Vidyapati (1352-1448), also known as ‘Maithil kavi kokil’ was a poet of Maithili language and a Sanskrit writer. Born in the Bisfi village of Madhubani district of Bihar.
He is the heritage and the pride of Bihar especially Mithila region which consists of parts from Nepal. Vidyapati was the one who started the legacy of poetry in Maithili, Bengali and Oriya literature. He is known for his love poetries following the love story between Radha and Krishna, as well as, for his devoted bhajans for Lord Shiva and the goddess of Power devi durga.
Many equate him with Dante and Chaucer for making the languages he wrote in prosper like these legends from Italy and England. One cannot go through the region of Mithila without noticing the influence of Vidyapati on his motherland.
Vidyapati and Lord Shiva: The story of Ugna
There is a famous folklore about Vidyapati that Lord shiva was so pleased with the poet’s devotion towards himself that he decided to serve him at his home in disguise of ‘Ugna’ and simultaneously help him in the other aspects of his life.
One day, Vidyapati received an invitation to participate in a royal function of the king of Mithila, Shivasimha. He took Ugna with him and they left for the king’s capital. On the way the poet felt very thirsty but it was a huge barren land where he saw no sign of water.
The helpless poet finally requested Ugna to bring some water. He fell on the ground out of thirst. Ugna, who was none but Lord Shiva himself, took out a jug of water from his matted hair (jata), revived him to consciousness and gave the poet water to drink. The poet felt the taste of Ganga-water and immediately asked Ugna from where he had brought it.
Ugna tried to make some false story but failed to do so. Finally, he appeared as Shiva, in his original form, before the poet. Lord shiva warned him not to tell anyone about Ugna’s real identity. Once Sushila, the wife of Vidyapati assigned some domestic responsibility to Ugna, which he failed to deliver according to her given instructions. She became angry with him and started beating him with a broom. This erratic behaviour of Sushila made Vidyapati frustrated that Shiva, of whom he was a great devotee, should not be abused and humiliated. He could not control himself and shouted at her to stop and revealed that he was Lord Shiva himself; and at that very moment Ugna disappeared. Vidyapati realised his mistake. He left his house wandering through many temples, rivers and jungles in search of Ugna. Finally, Vidyapati found Ugna in Nandanvana. Shiva told him that he would not go back to his house but would help him whenever required.
Nevertheless, he wrote wonderful poems even after the incidence. His collection of 500 love poems is a treasure to Maithili literature. Vidyapati as his name suggests was a master of knowledge and a master of all the languages he dealt with.
Every year a festival in his name (Vidyapati mahotsava) is celebrated for 2-3 days in the district of Darbhanga. One can easily decipher the tale of his greatness that even after 600 years of his death, he continues to live through his words. He continues to enrich the literature of Bihar and thus the literature of India.
Let’s go back and touch our roots. Let’s show our gratitude to artists like Vidyapati and many more by strengthening our connection to Mithila.
Here is one of Vidyapati’s creations in Maithili:
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