In 2013, my wife and I visited a very interesting holy town, Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh. It is said Lord Sriram stayed here in his years of exile. From there, we proceeded to Ayodhya, the birth place of Lord Sriram. Heavy monsoons forced us to divert from the main highway.
On the diverted route, we were told that we would be passing through the place where Sant Goswami Tulsidasji, the author of Tulsi Ramayan used to live – Rajapur.
As I understood, Ramayana – the hindu epic about Lord Ram’s life – was written by Maharshi Valmiki in Sanskrit about 4,000 years ago. The original script is told to still exist in Nepal. On my various trips to Nepal, I tried but could not find the exact location.
About 500 years ago, Sage Tulsidas translated the original, Valmiki Ramayan, in a more commonly understood local script Awadhi, titled Ramcharita Manas. The prospect of experiencing the vibrations of the place where Sant Tulsiji lived and authored his Ramayan was of course, very exciting.
After negotiating 30 kilometers of rough road which was made almost impossible to drive through during the monsoon we reached Rajapur. After asking around for directions, we reached a large piece of compounded land in this town.
In one corner, Government authorities have built a Hall in the memory of the great sage – Sant Tulsidas Memorial Hall. We had to walk through the muck and potholes stacked with rain water to reach the memorial. Contrary to my expectations, the place was completely isolated and badly maintained. On further inquiry with the only gentleman who was staying there, I was told that this place was just a memorial hall and not the place where Tulsiji stayed.
After a few more inquiries with the locals outside, we were guided to a small temple devoted to Sant Tulsidasji on the bank of River Yamuna, about 2km away. It was a beautiful and peaceful place! The temple priest was from Tulsidasji’s descendant. The temple displayed some of Tulsidasji’s very own belongings including the Saligramji (stone idol) he used to pray to, his wooden padukas (footwear) etc.
From my discussions with the priest, I understood that one of the Chapters of Tulsi Ramayan is still preserved around that place. I could not believe it! Would I really be getting a chance to see and offer my respects to the Ramayan!
I expressed my enthusiasm to the priest. He directed us to a swamiji in the room across – the senior most surviving member from the clan of Tulsidasji. Swamiji obliged and agreed to show us the original!
Across the temple, is a two room hut where Tulsiji stayed – the place where he was inspired to rewrite the Ramayan in Awadhi – to make it more approachable to the common man. From a safe in this house, Swamiji got a bundle out clad with multi layers of colourful pieces of cloth. He gently and respectfully, unfolded the cloth covers one after the other.
He unfolded about 7-8 of the layers, each of which appeared to have its own importance. And there! The handwritten original Ramcharit Manas! Chapter: Ayodhya Kaand! It was written on paper with hand made ink. The paper was yellowish and recently laminated.