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VOL. II.--1873

[Bombay, Education Society's Press]
{Scanned and edited by Christopher M. Weimer, May 2002}

p. 37




   HAVING, in the introductory essay, given a general view of the subject of Vaish.nava literature in its philosophical and general aspect, I propose now, in this and succeeding papers, to analyze more in detail the writings of some of the principal early masters, with special reference to their language. The Vaish.navas are the earliest writers in Bengali, and in them we trace the origin of that form of speech. In Bidyâpati indeed the language is hardly yet definitely Bengali: it is rather an extremely eastern member of the wide-spread group of dialects which we call, somewhat loosely, Hindi--a group whose peculiarities are, in the western portion of its area, allied to Panjâbi and Sindhi, while in the east they have developed characteristics which find their extreme, and almost exaggerated, expansion in modern Bengali.

   Very little is known about Bidyâpati. Native tradition represents him as the son of one Bhabânanda Rai, a Brâhman of Barnator in Jessore. His real name was Basanta Rai, and he is mentioned by this name in one of the poems of the Pada-kalpataru (no. 1317). The date of his birth is said to be A.D. 1433, and of his death 1481. These dates are probably correct, as his language exhibits a stage of development corresponding to the beginning and middle of the fifteenth century. He mentions as his patrons Rai Sib Singh, Rûpnarâyana, and Lachhimâ Debi, wife of Sib Singh; and in one passage he prays for the "five lords of Gau.r" (chiranjîva rahu pa"ncha Gau.rešwara kabi Bidyâpati From these indications I should place the poet at Nadîya (Nabadwîpa), afterwards the birth-place of Chaitanya, Rai Sib Singh and the other "lords of Gau.r" being wealthy landowners of that district, and we may accept his language as a type of the vernacular of Upper Bengal (Gau.r) at that period.

   A considerable number of this master's songs, under his nom de plume of Bidyâpati (lord of learning), are contained in the Pada-kalpataru; and his popularity is probably due to his being only just dead and still in great repute when Chaitanya was born. The reformer is said to have been fond of reciting his poems, as well as those of the Birbhûm poets, Jayadeva and Cha.n.dî Dâs, the former of whom wrote in Sanskrit and the latter in Bengali. The printed edition of the Pada-kalpataru is unfortunately very uncritically edited; and the compiler, Vaish.naba Dâs (or, as modern Bengalis would pronounce his name, Boishtob Das), is a man of very modern date, so that there is reason to suspect that a general modernization of the text has taken place, individual instances of which will be pointed out hereafter. Bengali scholars themselves admit this, and do not deny that the process has been ignorantly conducted, many a good racy word of nwârî, or village Bindi, having been mangled to make it bear some resemblance to the modern Bengali, with which alone the editor was acquainted. A reconstruction of the text is not possible until the subject has been more thoroughly handled. Working alone in this virgin field, I am especially anxious to avoid all hasty and unsupported conjectures, and shall therefore treat the existing text as tenderly as possible, only suggesting such amended readings as are obviously demanded by the context, and bearing in mind that the great divergence of modern Bengali pronunciation from the ancient standard may have had some influence on the p. 38 spelling, inasmuch as the poems were handed down orally for a long time before they were reduced to writing.

   In making selections from this master, we are to a great extent confined to the amatory portions of the collection. The contemporaries of Chaitanya were the first to introduce the chaster poems, which treat of's early life in Braj (gosh.tha) and Jasodâ's maternal cares (bâtsalya). The pre-Chaitanya writers seldom speak of any thing but love of the grossest and most sensual kind.

   In transliterating there is much uncertainty and irregularity in respect of the short final a sound. Strictly speaking, though omitted in prose, it should always be pronounced in verse; but if this rule were observed in these poems, the metre would be destroyed. As a general rule, Hindi words end with the consonant, and words still in their old Sanskrit form sound the vowel; thus we should read jab, hâm, but bachana, not bachan. This rule again, however, is constantly neglected; and I have therefore been guided by the practice of the Kirtanias, or professional singers, whose method of pronunciation depends upon the tune, and has been handed down by immemorial tradition. The Sanskrit v and b are both pronounced b in Bengali, and I have so written them throughout. The text and translation will be accompanied by a few notes explaining the difficult words or constructions; and I shall conclude with an attempt at sketching an outline of the grammar used in the poems.



(Râdhâ's confidante instructs her how to behave at her first interview with

Hear, hear, O lady, a special word!
To-day I will give thee instruction:
First indeed thou shalt sit on the edge of the couch;
When thy lover would look (at thee), thou shalt turn away (thy) neck;
When he touches (thee) with both hands, thou shalt put aside (his) hand;
Thou shalt be silent even when he speaks a word;
When I shall deliver thee (to him) hand to hand,
Quickly turning thou shalt seize me tremblingly.
Bidyâpati saith--This is delight indeed;
The tutor of love (am I), I will teach you the lesson.
   --I. ii. 22. (49.)*



(Speech of's messenger to Râdhâ.)

