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ASIATIC SOCIETY OF BENGAL.
Part I.-HISTORY, LITERATURE, &c.
The Song of Mánik Chandra.-By G. A. GRIERSON, C. S.
In my notes on the Rangpur dialect, I promised to give an account of the song whose name heads this article, and that promise I shall now do my best to redeem. I find, however, that the task has been more difficult than I anticipated. I do not doubt but that king Mánik Chandra, and his terrible wife did once exist; but the traditions current concerning him run so counter to ascertained history, that I have been able to discover very few grains of truth amongst the legendary chaff that has accumulated about his
To begin with; the first name we meet with is a crux. Mánik Chandra's brother was a Pála king.
Mánik Chandra himself was certainly not a Pála, for he was a baniyá by caste, while Abul-Fazl describes the Pálas as Kayasthas.* Moreover, I know of no dynasty of Pála kings, containing names ending in " Chandra," like Mánik Chandra, Gopí Chandra, or Bhava Chandra. The brother's name was Dharma Pál.
The following account has been drawn from various sources. I have consulted BUCHANAN throughout, and wherever his story differs from mine in important particulars I have recorded the points of disagreement.
*Cf. however, Mr. Westmacott's article on the Pál Kings, in Vol. LIX of the Calcutta Review, on which I have drawn freely, and gratefully, while treating on the present subject.
In the Dimlá Thánά situated to the north-west of Rangpur, and nine or ten miles to the south-east of the sub-divisional head quarters of Bágdokará is the city of Dharma Pál. Buchanan thus describes it—“ It is in the form of a parallelogram, rather less than a mile from north to south, and half a mile from east to west. The following sketch (Fig. 1) taken in riding round it, will enable the reader more easily to understand it than my account.* The defences consist of a high rampart of earth, which at the south-east corner is irregular, and retires back to leave a space that is much elevated, and is said to have been the house of the Rájá's minister (Díván-khána). On the east side I observed no traces of a ditch, nor gate ; but a ditch about 40 feet wide surrounds the other three faces.† In the centre of each of these is a gate defended by outworks, and in these are a good many bricks. At each angle of the fort has been a small square projection, like a sort of bastion, extending however only across the counterscarp to the ditch; and between each gate and the bastion at the corner are some others of similar construction. The earth from the ditch has been thrown outwards, and forms a slope without a covered way. At the distance of about 150 yards from the ditch of the north-east and south sides, are parallel ramparts and ditches, which enclose an outer city, where it is said the lower populace resided. Beyond these on the south is another enclosure, in which it is said the horses were kept. Parallel to the west side of the city, at about the distance of 150 yards, runs a fine road very much raised; but its ends have been swept away by changes that have taken place in the rivers.”
To the west of this city at a distance of two miles, was the city of Mánik Chandra, now, however, called, after his more famous wife Mayaná Matir kot.‡
Here Mánik Chandra reigned over the half dozen square miles of territory which constituted him a rájádhirája. His wife Mayaná was deeply skilled in magic, an art which it appears in those days, though unlawful for a man, was lawful for a woman. § She was (so says the legend) the pupil of a mighty magician who by his intense devotion to and abstraction into the Holy Name had acquired immense powers. His mere word was sufficient to strike one dead. He could cause the sea to cease to move, The city is noted
*The plan given is Buchanan's, and is very fairly accurate. for containing within the inner walls three remarkably fine tanks.
† The ditch and rampart are called in Rangpur the Kot (â ada 3 WI व्यापिया स्मृत्तिकार वृहत् एकटा गड़ ) G. A. G.
I मय्ना afat àīz. This lady is said to have founded several other important towns. Amongst names which still survive I may mention Mayaná talir háṭ (ĦQAT तलीर हाट) and Mayana Gudl ( मयना गुड़ी)
§ See verse 60 of the poem.
and the lights in his dwelling burnt with surpassing splendour, though only fed with Ganges water.
Now this man was a sweeper.
The Ha'di Siddha.
He was a Háḍi, the caste which acts as sweeper in Bangál. In Rangpur its impurity signifies nameless abomination, a fact which should be specially noted. Rangpur forms part of Kámarúpa. Hither one of the five Pandavas never set his foot, and the land is consequently impure. Its men are not as other men, nor its laws as other laws. It has a special code of its own, most of which can be found in the Yogini Tantra; and this law allows many things (such as certain kinds of flesh eating) to its straitest sects of Bráhmans. Hence impurity in Western India frequently becomes purity in Rangpur; while Rangpur impurity includes things simply inconceivable in Arya varta.
The Háḍi of the poem, and of the popular legends of the present day was a Vaishnava; and as Mayaná was also of the same sect (in which the members are practically all of one caste) it is not impossible that she should have had such a man for her Guru.
I say only "not impossible," for I consider it highly improbable, and for the following reasons :-It is evident that the true story has been much transformed in its passage from mouth to mouth, and I believe that the principle recasting (if I may call it so) was due to the influence of the Vaishnava followers of Chaitanya. Translated into common English the story is that Mayana's chaplain was a man of remarkable sanctity, whom the populace credited with supernatural powers. He was a great saint, and his religion followed that of his historians. The Yogis who narrate his history are at the present day followers of the teachers of the religion of Vishnu (not, be it observed, the popular Vaishnavas, vulgo Boishṭoms); and they naturally claimed their hero as belonging to their own sect. It is peculiarly the tendency of this beautiful, almost Christian, religion to preach the doctrine of the equality of castes ;--how every valley shall be exalted, and the rough places made snooth. The lowest amongst the low,—the despised and rejected amongst men, is fully capable of attaining equal holiness with the strictest Bráhman of the holiest sect which worships at the shrines of Vrindavana. Such being the case, what is more natural than that the ignorant and illiterate members of the same religion, who (like the Yogís) have the traditions of a missionary priesthood in their family, should instinctively point out how even an abominable Hádi can attain the terrible powers which their fathers attributed to a Vasishṭha or to a Durvása.
But, now that I have shown that it is quite possible for such an idea to have arisen, I would point out that the man who is now called the