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Saturday, May 22, 2010


Saint Tulsidas says that he composed the Ramayana for his own satisfaction swantaha sukhai Tulsi Raghunath gatha), but could that be so ? My answer to the question is in the negative. I say so because it is my firm belief that a poet, by virtue of his sensitivity, is deeply affected by the contemporary social life and reality. This basic sensitivity can not be denied even to those poets whose compositions are not rooted in reality, for they would not have been poets at all had they not been endowed with sensitivity. Poets like Tulsidas though apparently seem pre-occupied with the hereafter, this does not mean that the spirit of the times, with all its vices and virtues, was completely absent from their poetry.

In “Ramcharit Manas”, Tulsidas strikes a balance between social and moral values by projecting the concept of an ideal society. His concepts of a king as a protector of the people (lokrakshak) and of an ideal man (maryada purushottam Rama) do not square with his professed indifference to the world. Not only that he criticised the social, economic and the political set-up of his age but he also presented a picture of an ideal, well-knit and orderly society. On the one hand he stands for “Rama Rajya”but on the other he tries to free the low-caste people from the feeling of inferiority by granting Nishad and Shabri a graceful social communion with Rama.Is this not an attempt at social harmony ? An attempt to bridge the gap between different classes of society?

Tulsidas lived in an era of absolute feudalism, yet he makes Sita go through “agni preeksha.” The consort of Rama had to suffer agony in order to prove the charge of an ordinary man of no consequence, and a member of a low caste boot, wrong.Does Tulsidas not want to say that though Rama was a king, he believed in democratic functioning? Does this not carry an implied message of social and political awakening?

Like sensitive poets Tulsidas was also moved by calamities like famine, epidemics, war mass starvation and political oppression. See his following lines:

Kheti na kisan ko bhikari ko na bhekbali

Banik ko banaj na chakar ko chaakri..

Jeevikaviheen log seedyamaan sochvas

Kahen ek ekan son kahan jayi, ka kari.

Two expressions in these lines are significant: bhikari ko na bheekbali(no charty for the beggars) and na chakar ko chaakri (no employment for workers). Famine and epidemics may be divine retribution and they may be beyond man’s control but why one section of the society alone be the victim? The implied social awareness which finds expression in the above lines, leads to an obvious question: if peasants are starving because of famine, why should the moneyed class refuse to share its wealth with them? Tulsidas’s description of the sufferer’s plight is not only explicit criticism of the prevailing political conditions and a protest against oppression but it also reveals the fact that political consciousness existed at that time.

In spite of the fact that Tulsidas speaks of this world as an illusion, his poetry is not altogether devoid of the consciousness of his age. His view of the world that it was an illusion owed its existence to the hopeless political And social conditions of that time. Had he not tried to provide a mirror to society Saint Tulsidas would have failed in discharging his fundamental obligation as a poet.

1 comment:

  1. After some exhaustive research, I have reached to a conclusion that versions of Ramayana exists in many languages, including Annamese, Balinese, Bengali, Cambodian, Chinese, Gujarati, Javanese, Kannada, Kashmiri, Khotanese, Laotian, Malaysian, Marathi, Oriya, Prakrit, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, etc. In Sanskrit itself there are 25 different versions. According to A. K. Ramanujam, more than 300 tellings of Ramayana exist.

    Each has newer dimensions, more fascinating than the other.

    Read them in reverse order here-