror had launched his attack on all fronts: territorial through annexations, religious through conversions, social through marriages and abductions, and cultural through iconoclasm.10

The campaign for total proselytization was however not feasible nor was it attempted as the country was too vast and such ruthless campaigns would have gone against the rational motive of establishing a stable empire and relishing in its bounties. Nonetheless, the regime viewed the country as an occupied territory and maintained its foreignness consciously. Historian Abraham Eraly notes, “… even by the eighteenth century, after 500 years of acclimatization, it still remained a hothouse plant which had not sunk its roots into the Indian soil…” The empire was sharply polarized between the ruling class, which was overwhelmingly from the ruling race, and the subject, which was overwhelming native. The former also made up the leisure class and the latter formed the productive class. The Mughal aristocracy was by and large made of Persian immigrants. ‘Everyone looked up to Persians, and the Persians looked down on everyone.’ Indeed the Persians called the shots and regarded the rest, even the Mughals as semibarbarians but whether in the south or in the north, a Muslim, whatever be his race and sect, belonged to the ruling class in Mughal times.11 By and large, the Hindus were treated as congenitally degenerate subjects and made to suffer severe political, social, and economic disabilities. Having lost purpose much earlier, the directionless populace of India suffered in great despondency.

The Mughal amirs lived in great extravagance, obviously with the emperor’s approval. The magnificence of the amirs radiated the grandeur of the emperor for awing the subjects and the adversaries. They lived in huge mansions with their several wives and concubines and armies of servants, dressed in finest clothes with gold and silver embroidery, put on finest jewelry, and relished in the choicest of foods and drinks imported from different countries. The Mughal India was in fact grossly unequal and exploitative. ‘In the reign of Shah Jahan, 36.5 percent of the entire assessed revenue of the empire was assigned to sixty-eight princes and amirs, and a further twenty-five percent to the next 587 officers, so that 61.5 per cent of the total revenue of 220 million rupees of the empire was arrogated by just 655 individuals. The distribution of income was even more unequal in the reign of Akbar, when the top twenty-five took over thirty per cent of the total revenue. The largest share of the revenue of course went to the emperor, whose personal income, from crown lands and tributes, ranged from a minimum of five per cent to a high of twenty-five per cent of the total revenue of the empire.12 The resultant scenario is not difficult to imagine. The people survived on bare minimum and lived half naked in dingy hovels.

Enduring foreign yoke for centuries and having endured disorder preceding that, Indic civilization was in shambles during Goswami’s times. The reign of Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar (23rd November 1542–27th October 1605) was indeed exceptional. He too was a warlike man and military genius but he had in him an extraordinary statesmanship which made him completely different from his ilk of warrior-adventurer type. He could differentiate between conquering the land and founding an empire. Military victories and reign of terror do not make an empire. Out of this wit, grew policies of toleration, efforts of cultural fusion, understanding the nuances of faiths and creeds, employing Hindus to high positions and marrying Hindu princesses etc. Akbar’s was certainly a respite but that was also the age of the consolidation of a very rapacious regime. There was peace and relative relief from ravages and rapines but extractions from the ryots turned out to be enormously high, as it was carried out very methodically. Secondly, the feudal classes connected to the Court were deep in debauchery and the men in the helms indulged in liquor and other intoxications despite religious prohibition and maintained large harems. They exercised power with impunity and inflicted brutal punishments for minor offences.

It has been argued that Goswami carried the imprint of the empire on his Ramrajya and his depiction of the Ram darbar as a reflection of the royal court of Akbar13 This is in fact a total misunderstanding of his writings. His works are above all exhortation for liberation from the decadence of the age. It is not about a grateful subject extolling the virtues of a prudent ruler. The subtext is too clear to be missed. The reading of the text by a devout at once bestows freedom, mental, moral and spiritual, on him.

The pre-eminence of the bhakti-marga, one of the chief characteristics of the life in medieval India, which Tulsidas represented, was largely a response to the unresponsive rule. Girilal Jain does not mince words in highlighting the fact about the bhakti movement in the medieval India that it was basically a form of resistance rather than being an attempt at synthesis or compromise.14 Bhakti is spirituality; it is surrendering of self to the deity. Conceptualization of salvation and associated philosophizing and practices constitute the response to existential crises and anxieties. This is a very human response to mortality, uncertainties and also to the moral debasement, which had periled the civilization from the very beginning. The Indian philosophical traditions have done this with great finesse and categorized three paths of salvation in the main – of knowledge, of action and of devotion. The medieval India was indeed very turbulent. The constant warfare and instability of the earlier medieval period and repeated invasions leading to the subjection of the country during the later period were culturally destabilizing. Turbulent times make brutal forces not only to gain in prestige but also in acquiring general approbation and even veneration. Bhakti was indeed disapproval of the existing as well as an escape from this general debasement and also a commitment to and a call for civilizational redemption. The deity is imagined as the deliverer, enforcer of justice, and personification of joyous excellence, to whom the devotee commits himself in full and thus he resists the aura of the power and pelf of the coercive forces, which might have otherwise overwhelmed his consciousness.

Political Philosophy: A Call for Reconstruction

Tulsidas’ larger concern was the redemption of civilization from utter degradation and chaos. Though he pays homage to his deity through all his works, but in them we find his political mission to the fullest effect. To promote the welfare of the public is one of the chief characteristics of his literary pursuits. Bulcke very admiringly notes, ‘One of his great achievements in life was balance and poise and an utter lack of bitterness. He lost both his parents in his childhood and for a time while still a child, the great poet-to-be had to vie with dogs for his daily bread’. Bulcke cites Tulsi,“I had to hang around near dogs in the hope of snatching chunks of bread thrown to them.” He had nothing but goodwill for everybody and regarded poetry successful only if it promoted happiness all around: “Only that fame, poetry or affluence is good, like the Ganga, which benefits all.”15 One must add that the absence of bitterness on his part is even more remarkable as he had suffered so much personal calumny and was a witness to so much social distress. The generalisations he makes are not barren,non poetic formulations – knowledge for knowledge sake – but they affect the people and in time become part of their nature.

