Chandidas (Bengali: চণ্ডীদাস)was a flourished medieval poet of Bengal, whose love songs addressed to the washerwoman Rami were popular in the medieval period and were a source of inspiration to the Vaishnava-Sahajiya religious movement that explored parallels between human and divine love. Over 1250 poems related to the love of Radha and Krishna in Bengali with the bhanita of Chandidas are found with different sobriquets.
There were at least four poets with the name of Chandidas: Baru Chandidas, Dwija Chandidas, Dina Chandidas, and Chandidas. It is not clear whether these different names found in the bhanita (autobiographical lines in poetry mentioning the name of the poet) refer to different individuals or to the same person. Only Baru Chandidas has been more or less identified. But many questions still remain unresolved, creating the Chandidas mystery.
It is believed that Baru Chandidas was born in the village of Nanur in Birbhum district, son of Durgadas Bagchi, a Varendra Brahmin. Chandidas, who was a priest in the temple of the goddess Bashuli (Bishalaksi), fell in love with a washerwoman named Rami and was excommunicated.
Baru Chandidas is known mainly as the writer of the lyrical srikrishnakirtan, the manuscript of which was discovered by Basantaranjan Vidvadvallabh at Bankura. Basantaranjan, who published the manuscript in 1916, believed that Chandidas was born in 1339 and died in 1399. However, other scholars, suggest a somewhat earlier date.
The poems ascribed to Chandidas have been popular in Bengal through the centuries. The first humanist poet in Bangla, he believed that 'sabar upare manus satya tahar upare nai' (The supreme truth is man, there is nothing more important than he is). The verses that bear his name approximate 1,100.
A school and a hospital have been established at Nanur village in Birbhum as memorials to Chandidas. Countless people visit the village to pay homage to the poet.
John Fuller is an English poet and author, and Fellow Emeritus at Magdalen College, Oxford.
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