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The Later Tulsi-Parampara

According to Sharan's information, with Devipalat Tivari's death in 1932 the line of Ramkumar came to an end. Banaras tradition holds otherwise, however, and identifies Vijayanand Tripathi (1881-1955), one of the most renowned Ramayanis of the middle of the twentieth century, as another of Ramkumar's disciples. Thus, the numerous contemporary expounders who claim to be Tripathi's pupils can assert their


continuity with a parampara that stretches back through Ramkumar and Ramgulam Dvivedi to the very roots of the tradition. Tripathi himself has written that he was blessed to be able to study Sundar and Kiskindha[*]kands[*] systematically at Ramkumar's feet and that he studied certain other episodes with Devipalat Tivari. His guru for Ayodhyakand[*] was the Ramayani Bhushan-ji, another famous twentieth-century expounder.[94]

Vijayanand Tripathi was born on Vijaydashami day in 1881 and was named in honor of the auspicious festival of Ram's victory. His first exposure to the Manas was hearing the famous Atri-stuti from Aranya[*]kand[*] (3.4.1-24), a hymn to Ram that his father used to recite while holding the boy on his lap; the epic soon became, he says, an "addiction" for him. As a youth, Vijayanand was attracted to the Hindu "fundamentalism" of the Sanatan Dharm movement and was powerfully influenced by one of its leaders, Swami Karpatri.[95] For six years (1936-42) he served as editor of Karpatri's monthly magazine, Sanmarg (The true path), and he also wrote a number of polemic works on Sanatani themes. Katha was his real love, however, and as he was the son of a wealthy landowner, he was spared the necessity of pursuing another trade. He owned a large house near Tulsi Ghat and on its broad stone terrace he gave daily Katha for more than thirty years, to an audience that included many of the leading men of Banaras, as well as a great number of aspiring Ramayanis who regarded themselves—with or without official sanction—as his students.

Vijayanand's Manas -related publications conform to a pattern already familiar to us from the lives of earlier expounders. His first concern, characteristically, was to bring out his own edition of the basic text (published by Leader Press, Allahabad, 1936); this established, so to speak, the credentials of his Katha by asserting the purity of its source. Much later, at the urging of his pupils and admirers (including Babu Baijnath Prasad, a retired judge, and Bankeram Mishra, mahant of the Sankat Mochan Temple), Vijayanand began work on his own tika[*] , which was published posthumously in 1955. Comprising three volumes of more than nine hundred pages each, this Vijayatika[*] was based on the notes used by Vijayanand in his daily Katha and included both a brief prose translation and an elaborate exposition of each epic verse.

Vijayanand's high status is suggested by the exalted title Manas


rajhams[*] (royal swan of the Manas Lake), which is commonly prefixed to his name. This padvi (honorific, or rank) was first given to him by a sadhu, Brahmachari Sacchidanand Gitanand, and is representative of similar titles either bestowed on or assumed by other expounders. A rostrum of renowned orators—for example on a handbill announcing an exposition festival—may include such titles as Manasratna (jewel of the Manas , often applied to Dr. Shrinath Mishra), Manasmarmajña (knower of the mysteries of the Manas ), and Manasmartand[*] (sun of the Manas , a title given to Pandit Ramkinkar Upadhyay).[96]

Many older Banarsis still remember the daily Katha sessions at Vijayanand's house, and the centenary of his birth was observed in 1981 with an All-India Manas Festival, at which many of his disciples performed. So numerous are the members of his "school" that Vijayanand's son, Nityanand Tripathi, complained to a journalist, "As a matter of fact, most of that whole crowd of kathavacaks who nowadays call themselves Father's pupils are people who never even saw him. They just use his name to promote themselves."[97] One might observe, however, that even though the tradition still puts great value on personal instruction imparted through the satsang[*] of a teacher, the modern phenomenon of mass-produced commentaries increases the likelihood of a teacher's acquiring students (and imitators) whom he has never seen.

Among Vijayanand's genuine students, mention should be made of Sant Choteji (d. 1983), a sadhu who gave daily Katha under the auspices of a group called Satsang Parivar (satsang[*] family) and who was one of Banaras's most beloved expounders. Other students included Ramji Pandey, the chief Ramayani of the Ramnagar Ramlila pageant, and the late Baba Narayankant Tripathi and Ramnarayan Shukla, both of whom performed daily at the Sankat Mochan Temple and concerning whom more is said below. Vijayanand's most successful student is undoubtedly Dr. Shrinath Mishra, an "All-India" vyas whose performances are largely patronized by wealthy industrialists in major urban centers and who consequently is away from Banaras during much of the year. He maintains a large house in the Bhadaini neighborhood, however, and has numerous pupils of his own, who regard him as the chief disciple and successor of Vijayanand. Thus the Tulsi-parampara of the


diagram continues to be a living tradition, still growing and extending its branches into the future.

The material presented in this section hardly represents a comprehensive history of Manas-katha . The few famous expounders concerning whom biographical and legendary information has been provided must be taken as representative of numerous others, known and unknown, whom it is not possible to treat here. That most of the data have concerned the tradition in Banaras is justifiable in that this city has always been a major center for the art, but it should not obscure the fact that great lines of Ramayanis have flourished elsewhere, particularly among the sadhu lineages of such important Vaishnava pilgrimage places as Ayodhya, Mathura, and Chitrakut. The Tulsi-parampara of Banaras and environs is representative of the tradition and, to some extent, an exemplar for it, but it is not definitive of it.

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