Of the larger narrative of the movement for the resurrection of the Indian civilization from its state of utter despair, Goswami’s literary works constitute the profoundest statement. Tulsidas, in fact, suffered the same pain which Chanakya had felt during ancient times in India and Machiavelli at a close of the medieval age in Italy. Unlike others he had nothing personal to avenge or to gain. He would beg to eat and could find shelter in a mosque.16 Least of all, he was not a seeker of royal favours. It was only his love for his fellow beings and the society which made his heart bleed seeing them suffer. He grieves to see the great civilization periled so abysmally and the people suffering so miserably. He says that the good paths shown by the Vedas and the Puranas have been side-lined in favour of numerous evil practices. The times are difficult, the king is merciless, and the ruling nobility is highly deceitful. The sanatani values are not adhered to and the world is tormented by grief, guilt and deprivation.17

At the root of India’s predicament was its disunity. Tavernier had explained the reason for Indians being under foreign yoke. ‘…that these idolaters have no union among themselves, and that superstition has introduced a strange adversity of opinions and customs that they never agree with one another.’18 The problem was however deeper and was rooted in the Indian philosophy. Hinduism grants full liberty to all the people in their beliefs. This allowed numerous faiths and sects to flourish side by side, the philosophers of all possible inclinations to ruminate freely, and several schools of art to find patronage. But such absolute freedom degenerated into a jumble of faiths and superstitious beliefs when the centralised political authority declined in India. Deities were no less numerous than the populace itself and therefore, proliferated inconceivably diverse ways and objects of worship. Alberuni estimated such deities being 330000 and pointedly added that the crowd was deep in thraldom by all sorts of priestly tricks and deceits. The people so divided by faith, exploited by the priestly class, and the enlightened ones cut off from the people in abstract philosophical speculation could never be mobilised under one flag or banner. For Tulsidas, no task was greater than to enforce some semblance of order.

Tulsidas takes great pain to establish that Lord Ram is none other than the Supreme Being. And all the deities are seen propitiating each other but at the same time among all these deities, Ram is projected as the primus among pares. Goswami’s purpose is thus two fold. He wants first, to bring devotees of all the conflicting sects together and eliminate bickering among them, and secondly, to ensure unity among believers. At the time, Hindus were divided between the Vaishnavites and the Shaivites. In the Ramayana, Lord Shiva is shown in all praises for Lord Ram as the Supreme Being and Lord Ram worshipping Lord Shiva. At once place Ram says that those who oppose Shiva and claim to be My devotee cannot attain Me even in their dreams.19 He denounces all sorts of sects and religious practices and sets forth the Vedas and other ancient scriptures as the standard. And even more importantly he seeks to bridge the gap between the formless God (nirguana) and Gods in form (saguna) by holding them inseparable, so that people can make sense of existence in terms of practices and purpose by following the clearly enunciated examples set forth by the Divine Himself. Here, there is another problem he seeks to resolve. Reappearance of forms in many case degenerated into the same pleasure seeking activities in the divine garb as was the norm in the ruling circles those days. It was only Tulsidas who linked the Form with purpose and made divine relevant to the mundane. His Ram is Maryada Purushottam, the peerless among men in the propriety of conduct. The Divine guides them in their familial and social duties and commands them to action for social good. It would also mean taking to arms if other measures fail.

Goswami’s grand narrative is about the annihilation of the evil incarnate Ravan and his demonic empire and is a tale of a mission accomplished for stopping forever the incessant attacks on the Vedic civilization. The Indian civilization under a foreign regime during Tulsi’s times presented a similar picture. Its civilizational symbols, institutions, pilgrim centres, norms, and mores were under attack or subject to abuse and ridicule. There is an unmistakable resemblance between the portrayal of the tyranny of Ravan by Goswami and the state of affairs during Tulsi’s times. He thus describes the reign of Ravan, ‘By his mighty arm he subdued the whole universe and left no one independent. The king of kings, Ravan, ruled according to his own will. He won by the might of his arms and wedded daughters of gods, demigods, heavenly musicians, human beings, kinnaras and serpent kings.’20 ‘The multitude of demons tormented … in such a way, that dharma could be uprooted, and did all this in opposition to the Veda.21 The extreme outrages the night stalkers perpetrated cannot be described. The sins of those who love violence extremely have ever been limitless.22 As a result ‘the ranks of scoundrels, thieves, and gamblers swelled who lusted other’s wealth and wives.’23 The emperors during Tulsi’s times and earlier had invaded and conquered the land with the might of their arms and prided by being called the king of kings (Shahenshah) and ruled as per their volition without caring for the norms and mores of the subjects they ruled and even the finer values of their own faith. And they indeed married a number of women of different royalties to cement the political alliances, and also married other women and kept a number of sex slaves for pleasure.24 Tulsidas musters this great cultural resource for depicting the crisis of his times and works for the revitalization of society.

Defeat of Lanka is a telling example of the restoration of the rule of dharma. The corpse of Ravan, the demon king of Lanka is sent back to the widowed queen and Vibhishan, the righteous younger brother of Ravan, is coronated as the king. The source of evil is purified and the rule of righteousness is restored. Lord Ram refuses even to enter Lanka, and also the offers of gifts from the new king. The restoration of Lanka to dharma is apparently a narration but in reality is an exhortation. The narrative calls upon people to be at war with evil forces. It is not a war which the Almighty wages on His own strength. This war is a mammoth mobilisation of folks of all sorts for a war against an entrenched, organised, and vicious adversary. The folks wage the war not for the sake of God alone but for the cause of justice and for self-redemption. It is a demonstration of the victory of simplicity over treachery and craftiness. Tulsidas makes the saga a narrative philosophy of civilizational redemption.

Tulsidas needs to prepare his people for a renaissance. In the exercise, he first dispels the hopelessness among the suffering people by assuring them of the divine intervention. He writes, ‘Whenever Dharma declines, and vile, haughty demons proliferate perpetrating all the unspeakable wrongs, and Brahmans, cows, gods, and earth suffer, then the Lord assumes form and the Merciful relieves the virtuous of their pain.’25 When Lord Ram promises by raising his hands that He will rid the earth of all demons26, it was nothing less than a divine assurance. Goswami’s depiction of the extraordinary comeliness and infinite prowess of Lord Ram, beautiful portrayal of His Consort, majesty of His court and capital all draw an imagery which people relate and find themselves in a state of high enthralment. At another place, the poet minces no word in condemning an unworthy ruler. Lord addresses Lakshman so, ‘Under whose reign the beloved subjects suffer, the king certainly deserves hail.’27 Goswami acts, in fact, both manifestly and latently. On the one hand, he enthuses people by telling them about the divine intervention and thus bringing the people out of the state of despair and on the other he solaced people by condemning the regime by telling that such rulers are doomed whose subjects are distressed. Latently, but more significantly he is asserting that the state of decadence and sufferance is not people’s destiny, not an outcome of their past deeds (karma) but that is an imposition against the will of the God. Even more substantially this is also a powerful statement for his people to believe in their agency as the God does not intervene all alone but only leads the things to happen in association with the people. People know from the recital that the God’s mission is a shared mission.

