(Last Updated on : 02-01-2013)
Manasa Literature originated in Bengal around the fifteenth century. Manasa is the mother and queen of the snakes and their head deity. The Manasa cult was popular in east Bengal. The fable attached to Manasa cult is not found in any of the Sanskrit Puranas. It is considered as an indigenous product of Bengal. Goddess Manasa
is known by the name of Padma and the Manasa poems are also known as Manasa-mangal, Padma-puran or Manasar Bhasan Gan. These poems glorify the deity in the characteristic manner of the Mangal Kavya. They are sung at Manasa festivals as part of the ritual. The difference as well as the minor details introduced.
The parable begins with the birth of Manasa, the daughter of Lord Shiva
and how she had to leave her father's home due to the ill treatment she received from her stepmother Chandi. In the quarrel she lost an eye in a quarrel which also led to a hand to hand fight between her and Chandi. To take revenge she resolved that the people who worshipped Siva and Chandi should worship her instead. With the help of her friend she established herself among the lower classes, and she wished to get puja from Chad Sadagar of Champak Nagar.
Manasa fable represents the triumph of Goddess Manasa. The earliest Manasa poem is the Manasa-mangal by Vijay Gupta. The poet was the son of Sanatan and Rukmini and was born in Phullasri. Vijay Gupta makes discourteous remarks in an earlier poem on the Manasa cult by Kana Haridatta. Haridatta is probably the first Manasa poet and can be dated back to twelfth century. Another Manasa poem by Vipradas Piplai, Manasa Vijaya was written in 1495.
The Manasa literature also received many additions during the Vaishnava flow in Bengal. The best was composed in the sixteenth century was the poem by Vamsivadan Chakravartti who is a native of Mymensingh district. It is believed that the author is supposed to have been helped by his daughter Chandravatit. Chandravati was betrothed to a Brahman youth who jilted her for a Muslim woman. Folk-songs about her unhappy love are still current in the Mymensingh region. A native of the same region was Narayan Dev, the author of a Manasa poem whose popularity in West Bengal
is second only to the popularity of Vijay Gupta's poem.
One of the best Manasa poems in our literature was written by Ksamananda in the middle of the seventeenth century. The author also calls himself Ketakadas. He keeps the narrative within control by use of minimal words and incidents. He avoids the verbosity and coarseness that is the main feature of Manasa literature.