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Ramcharitmanas (Devanāgarī: श्रीरामचरितमानस, IAST: ŚrīRāmacaritamānasa), is an epic poem in the Awadhi dialect of Hindi, composed by the 16th-century Indian bhakti poet Goswami Tulsidas (c. 1532–1623). Ramcharitmanas literally means "Lake of the deeds of Rama". Ramcharitmanas is considered one of the greatest works of Hindi literature. The work has variously been acclaimed as "the living sum of Indian culture", "the tallest tree in the magic garden of medieval Indian poetry", "the greatest book of all devotional literature" and "the best and most trustworthy guide to the popular living faith of the Indian people".
Tulsidas (the Sanskrit name of Tulsidas can be transliterated in two ways. Using the IAST transliteration scheme, the name is written as Tulasīdāsa, as pronounced in Sanskrit. Using the Hunterian transliteration scheme, it is written as Tulsidas or Tulsīdās, as pronounced in Hindi). Tulsidas was a great scholar of Sanskrit. However, he wanted the story of Rama to be accessible to the general public and not just the Sanskrit-speaking elite. In order to make the story of Rama as accessible to the layman as to the scholar, Tulsidas chose to write in Awadhi, a dialect of Hindi which was the language of general parlance in large parts of north India at the time. Tradition has it that Tulsidas had to face a lot of criticism from the Sanskrit scholars of Varanasi for being a bhasha (vernacular) poet. However, Tulsidas remained steadfast in his resolve to simplify the knowledge contained in the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Puranas to the common people. Subsequently, his work was accepted by all.
Ramcharitmanas, made available the story of Rama to the common man to sing, meditate and perform on. Ironically, when he wrote it, Tulsi was ostracized by Hindu fundamentalists (then represented by local priests) for having "corrupted" an epic written in Sanskrit. The writing of Ramcharitmanas also heralded many a cultural tradition, most significantly that of the tradition of Ramlila, the dramatic enactment of the text. Ramcharitmanas is considered by many as a work belonging to the Saguna school of the Bhakti movement in Hindi literature.
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