Restoration of the Moral Order

It was a time when India’s traditional norms were in disarray. The central temporal authority was not concerned with protecting or promoting the norms of Dharma as the regime owed its allegiance to a different civilizational worldview and viewed the Indian empire as a trophy for their race. The main objective of the regime was not to work for the commonwealth but to consolidate and expand the empire. They worked hard but for the maximisation of extractions from ryots and used extreme coercion for striking terror among the people in order to thwart any resistance. Tulsidas records this very plainly. ‘In the Kaliyug the uncultured people are kings and the barbarians are emperor. And they only rely on severe penalisation eschewing (other measures of state policy viz.) persuasion, allurement and discrimination.’28 A foreign regime having no affection for the people used excessive force to subdue the subjects and were not at all bothered about the other considerate measures to check the aberrant subjects.

Tulsidas portrays this decadence and disorder in the society. The great traditions of India had lost its authority and the civilization was in a state of anomie. He writes in Dohavali that numerous misleading sects have cropped up and everything has gone against Dharma. Beneficence has escaped to mountains and the auspicious scriptures like Puranas have retreated to forests.29 In such times thieves are considered as ingenious, and robbers are counted as performers; and panegyrists and pimps are favourites of the ruling people. Indiscriminate gluttons are regarded as the philanthropists and the right path is seen as duplicitous.30 These words even find resonance in present times but one may have some idea of times when all good norms had turned upside down. Such a policy had a devastating effect on the civic life. ‘In Kaliyug,’ he notes, ‘dirty minds relate and trade in different ways only to cheat each other by using manipulation, bullying and deceit. As such nobility is laced with arrogance, general conduct is full of duplicity, love is only full of selfishness, and behaviour is whimsical.31 Tulsidas brings forth to the people of his times reeling under the foreign yoke the saga of Ram in a speaking narrative which could unify them, dispel their desperation, instil faith in their worth, and check general moral decay in the society and above all let them regain their humanity. He invokes Lord Ram, the divine incarnate, epitome of virtue and beauty, unparalleled warrior, highly compassionate as a human being or, to be very precise, a personification of the loftiest nobility before the people. His poetic skills make people see Ram and other divinities of the epic as living entities, which they could celebrate, look up for guidance and seek solace from them when in adversity. He lets people feel that they are not orphaned; that they are God’s own people; and they have their worth as the subjects of the Supreme Being. At the outset, he restores his people to the kingdom of Ram, and frees them from the very crippling subject mentality they had been inflicted upon over those centuries.

At the same time the poetry does not lull people to make-believe joys of life; rather it exhorts them for action. It’s the clarion call for the people to believe in their faculty and agency. The poet seeks to reawaken the civilization to its grand image. He does this through all possible means. He writes, recites his poetry to the public and adapts the saga to staging and he organises and directs performances wherever he can. Varanasi is the hub of his activism. Tulsidas, in fact, pioneers a civilizational rediscovery which later during the colonial occupation manifested as nationhood in India. It is no wonder, when the country awoke; it awoke as a civilization to become a nation. It is noteworthy that nations emerged elsewhere as a result of the disintegration of civilizational entities whereas in India, modern nationhood emerged as the political unification of the whole civilization. It was largely Goswami’s contribution that the beginning of his life time and following him till the end that the Indian people, despite being the subjects of the most despotic and unsympathetic regimes, wherein they were looked down upon as degenerate gentiles, could survive as proud people, and practised largely what they considered their dharma and dutifully discharged the obligations of their calling.

Integrated and Inclusive View of Life

The Indians have ever philosophised life from the perspective of cosmic unity. The unknown, unknowable and uncontrollable aspects of existence affects human consciousness in a very profound way, and that in turn decides very substantially the way people live. No accounting of life would be valid if it negates the reality of the role of the transcendental in the human life. The traditional viewing of existence in the Indian philosophy is a holistic one and there is no disharmony or conflict in perceiving and practising the ideas related to the ethereal on one side and the earthy on the other. Tulsidas does view the mundane order having a heavenly blueprint, and presents the blueprint as the universal standard. The ideal state may not be realisable in its perfection but the portrayal of the same inspires people to believe in and act for the universal good. In Goswami’s invocations, the absolute truth and its manifestations are one and the same and by the realisation of and devotion to the same, he firmly asserts, are pathways for the personal salvation as well as for the social good. Human beings are in fact prone to vices and only by being devoted to the Supreme Being can they lead the righteous life.

Goswami views the whole world as a reflection of God and everything being permeated by His presence. He reveres them all, animate or inanimate, recognising them as consisting of Sri Ram. He offers salutations to all with joined palms. He reverences gods, demons, human beings, Nagas, birds, spirits, manes and Gandharvas, Kinnaras and Rakshasas.32 To Goswami, there is no disunity in the creation and there are no binaries to view the world. At the same time he dismisses any distinction between God being formless or having forms. Goswami explains that there are two aspects of God the one unqualified and the other qualified. The Absolute one is latent in existence and the qualified ones are the manifested forms of the same. Both these aspects are unspeakable, unfathomable, without beginning and without parallel. Brahma (God) is one and all-pervading and imperishable. He is all truth, consciousness and a compact means of joy. Though both are inaccessible by themselves, they are easily attainable through their name. Even though such immutable Lord is present in every heart, all beings in this world are nevertheless miserable and unhappy.33 The human beings are, thus, prone to vices in their existential conditions but at the same time they can easily get rid of their evil proclivities by remembering His name. This is thus a message of ecological harmony, universal fraternity, and devotion. Devotion is nothing but the willingness to relate to the ultimate reality or the universal good.


If every person’s heart is an abode of the Supreme Being, none can be degraded on an account of any worldly disability or no one should feel being so. And a soul fulfils himself, as per Goswami’s renderings, by complete devotion to the God. This total devotion to the God is indeed the rejection of any human superior in the social realm. This affirms his abiding faith in egalitarianism. It is only and only the God which is superior to all and no human being as a person can be treated as superior except the preceptors, saints and learned men or women who make one conscious of the Supreme Being. Tulsidas makes it abundantly clear that all devotees are virtuous, sinless, and noble whether they are afflicted, seeking knowledge or wealth or are the enlightened ones.34 This is indeed a pragmatic view of life as seeking personal good or material pursuits are not considered lowly or sinful. Sri Ram speaks to Shabari, a woman and that of the lowliest of low castes that He accepts only the relationship of devotion. One’s caste, kinship, lineage, holy deeds, repute, wealth, power, clan, virtues or adroitness is worthless if the person is devoid of devotion, in the same manner as a cloud is without water.”35 This is the most comprehensive statement of the bases of egalitarianism.

