Vidyapati Thakur (1352? - 1448?), also known by the sobriquet Maithil Kavi Kokil (the poet cuckoo of Maithili) was a Maithili poet and a Sanskrit writer. He was born in the village of Bishphi in Madhubani district of Bihar state, India. He was son of Ganapati. The name Vidyapati is derived from two Sanskrit words, Vidya (knowledge) and Pati (master), connoting thereby, a man of knowledge.
Vidyapati's poetry was widely influential in centuries to come, in the Hindustani as well as Bengali and other Eastern literary traditions. Indeed, the language at the time of Vidyapati, the prakrit-derived late abahatta, had just began to transition into early versions of the Eastern languages, Bengali, Oriya, Maithili, 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 is as much known for his love-lyrics as for his poetry dedicated to Lord Shiva. His language is closest to Maithili, the language spoken around Mithila (a region in the north Bihar), closely related to the abahattha form of early Bengali.
The love songs of Vidyapati, which describe the sensuous love story of Radha and Krishna, follow a long line of Vaishnav love poetry, popular in Eastern India, and include much celebrated poetry such as Jayadeva's Gita Govinda of the 12th century. This tradition which uses the language of physical love to describe spiritual love, was a reflection of a key turn in Hinduism, initiated by Ramanuja in the 11th century which advocated an individual self realization through direct love. Similar to the reformation in Christianity, this movement empowered the common man to realize God directly, without the intervention of learned priests. Part of the transformation was also a shift to local languages as opposed to the formal Sanskrit of the religious texts.
The songs he wrote a prayers to Lord Shiva are still sung in Mithila and form a rich tradition of sweet and lovely folk songs.
Folklore says that he was such a great devotee of Lord Shiva that the lord was really pleased with him. And once He decided to come to live in his house as a servant. As the servant He is said to have taken the name Ugna. At several places in the region, Lord Shiva is still worshipped by this name. It is said that the lord in form of servant had imposed a condition on Vidyapati that he could not disclose his identity to anyone else or else he would go away. When Vidyapati's wife was angry at her servant and started to beat him Vidyapati could not tolerate the same and asked her wife not to beat Lord Shiva himself and since then the lord disappeared and never was he seen again.
All My Inhibition
All my inhibition left me in a flash,
When he robbed me of 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, mainly known for his love songs and prayers for Lord Shiva, 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
Vidyapati and Bengali literature
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 also composed his Bhanusingha Thakurer Padabali (1884) in this language (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 the Brajabuli.
Vidyapati and Oriya literature
Vidyapati's influence reached Orissa through Bengal. The earliest composition in Brajabuli is ascribed to Ramananda Raya, the governor of Godavari province of the King of Orissa 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 Orissa in 1511-12. Other notable Oriya poets influenced by Vidyapati's poems were Champati Ray and king Pratap Malla Dev (1504–32).