Midnapore is one remotest frontier district of Bengal (East
+ West undivided) on the south-west, holding strategic position in the junction of three provinces of West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. The southern part of this district had been under the rulers of Orissa states for centuries together, and the northern part remained with the main land of ‘Rarha' Bengal, and as such, the language and culture of the southern portion of this district grew and developed under the influence of the Orissa language and culture, while those of the northern position developed along with the main Bengali language and culture. The early history of this vast tract of land, now called Midnapore, dates back to the ancient period of the Indian civilization when Tamralipta flourished as a famous sea-part. That ancient Tamralipta is now buried under historic oblivion leaving the name of a little town that is Tamluk. It is known to all that the ancient culture is totally lost.
A district is nothing but a conveniently demarcated boundary for administrative facility and it has got no necessary relarence to the history, literature or culture of that particular area. The special feature of any district does not depend upon any parochial patriotism or some narrow outlandish outlook of a particular group of people, but it depends rather on the genius and originality in the creative line following the main Language and literacy pursuits of the race. Midnapore is no exception.
Bengali literature had not flourished before the age of Vidyapati and Chandidas, who are precursors of Vaishnava literature. Bengali prose did not take any concrete shape for any literary production then. It is in poetry or in versification that the first literature of Bengal took a definite shape. The influence of Sri Chaitanya Deva (1486 - 1544 ) acted as the primal source of inspiration to all the Vaishnava poets, not excluding those of Midnapore. So long these were regel and feudal administration in the land, the royal persons or the big zamindar and great landlords became the patrons of literature and culture, and poets and writers flocked around of them for their support and subsistence. The common mass of this agricultural tract of land, the tillers, toilers and traders naturally could not take any initiative of their own accord.
In the middle ages the basis of the main current of culture and literature was mostly religious. The irresistible influence of Chaitany's religion of love and fraternity created the age of Vaishnava cult and literature, and the tide also swept over Midnapore. Not a few Vaishnava poets of this district cast a glorious and lasting radiance upon the religious minded mass, and among them were Shyamananda, Rasikananda, Gopijanaballav Das, Dukhi Shyamdas, Gobardhan Das and Kanuram Das. All of them were ‘padakartas', Composer of ‘padavalis', lyrical, metaphysical and religious.
Before going into some detailed discussion about these poets, the name of two immortal poets of the 16th century be mentioned in reference to the literary activities in the District
MUKUNDARAM CHAKRAVARTI , Kavi-Kankan composed his famous poem ‘Chandi Mangal' sitting at the parlour of the Zamindar Bankura Roy , a resident of Arhrah Village of this district, Of course, Mukundaram was not born in Midrapore, he hailed from Burdwan district, a tortured and driven-out person from Damunya Village. Here Bankura Roy gave him shelter and support.
The famous composer of the Bengali Mahabharata ,
KASHIRAM DAS also fled from Burdwan and resided in the court of the king of Abashgarh as a teacher of youngsters and got inspiration here for expressing his creative faculty.
Now we come to our Shyamananda, the celebrated Vaishnava guru (preceptor) of the early 17th century. Six direct disciples of Chaitanya are called six goswamis of Vrindaban following them the later three ‘Goswamis', rather ‘trio'- Narottatma , Srinibas and Shyamananda , were ordained by their gurus to accept the mission of preaching. The Vaishnava religion in Bengal and Orissa. Shyamananda took the arduous job of preaching Vaishnavism in Orissa and Southern of Midnapore was then under Orissa rulers,
SHYAMANANDA was born at Handeswar , near Dharenda Bahadurpur of this district. His father's name was Srikrishna Mondal and mothers Durika Devi. There is a long description of his religious preáching in Orissa in the “Bhakti Ratnakar” written by Narahari Chakravarti . Three books of Shyamanarda have yet been found and those are ‘Advaita-tattwa' , ‘Upasana Sar Samgraha' and ‘Vrindahan parikrama' all philosophical or religious poems. Some of his nice ‘padabalis' could also be found in the 'Pada Kalpataru , an anthology made by Vaishnabadas . Shyama'nanda had a deep and lasting influence upon the Vaishnava minded men of Midnapore and his followers and devotees formed a sect called Shyamanandis creating a centre of congregation at Gopiballavpur, about Shyamananda could be found in other books too “Shamananda Prakash and Abhiramlila ”.
RASIKANANDA , a disciple of Shyamananda, used his pen to present us two treatises, all in verses, “Sakhabarnan” and “Rativilas” and some ‘padas' incorporated in “Padakalpataru”. Charita-Sahitya (Literature based on life history) is a novel creation of the Vaishnava poets. Vrindaban Das and Krishnadas Kaviraj had shown the way, and the later poets largely imitated them. The life and activities of Rasikananda are vividly described in the book “Rasikamangal” composed by Gopijanaballav Das, Gopiballavpur, a place in the South West of Midnapore and near the border of Orissa, became a great centre of Vaishnava cult during his time. Gopijanaballav Das has been famous for his Rasikamangal, which delineates the traits of his guru in bold and impressive verses. Certainly the Vaishnava poets will command respect for their acceptance of a living man's character as a subject of poetry. And though the religious fervour tinged all the versifications of this period, the elements of human joys and sorrows, pride and pitfalls are not absent from these works.