Social Dimension of Devotion

At the same time, this is noteworthy that devotion is not seen as some mystical or transcendental indulgence. The Lord personally teaches nine forms of devotion to Sharbari. These are fellowship with saints; fondness for His stories; service to one’s preceptor; singing His virtues; repeating His name; self-control, humbleness, and persistently performing noble acts; viewing the world instinct with Him but treating saints even greater than the God; being contented and desisting from finding faults with others; and genuine simplicity in dealing with others, and faith in the God and feeling neither exultation nor despondency. Obliviously these nine forms of devotion seek to inculcate high moral values among human beings but their implications run deeper. The divine will call veneration for saints and towards one’s preceptor is basically guiding people towards righteousness and right role models. This is highly pertinent in the modern age too, when people are driven by the glamour of shallow characters and thus weaken the foundations of society. The devotedness to the Supreme Being and repeating His name only make the display of power and wealth on the part of the high and mighty in society irrelevant. By calling for the fondness for His stories, Lord Ram says to learn about the ideals of life which He displays in His incarnation. These are prescriptions for people and society to be at peace and at their best. One should know that these nine forms of devotion known as Navadha Bhakti is, are the crux of the epic in terms of how does devotedness translate in terms of human behaviour where God says that if a person practises even any one of these forms of devotion, then that pleases Him.36 This is the most open and non-sectarian path to the God or to the social good, which Goswami espouses.

Rejection of Caste and Creed Distinctions

Tulsidas not only prescribes but also personally negates all caste and communal segregations or distinctions. In Kavitavali, he says that he is not concerned with anyone’s caste. He will beg for food and can sleep in a mosque. He says he does not want his caste or rank nor he asks others for the same.37 In the larger narrative too, though he demands veneration for the Brahmans as the men of learning, but he emphatically denies caste or racial distinctions. Lord Ram shows equal respect for all those who assemble in His presence. Remarkable is how Jatayu, the king of vultures appears in the narrative. Vultures are considered inauspicious and polluting, but the same vulture is portrayed in this narrative as a holy warrior in the saga. The old vulture valiantly confronts the demon king Ravan retreating to city-kingdom of Lanka with abducted Sita. When Ram and Lakshman find him mortally wounded, the Lord is full of tears and addresses him as tat or father, and after his death, the Lord performs his last rites with his own hands. The vulture, the most unclean carnivore bird, attains salvation in the most glorious way. The message is unmistakable; it is not one’s station but it is only one’s deeds, which counts. And if the Divine teaches anything, it is the sheer irrelevance of the practices of pollution and purity in the society. In the Ramcharitmanas, the Lord addresses three persons as sakha or friend, Guha the Nishad, a forest dweller, Sugriva, the mountain dweller, and Vibhishana, who is from the clan of demons. The narrative of Tulsidas thus defines the divine mandate, i.e., castes and races are not the fundamentals of human existence. The Divine wisdom does not differentiate among humans or even among creatures. The divine mission is a shared mission and every being is recognised as equal in its worth.

Gender Justice

Maina the mother of Parvati laments after the marriage of her daughter to Lord Shiva thus: “Why has God created woman in this world? One who is dependent on the others can never dream of happiness.”38 This statement does not fit exactly in the context. The reunion of Shiva and Goddess Parvati is predestined and is an occasion of perfect bliss, Maina knows it. In fact, it is the poet who makes an emphatic statement lamenting the status of woman in the society. He questions the subjection of women in general and inherently in this, there is a call for women’s liberation. The story of Ahalya gives another powerful message. The poet very consciously deletes the reason for Ahalya’s condemnation but depicts the sorrowfulness of her condemned state. ‘On the way they saw a hermitage without bird, beast or any other living creature. Observing a slab of stone lying there the Lord inquired of the sage about it, and the latter in reply told Him in detail the whole story behind it.’39 But Tulisdas allows the sage only to say this – ‘Gautama’s consort, having assumed the form of a stone under a curse, seeks with patience the dust of Your feet; show mercy to her, O Hero of Raghu’s race.’40 She is resurrected to her human form and she also justifies her husband in pronouncing curse on her. And blessed by the Lord she returns to her husband.41 The emancipation of Ahalya is a powerful message of how the woman folk deserve to be treated even when they may be apparently at fault.

Tulsidas has however been decried endlessly for the second part of a chaupai in the Ramcharitmanas, which says that a drum, a rustic, a shudra (low caste person), a beast, and a woman deserve coercion.42 But a careful reading clearly shows that the same has been said by Samudra, the sea, using them as metaphors for five panch bhoota, the five basic elements, the ether, air, fire, water, and earth respectively. Ram had prayed to the sea seeking passage in order to reach Lanka but when his prayers fall to deaf ears, filled with rage, he aims his arrow at the sea with the intent of drying it. Shaken Samudra appears before the God in the guise of a Brahman and seeking forgiveness says that these panch bhootas are inert by nature and only under the spell of Maya (cosmic energy) as inspired by the Lord they are brought together for creation. Since he represents panch bhoota being water and being an inert element could not act on his own, which is why his property is fixed by the Lord himself. The coercion has been used in the context of creation.43 Here, drum as a source of sound represents the sky as it creates sounds form emptiness. A rustic or peasant has been equated to air as the air brings water to irrigate land. A shudra or worker is like fire who exhausts all his energies to serve others. A beast is like water which is used in productive activities. And woman is the best simile for the mother earth. But does the poet justify the sufferance of the drum, which is again a symbol of ecology being made of wood, string and leather and symbolises culture by its usage; the peasants, the workers, the beasts or the women? It is exactly the opposite. It is rather recognition of their contribution and denouncement of the way they are treated. One must remember that all the five elements are worshipped as holy entities. Goswami’s compassion encompasses not only the sufferings of the human beings but also of all the living beings and the inanimate objects.44

