Ravan, the king of Lanka, has abducted and imprisoned Ram’s wife, Sita. As Ram and his brother Lakshman search for her, they meet Sugreev, the king of the Monkeys. In aid of Ram, Sugreev sends out search teams in all derections. One of the teams discovers that Sita is imprisoned in Lanka, the rich and splendid city of demons, across the southern sea. The wide and tumultuous sea poses a challenge. There is only one who can cross it and bring back news of Sita. He is Hanuman, son of the wind god, advisor to Sugreev, and devotee of Ram.
Based on an episode from the Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas, the story descrbed here needs little introduction to readers familiar with the Indian epic of Ramayan. Hunuman is strong and invincible, but he is also a brave and loyal follower of Ram, and is able to overcome all crises through his single-minded devotion.
A poet and a devotee of Ram, Tulsidas was born in Rajapu village in the Banda district of present-day Uttar Pradesh. His father was Atmaram Dubey, and his mother was Hulsi Devi. Legend goes that on his birth, instead of crying, he started chanting ‘Ram Ram’ and was thus named Rambola – the one who uttered the name of Ram. Very little authentic information exists on his early life, but on the basis of various sources it can be said that he was initially educated in Ayodhya, and he later moved to Varanasi. He was married to Ratnavali. It is said that he was so attached to his wife that once, when she visited her parents’ home, he made great effort to be with her. For this, she remarked that if he was even half as devoted to God as he was to her, he would be redeemed. Hearing this, Tulsidas became an ascetic, and after many years of pilgrimage and devotion to Ram, started writing a book on the life of Ram.
Ramcharitmans is his best known work, written in the Awadhi language of his region. Divided into seven parts, of which Sunderkaand is the fifth, it is also called the Tulsikrit Ramayan (the Ramayan written by Tulsi) it took about two and a half years to complete. His other writings include kavitavali, Dohavali, Vinayavali, Srikrishna Geetavali, and Vinay Patrika.
Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas is popular even today. It has been adapted in numerous art and literary forms. Many of its verses are used as proverbs. In north India, it is often recited on special and auspicious accasions. The north Indian stage and street performances of Ramlila are based on this work. Tulsidas died at the age of 91 in Varanasi on the Assi ghat, but his legacy lives on.