Nath Literature

Nath Literature a branch of medieval bangla literature, based on the Nath cult or yoga-sadhana. The main god of the Naths is shiva, who is also called Adinath. The five Nath siddhas (or enlightened), Minanath, Goraksanath, Hadipa, Kanupa and Chauranginath, are described as having been born from different parts of the body of Adinath.

Nath literature was of two types, didactic and narrative. Didactic literature was in the form of doha, prahelika or chara, where secrecy was observed with the abundant use of code words and sentences. Instructive doha or verses by Kanupa and Jalandharipa are to be found in Charyagitikos. Other dohas are included in collections such as Goraksa-Sanghita and Yogachintamani. Minanath and Goraksanath left no individual texts. Goraksanath's compositions were mainly oral.

Narrative Nath literature was based on legends and stories about the siddhas. The aim of the stories was to attract people to the cult. Narrative Nath literature follows dohas by about two centuries. Perhaps the most popular of these tales and legends was goraksavijay. Raja Manik Chandrer Git, Maynamatir Gan, and gopichandrer gan are different versions of the same story. Apart from Bangla, versions of these stories are available in different Indian languages such as Hindi, Oriya, Marathi, Gujrati, Nepali, and Tibetan.

Goraksa-Vijay is based on the contrast between Goraksanath, the perfect yogi, and his guru Minanath, who went astray. Minanath was cursed twice in his life: once, when in the shape of a fish at Jalatungi he secretly listened to the mahajnan recited by Shiva and the second time when he was attracted to Shiva's wife, Gauri. He was punished for listening to the mahajnan by making him lost his memory. For his second offence he was forced to spend an immoral life surrounded by 1600 women in Kadali. Minanath was rescued by his disciple Goraksanath in the guise of a female dancer.

Maynamati-Gopichandrer Gan is the story of Queen Maynamati and her husband, Manik Chandra, which propagates yoga-guidelines. Queen Maynamati, who was a disciple of Goraksanath, advised Manik Chandra to renounce the temporal world through accepting the life of sannyas (asceticism). Manik Chandra refused to listen to his wife and died prematurely. The queen then advised her son, Gopichandra, to accept the path of asceticism under the guidance of Hadipa, a stable sweeper. Gopichandra listened to his mother and became Hadipa's disciple and lived the life of an ascetic for twelve years. Gopichandra had learned a number of magic tricks during his sannyas and, after returning home, he entertained his wives with these tricks. Hadipa rebuked his disciple, at which Gopichandra grew angry and, at the advice of his wives, buried his master alive. Kanupa, a disciple of Hadipa, rescued his master. Gopichandra repented and renounced his kingdom permanently and became a saint.

Seventeen versions of Goraksa-Vijay are extant in Bengal. nalini kanta bhattashali discovered one, abdul karim eight, Professor Ali Ahmed seven and Dr Panchanan Mandal one. Most of these manuscripts are incomplete. Three of these manuscripts have been edited and published: Minachetan edited by Dr Bhattashali, Goraksa-Vijay edited by Abdul Karim, and Gorkh-Vijay edited by Dr Mandal. It was believed that there were several writers of Goraksa-Vijay as the names of Kavindra, Bhimsen, and Shyamadas also occur in the bhanita (prefatory) along with that of Faijullah. Scholars today, however, generally agree that Faijullah was the writer of the poem while the others were mere singers.

Three writers are believed to have written versions of Maynamati-Gopichandrer Gan: Durlabh Mallick, Bhabani Das and shukur mahmud. Durlabh Mallick's poem, titled Govinda Chandra Git, has been edited by Shib Chandra Shil. Dr Bhattashali edited and published two books from Dhaka Sahitya Parisat: Maynamatir Gan by Bhabani Das and Gopichander Sannyas by Shukur Mahmud. [Jayanta Banerjee]

Bibliography Ashutosh Bhattacharya (ed), Gopichander Gan, Calcutta University, 1965; Shasibhusan Dasgupta, Obscure Religious Cults as the Background of Bengali Literature, Firma KLM, Kolkata, 1982; Ahmed Sharif, Bangali 0 Bangla (2nd vol), Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1983; Dineshchandra Sen, Bangla Bhasa 0 Sahitya (1st vol), Paschim Banga Rajya Pustak Parsad, Kolkata, 1986.