Here, this should also be noted that Tulsidas emphatically prescribes monogamy. All these are indeed very revolutionary ideas as they starkly contrast to the prevailing practices. The women in his times were only appendages in a man’s world and had no life of their own. Even among the people of the lowest stratum of society, where gender disparity was irrelevant, the life of women was bleaker as they, undernourished and health broken with intermittent childbearing, had to drudge endlessly at home and had to work outside too, to eke out a living. In the upper stratum too, the life of women was empty of any worth as their whole life was spent in banalities within the four walls of home. No wonder the polygamy was widely prevalent in Mughal India. Akbar himself had married about three hundred women.45 While the men had all the leeway in terms of keeping any number of wives, concubines, and sex slaves as they could afford and could access brothels regulated and taxed by the regime, the women did maintain or was forced to maintain fidelity, and any stance of their actual or supposed lapse in their conduct whether voluntary or under compulsion was treated as an unpardonable sin or crime. In this sense, the women were valued not as women but inviolable objects of pride or repute of the family or clan, not to be seen and not to be heard by others. This was a double whammy for women, which literally confined women to their homes, and under any sort of threat they were treated as the worst liability. In such a scenario, the female infanticide and the honour killing or suicide was the unquestionable norm. Tulsidas in such a scenario exhorts for women’s liberation, forgiveness for errant women, and equality of status for all women. Goswami is indeed a forerunner of women’s liberation.

Secularization and Humanization of the Divine

Personification of Ram, his incarnation as a human being, who is the subject to the trials and tribulations of a human life, and his exploits as a human Being is the secularization and humanization of the values that he represents. This is the makeover of the mystical to the worldly reality and is also the prioritisation of the mundane over the celestial. Goswami, thus, converts the Supreme Being in to the human form and humanises Godhood in human form. This is in a sense, was also the secularization of the Divine. However, the larger picture is the seamlessness in conceptualizing the temporal and the heavenly, the nonexistence of the binary, which distinguishes the Indian philosophy from the West which was violent and took centuries in its transition to the modern secular age.

Bulcke also testifies Goswami’s secular concerns. He writes that Tulsidas firmly believed that man attained happiness only if his actions were in accord with the will of the almighty and yet he believed morality to be the foundation of religion and held that the true measure of love for God was man’s behaviour towards man.46 Goswami conceptualises religion in terms of its social involvement. Tulsi is very anxious to remind his readers again and again that however ardent one may be towards his devotion to God, the touchstone of true devotion is the attitude to fellowmen.47 Ram says to Bharat that there is no act of morality superior than doing good to others and there is nothing more sinful than causing pain to others.48 There cannot be a clearer exposition of secularism, i.e., prioritisation of the mundane over heavenly. This has been reiterated many times. The guru of gods addresses Indra: “Ram’s devotees are forever engaged in doing good to others, sorrowful in other’s pain, and compassionate. And Bharat is the crest jewel of devotees; therefore, be not afraid of him. O, king of Gods.”49 Moreover, when the God condemns those who lust after other’s wives, wealth, or slanders others; the purpose of invocation is unmistakably this-worldly.50 And almost near the end among the reiteration this is stated with a rather rare emphasis: There is no misery in this world as terrible as poverty.51 This may sound logically incoherent. But Goswami’s gospel is the secularization of faith and the sole purpose of this secularisation is the universal good. More uniquely, while the Western secularism was the assertion of the supremacy of the ruler on the earth, Gowami’s secularism seeks the welfare of people through social cooperation.

State and Its Policy

Though Goswami’s concerns are civilizational and universal, yet they contain the most specifics of political philosophy in detail. David Miller defines political philosophy as “an investigation into the nature, causes and effects of good and bad government … three ideas that stand at the very heart of the subject. The first is that good and bad government profoundly affects the quality of human lives. …the second idea is that the form our government takes is not predetermined: we have a choice to make. …the third ideas is that we can know what distinguishes good government from bad: we can trace the effects of different forms of government, and we can learn what qualities go to make up the best form of government.”52 Tulsidas is intensely aware of the impact of the good and the bad rule on society. In fact, this awareness and its articulations are the crux of political philosophy as indicated above. Tulsidas says that as fresh and pure air smells foul or fragrant as per its bad or good contact, so in the same manner times are affected by the quality of the king.53 He also holds that misrule destroys benevolence, righteousness, happiness, and prosperity in the society.54

Tulsidas conceptualizes an organic state, wherein there is no disharmony and no exploitation. He holds sovereign, minister, allies, treasury, dominion, fortress and army as the limb of the state. Ideally, he reiterates, the king and his associates take care of the people as their own kin and the people in turn obey and respect the regime. He writes, ‘The king is like the stomach, the minister is like the tongue, and other royal employees are like the teeth. As the teeth and the tongue masticate and push the food to the stomach and the stomach in turn extracts the juice and nourishes all the organs with the same, so in the same manner the king’s minister and his men discharge their duties and the king feeds and takes care of them all. The army of personnel and the foot soldiers are like the king’s limbs. The hands and feet protect the belly and the belly in turn sustains the limbs. The king is like parents, who rear up his entire subject as his children.55 In another couplet, Tulsidas says that a good head (king) should be like the mouth, which is the only organ which intakes food and water but nourishes all the organs of the body judicially.”56

Tulsi’s state is not only an organic state but a welfare state. He enunciates that a king who combines the virtues of those of a gardener, the sun, and a farmer, may be found only by the good fortune of the subjects.57 Like a gardener who tends the plants, keeps them clear of weeds and prunes them to have them in order, a good king nurtures his subjects and maintains orderliness; like the sun, which evaporates water from the seas imperceptivity and produces rain in an ample manner to nourish the vegetation without discrimination, a good king taxes the subjects continuously but very marginally so as to not cause pain but helps the subjects generously in times of need; and like a peasant who carefully sows the seeds, cares for the crop and harvests the crop when it is ready, a good king enables the people to do their job unimpeded and taxes them when they are ready to pay. He further elaborates about the need of prudence in taxing people. When the sun extracts water from the water bodies (through evaporation), no one knows about it but when the sun causes rain with the same water, everyone becomes happy. In the same way, the people of a kingdom are fortunate if they have a king who like the sun collects taxes so marginally that it is not even noticed and supports the subjects with the same revenue to serve their need.58 Tulsidas goes on to elaborate in detail when and how to tax the peasants. First, they must be prepared to pay taxes. It means that they have already reaped their harvests and they are not passing through bad times. Secondly, the extraction must be policy based and moderate. Lastly, coercion should be the last resort for collecting such taxes.59 He also says that a good king spends all his revenue for the welfare of his subjects, like the sun which collects water but returns all that in the form of rains.60

