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BY JOHN BEAMES, B.C.S., M.R.A.S., &c.
Next in rank to Bidyâpati comes Cha.n.dî Dâs, who though older in age did not begin to write so early as his brother-poet. He was a Barendro Brahman, and was born in A.D. 1417 at Na.dûr, a village near the Thana of Sâkalipûr, in the present British District of Birbhûm in Western Bengal, which lies about forty miles to the north-west of the celebrated town of Nadiya (Nuddea). He was at first a Šâkta or worshipper of the Šakti or female procreative energy typified by the goddess Durgâ, wife of Šiva, one of whose names, Cha.n.dî, or the "enraged," he bears. The particular idol affected by this sect is termed Bâsuli, and was probably a non-Aryan divinity adopted by the Aryan colonies in Bengal. Her rude woodland temples are found still in the mountains and submontane jungles of Western Bengal, and all down the hill-ranges of Orissa and I have even met with them on the Subanrekha, and along the coast of the Bay of Bengal. A fine Sansk.rit name has been fitted to this wild forest divinity, and she is called by the Brahmans Višâlâkshi, or the "large-eyed:" her statues represent her holding in her uplifted arms two elephants, from whose trunks water pours onto her head. In the rustic village shrines in her honour one sees masses of small figures of elephants made of earth, baked by the village potters and offered by women; heaps of these little figures, all more or less smashed and mutilated, surround the shrine, where stands a figure once perhaps distinguishable as that of a human being, but so smeared with oil and encrusted with repeated coatings of vermilion as to have lost all shape or recognizable details. One of these temples is said to be still standing in the village of Na.dûr, where our poet was born and lived. The date of his conversion to Vaish.navism is not known, but he died in 1478, in the sixty-second year of his age. His conversion and subsequent conduct appears to have made his native place too hot to hold him, for he passed the latter years of his life at Châtera, a village far to the south in the present district of Bânku.ra. After he became a Vaish.nava, he thought it necessary to provide himself with a Vaish.navî, and selected for this purpose a woman named Rânû, of the dhobi or washerman caste, a proceeding which must have given grave offence to his orthodox kindred, and is remarkable as showing that the obliteration of the distinctions of caste, so characteristic of early Vaish.navism, had come into existence before the times of Chaitanya, and that he, like so many other popular reformers, did not so much originate, as concentrate and elevate into doctrine, an idea which had long been vaguely floating and gaining force in the minds of his countrymen.
Cha.n.dî Dâs and his contemporary Bidyâpati were acquainted with each other, and the Pada-kalpataru contains some poems (2409-2415) descriptive of their meeting on the banks of the Ganges and singing songs in praise of Râdhâ and K.rish.na together. The style of the two poets is very much alike, but there is perhaps more sweetness and lilt in Bidyâpati. Favourable specimens of Cha.n.dî Dâs are the following:--
The confidante loquitur.
|That gay one who is the abode of virtue|
Incessantly murmurs thy name,
On hearing a word of thee
His limbs are pervaded by a thrill,
Bending down lowly his head
Tears pour from his eyes,
If one should ask him a word
He waves (him) away with his hand,
If one should speak concerning thee
Thou wilt see there is nothing else in his mind.
There is no firmness (left) in him;
A serious matter Cha.n.dî Dâs sings.
I. iv. 94.
|Ah lady! ah lady! hear a word,|
At length having seen (him) I have come again;
Looking, looking, (my) pain increased,
Whatever was done profited not.
He binds not his hair, he girds not his waist,
He eats not food, he drinks not water.
The colour of gold Šyâm has become,
Constantly remembering thy name.
He does not recognize any one, his eye does not wink,
He remains with fixed look like a doll of wood.
I placed a piece of wool to his nose,
Then only I perceived that he breathed,
There is breath, but there remains no life,
Delay not, my happiness depends on it!
Cha.n.dî Dâs saith (it is) the anguish of separation
In his heart, the only medicine is Radha.
I. iv. 98.
In this second example a ruthless modernization has taken place. The modern editor, ignorant of the older language, has substituted the forms in present use for those which he did not understand. . . .
After making every allowance, however, for the propensity to modernize, observable in the printed edition, it must be admitted that Cha.n.dî Dâs's language approaches nearer to the present Bengali than Bidyâpati's. This may be accounted for by the greater learning of the former. His poetry is inferior to Bidyâpati's in sweetness and vigour, but superior to it in learning and accuracy. He probably used intentionally all the new forms of the language which were then coming into fashion, and it must be remembered that, though a Brahman, he was no courtly poet like his contemporary, but a man of humble rank; and, after his conversion to the new creed, one who identified himself with the people, and lived in a rural village in a part of the country far removed from the abodes of great men. He appears to have mixed up with the common rustic speech of the day as many big Sansk.rit words as he could, being thus one in that line of Sanskritizers whose influence has been so powerful on modern Bengâli. As an additional complication to the obscure problem of the origin of this language, must also be adduced the consideration that the Vaish.nava creed came to Bengal from the upper provinces, into which it had been introduced from the South by the followers of Râmânuja, especially Râmânand of Oudh, in 1350 A.D., and his disciple the celebrated Kabîr. The tenets of the sect had been popularized by the poems of this latter, and the equally celebrated Oudh poet Sûr Dâs, whose immense collection of poems, called the Sûr Sâgar, might almost be mistaken for the writings of Bidyâpati, so identical are they both in the language employed and in the sentiments expressed. It is therefore not improbable that the Vaish.nava poets of Bengal intentionally employed Hindi and semi-Hindi words and phrases; and this suspicion, which is unfortunately too well-founded to be overlooked, throws a haze of doubt round Bidyâpati's style. This is the difficulty which confronts the student of the Indian languages at every step in reading an old author: he is never sure how far the style employed is really a faithful representation of the language spoken by the poet's countrymen and contemporaries. This doubt prevents us from using these old materials with confidence, and detracts immensely from the value of any deductions we may make from them. In the Pada-kalpataru are contained numerous poems in pure Sansk.rit by the celebrated poet Jayadeva; and two of Chaitanya's principal disciples, Rûp and Sanâtan, also only wrote in Sansk.rit. It would not however be correct to infer that Sansk.rit was spoken in their time. These two men were to Brindaban what Layard was to Nineveh, its discoverers. They went to Mathurâ, and, apparently guided by their own preconceived ideas only, fixed upon the sites of all places necessary to establish the K.rish.na-saga. They found out Braj and Govardhan and all the other places, and established temples and groves, and set on foot worship therein. They must certainly have been acquainted with the Hindi of these days to be able to do all that they did, and their habit of writing in Sansk.rit is a mere learned caprice. But if they chose to write Sansk.rit, Bidyâpati may equally well have chosen to write in Hindi, or what he took for Hindi; and the only reason therefore for assuming some of his words and forms to be the origin of modern Bengali form is is that we can trace the regular development of each type from his forms down to the modern ones.
It seems for the above reason unnecessary to delay longer over this poet, whose style is inferior to that of Bidyâpati, while his diction is less instructive. It was necessary to make some mention of him, on account of his reputation, but it is extremely difficult to find among his poems any that are fit for reproduction. One does not, it is true, write "virginibus puerisque," but even from a scientific point of view it is not advisable to plunge into obscenity, unless there be some pearls in the dunghill worth extracting, and this I cannot say is the case with Cha.n.dî Dâs.
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