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Vidyapati


Vidyapati (c 1374-1460) the Vaisvava poet, was born in a scholarly Shaivite Brahmin family in the village of Bisfi in the Sitamari subdivision of Mithila. His father's name was Ganapati. The family, whose title was 'Thakkar' or 'Thakur, were employed in high positions at the court of the rulers of Mithila and had made many important contributions in military matters as well as artistic and cultural areas. Vidyapati himself was a member of the court of the kings Dev Singh and Shivsing. Vidyapati studied under Sri Hari Mishra.

Vidyapati wrote in Maithili, abahattha, and sanskrit. Since he was born in a Shaivite family, he also wrote many Shaivite songs. However, the verses on Radha-Krishna that are written in brajabuli are considered his masterpieces. It is due to these Vaishnava verses that he has gained so great reputation. These songs, in metrical feet and written in Maithili, gradually became popular all over Bengal. However, they were later transformed by the influences of local dialects and the singers of kirtan. From this grew a type of Vaisnava verse language known as Brajabuli.

Although Brajabuli is mainly a mixture of Bangla and Maithili, it also includes some Hindi words. Vaisnava verses continued to be written in Brajabuli till the nineteenth century. rabindranath tagore wrote the Bhanusingha Thakurer Padavali in this language. Sri chaitanya himself was fond of listening to the songs of Vidyapati. Kirtan and Padasabgit were the main pillars of the vaisnavism. Vidyapati's fame spread all over Bengal. Later, many Bengali and non-Bengali poets wrote verses in imitation of Vidyapati. Research on Vidyapati started in the late nineteenth century. Nagendranath Gupta was the first to publish an authentic version of the songs written by Vidyapati.

Apart from writing songs, Vidyapati also wrote books on ethics, history, geography and law. Among his books are Puruspariksa (moral teaching), Likhanabali (on writing), Kirttilata (history), Bhu-Parikrama (geography), Danbakyabali (on charity), Gabgabakyabali (on holy sites). Durgabhaktitarabgini and Bibhagsar are autobiographical in nature. [Basanti Choudhury]