Simple domestic worship to Manasa forms part of the large repertoire of rituals, chanting and narration through which rural women seek to placate rural goddesses who, on the whole find little mention in Vedic Hinduism. Though the snake does occupy an important supportive role in Hindu myths as part of Shiva's girdle, the crown of his matted locks or in Vishnu's canopy, Manasa as a snake goddess may be traced back to pre-Aryan goddess mythology. Literary historian, Asit Kumar Bandopadhyay,  believes that goddesses like Manasa, Chandi, Sheetala, Shashti and Bashuli,  are, even today, worshipped by rural women within their homes with simple non-Vedic rituals. He argues that this form of worship may be traced back to the tribes of Proto-Australoid origin who inhabited the plains of eastern India before Aryan settlement.
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The poems are sometimes associated with a pan-Indian deity, such as Shiva , but more often with a local Bengali deity—e. These poems vary greatly in length, from lines to several thousand, as in the case of the Chandi-mangal of Mukundarama Chakravarti, a masterpiece of 16th-century Bengali literature. Mangal-kavya are most often heard at the festivals of the deities they celebrate.
There is some disagreement among scholars as to whether or not the poems actually constitute an essential part of the ritual , without which it would be incomplete and not efficacious. Some of them, however, such as the Manasa-mangal , have become so popular that village singers, or gayak s, often sing them for the amusement and edification of a village audience.
Mangal poetry, unlike the texts of the Vedic tradition, is noncanonical literature and so has changed not only over the centuries but also from singer to singer, each performer being free to incorporate his own favourite legends and observations on the society around him.
The texts are thus valuable not only as religious documents but also historically. The large number of variants, even among those texts that have been committed to writing, does, however, make dating extremely difficult.
Mangal s cannot be characterized by content, except by saying that they all tell the story of how a particular god or goddess succeeded in establishing his or her worship on Earth. The popular Manasa-Mangal , for example, tells how the Bengali snake goddess Manasa conquered the worshippers of other deities by releasing her powers of destruction in the form of snakes.
The Dharma-mangal , which celebrates the merits of the folk god Dharma-Thakur, also contains an account of the creation of the world. Mangal s are similar in form despite the wide variance in length.
They are written for the most part in the simple payar metre, a couplet form with rhyme scheme aa bb , etc. Another characteristic of mangal poetry is its earthy imagery, drawn from village, field, and river, quite different from the elaborate and sophisticated imagery more typical of Sanskritic and court poetry. An exception is the 18th-century poem Annada-mangal by Bharat-chandra, a court poet who used the mangal form not as an expression of faith but as a frame for a witty, elaborate, sophisticated tale of love.
Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription. Subscribe today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Manasa , goddess of snakes, worshipped mainly in Bengal and other parts of northeastern India, chiefly for the prevention and cure of snakebite and also for fertility and general prosperity.
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Manasa was a tribal deity that was merged into the greater folds of Hinduism, and her worship took place from ancient times in Bengal. Manasa is also known as Bisahari, Janguli and Padmavati. The story of Manasamangal begins with the conflict of the merchant Chandradhar or Chand Sadagar with Manasa and ends with Chandradhar becoming an ardent devotee of Manasa. Chandradhar is a worshipper of Shiva, but Manasa hopes that she can win over Chand to her worship. But, far from worshipping her, Chand refuses to even recognize her as a deity. Manasa takes revenge upon Chand by destroying seven of his ships at sea and killing his seven sons.
Manasa Mangal Kavya
The poems are sometimes associated with a pan-Indian deity, such as Shiva , but more often with a local Bengali deity—e. These poems vary greatly in length, from lines to several thousand, as in the case of the Chandi-mangal of Mukundarama Chakravarti, a masterpiece of 16th-century Bengali literature. Mangal-kavya are most often heard at the festivals of the deities they celebrate. There is some disagreement among scholars as to whether or not the poems actually constitute an essential part of the ritual , without which it would be incomplete and not efficacious.