Folk Tradition of Bengal (and Rabindranath Tagore)

by Joydeep Mukherjee | 2018 | 49,317 words | ISBN-10: 8186036989 | ISBN-13: 9788186036983

An English study regarding the Folk Tradition of Bengal and its influence on Rabindranath Tagore—an important Bengali polymath from the 19th century who excelled in philosophy, arts (painting), literature and music. This research tries to initiate the semantic aspect of “folk” through the help of various dictionaries....

Chapter 2.2 - The Baul philosophy and Theory of Lalon

[Full title: Review of Research—Baul Darshan o Lalon Tatta (The Baul philosophy and Theory of Lalon)]

The present text is divided mainly into two sections. There are fourteen chapters in first part and the second part only consists of the collection of songs composed by Lalon Fakir. A major portion deals with Lalon Fakir which itself a treasure for the readers. The reason is the readers get minimum information about Lalon. The first chapter is titled as “Tahate Baul Hoinu Vai” (In this way we became Baul). In this particular section he deals with the identity of Bauls in relation to Lalon. Nonetheless there are numberless chapters on Lalon focusing on various aspects. 12th chapter is regarded as one chapter which traces the similarities between Lalon Fakir and Rabindranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore and Nazrul Islam.

The book is unique in the sense that another amalgamates philosophy, sociology, religion, dogmas and science to prove his point of view. Secondly, he very casually accepts the challenges as valid point against his engagements. Thirdly, he moves here and there for Lalon the way Bauls travel and collect songs, manuscripts and documents from all irrespective of their popularly and unpopularity or knowledge and ignorance.

The philosophy propagated by the book is that the ‘Baul’ is a ‘wealth of nation’. It turns out to be a rich heritage of Bengal. But the research traces the root of such great tradition. It stems from the culture of aboriginals. The Bengalis are their successors. History unfolds the mystery that they are relentlessly dominated by different rulers in different point of time. But they fail to spoil the bud of their cultural tradition which flourished and paved the way for their successors. More over it is not going to be an exaggeration to say that other races during the time of their degeneration clung their root and followed with the aboriginals. Further digging with history informs the story of arrival of Aaryans, their domination over ‘non-Aaryans’, the attempt to uproot their cultural aspects and other things. Surprisingly it can be concluded by saying that Aaryans compromised a lot at that point with them (‘non-Aaryans’) to settle their culture firm rooted. Even they are forced to worship the gods and goddesses of ‘non-Aaryans’. For instance they even changed their stream from ‘power’ to ‘murthi’, a transition from abstract to concrete. It invariably means Bengali is a race which reserved and preserved their cultural stuns by any extent. Except this an instance revolution for language can be stated / cited. This is a type of consciousness which forces them to stand against all kinds of erosion and aberration. More over it is glorious to feel that the freedom struggle is more a cultural struggle than a national one / political one even though we are bound to lay emphasis on its political milieu, domination of culture must be considered. These are all mentioned to come to one point i.e. to save the culture from the degeneration from different corners of life. Finally, it is clear that the culture that Bengalis received, cherished and boast of belongs to those so called uncultured ‘non-Aaryans’.

The research also tries to track the pathways of Rabindranath Tagore when he internalizes the spirit of Baul tradition as a life force. Later on Khitimohan Sen, a renowned researcher, also tried to correlate Baul with Upanishad almost in a similar fashion like Rabindranath Tagore. It is as if both of them are trying to validate the value of Baul in Bengali tradition with that of the same of Upanishad in Indian tradition. The impact was so much enriching that Tagore in 1925 mentioned one of the famous songs of Lalon in his presidential lecture:

This village poet evidently agrees with our sage of Upanishad who says that our mind comes back baffled in attempt to reach the unknown being, and yet this poet like the ancient sage does not give up adventure of the infinite, thus implying that there is a way to its realization.

Here the research is itching to ask a question whether the readers have the right to term it as ‘Upanishadik Baul Philosophy or not’. The research also smells the influence of Baul on ‘Charyapada’ (ancient Bengali text). Therefore, to make it more explicit the research relies on ‘Sankhya Darshan’ which will perhaps clarify the entire knot of complication. For the purpose, political history of Bengal is the only authentic source.

The year was 1757 when British rulers took the change immediately after the defeat of Siraj-ud-ulla in the battles of Palassey. Such a change of ruling side ushered a structural change in social order. The only reason is that they here utterly materialistic. And other is the tendency to be superior through an acceptance of foreign culture. Such a race of courtship shattered the base of belief. Few are of the opinion that Tagore prevented such because he being a product of ‘Babu’ (elite) culture shunned them and invited them (Bengalis) to join in his campaign.

He wrote songs for this purpose:

Mayer dewa mota kapor mathai tule ne re vai
Din dukhini ma je toder tar beshi r j nai|


“You take the rough clothes produced by your mother land. She is poor and sad. That is all what she has.”

The research can assure that such kind of campaigning in the hands of Raja Rammohan Roy, Biharila Roy and Debendranath Tagore was at the vogue even when Tagore was not born. But Tagore from his childhood faced rather experienced such an abnormal tendency to switch over to another culture without any solid reason or purpose. He, in 1800 though a growing young man amidst British influence, wrote an essay on ‘Baul Darshan’ intimating the urgency of such cultural seed in lives of people. Therefore, what Tagore did was that he generated a sense of ownness and oneness among people and made a feeling of homeliness with Bauls. Undoubtedly, he is the real son of Bengal and worshipper of the language. Therefore, it is obvious that anything that impressed Tagore will touch other people if not by its indigenous quality but by the quality of Rabindranath Tagore’s personality of presentation.

Here in this relation Dr. Anwarul Karim referred to the commencement of C. Dimok:

That Rabindranath as a poet and as a thinker lies well within the tradition of long line of Indian poets, saints and that his roots are far more deeply buried in the mediaeval Bengal than they are in the West... I do feel that he lives today in Bengal as he did fifty years ago because he is the first and foremost a Bengal poet and speaks out of a traditional of Bengali poets... (p.15).

At this stage, the research discovers a range of transformations, quits unexpected; Debendranath’s, fatter of Tagore involvement in Bramha Religion, his close association with king of Baul Lalon Fakir, change in Jyotirindranath Tagore, the brother of Tagore regarding folk culture and ultimately Tagore’s devotion to uplift the neglected Bauls.

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