Bhakti, as an intense longing for God, is an existential fact. It is ever present at a deep level within us. Time and again mahatmas come and wake us up to the truth of this already existing wealth within us, our possession, our birthright, which we must strive to reclaim. Sant Tulsidas was one such mahatma whose heart melted in the white heat of love for God, whose pure, home-spun, and simple longing for God was to show direction not only to a few individuals, but to humankind at large; not only to one particular nation, but also across all borders; not only for a decade or two, but for centuries. Such saints do not direct just a small number of persons but wake up the divine consciousness in all humanity.
In sixteenth-century Rajapur—about 200 km east of Allahabad—in the Banda district of Uttar
Pradesh, there lived a rather gullible brahmana couple: Atmaram Dube and Hulsi Devi. The year was 1532. One day, at a somewhat inauspicious moment, was born to them a male child. Even at this happy moment the mother was frightened. Born after twelve months of gestation, the baby was rather large and had a full complement of teeth! Under which unfortunate star this child was born is not known for certain. But it is believed that it was the asterism mula that was on the ascent then—a period of time known as abhuktamula. According to the then popular belief, a child born during abhuktamula was destined to bring death to its parents. The only remedy, it was believed, was for the parents to abandon the child at birth—or at least not to look at it for the first eight years!
The utterly poor father had nothing in his house for the celebration of the child’s birth or for the naming ceremony. Meanwhile, the mother died. Weighed down by circumstances and superstition, the father abandoned the child. Chuniya, the mother-in-law of the midwife who had helped during the birth of the child, wet-nursed him. Such was the child’s fate that Chuniya too died after five years and he was left wandering,
looking for morsels of food here and there, taking occasional shelter at a Hanuman temple. This was the boy who would later be recognized as Sant Tulsidas and excite bhakti en masse with his soulstirring couplets. Biographical Sources The penchant of saints for self-abnegation and their aversion to renown and recognition make it difficult for biographers to obtain details about their lives. This is also true of Tulsidas. Benimadhavdas, a contemporary of Tulsidas, wrote two different biographies: Gosai Charit and Mula Gosai Charit, the latter including more incidents. However, these books are full of fanciful details; they also contradict each other and the biographies written by others. Tulsi Charit, a large volume of undated origin, was written by Raghuvardas. Although this work contains a lot of information, it cannot be accepted in toto as it too contradicts Tulsi’s own works and those of other writers. The Gosai Charit, believed to have been written in 1754 by Bhavanidas, is another biography. However, from Tulsi’s own works, and through commendable scholarly research, a lot of information has been gathered about his life. But in his own works Tulsi gives no information about his youth or the grihastha period of his life. He does not even