Ram-charit Manas, popularly known as Tulsi Ramayan, has been the most popular book in Hindi for the last 400 years or more. It narrates the divine story of Rama, in Awadhi, the dialect of central U.P. Like Valmiki's Ramayana, it is a literary masterpiece that has acquired the status of a scripture. Both the classes and masses use it as a moral guide in the vast Hindi belt where many people read or recite at least a few of its couplets each day as part of their prayer. It is equally popular in Gujarat and in distant lands like Mauritius, Trinidad, Surinam and Fiji where Hindi-speaking people have settled down in large numbers. The book depicts Rama as the supreme godhead yet an ideal man and an ideal king.
Its author Goswami Tulsidas was born in the early decades of the 16th century in Banda district in U.P. Abandoned by his poor brahmin parents for being born under an inauspicious star, he was brought up and educated by a sanyasi with whom he is believed to have travelled over a large part of the country. He was a householder for a brief period and then renounced the world. The last part of his life was spent in Kashi, writing poetry and popularising the sport of wrestling which is associated with Hanuman, ally of Rama in the war against Lanka.
Say Ram, say Ram, say Ram you dolt!
That name is your raft on the miserable sea of life.
Those who abandon Ram's name
For something else, Tulsi says,
Are like those who leave the good food at home
to beg for filthy scraps.
—Translated from Vinaya Patrika, one of Tulsidas' works