Vidyapati (c. 1352 – 1448), also known by the sobriquet Maithil Kavi Kokil (the poet cuckoo of Maithili), was a Maithili and Sanskrit poet, writer and polyglot.[2]

Statue of Maha Kavi Kokil Vidyapati.jpg
Bornc. 1352 (1352)
Bisfi (present day Madhubani Bihar, India)[1]
Died1448(1448-00-00) (aged 95–96)
OccupationWriter, poet
LanguageMaithili | Brajabuli

Vidyapati's influence was not just restricted to Maithili and Sanskrit literature but also extended to other Eastern literary traditions.[2] The language at the time of Vidyapati, the prakrit-derived late abahatta, had just begun to transition into early versions of the Eastern languages such as Maithili, Bhojpuri etc. Thus, Vidyapati's influence on making these languages has been described as "analogous to that of Dante in Italy and Chaucer in England".[3]


Vidyapati was born to a Shaivite Brahmin family in the village of Bisfi in the present-day Madhubani district of Mithila region of Bihar, India.[1] He was the son of Shri Ganapati Thakur who was a Maithil Brahmin. The name Vidyapati is derived from two Sanskrit words, vidya ("knowledge") and pati ("master"), connoting thereby "a man of knowledge". He was great devotee of lord Shiva

There is confusion as to his exact date of birth due to conflicting information from his own works and those of his patrons.[4] His father, was a priest in the court of Rāya Gaṇeśvara, the reigning chief of Tirhut.[4] A number of his recent ancestors were notable in their own right including his great-grandfather, Devāditya Ṭhakkura who was a Minister of War and Peace in the court of Harisimhadeva. Vidyapati himself worked in the courts of various chiefs in North Bihar.[4]He is recorded as having two wives, three sons and four daughters.

The Kīrttilatā makes reference to an incident where the Oiniwar King, Raja Gaṇeśvara, was killed by the Turkish commander, Malik Arsalan in 1371. By 1401, Vidyapati requested the help of the Jaunpur Sultan in overthrowing Arsalan and installing Gaṇeśvara's sons, Vīrasiṃha and Kīrttisiṃha, on the throne. With the Sultan's assistance, Arsalan was deposed and Kīrttisiṃha, the oldest son, became the ruler of Mithila.[2]


Over the last six centuries, Vidyapati's life has been mythologised in different ways. Many of his admirers ascribe miracles to him and detail his interaction with the Gods.[4] Among these stories is one which details that Lord Shiva came down to earth to speak with Vidyapati after being impressed with his piety. Other stories detail his interaction with the Goddess Ganga.[4]


Love songsEdit

Vidyapati, mainly known for his love songs of Shiva Parvati and prayers for supreme Brahman Shiva ,

  • All My Inhibition

All my inhibition left me in a flash,
When he robbed me off 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![5]

Other worksEdit

Vidyapati 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
  • Gangāvākyāvalī
  • Varṣakṛtya
  • Durgābhaktitaraṅgiṇī
  • Śaivasarvasvahāra
  • Kīrttipatākā
  • Kīrttilatā

Influence in other literary traditionsEdit

Odia literatureEdit

Vidyapati's influence reached Odisha through Bengal. The earliest composition in Brajabuli is ascribed to Ramananda Raya, the governor of Godavari province of the King of Odisha, 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 Odisha in 1511–12. Other notable Odia poets influenced by Vidyapati's poems were Champati Ray and king Pratap Malla Dev (1504–32).

Bengali literatureEdit

The influence of the lyrics of Vidyapati on the love of Shiva and Parvati which on the Bengali it's turned to be for Radha Krishna because of Vaishnavism. All 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.[6] The medieval Bengali poets, Gobindadas Kabiraj, Jnandas, Balaramdas and Narottamdas composed their padas (poems) in this language. Rabindranath Tagore composed his Bhanusingha Thakurer Padabali (1884) in a mix of Western Hindi (Braj Bhasha) and archaic Bengali and named the language Brajabuli as an imitation of Vidyapati (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 Brajabuli.

Tagore was much influenced by Vidyapati. He set the poet's Bhara Badara to his own tune. A bridge in Kolkata is also named after him ( Vidyapati setu), which is near sealdah station.

In popular cultureEdit

Pahari Sanyal played the role of Vidyapati in the 1937 film Vidyapati, which received a lot of appreciation. The film starred Prithviraj Kapoor as King Shiva Singha of Mithila.[7] Another film, also titled Vidyapati, was made in 1964 by Prahlad Sharma, starring Bharat Bhushan and Simi Garewal in the lead roles.[8]

In Dec 2018, it was decided to name the Darbhanga Airport as Kavi Kokil Vidyapati Airport.


  1. ^ a b c Vidyapati at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ a b c Pankaj Jha (20 November 2018). A Political History of Literature: Vidyapati and the Fifteenth Century. OUP India. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-19-909535-3.
  3. ^ Coomaraswamy 1915, p. v.
  4. ^ a b c d e Pankaj Jha (20 November 2018). A Political History of Literature: Vidyapati and the Fifteenth Century. OUP India. p. 4–7. ISBN 978-0-19-909535-3.
  5. ^ Vidyapati Poetry,
  6. ^ Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra; Pusalker, A. D.; Majumdar, A. K., eds. (1960). The History and Culture of the Indian People. VI: The Delhi Sultanate. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. p. 515. During the sixteenth century, a form of an artificial literary language became established ... It was the Brajabulī dialect ... Brajabulī is practically the Maithilī speech as current in Mithilā, modified in its forms to look like Bengali.
  7. ^ Chandra, Balakrishnan; Pali, Vijay Kumar. "100 Years of Bollywood - Vidyapati 1937". Invis Multimedia Pvt. Ltd. Archived from the original on 11 August 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  8. ^ Firoze Rangoonwalla; Vishwanath Das (1970). Indian Filmography: Silent & Hindi Films, 1897-1969. J. Udeshi.


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit