It was early morning. Thakur Scion, Vidyapati sought to confirm and asked “Ugana, did you get up?
“Yes, Maharaj. I am ready. Kindly give direction. I am in full service of you, whether day or night,” came reply from a dedicated servant named Ugana.
He was literally very poor but had very sound aptitude level. His appetite to serve the Vidyapati was very prominent. It was such that he never had missed any sort of opportunity serving and taking a call from him. It happened almost daily or can be said always that on any call or direction from Vidyapati, he used to be the first to respond promptly out of many servants employed by Thakurs of Bisfi.
Realizing that Ugana had already got up and ready now, he alerted him by saying, ”Do you remember, today we have to visit somewhere else.”
Ugana replied,”Ji Maharaj, I know only one thing, wherever you will plan to proceed, I will follow. That’s the only thing I remember doing in your service, nothing else.”
Getting the answer in affirmation, he further instructed,”Then, please be ready to move anytime now. But ensure to keep essential items which we may require during the journey.
Ugana said,”Ji Maharaj.”
Vidyapati Thakur was born to Ganpati Thakur, who was the head priest in the Kingdom of Oinwar Dynasty of Mithila then headed by King Dev Singh. He was used to accompanying his father while visiting the Palace. The continuous exposure to the Vedas and Kingdom under the aegis of his father made him very known face of Raj Darbar. The same time Prince Shiv Singh was also growing and grooving up. Later on, Shri Ganpati Thakur was bestowed with one village named Bisfi under the Jarail Paraganas of Darbhanga District in lieu of his loyalty to the kingdom and prayer owing allegiance to the King Dev Singh and his heir-apparent of his kingdom.
Decades passed by so did the profession & practice. Vidyapati, who was once a child accompanying his father, had now become a scholar and poet. His interest in literature and knowledge propagation was such that he had written many books focussing on religions, moral teachings, philosophy, literature, songs infested with romance, love and affection etc. But above all, he was a devotee of Lord Shiva and Ma Ganga, more prominently Lord Shiva. He was devoted not only to the supernatural power of Hindu Religious God but to his own noble deeds too.
Though not many things are known presently regarding his family affairs and his lifestyle it is very widely known that along with his noble deed of literary works, he used to visit many kingdoms to entertain the throne with his artistic satire and sarcasm. His songs, which had an infestation of lovemaking of ‘Krishna & Radha and their blending’ was most sought after. Throughout the whole kingdom of Oinwar dynasty, he was famous for his love songs(Sringar Ras). He now used to visit the villages in the vicinity to entertain the people.
Once upon a time, he was requested to visit the palace of Oinwar kingdom, where his father Ganpati Thakur was head priest a long back. Moreover, his great-grand-father was also a minister in the same kingdom ruled by Oinwar Dynasty. But current dispensation under the Kingdom of Shiv Singh was not known to him. The King Shiv Singh had heard about Vidyapati and his literary power.
Today was the day when Vidyapati along with his servant Ugana had to visit the palace. That was the reason, he alerted Ugana in the wee hour itself. He commenced his journey with Ugana. After travelling for more than 5 hours, they reached the Fort where King Shiv Singh used to live.
On reaching the gate of the fort, Vidyapati showed ‘Tamra Patra’ (an ancient practice to send a message to someone in written form), an invitation card sent by King to Dwarpal.
The ‘Dwarpal’ very politely said to Vidyapati,”Come along.”
He followed. On reaching special confinement meant for Guest, the Dwarpal asked him, “Your kindness, please take rest till the King is intimated of your arrival. For this, I forward the message of your arrival through messenger.”
After a while, the messenger reverted back and gave consent to Dwarpal to escort Vidyapati into the court with full of honour as he is the state guest.
He was taken to palace courtyard with due honour. Maharaja Shiv Singh was very courteous. The moment he got news of his arrival, he came down to receive the holy poet and scholar Vidyapati into his chamber, meant for all ministers and chief guests. He met and pleasantries got exchanged between them. To ease the guest, the King sought to know the well being of family and elders.
Amidst the short conversation between them, the minister-in-charge of Foreign Affairs came with information which was surprisingly expected to be soothing to both of them. It was practised on those days in the Oinwar dynasty to declare the full pedigree of the visitors for developing better understanding between the King and its guest. The minister whispered the pleasing facts to the King. The King was told that Vidyapati’s father was the head priest in the foregoing ruler of Oinwar dynasty. This fact was not known to King. Very ecstatically, King sought to know from the Minister, “What was his name? The minister replied, ”He was Ganpati Thakur from Village Bisfi of Jarail Paragana.”
