Jaydev Kenduli is a village and gram panchayat in Ilambazar community development block in Bolpur subdivision of Birbhum District. Until recently, some believed it to be the birthplace of Jayadeva. Jaydev Kenduli has developed as a religious centre with many temples and ashramas (hermitages). On the occasion of Makar Sankranti an annual fair is organized, which is also popularly known as Baul Fair.
Jaydev Kenduli had long been considered as a possible birthplace of the poet Jayadeva, who had composed Gita Govinda in Sanskrit. However, now there appears to be a consensus among scholars that Jayadeva was born in another place in Orissa bearing the same name, in Kenduli Sasan. He was popularly believed to be the court poet of Raja Lakshman Sen, who ruled in the 12th–13th century. The image of Radhamadhav set up by him is daily worshipped. The asana (mat) on which the poet sat and obtained siddhi (salvation) through meditation is carefully preserved.
During the Mughal era Jaydev Kenduli was part of Senpahari pargana. As per a firman issued by Aurangzeb in the 17th century, Senpahari was added to the property of Krishnaram Rai of Bardhaman Raj. Maharani Brajakishori of Bardhaman had set up temples in different places such as Puri and Vrindaban. Jugal Kishore Mukhopadhyay of Jaydev Kenduli was then court-poet at Bardhaman. It is said that it was at his request that the Maharani set up the Radhabinod temple at Jaydev Kenduli in 1683. The temple stands where the house of the poet Jayadeva, was believed locally to have stood, based on the prior assumption of his birth there.
Around 1860-70, Radharaman Brajabasi of the Nirbak Vaisnava sect set up the Nirbak Ashrama at Jaydev Kenduli, the place of birth of their kula guru (patron saint) of the sect, the poet Jayadeva.In the first half of the 20th century, the Radhaballav temple of the Mukhopadhyay family was established. Many more ashramas (hermitages) were set up and thus Jaydev Kenduli developed as a religious centre.
A fair is organized in memory of Jayadeva on the occasion of Poush Sankranti or Makar Sankranti. It starts on the last day of the Bengali calendar month, Poush and continues up to 2 Magh. The start of the fair commemorates the auspicious day on which Jayadeva is claimed to have taken a bath at the Kadaambokhandi ghat of the Ajay river at Jaydev Kenduli. In 1982, the district authorities took control of the fair to provide a better environment, a good sanitation system, drinking water, lighting and security.
Several thousand bauls, a community of wandering minstrels who sing devotional songs to the music of the ektara (one stringed instrument), assemble for the fair and as such it is also referred to as Baul Fair. The bauls stay in 160 temporary hermitages at Jaydev Kenduli for around a month. These bauls appear to have inherited the legacy of Jayadeva songs.
However, in recent years, the greatest baul fair in the state is gradually losing its character, as the bauls have been outnumbered by kirtanias, who perform in the mela to gain popularity. In 2008, around 2,000 kirtanias came to attend the mela and they obtained contracts worth Rs. 2 crore.
It is not known whether Rabindranath Tagore ever visited Jaydev Kenduli. However, many personalities linked with Santiniketan such as Kshiti Mohan Sen, Nandalal Bose, Provat Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Ramkinkar Baij, and Santideb Ghosh visited Jaydev Kenduli and contributed substantially towards the spread of its name outside Birbhum and added to its fame.
The fair, which is believed by some to have been there for around centuries, caters primarily to the requirements of village folk. Everything from cooking utensils to fishing nets are sold in the fair.