He also counsels the emperor and the aristocracy in many ways. He says that the servants are more oppressive than the master; therefore the king should take personal care of his subjects.61 The king must rule with judicious orders, selfless policies, and strict enforcement of laws, even by applying force if needed, so that the people fear to deviate from the path of nobility.62 A king only by handing over his subjects, aristocracy, palace, his body, wealth, conduct and military and level headed ministers can live in peace.63 Goswami hereby means that the different departments of the governance should be handed over to the ministers, so that the king can rule efficiently. But he also warns that if the minister, physician, and preceptor speaks only to please whether out of fear or greed; the dominion, health and righteous get speedily spoilt.64 Tulsidas cautions the rulers and observers that one must not be misled by the great praise the rulers receive from the subjects. Such approbation form an undiscerning public comes from their herd mentality. But this false approbation makes the person arrogant and the fool loses his bearing.65 The herd mentality he explains by giving the example of the Hindus thronging the mausoleum of Ghazi Masud at Baharaich in the hope of miraculous cures without knowing of any evidence of the same. He asks which blind person got his vision, and which barren woman got a son, and which leper recovered his undeformed body after visiting Baharaich?66 Goswami’s words cautions the ruler and the ruled and appeal for the exercise of discretion but the significance of these words is more in the context of present day democratic regimes. A well informed and discerning citizenry can only guarantee social good. At one place Lord Ram, the omniscient God, addresses his subjects thus: ‘If I speak something unreasonable, my brethren, you stop Me not knowing any fear.’ This is how a God Himself as the King speaks.’67 Thus Tulsidas sanctifies dissent and citizens’ right to question the ruler. This is also a guarantee of individual autonomy. This is a very important assertion or enunciation in pre-modern times.

The significance of a very comprehensive coverage of political philosophy by Tulisdas is multiplied not only by the fact that these precepts transcend time and space but by the more pertinent issue that they address the political crises of the times with great exactitude. Most of the times, his precepts define the desirables in contrast to the existing realities. To start with, the empire and kingdoms then were anything but organic. It is clear that as far as the Mughal Empire was concerned that the rulers and the ruled were separated by race, language, and religion, but during those times the separation was rather the universal norm. ‘The people had no loyalty towards their rulers, and the rulers had no regards for their subjects. The people were prey, the rulers predator.’ Moreover, all the rulers then, the Mughals included, were autocrats. Akbar too, for all his liberalism, was an absolute autocrat. He inducted Hindus in his administration but he did not share power with them or anybody else. His nobles were only his servants and he did not depend on them. Rather, they were dependent on him.68 All the courtiers and officers of the empire resorted to profuse adulation of the emperor as not only their livelihood but their lives depended on his pleasure. They treated the emperor as zill-i-subhani, the shadow of god. In the same vein all the superiors expected the same servility from subordinates. Such culture permeated to the bottom of the hierarchical rule and obviously the commoners fared worst at the receiving end. Goswami’s words must be appreciated in the light of this context, and for the reason that these have not become redundant. The culture of patron-client relationship and sycophancy continues to torment the society.

In the same way when the poet advises the king to handover administrative responsibilities to the able ministers, supervise his administration and keep a check on his servants, he was pointing to a major problem of the Mughal rule. Eraly writes, “… his subjects suffered brutal oppression, though the fault was more in the system – and the tyranny of officials – than in the arbitrariness of the emperor. … The Mughal emperor did not have the administrative means to control his vast empire effectively and ensure good government. Nor was it a priority with him to have that kind of control – he was alert to the development’s that threatened his throne or curtailed his power, but the sufferings of the people were a subsidiary concern for him.”69

Tulsidas very elaborately dwells on the need of moderation in revenue collection. The Mughal extractions were exorbitant and a huge sum out were spent on the luxuries of the sultan and the amirs. The peasants were fleeced without taking in consideration their ability to pay. Tulsidas notes down the pitiable state of affairs. “Peasants are deprived of farming, beggars do not get alms, traders are without business and menials do not get job. People deprived of livelihood ask each other with grief and sorrow, where to go, what to do?”70 A contemporary traveller confirms. “When I was travelling in [India] … I wondered whence such large sums [as accumulated by rulers] could be obtained, for the people are very poor and live miserably.”71 Tulsidas speaks of the political tragedy of his times and points to the people that this is not the political norm. He portrays the utopia of an ideal state, which is just opposite of the gloomy state of affairs present then.

Ramarajya or the Ideal State

Tulsidas portrayed Rama’s reign in Ayodhya, or Ramarajya in exquisite detail. This state of perfect bliss happened at once with the coronation of the Lord by virtue of His divine presence. After all, it was the reign of the Supreme Being with His Consort, Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. In other words this was a state of perfection, which is not possible in human life but the description of the ideal state does serve as a very powerful utopia, though unattainable but gives very practical ideas of leading life to the possible perfection. The ideation of Ramarajya above all speaks of the human good, a life of love, compassion, peace and prosperity. And herein we find some intricate ideas of citizenship, personal conduct of individual citizens and the virtuous civic life. The remarkable thing about the depiction is the interdependence of the private and the public virtues. In this stance the personal is political, which the feminists have asserted only very late in modern age, and also in addition we have political as well as personal. This is the vital distinction of the Indian ideation of politics is that both personal and public/political merges into the general order of Dharma, and with all bound by Dharma, the public sphere does not remain an arena for power struggle but a sacred area for fulfilling one’s public duties.

The description of the Ramarajya at the onset says that everyone was devoted to his Varnashrama Dharma and the obligations of the stage of his life, and followed the path of Vedas. And by doing so they lived happily, free of fear, sorrow, and diseases in the Ramarajya.72 This is an exhortation to everyone for being proud of and devoted to one’s calling and fulfilling the personal obligations as per one’s station in life cycle. This position of Tulsidas should not be equated with the pre-modern Western justification of the oppressive and iniquitous social relations in the name of God. The duties as per one’s estate and life stage were guided by Dharma and it does not sustain any form of exploitation and degradation. The Vedas, after all, teaches harmony – among human beings and between nature and human species. The adherence to the Vedas is adherence to the knowledge and its exploration.

Tulsidas goes on to say that the subjects of Ramarajya did not suffer from any affliction whether physical, supernatural or those caused by fellow human beings. And in the course he enunciates something of great value when he says that no one was destitute, afflicted or miserable; none was stupid or devoid of auspicious marks. All were humble, dutiful and virtuous; and all, men and women, were skilled and accomplished. Everyone recognised the merits of others and was learned and wise; and all showed gratefulness for the services rendered to them bereft of guile or deceit.73 Very clearly, Goswami rejects all caste or community related taboos, disabilities or segregations. The fundamental of this egalitarianism is the universal spread of learning or education. And of course, every vocation is recognised and respected. This is an order of morality and the ideal of citizenship, where all distinctions cease and all get imbued with the spirit of commonweal. This is also a call for an order which cares for all and the order is itself a creation of the goodwill of all. This is an order, which does not prescribe authoritarianism of any sort, even a democratic authoritarianism.