Shiv Singh tried to recall his childhood memory. Ultimately, he recalled with the help of Senior Minister looking after the affairs of Deptt of Information. The king was very pleased to know and remember about this holy nexus pre-existing between guest and the palace. Gradually, he recalled having spent good time with one boy from Head priest family.
He immediately asked Vidyapati, “What is the name of Pt. Ganpati Thakur’s son and where is he nowadays? Vidyapati was stunned. He was completely awestruck by the facts unfurled by the King. He replied, “Maharaj, his name is Vidyapati Thakur and coincidentally right now, is sitting before you to take a call from you to render service sought for. The King was completely amazed to know this. The alacrity on his face was such that he forgot to maintain protocol and went to embrace Vidyapati. Both greeted each other but Vidyapati did not recall when he met him.
Shiv Singh, out of curiosity asked Vidyapati,”Do you know Pandit Ji, we are told by Senior Ministers that we were friends then and had many pleasurable moments together at the courtyard under this fort, where your father was deployed as Head Priest.”
Vidyapati recalled his childhood memories. He was junior to the King by 2-3 years, hence he was not able to memorize the events clearly as Shiv Singh was able to do. By then, Vidyapati recalled many such incidents of his childhood. He, therefore, requested, “Maharaj, for the sake of our childhood memories and pleasant time spent together, kindly don’t treat me as state guest but the ‘subject’ always in awe of you for your service. I have not only been here but got all the knowledge and lessons of life by visiting here when my father visited this palace for offering prayers to God and your forefathers. Earlier, I was this much aware that I used to visit various kingdom with my father and got all the basic understanding of Vedas during those days accompanying him, but I was not aware which kingdom this was. Today I am pleased to hear all these information related to childhood.”
Maharaj listened to his courteous request with apt attention and requested Vidyapati, “Panditji, you have been my friends since the day when I was not capable of my own. I had not gained access to Kingdom decision making. I was, then, getting grooved as like as you to lead the life in the way our ancestors have trodden the path of duty and provided an opportunity to serve the ‘subject’ with utmost respect and zeal. Though you are one of the old friends, the ‘Karma’ had provided different ambitions & destinations to us. So we are separated by the destiny to reach respective ‘Karma-kshetra’ to do our duty in a perfect manner. With the grace of God and blessings of our ancestors, I am now enthroned and crowned to this great Kingdom of Mithila to serve the people in the best manner. At the same time, you have created your own niche and have been propagating the message of love and affection by nicely articulating the songs related with an infestation of love-making of Radha-Krishna to such an artistic level, one seldom would get un-attentive of when sung or recited by you. Hence, it is my humble request to my dear friend to accept my offer of being a cultural advisor to the throne.
“Maharaj, I am not in such a position to avoid your direction as you are my King here and it’s said in a state King is like God to the ‘subject’ inhabiting the territory of the kingdom. Hence, how will it be for me to not accept the offer made by God himself? In another way, being King you are the resource provider. You have full authority over the resources generated under the kingdom which we people exploit in order to get a square meal.” described Vidyapati suggesting his acceptance of the offer made by him.
He further added, “Maharaj, since I have not come here with all my belongings, I may be allowed to visit my village and come fully prepared to serve you diligently.”
Maharaja replied humorously while nodding in affirmation, ”Panditji & above all my new found friend, you take your time and come as and when you think you are fully prepared. I won’t have any contempt.”
Vidyapati returned to his village and informed his wife Sushila about an offer by King himself to be his cultural advisor. On hearing, she exulted in joy. Happiness was not only due to employment in the Kingdom but her husband getting an opportunity to showcase his scholastic performance adoring the beautiful creatures.
Further, Sushila sought to know when you have to start service to the kingdom. He replied, “The moment, we get ready to serve him in a better manner. Make preparation to depart at earliest. Ask Ugana to arrange all the goods. It would be proper if we reach the palace on Purnimant. Today is the Ekadasi, so we have 4(four) days to prepare ourselves.”
Ugana was already knowing the plan. He further got direction from Sushila and they eventually prepared themselves to depart on Purnimant.
They departed. The palace was twenty miles away. On the way, there were dense jungles all around. The population was also very rare. After a journey of 15 miles, Vidyapati got thirsty. He asked Sushila and Ugana to arrange water.
“Even a drop would suffice,” he desired.
Both Sushila and Ugana wandered in the vicinity for water but to no avail. After sometimes, Sushila returned empty handed with a disappointing look. But Ugana continued his endeavour to find any source of water. But he too was helpless, nothing was seen, neither any water reservoir nor any glimpse of habitation. Eventually, he managed to bring a bowl of water. Vidyapati drunk it. His thirst got quenched up. But he suspected something as water had different taste.
He immediately asked Ugana,“Wherefrom did you bring water? Here, I don’t think any human habitat is there, neither any water reservoir.”
Ugana very secretly replied, “Maharaj, I found water from a nearby place, the name of which I am unable to answer.
Vidyapati got suspicious and asked emphatically,”Ugana, you tell the source, else, I would not move any further. I doubt your answer.
Ugana finding in a spot thought to divulge the fact very secretly as the stubborn attitude of Vidyapati would have failed his effort to reach the palace on time. He went little further in the guise of taking rest. Vidyapati followed him there too and continued asking the same question. The little did Vidyapati know that the person he was in conversation was none but Lord Shiva in a human avatar.
Suddenly, he saw Ugana turned into Shiva. Vidyapati couldn’t believe the unbelievable had happened. He was literally numbed. It was enough to Vidyapati to know who is Ugana. He knelt down with folded hand and started reciting the verses of Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva said to Vidyapati,”Bhakt Vidyapati, please don’t divulge this fact to anybody, else I will leave you. Because of your ardent prayer and Bhakti, I decided to be around you. Today, it was becoming difficult for me to see my devotee moving helter-skelter for such a long time in search of a drop of water. Therefore, I derived holy water from my Jata and served you.”
Vidyapati was speechless,” He couldn’t believe what is happening to him. He simply prayed to Shiva to continue living with him as Ugana and provide ample opportunity to follow your direction & serve you in humanely form.”
Suddenly, Sushila called Ugana loudly, “Ugana, where are you? Don’t we have to go further? The very moment, Shiva returned to his human body as Ugana and replied,”Ji Maharani, let’s go. We are ready now. Maharaj has quenched himself up.”
(The place where this incident occurred is Bhawanipur, where Indian Railways has designated a halt in memory of Ugana, known as Ugana Halt near Pandaul Block of Madhubani District in Bihar. One big temple of Lord Shiva in the name of ‘Ugana Mahadev’ is also built there by Mithila ruler for Shiva Devotee.)
The same day evening, they reached the palace and met the Minister-in-charge. They were provided with a place to live and spend time working for the betterment of the kingdom. Now Vidyapati, Sushila & Ugana started living together and devoted themselves to the prosperity of King and its kingdom.
Years passed by and so are the bonhomie between King Shiv Singh and Vidyapati. It was time when Delhi Sultanate was ruled by Md. Alauddin Khilji. In order to conquer the part of Mithila, he attacked the Mithila. In battle, peace loving King Shiv Singh was defeated and taken away by forces of Allauddin Khilji to Delhi.
The time when Alauddin Khilji attacked Mithila, Vidyapati was roaming the paraganas under the Mithila Kingdom to propagate the beauty of art, culture and peace. He got the news. He immediately reached the capital of Mithila only to find King Shiv Singh was detained and taken away to Delhi by arms-assailants of Khilji.
He directed Ugana to get prepared to reach Delhi. Finally, they reached Delhi after two months. With permission from Emperor, he reached the court of Alauddin Khilji. He sought time to meet his King Shiv Singh. After persistent approach, he was allowed to meet him. He met him. The king pleaded Vidyapati to get him freed as its forces are very cruel and continue torturing him. Finding his King in very miserable condition, he decided to meet the emperor once again and requested him to free him in lieu of some of the paraganas under Mithila State. The emperor accepted the proposal in principle but with some riders. The emperor asked Vidyapati to be victorious in Shastrarth(Philosophical contest) with the scholar of his palace who was well versed with Persian literature.
“Maharaj, don’t be so cruel on me, I am a scholar of Sanskrit, Maithili, Avahatt. I am not versed in any foreign languages like Persian etc. Kindly allow someone from these languages to get contested with me.” pleaded Vidyapati.
