Gitika a form of oral narrative poetry, often referred to as ballads. Like western ballads, gitika narrate a single event or a dramatic story, often through dialogue. They are marked by a well-knit plot and compression of detail. They achieve their effect by focusing on dramatic events rather than on chronological and narrative accounts. The narrative is not interrupted by other episodes or sub-plots, and the themes are sometimes suggested rather than clearly stated.

Typed characters generally tend to predominate in gitika. instrumental music accompanies the recital, but the focus is more on the story than on the music. Because gitika are oral, certain mnemonic devices, such as a dhuya, or refrain, are adopted to aid the memory.

There are two types of gitika: purbabanga-gitika and Nath Gitika. dinesh chandra sen compiled 54 purbabanga (East Bengal) gitika in his Purbabanga-Gitika, published from Calcutta University in four volumes. Prachin Purbabanga Gitika, edited by Kshitish Chandra Maulik and published in seven volumes, is a revised version of the volumes edited by Dinesh Chandra Sen.

Thirty-nine of the poems in the volumes edited by Dinesh Chandra Sen and Kshitish Chandra Maulik are from mymensingh. The remaining poems are from sylhet, chittagong and noakhali. The most popular gitika are 'Mahuya', 'Maluya', 'Chandravati', 'Dewana Madina', Kabka O Lila', 'Kamala', 'Dewan Bhabna' etc. The bhanita (prefatory narration) to some of the pieces give the names of their writers: Dwij Kanai in Mahuya, Nayan Chand in Chandravati, chandravati in Dasyu Kenaram, and mansur bayati in Dewana Madina. Dinesh Chandra Sen also brought out an English translation of the poems in Eastern Bengal Ballads.

Nath Gitika focus on Prince Gopi Chandra and the Nath guru. These poems may be divided into two groups: those focusing on the miracles of the Nath Guru (goraksavijay, Minchetan) and those on the religious conversion of Gopi Chandra (Manik Chandra Rajar Gan, Govinda Chandrer Git, Maynamatir Gan, Gopi Chandrer Sannyas, Gopi Chander Panchali etc.) The genre was popular in North Bengal where it was known as Yugiyatra.

ashutosh bhattacharya classified gitika into two categories. In addition to the East Bengal gitika, he classified some as belonging to South-East Bengal. Nizam Dakater Pala (The Story of a Pirate Named Nizam), Chowdhurir Ladai (The Fight between the Chowdhurys), Bheluya, Kafan Chor (The Shroud-thief), Ayna Bibi, Kamal Saodagar (Merchant Kamal), Nurunnessa O Kabarer Katha (Nurunnessa and the Stories of a Grave) are, according to Ashutosh Bhattacharya, examples of ballads of South-East Bengal, that is, the Noakhali and Chittagong regions. These gitika describe the occupations, adventurousness and cruelty of the people living in the coastal belt. Compared to these, the poems in Maimansingha-Gitika and Purbabanga-Gitika are more humane and gentle.

The bangla academy has published a number of volumes of regional gitika: Momenshahi Gitika (Ballads of Mymensingh, 1971), Sylhet Gitika (Ballads of Sylhet, 1972) and Rangpur Gitika (Ballads of Rangpur, 1977). From Kolkata, Chittaranjan Dev published a book called Banglar Loka-Gitikatha (Stories of Ballads of Bengal, 1986); most of the nine ballads in the book are collected from the faridpur region.

The predominant theme in the gitika is that of love, licit and illicit, as in the following gitika: love- 'Mahuya', 'Maluya', 'Kamala' spiritual love- 'Chandravati', post-marital love- 'Dewana Madina'. Other poems feature historical characters and episodes- Isha Khan Masandali; stories of adventure- Kena Ramer Pala; stories of pilgrims- Baro Tirther Gan or descriptions of the six seasons- Bagular Baramasi. Some gitika are allegorical-Kajal Rekha. [Syed Azizul Huq]

Bibliography Badiuzzaman ed, Momenshahi Gitika, Bangla Academy, Dhaka,1971.