In the Ramarajya nobody suffered. Goswami extols the kindness of his Lord but at the same time he presents an ideal for all the regimes and makes it clear that the human sufferance is not the substance of the divine will. And all men and women with their innate goodness are capable of realising the divine rule on Earth. Tulsidas says that in the Ramarajya all were generous and beneficent; men and women were devoted to the feet of the Brahmanas. Every husband was pledged to a vow of monogamy and the wives too were devoted to their husband in thought, word, and deed.74 In this enunciation the personal indeed becomes political in its own way. The fact is that the conjugal relations form the foundation of both society and civilization. This has been the remarkable purity and sacredness of the conjugal relations in India, which has sustained it through very adverse times in its history. Equally important in the same context is India’s veneration for knowledge, which a particular class pursued as its vocation. They preserved, pursued, and disseminated knowledge while living austerely and penancingly all the time.

Among the ideals of the civic life is the opulence which people enjoyed in the Ramarajya. The markets were splendid beyond description where the cloth merchants, bankers and others sat at their shops like the Gods of riches. All men and women, children and aged folk alike were happy, all of good conduct and comely in appearance.75 Thus Goswami visualises egalitarianism in opulence. This absence of social distinctions is amply confirmed by the bathing arrangement in the city of Ayodya as the Royal Ghat at the bank of the river Sarayu was used for bathing by the men of all castes and there was another ghat for all the women.76 Danda and bheda, i.e., penalisation and discretion, were unheard of and domination was not sought. Gowami says that the word conquer was heard only in relation to mind in the realm of Ramachandra.77 In the light of such blissful rule such vices as ignorance, lust, anger, jealousy, pride, infatuation, and arrogance had simply vanished. This ambience of piety led knowledge and wisdom to flourish, and happiness, contentment, dispassion, and discernment replaced sorrow.78 Tulsidas thus portrays the kingly exemplar as the Divine Will. He makes this abundantly clear when he says that the same Brahma who is beyond all knowledge, speech and sense-perception, nay, who is unborn and transcends the illusive material world (Māyā), the mind, and the existential manifestations, knowledge and bliss solidified, exhibited the ideal behaviour of a human being.79

And very pertinently, the Ramarajya despite being the rule of the Almighty is a rejection of statism. The Rajya (state) is the upholder of Dharma, which calls upon every person to perform his duty religiously and at the same time ensures everyone to be at his best. In this order, all people, notwithstanding the divisions of their calling or station, partake in the affairs of the commonwealth for the commonweal. The abstraction of Dharma in fact precedes the rule of law but in far more advance form. The rule of law ensures that the laws, and not any person or a group of persons, reign supreme and no matter how higher a position a person may command, the law is above that person. In the same sense, the norms of Dharma are held as superior to every being. Even the Supreme Being, though He is regarded as the originator and protector of Dharma, is not considered above the norms of Dharma. But Dharma functions not mechanically but organically in the society unlike the rule of law. The order of Dharma emanates from the mutual fulfillment of obligations, and functions with the force of voluntarism and age-old norms of morality. The elements of coercion and the clearly enacted laws though have a role in this order but they do not make its core. Here it would be pertinent to mention that the Indian civilization survived almost a millennium of subjugation and subversion, and continues to uphold civility in society despite the deprivations of the multitude and the dysfunctionality of the public agencies only because of the vestiges of the ancient Dharmik traditions of India, which Tulisdas restored with such great skills.

As per Goswami’s depiction, the Ramarajya is an order of morality under the stewardship of the Divine Himself and thus Goswami provides a picture of an ideal commonwealth. And in such a utopia, Mahatma Gandhi finds the liberation of his countrymen. “By political independence I do not mean an imitation to the British House of commons, or the soviet rule of Russia or the Fascist rule of Italy or the Nazi rule of Germany. They have systems suited to their genius. We must have ours suited to ours. What can be is more than I can tell. I have described it as Ramarajya, i.e., sovereignty of the people based on pure moral authority.”80 He defines Ramarajya as Divine Raj, the Kingdom of God. And for him there is no other God than God of truth and righteousness. He says that the ancient ideal of Ramarajya is undoubtedly one of the true forms of democracy in which the meanest citizen could be sure of swift justice without an elaborate and costly procedure.81

One should never forget that it is only the faith in human good that primarily brings human beings into any meaningful association. At present the world has advanced into cyber space but only paranoia and distrust overwhelms everyone’s consciousness, the faith in the essential human goodness needs to be restored. The individual goodness and the collective resolve for common good can only coexist; one without the other is bound to wither. This is a substantial philosophy, the philosophy of Tulsidas.


Tulsidas in his philosophy very profoundly addressed the crisis of his times, and in the course of his reviewing of the civilizational norms, bequeathed some lasting and eminently substantial legacies. An apparent testimony of his immense influence of his works is that several of his sayings still trend in the society as the most popular idioms. He, by his renderings, provided his people with very profound spiritual and intellectual knowledge, which helped them to redeem their esteem and provided them a manual of morals. And the beauty of the great endeavour was that the knowledge was organic, ‘sanatani’. It worked on its inherent strength amongst the masses who were alienated from the sources of their ancient learning, were tormented by the fleecing agents of the state, and lived amidst all sorts of thugs and marauders. Their wretchedness was only matched by the pomp and show, blatant gluttony, and shameless debauchery of the royalties and their agents. Amidst such deprivations in general and the depravity of the reigning people in particular, there proliferated numerous sects and orders which disallowed any sense of order or purpose in social life. In those trying times people needed comprehensible, honest and appealing intellectual resources in order to sustain their faith and find their path amidst the cacophony of sects and their confusing conjectures. Goswami emerged as a colossus to rescue his people from such a deep morass.

