literature

Critical Edition of Shri Ramcharitmanas

॥ परमारथ के कारने साधुन धरा सरीर ॥Saints incarnate in a body for the ultimate purpose — Hindi couplet.

The Tulsi Peeth Edition of Rāmacaritamānasa

Introduction

Bhārata and Sanātana Dharma have always been known for the culture of inquisitiveness (जिज्ञासा, Jijñāsā) and investigation (समीक्षण, Samīkṣaṇa). True knowledge is to be attained by starting with faith (श्रद्धा, Śraddhā) and belief (विश्वास, Viśvāsa), and then investigating the truth.


Critical Editing

Producing a critical edition (प्रामाणिक संस्करण, Prāmāṇika Saṃskaraṇa) of an ancient work which has several manuscripts and printed editions differing with each other is one such effort to investigate the truth. Over hundreds and thousands of years, scriptural works of Sanātana Dharma have been passed on from generation to generation in various geographic regions and traditions. Rāmacaritamānasa of Gosvāmī Tulasīdāsa is one such work, which has been the scripture of both the masses and the classes of Northern India for close to four hundred and fifty years. Many different editions of the Rāmacaritamānasa are in existence today, and they differ from each other at several places in the original text, number of verses, and orthographic and grammatical conventions. Some editions are quite popular while some others are less widely known, and yet some old manuscripts and out-of-print editions are known only to a select few.

Critical Editions in Sanātana Dharma

Many editors in the past have come up with critical editions of the Rāmacaritamānasa after months and years of meticulous research and thoughtful reflection, poring over scores of old manuscripts and printed editions. While discussing the numerous editions of the epic, Uday Bhanu Singh lists five editions with only the original text and five more editions with commentaries which have been edited by different scholars and published by various publication houses. The popular edition of Gita Press is also a critical edition, edited by Nanda Dulare Vajpayee in the year 1949. Critical editions have also been produced for the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata by research institutes like the Maharaj Sayajirao University in Baroda and the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune. All these editions are works of research, compiled after herculean efforts and are worthy of scholarly review and critique as per the culture of inquisitiveness and investigation in Sanātana Dharma.


Tulsi Peeth Edition

Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya, henceforth referred to as Guruji, is one of the foremost authorities in the world on Tulasīdāsa and Rāmacaritamānasa today as recognized by authors like Ram Chandra Prasad and Lallan Prasad Vyas. His scholarship has been acclaimed in both India and abroad and he has done more than 5,000 recitations of Rāmacaritamānasa since his childhood. He is one of the rare scholars today who know the epic virtually by heart. After eight years of research and a study of 27 editions of the epic, Guruji came out with a critical edition, the Tulsi Peeth edition, of the Rāmacaritamānasa. This edition differs from the popular editions at several places, as Guruji has relied more on old editions than newer ones. Guruji says that he has not added anything from his side but only taken text from extant copies of the epic.


Opposition to Tulsi Peeth Edition

Ever since the publication of the Tulsi Peeth edition, Guruji has been the target of criticism from some people and sections of media. He has been accused of tampering with the mighty word and pen of Tulasīdāsa, and several newspapers and TV news channels have reported the issue in a sensationalistic manner. A false news item was reported on some news websites mentioning a fine being imposed on Guruji [sic], which was later retracted with a corrigendum being published. Some sadhus organized protests to prevent a Katha of Guruji from taking place in Ayodhya over the issue in November 2009, threatening self-immolation over the Tulsi Peeth edition. A letter from Guruji which expressed that he was pained at the events was presented in the press as being an apology for producing the Tulsi Peeth edition. A few websites even published personal attacks and defamatory articles on him, resorting to argumentum ad hominem instead of logic and deduction.


Guruji's reponse

Despite facing these obstacles, Guruji did not bow down to appease those opposing him. It is rightly said in the work नीतिशतकम् (Nītiśatakam) by the poet Bhartṛhari, that no matter if those proficient in matters of tact praise or criticize, the wise do not stray away from the just path. Guruji believes that his path is correct and his effort noble.

निन्दन्तु नीतिनिपुणाः यदि वा स्तुवन्तु लक्ष्मीः समाविशतु गच्छतु वा यथेष्टम् । अद्यैव वा मरणमस्तु युगान्तरे वा न्याय्यात्पथः प्रविचलन्ति पदं न धीराः ॥

nindantu nītinipuṇāḥ yadi vā stuvantu lakṣmīḥ samāviśatu gacchatu vā yatheṣṭam । adyaiva vā maraṇamastu yugāntare vā nyāyyātpathaḥ pravicalanti padaṃ na dhīrāḥ ॥

Whether those conversant with tact criticize or extol, whether the riches come in abundance or depart of their own accord, whether death occurs right on this day or after many years, the wise do not retract their steps from the path of rectitude.

An unnecessary court case

Unfortunately, matters became more serious when a magazine editor filed a writ petition in the Allahabad High Court requesting forfeiture and seizure of printed copies of the Tulsi Peeth edition on the grounds that it was tampering with Tulasīdāsa’s Rāmacaritamānasa, the divine word of Śiva, and hence it hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus. After the hearing, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court dismissed the writ petition in its judgement passed in September 2011. The High Court fined the petitioner 20,000 rupees. It said in its ruling that the Tulsi Peeth edition is a work of scholarly research and in no way hurts the sentiments of Hindus. The original judgement of the court can be read here on the Allahabad High Court website. A copy of the judgement can be downloaded in PDF format here.