Youth is the greatest delight in life.
Youth is then, when with (one's) lover.
Having (once) known the good man's love, when wilt thou leave it?
Day by day, like the digits of the moon, it grows.
Sportive as thou art, just so amorous is Kânh:
By great virtue the amorosa meets the amoroso:
If thou sayest, influenced by desire,
Stolen love has a myriad merits,
(Yet bethink thee) such a lover there is not in the world:
All the denizens of Braj are enamored of him.
Bidyâpati saith--In this there is no shame;
This is the great business of a beautiful and youthful woman.
   --I. iii. 4. (63.)



(Râdhâ's confidante describes her mistress's condition to

p. 39 Sporting, (or) not sporting, on seeing folk (she feels) shame;
Seeing, (or) not seeing, (she remains) among her companions.
Hear, hear, Madhab, the cry for help to thee!
In ill guise have I seen Râï to-day;
The charming brilliance of her face, her tinted lip
(Were as though) the bândhuli flowered beside the lotus.
(Her) eye like a fixed bee in shape,
(Which) drunk with honey flies not away.
The slight curve of her eyebrows (is) as though
Love had adorned his bow with lamp-black.
Quoth Bidyâpati--A messenger's word indeed!
The budding limbs are not being embraced.
   --I. iv. 5. (80.)

   The next example is historically interesting as containing the names of the master's patrons. Legend says that Lachhimâ Debi was to Bidyâpati what Beatrice was to Dante, and Laura to Petrarch; and it is hinted that she was something more; but this latter insinuation seems to be contradicted by his attachment to the husband, Sib Singh, so I prefer not to believe it.



On (her) fair face the vermilion spot, black (her) weight of hair,
As though the sun and moon rose together driving away the darkness.
CHO. Ah lady! the moonlight has increased:
With what labour how many charms fate has given to thee!
Thy budding breast thou coverest with thy robe, showing it a very little;
With how much soever labour thou hidest it, the snowy mountain cannot be hid.
Looking sidelong with glancing eye, adorned with collyrium,
Like a lotus shaken by the wind, tilted by the weight of the bees.
Quoth Bidyâpati--Listen, maiden, know that such as is all this,
Rai Sib Singh and Rûpnarâyan, (such is) Lachhimâ Debi in truth.
   --III. xxiv. 7. (1352.)



(Description of Spring.)

   The lord of the seasons has come, King Spring; the bees hasten towards the Madhavi: the rays of the sun have reached their youthful prime: the kešara flower has set up its golden sceptre, a king's throne is the fresh couch of its leaves; the kânchan flower holds the umbrella over his head, its fragrant garland is a crown to him; in front (of him) the koïl sings its sweetest note. The tribe of peacocks dances (like) a swarm of bees, (like) another crowd of p. 40 Brâhmans reciting invocations and spells. The pollen of flowers floats like a canopy, toying with the southern breeze. Jasmine and bel have planted their standard, with pâtala, tula, apd ašoka as generals, kinšuka and clove-vine tendrils along with them: seeing (them) the winter-season flies from before (them). The tribe of honey-bees have arrayed their ranks, they have routed entirely the whole of the winter; the water-lily has raised itself up and found life, with its own new leaves it makes itself a seat. A fresh spring shines in B.rindâban; Bidyâpati describes the essence of seasons.--III. xxvi. 7. (1450.)



   'O lotus-like lady; hear a frieldly word! Thou shalt practise love now, having known a good man. A good man's love is equal to gold, (like) gold in burning it has double value. In breaking, it breaks not (this) wonderful love: it increases like the fibres of the lotus-stalk. All elephants are not of equal breed: not in every throat is the koïl's voice: not at all times is the spring season: not all men and women are excellent: quoth Bidyâpati--Listen, good lady, now having pondered, understand the ways of love.--I. v. 8. (109.)

{Here follow almost three pages (and the pages of Indian Antiquary are big) of philology which I have not included.--CMW}

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* The first number is that of the Šâkhâ of the Pada-kalpataru; the second, the Pallab; the third, the song; and that in brackets is the consecutive number which runs through the whole collection, and is after all the easiest to refer to.

cf. Horace Epod. i. 3--Manum puella suavis opponet tuo, extrema et in sponda cubet. {My copy has been hand corrected to read iii. 21--Manum puella suavio opponat . . . .}

To wit, the gratification of sensual desires! One cannot help wondering what results such teaching as this can be expected to produce; fortunately these parts of the Vaish.nava creed are not often sung before women.