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Bengali poetry is a form that originated in Pāli and other Prakrit socio-cultural traditions. It is antagonistic towards Vedic rituals and laws as opposed to the shramanic traditions such as Buddhism and Jainism. During the Medieval Ages, puthis also played an important role and much Persian and Arabic influence came along. However the modern Bengali owes much to Sanskrit.
The history of Bengali poetry underwent three successive stages of development: poetry of the early age (like Charyapad), the Medieval period and the age of modern poetry. Modernity was introduced into Bengali poetry in the 1930s.
Bengali poetry probably began during the 10th century. It is known for the mystic poems called Charyacharyavinishchaya, and sometimes called Charyapad or Charyagiti. These poems were discovered in Nepal's Royal Library by Bengali scholar Mahamahopadhyay Haraprasad Shastri.
The Medieval period of Bengali poetry was between 1350 and 1800. It marked the start of the Dobhashi influence and many Muslim literature was written during this period. It was also the period of Jayadeva, the renowned 12th-century poet from neighboring Odisha who was famous for his poem Gitagovinda.
Originally, Muslim poets adapted popular Persian and Arabic tales of war and love. It is considered this period was when romantic themes where introduced to Bengali poetry. Shah Muhammad Sagir was said to be the first Bengali Muslim poet, and his most famous work was the romance; Yusuf-Zulekha based on the story of Yusuf and Zulekha. The 16th century poet, Alaol also translated the Awadhi epic poem, Padmavat, into Bengali (titled Padmavati). However, his version focused much more on love.
This period marked the introduction of puthi literature. It is considered that Fakir Shah Gharibullah initiated the trend with his epic "Amir Hamza". Many jongonamas, puthis based on battles, were written during this time. Jongonamas were generally elegiac in tone. Works relating to Karbala were called marsiya (meaning 'grief' in Arabic) literature. Both janganama and marsiya literature first developed in Arabia and later Persia. Muslim Sufis and soldiers introduced this form of poetry in the Bengali language to the masses in Bengal and Arakan. Well-known poems of include Zainab's Chautisha by Sheikh Faizullah, Maqtul Husayn by Mohammad Khan and Qasim-er Lodai O Fatima-r Surotnama by Sherbaz. The works mixed Bengali folk poetry with Perso-Arabian stories and themes, and are considered an important part of the Muslim culture of Bengal.
Other noted poets from this period include 13th century Vidyapati, known for his love lyrics and Baḍu, Chandidas, writer of Sri Krishna Kirtan. Sri Krishna Kirtan is considered to be the most important philosophical and erotic work of the period.
The period from 1500 to 1800 is known as the Late Middle Bengali Period. During this period, there was a marked influence of Chaitanya, leading to the development of Vaishnava literature. Vaishnava poets include Govinddas and Gyandas.
Bharat Chandra marks the transition between Precolonial theocentric poetry and modern poetry. Iswar Gupta, Michael Madhusudan Dutta (1834–1873), Biharilal Chakravarti (1834–94), Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) are noteworthy poets of this period.
With Rabindranath Tagore founding a firm basis for modern Bengali poetry, the new poets of the early 1920s consciously moved for transcending the frontiers of traditional verses to establishing a realm of truly modern poetry. It was a successful movement that brought permanent change to the structure and theme of poetry. Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) first built the foundation of modern Bengali poetry by introducing modern concept of revolt against all autocracy, hypocrisy, superstition and inhumanity in Bengali. One notable sect of modernists included pro-socialism poets like Sukanta Bhattacharya and Samar Sen.
Modern Bengali poetry has also witnessed feminist intellect Kabita Singha, mallika Sengupta, Krishna Basu and Sriparna Bandyopadhyay being some of the most prominent names.