Tulsidas firmly rejected the social divisions in the society and bestowed dignity and worth of all the people irrespective of their caste or station. Ram came to personify the civilization and its values. More specifically, he presented a utopia wherein there was no social degradation or deprivation, and all the people were well versed, and recognised each other’s contribution and worth; he propagated Dharma as the highest value which was a far more advanced form of the rule of law; he championed social and gender justice; and provided some very useful lessons for the state policy. The success of Indian democracy appears very perplexing to the political science observers as Indian democracy flourishes amidst conditions like rampant poverty and illiteracy, prevalence of conflicting faiths and ideologies, and bewildering diversities of cultures, languages and terrain, which are most unsuitable for democracy even to germinate. When the larger part of the world, the countries of the first and the second world included, still have to tackle the absence or floundering of democracy, India, a third world nation, is a shining example of ever deepening democracy. What works in India’s favour is mostly the legacies bequeathed by its numerous saints and philosophers over the ages, among whom Goswami indeed commands a towering position. In fact Tulsidas was the precursor of Mohandas. It was Goswami who reawakened the civilization to life and Gandhi, his worthiest successor, reinvented the civilization as a nation.

Notes and References

  1. Father Dr. Camille Bulcke, Rāmakathā and Other Essays, Ed. Dr. Dineshwar Prasad (New Delhi, Patna: Vani Prakashan, 2010), p. 141.
  2. Bulcke, p. 143.
  3. No exact date of his birth is recorded anywhere. H. H. Wilson in one of his papers noted that Tulsidas commenced his version of the Ramayana in the Samvat 1561 when he was thirty one year of age. This means he was born in Samvat 1600 (1543 AD). Shiva Singh Sengar in his Shiva Singh Saroj notes his year of birth Samvat 1589, i.e., 1532 AD. Pandit Ram Sharan, Sant Tulsidas: Saintly Voice that Glorified Lord Rama (Delhi: Vijay Goel, 2008), p. 22.
  4. Controversies still raise over the birthplace of Tulsidas as people of three places claim this glory — Rajapur in Chitrakoot, Soron in Etah and Sukarkhet in Gonda. Deepak Geedwani, “In UP, row erupts over Tulsidas Birthplace,” DNA, Lucknow, 19th December 2012.
  5. Philip Lutgendorf, trans., Introduction, Tulsidas, The Epic of Ram, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, London: Murty Classical Library of India, Harvard University Press, 2016), p. viii.
  6. Vincent A. Smith, Akbar: The Great Mogul (Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1917), p. 417.
  7. Sharan, p. 41.
  8. Smith, p. 419.
  9. K.S. Lal, Studies in Medieval History (Delhi: Ranjit Printers and Publishers, 1966), pp. 117–118.
  10. Ibid., p.113.
  11. Abraham Eraly, The Mughal World (New Delhi: Penguin books, 2007), pp. 23–25.
  12. Ibid., p. 166.
  13. Sharan, p. 16.
  14. Girilal Jain, The Hindu Phenomenon, Ed. Meenakshi Jain (New Delhi: UBSPD, 1994),p.5.
  15. Bulcke, pp. 141–142
  16. He clearly pronounces so in Kavitavali (7.106–107).
  17. Kavitavali 7.85.
  18. Jean Baptiste Tavernier, Travels in India (1676), 2ndedn, vol. 2, tr. V. Ball, ed. William Crooke, (rpt. Delhi: Low Price Publications, 2007), pp. 141–142.
  19. Mānas 6.1.4.
  20. Mānas 1.182 (A) and (B).
  21. Mānas 1.182.2–3.
  22. Mānas 1.183.
  23. Mānas 1.183.1.
  24. The Mughals kept a number of women tied to their bed as wives, concubines and slave girls and many of them had been married off to them as part of political alliance. Among the duly married wives of Akbar, one was the wife of Abu’l Wasi, who was forced to divorce her husband to let Akbar marry her. R. Nath, Private Life of the Mughals of India (New Delhi: Rupa, 2005), pp. 28–29.
  25. Mānas 1.120d.3–4.
  26. Mānas 3.9.
  27. Mānas 2.70.3.
  28. Dohavali 559.
  29. Dohavali 556.
  30. Dohavali 549.
  31. Dohavali 547.
  32. Mānas 1. 7 (C)–(D).
  33. Mānas 1.22.1,
  34. Mānas 1.21.3.
  35. Mānas 3.34.2–3.
  36. Mānas 3.34.4,35, 35.1–3.
  37. Kavitavali 7.106–107.
  38. Mānas 1.101.3.
  39. Mānas 1. 209.6.
  40. Mānas 1.210
  41. Mānas 1.210.3.
  42. Mānas 5.58.3.
  43. Mānas 5.58.1–4.
  44. The details of the thesis can be seen in Niraj Kumar Jha, “Dhol Gawar Sudra Pasu Nari: Ramcharitmanas ke Samudra Prasang ka Vrihattar Sandarbh aur Sarokar,” Rachana, no. 110, September-October, 2014, pp. 31–41.
  45. Eraly, pp. 147–150.
  46. Bulcke, 142.
  47. Ibid., p. 149.
  48. Mānas 7.40.1.
  49. Mānas 2.219.
  50. Mānas 39.
  51. Mānas 120 A-B. 7.
  52. David Miller, Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2003), pp. 2–3.
  53. Dohavali 505.
  54. Dohavali 513.
  55. Dohavali 525.
  56. Dohavali 522, Mānas 2.315.
  57. Dohavali 507.
  58. Dohavali 508.
  59. Dohavali 509–512.
  60. Dohavali 504.
  61. Dohavali 501.
  62. Dohavali 506.
  63. Dohavali 521.
  64. Dohavali 524, Mānas 5.37.
  65. Dohavali 495.
  66. Dohavali 496. The visited place in Baharaich, a town near Ayodhya, is the mausoleum of Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud, a Ghaznavid army general who had invaded India in early 11th century to propagate Islam. He was killed at Baharaich in a battle against the defending alliance of Hindu rulers of the region. He was buried at the place of a Hindu shrine destroyed on his orders earlier.
  67. Mānas 7.42.3.
  68. Eraly, 221, 223.
  69. Ibid., 224
  70. Kavitavali 7.97.
  71. Pieter van den Broecke as quoted in Eraly, p.167.
  72. Mānas 7.20.
  73. Mānas 7.20.1, 3, 4.
  74. Mānas 7.21.4.
  75. Mānas 7.27.5.
  76. Mānas 7.28.1,2.
  77. Mānas 7.22.
  78. Mānas 7.30. 1–4.
  79. Mānas 7.25.
  80. Harijan , 2-1-1937, p. 374, http://www.mkgandhi.org/momgandhi/chap67.htm, as accessed on 9th March 2017 at 2pm IST.
  81. Young India, 19th September 1929, p. 305, http://www.mkgandhi.org/momgandhi/chap67.htm, as accessed on 9th March 2017 at 2:30 pm IST.Eque voluptio. Acea nihilis alitium anis rese post fugiam ver