Chaitanyamangal biographical epics based on the life of chaitanya (1486-1533). These epics played an important role in the development of bangla language and literature in the middle Ages. They are also significant in their merging of literature and history, providing glimpses into the life of Bengal during the 15th-16th centuries.
Chaitanyacharitakavyas, poems on Chaitanya, were first composed in samskrit. These include murari gupta's Shrikrsnachaitanya-charitamrta (1536-1540), kavikarnapur's play Chaitanyachandroday (before 1540) and his epic Chaitanyacharitamrta (1542). Murari Gupta's epic is more properly a kadcha or chronicle. These Sanskrit works on Chaitanya attempt to deify him. In the Bangla biographical epics, however, Chaitanya's human qualities are emphasized.
The first biography on Chaitanya in Bangla is Vrndavandas' Chaitanyabhagavata or Chaitanyamangal (1546-1550). Vrindavandas describes the early life of Chaitanya following the model of krishna's life as described in Shrimadbhagavata. Vrindavandas does not go into the stories of Chaitanya's later life or into the philosophy of vaisnavism, the religion founded by Chaitanya. This biography has some historic value because it describes both the religious and social life of Nabadwip before the birth of Chaitanya as well as 16th century Bengal under Muslim rule.
Another biographical epic on Chaitanya is Govindadaser Kadcha or govindadas' Chronicle. Govindadas was Chaitanya's contemporary and accompanied him on his tour of the Deccan. Their experiences on the journey have been described attractively in the poem. The poet also describes some imaginary events in the life of Chaitanya as well as his ideas and philosophy.
Jayananda and Lochandas also wrote Chaitanyamangal, on the life of Chaitanya. Jayananda's Chaitanyamangal (1560) focuses more on Chaitanya's godly image. Here the poet is clearly influenced by his devotion for Chaitanya. The epic was at one time very popular because of its wealth of detail. Jayananda composed his epic in the form of a narrative play and, according to popular custom, divided it into 9 sections: Adikhanda, Nadiyakhanda, Vairagyakhanda, Sannyaskhanda, Utkalkhanda, Prakashkhanda, Tirthakhanda, Vijaykhanda and Uttarkhanda. The importance of this poem has, however, decreased because of its many factual errors and profusion of supernatural events.
Lochandas's Chaitanyamangal (1560-66/1575) mainly depicts Chaitanya's childhood activities and his human side. It has been influenced by Murari Gupta and Vrndavandas as well as by the mahabharata and different puranas. It is divided into four parts: Sutrakhanda, Adikhanda, Madhyakhanda and Antyakhanda. Although the poem was written as a narrative play, the poet did not highlight supernatural matters to make it popular. He created an artistic image of Chaitanyadeva by presenting the events of his life imaginatively.
Another biographical epic on Chaitanya is Chudamanidas' Gaurangavijay (c 16th century). Although it is believed to have been written in three volumes, only a part of the first volume is extant. It contains some new facts about Chaitanya, Nityananda and Madhavendra Puri.
The finest of the biographical epics on Chaitanya is krishnadasa kaviraja's Chaitanyacharitamrta (1615) which narrates the events of Chaitanya's final years. It is an important text about Gauda Vaisnavism, containing the philosophical basis and spiritual ideals of the religion. Its portrait of Chaitanya is of considerable import for Vaisnava society. At the same time, the poem is valued by non-Vaisnava readers for the richness of its contents and the craftsmanship of its composition.
The biographical epics written on the life of Chaitanya had a wide influence on the development of contemporary Babgali society and culture and Bangla language and literature. They provide considerable information about different aspects of Bengali society during the 15th-16th centuries. [Dulal Bhowmik]
See also mangalkavya.