Vidyapati (1352–1448), also known by the sobriquet Maithil Kavi Kokil (the poet cuckoo of Maithili), was a Maithili and Sanskrit poet, writer and polyglot.
Vidyapati's influence was not just restricted to Maithili and Sanskrit literature but also extended to other Eastern literary traditions.The language at the time of Vidyapati, the prakrit-derived late abahatta, had just begun to transition into early versions of the Eastern languages such as Maithili, Bhojpuri etc. Thus, Vidyapati's influence on making these languages has been described as "analogous to that of Dante in Italy and Chaucer in England".
Vidyapati was born to a Shaivite Brahmin family in the village of Bisfi in the present-day Madhubani district of Mithila region of Bihar, India. He was the son of Shri Ganapati Thakur who was a Maithil Brahmin. The name Vidyapati is derived from two Sanskrit words, vidya ("knowledge") and pati ("master"), connoting thereby "a man of knowledge".
There is confusion as to his exact date of birth due to conflicting information from his own works and those of his patrons. His father, was a priest in the court of Rāya Gaṇeśvara, the reigning chief of Tirhut. A number of his recent ancestors were notable in their own right including his great-grandfather, Devāditya Ṭhakkura who was a Minister of War and Peace in the court of Harisimhadeva. Vidyapati himself worked in the courts of various chiefs in North Bihar.He is recorded as having two wives, three sons and four daughters.
The Kīrttilatā makes reference to an incident where the Oiniwar King, Raja Gaṇeśvara, was killed by the Turkish commander, Malik Arsalan in 1371. By 1401, Vidyapati requested the help of the Jaunpur Sultan in overthrowing Arsalan and installing Gaṇeśvara's sons, Vīrasiṃha and Kīrttisiṃha, on the throne. With the Sultan's assistance, Arsalan was deposed and Kīrttisiṃha, the oldest son, became the ruler of Mithila.
Over the last six centuries, Vidyapati's life has been mythologised in different ways. Many of his admirers ascribe miracles to him and detail his interaction with the Gods. Among these stories is one which details that Lord Shiva came down to earth to speak with Vidyapati after being impressed with his piety. Other stories detail his interaction with the Goddess Ganga.
Vidyapati, mainly known for his love songs and prayers for Shiva,
All My Inhibition
All my inhibition left me in a flash,
When he robbed me off my clothes,
But his body became my new dress.
Like a bee hovering on a lotus leaf
He was there in my night, on me!
Vidyapati also wrote on other topics including ethics, history, geography, and law. His works include:
Puruṣa Parīkṣā deals with moral teachings.Recently Publications Division of Government of India has brought out the Hindi Translation of Purusha Pariksha by Akhilesh Jha. There are 25 stories in the book selected from 44 stories in the original work. Besides, there are scholarly introductions to both Vidyapati and Purusha Pariksha in the book.
Likhanabali is about writing
Bhu-Parikrama, literal meaning, around the world, is about local geography
Vibhāgasāra is autobiographical in nature
Dānavākyāvalī is about charity
About Muslim soldiers, he says: “Sometimes they ate only raw flesh. Their eyes were red with the intoxication of wine. They could run twenty yojanas within the span of half of a day. They used to pass the day with the (bare) loaf under their arm… (The soldier) takes into custody all the women of the enemy’s city… Wherever they happened to pass in that very place the ladies of the Raja’s house began to be sold in the market. They used to set fire to the villages. They turned out the women (from their homes) and killed the children. Loot was their (source of) income. They subsisted on that. Neither did they have pity for the weak nor did they fear the strong… They had nothing to do with righteousness… They never kept their promise… They were neither desirous of good name, not did they fear bad name…” At another place he says: “Somewhere a Musalman shows his rage and attacks (the Hindus)… It appears on seeing the Turks that they would swallow up the whole lot of Hindus.”
Influence in other literary traditions
Vidyapati's influence reached Odisha through Bengal. The earliest composition in Brajabuli is ascribed to Ramananda Raya, the governor of Godavari province of the King of Odisha, Gajapati Prataprudra Dev. He was a disciple of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He recited his Brajabuli poems to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, when he first met him on the bank of river Godavari at Rajahmundry, southern provincial capital of Kingdom of Odisha in 1511–12. Other notable Odia poets influenced by Vidyapati's poems were Champati Ray and king Pratap Malla Dev (1504–32).
The influence of the lyrics of Vidyapati on the love of Radha and Krishna on the Bengali poets of the medieval period was so overwhelming that they largely imitated it. As a result, an artificial literary language, known as Brajabuli was developed in the sixteenth century. Brajabuli is basically Maithili (as prevalent during the medieval period) but its forms are modified to look like Bengali. The medieval Bengali poets, Gobindadas Kabiraj, Jnandas, Balaramdas and Narottamdas composed their padas (poems) in this language. Rabindranath Tagore composed his Bhanusingha Thakurer Padabali (1884) in a mix of Western Hindi (Braj Bhasha) and archaic Bengali and named the language Brajabuli as an imitation of Vidyapati (he initially promoted these lyrics as those of a newly discovered poet, Bhanusingha). Other 19th-century figures in the Bengal Renaissance like Bankim Chandra Chatterjee have also written in Brajabuli.
Tagore was much influenced by Vidyapati. He set the poet's Bhara Badara to his own tune. A bridge in Kolkata is also named after him ( Vidyapati setu), which is near sealdah station