The emperor said, “No, Shahi instruction & directions are binding on everybody, be it Subject or Guest or Messenger. You have to follow the direction, else your King won’t be freed. Go and have a Shastrarth with my scholar.”
Ugana was witnessing all these dramas played in Delhi Sultanate by none other than Emperor Alauddin Khilji himself.
“Maharaj, let’s go and prepare for this as instructed by this cruel emperor. You are devout of Shiva, he will bail you out from this difficult situations.” Ugana requested to Vidyapati.
Eventually, Vidyapati got his confidence up and with the blessing of Shiva and pleaded the Emperor again to get Shastrarth conducted in any mixed languages and be allowed in conversation in such way. Finally better sense prevailed and scholar from Delhi Sultanate agreed to have a Shastrarth in Mixed languages. Vidyapati composed the poetry in mixed languages and stood there chance up and after a fierce scholastic encounter with the elitist in the Delhi Sultanate cleared many obstacles created by their men and declared a winner. Eventually, Mithila King Shiv Singh was freed from the clutch of Alauddin Khilji with the divine blessing of Ugana(avatar of Shiva).
Life moved on. Gradually, Ugana became the lifeline of Vidyapati. Whenever he had felt any sort of difficulties in handling the tricky assignment, Ugna used to assist him which ultimately made Vidyapati, a saviour of King Shiv Singh.
One day, Sushila assigned some work to Ugana. He took in his stride and did the work in his own way. Unfortunately, Sushila had expected the thing in a different manner. Finding the executed work in the manner not sought by her, had, in fact, infuriated Sushila very much. She first scolded him. Unfazed, Ugana continued pleading her and took lightly to her provocation and scolding, which further rattled Sushila. She took one stick and swung it to hit Ugana. The very moment, Vidyapati reached the venue where she was about to hit Ugana with the stick in hand. On seeing Ugana about to get hit by Sushila, he rushed to defend Ugana and shouted at Sushila,”What are you doing? You are scolding Ugana and are about to hit Bhole Shankar, my lord with the stick.”
Immediately, Ugana took a deep breath, moved a little away and lost somewhere else which people couldn’t find anywhere. The human avatar of Shiva had vanished forever as said during the incident of Vidyapati when he had gotten the glimpse of Lord Shiva in Ugana during the journey to the palace when he was in need of drinking water.
Now Vidyapati had become Lord-less. He was no more interested in anything. Gradually his health deteriorated. After a few years, he sensed something indicating that time is up for him to leave the world. He called his disciples and relatives. They were told to arrange the things so as to pay a visit to Simariya, where River Ganges flows. Days passed by walking when he asked the disciples,”How far is still Ma Ganga.? One of the disciples informed him,”Maharaj, it is still 5(five) miles away.” He got infuriated and commented,”Still so far! I don’t find the energy to move further. Lifelong I have preached Lord Shiva and Ma Ganga. If Ma Ganga loves me most, then she will come here and take me in her lap.”
The relatives and disciples accompanying were astonished to hear, the near to impossible vow, made by Vidyapati. They were anxiously waiting direction from their beloved Vidyapati. Hours elapsed waiting for any further direction from his side. Ma Ganga was nowhere to seen as expected and pleaded by her devout Vidyapati. They felt drowsiness because of walking hundreds of Kilometer on foot. Within a few minutes everybody slept. Vidyapati was semi-awoke reciting the verses of Lord Shiva. Suddenly the sky was full of clouds. Raining started fiercely. It seemed deluge has come. Within few seconds, it was seen the flow of Ganga touched the place where Vidyapati was staying with his flocks. It was a miracle. Ma Ganga had fulfilled the wishes of her devout Vidyapati by reaching out to him. Within the next few days, Vidyapati lost the nerve and died. The place where the flow of River Ganga touched Vidyapati is still there known as Vidyapatinagar.
Today Vidyapati is known not only because of his scholastic persona but his Bhakti towards Lord Shiva and Ma Ganga. Throughout his life, he displayed the crux of his persona with the help of many of his creative skill.
Disclaimer: The facts mentioned in this story is indicative one. One may find a little distortion of the bare fact but summarily it is the real one. More particularly, Divine meeting with Lord Shiva is “the beliefs established through many of his writings.” Above all, major parts of this story, one may find on Internet too amidst ‘kimbadanti’ in the Mithila Region of Bihar, Bengal, Orissa.