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Charyagiti – The Charyacharyavinishcha, generally referred to as charyagiti, were composed by

Buddhist monks or saints between the 7th to 12th centuries. Searching for Buddhist chronicles,
Haraprasad shastri discovered the manuscript of Charyacharyavinishcha in 1907, making this
the most ancient extant text of bangle language and song.

The origin of the Bengali music can be traced in the musical compositions and phrases having
musical contant. The Vajra, a kind of poetic compositions, used to be sung by Buddhists of
Vajrayani group. Another group called Shahjahani Buddhists used to sung Charys in classical
melodies and rhythms. Sometimes one or two stringed musical instruments and drums used to
accompany these musical performances but there is no definite evidence as to what these
instruments looked like. In these songs the Buddhist saints of that time discussed the various
ways of transcending the earthly pains and sufferings. In contemporary social customs and
practices they discussed various mystic principles and experiences. The primary theme of these
songs was the mystic quest for the ultimate truth. To make this abstract theme understandable to
common man, the composers took resort to images and symbols. The use of metaphors and
allegory was compensated by the simplicity of language and words. In these songs we find vivid
description of contemporary social atmosphere.

The Charyagiti were sung in a number of ragas, such as patmanjari, mallari, gurjari, kamod,
bhairabi etc. Musical accompaniment was provided by the pataha or dhol and ektara. The
Charyagitis are mainly devotional songs of Buddhist sahajiyas and spread in Bengal during the
region of the Pala kings. The charyapada ( charyapada and charyagiti are synonymous, but the
former term is used to refer to the poems as literature and the latter to refer to the lyrics as song)
and Dohakos (the oldest manuscript discovered by Sastri) provide the names of many Bangali
acharyas as luipa, Hadipa, Khanapa etc. The rhythmic and metaphorical charyas are written in
what is referred to as sandhya bhasa. The object of these songs was to spread the ideas of the
sahajiya Buddhist saints.

Gitagovinda : One of the most remarkable contributions to music was jaydev’s Gitagovinda,
written in Sanskrit, in the 12th century. Jaydev was the court poet of king laksmanasena. These
verses, inspired by the story of Radha and Krishna, are a beautiful combination of words and
music. Gitagovinda is a dramatic poem, containing songs and dialogue of the three main
characters, Radha, Krishna and Sakhi, Radha’s female companion. Gitagovinda 12 cantos and 24
songs. However, the essence of the poem lies in these 24 songs, which are sun in different regas
such as malavagauda, basanta, ramkiri, malva, vibhas etc. The following tals are used: rupak,
nihsar, yati, ektal and astatal. In Gitagovinda there were two main singing style: dhrupadanga
and kirtananga. Dhrupadanga was the ancient classical style of singing and was accompanied by
the pakhwaj. Kirtananga was melody-based and was accompanied by the dhol or mridangam.
Originally, Gitagovinda was mainly sung in dhrupadanga. Through the influence of Sri
chaitanya, it started being sung in the form of kirtan. As a result, the verses of Gitagovinda
turned into kirtan. In this way Bangla kirtan was deeply influenced by Gitagovinda.

Nathgiti : The nathgiti written to describe the greatness of Nath gurus, followers of Goraksanath,
are the contemporary with the charyapadas. There were two main strains of nathgiti: Minchetan
or goraksavijay, which focus on Goraksanath, and the songs variously known as king
Manikchandra’s songs, or Maynamati’s songs, or gopichandrer gan, which focus on
Manikchandra. The songs of Goraksanath narrate the feats of Goraksanath and describe how
Goraksanath rescued his master, Minanath. The other strain narrates the legend of king
Manikchandra and Queen Maynamati and of how their son, Gopichandra, became a saint.
Possibly, nathgiti was sung in a mixture of song, dance and recitation, in the manner of panchali.
It may be noted that the story of Maynamati and Gopichandra is also known as Gopichandra’s
panchali.