Epilogue

We hope that the court ruling satisfies some of the critics, as the review of the Rāmacaritamānasa by Madhusūdana Sarasvatī satisfied some opponents of Tulasīdāsa in Varanasi in the 16th century. For those who are still not convinced, they are invited to read the Tulsi Peeth critical edition, and debate any difference of text with other editions, including new popular editions and older editions, in a logical manner.


Some questions about Tulsi Peeth Edition

No. Some news channel reports and newspaper articles given to sensationalism reported that Guruji has composed a new Rāmacaritamānasa. This is incorrect. The Tulsi Peeth edition is a critical edition of the Rāmacaritamānasa, as are the editions by Gita Press, Motilal Banarsidas, Venkateshwar Press, Kaudorama, Rameshwar Bhatta, Vijayanand Tripathi, et cetera.
No, just like the other editions are not bowdlerization or tampered versions. Each edition is an effort by the editor to research different sources and reconstruct the original text of the Rāmacaritamānasa based on available renditions.
Some sensationalistic reports in newspapers and TV channels said this but nothing can be further from the truth. It is not possible to find faults with Rāmacaritamānasa as there are none to be found! Guruji holds both Tulasīdāsa and Rāmacaritamānasa in high esteem. What is correct to say, is that Guruji pointed out what he believes to be errors in the text of popular editions of the Rāmacaritamānasa, as opposed to what in his opinion is the original text by Tulasīdāsa.

As in old times, these texts were copied and spread by scribes, several differences crept in due to difference in conventions of writing, interpolations, et cetera. An example is that some editions of Rāmacaritamānasa include an eighth Kāṇḍa, while Tulasīdāsa has himself stated that the work has only seven Sopānas.

सप्त प्रबन्ध सुभग सोपाना । ग्यान नयन निरखत मन माना ॥

sapta prabandha subhaga sopānā । gyāna nayana nirakhata mana mānā ॥

Due to these differences, critical editions have been produced for not only Rāmacaritamānasa but also for Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata.

Some manuscripts of only the Bālakāṇḍa or the Ayodhyākāṇḍa which are claimed to be written by Tulasīdāsa himself exist at Rajapur, Ayodhya, Soron and Malihabad. Tulasīdāsa wrote on paper and it is highly unlikely that the paper survived more than 400 years. In Guruji’s opinion the claims are not authentic.
As per many extant editions, it is named Laṅkākāṇḍa. As per an old edition – the Kaudorama edition, and the Tulsi Peeth edition, it is named Yuddhakāṇḍa.
Older editions like Rameshwara Bhatta and Shri Venkateshwar Press edition include this episode. If somebody then says that the Shri Venkateshwar Press edition contains several interpolations (Kṣepaka) and also an eighth Sopāna, the answer is that the commentator Sh. Jwalaprasad Mishra has clearly indicated that the eighth Sopāna and certain sections are interpolations and has clearly marked the boundaries of sections which he believed were interpolations, including the eights Sopāna, and gives the Pauses for nine-day and 30-day recitation excluding the interpolations. The episode of Lakṣmaṇa Rekhā has not been marked as an interpolation in the edition.
No. Again, this was sensationalistic reporting by some sources. Acharya Ramchandra Shukla in his critique of Padmavata and several other scholars have considered a Chaupai to be made of 32 instants in one line. The example of Hanūmāna Cālīsā is a strong case. In Sanskrit and Prakrit poetry, just like a Śataka is made of 100 verse, and Aṣṭaka of eight verses and a Saptaka of seven verses, a Chalisa is a work of 40 verses.
No. It was a wrong news item which was published on some news websites. A corrigendum was also published by Navbharat Times later.
Guruji maintains that he has not added or modified a single letter in the Rāmacaritamānasa. He has taken only that text which was available in existing old and new editions and which he believed to be the correct text. What he has done is editing (संपादन, Sampādana) and not corrections (संशोधन, Saṃśodhana). Furthermore, he is open to any form of peer review and scholarly debate on this issue with anybody who is willing to debate any differences with the popular editions.

References

Singh, Uday Bhanu (2008) (in Hindi). Tulasī Kāvya Mīmāṃsā. [Investigation into the poetry of Tulsidas]. New Delhi, India: Rajkamal Prakashan Pvt Ltd. pp. 92–93. ISBN 8171196861, 9788171196869.

Prasad, Ram Chandra (1999) [First published 1991]. Sri Ramacaritamanas: The Holy Lake Of The Acts Of Rama (Illustrated, reprint). Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass. p. xiv. ISBN 8120807626.

Vyas, Lallan Prasad, ed (1996). The Ramayana: Global View. Delhi, India: Har Anand Publications. p. 62. ISBN 9788124102442.

॥ सब सिधि तव दरसन अनुगामी ॥Your Darśana is followed by all accomplishments - Rāmacaritamānasa, 1.343.5