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 2.11 - Baul Fakir Katha

The book titled “Baul Fakir Katha [Kotha]” was first published in 2001, March under the Government of West BengalLokosangaskriti O Adibasi Sangaskriti Kendra”. Within short period of time the book achieved “Ananda Puroskhar” in 2002 and “Sahitya Akademi Somman” in 2004. The subject of Bauls and Fakirs are like hot cakes in Bengal. Therefore, uncountable number of people irrespective of academic and non-academic worked with genuine interest and enthusiasm. But the book has pin pointed those academic wrings in which there are clear signs of alienation crating a vacuum. For example the writer here explains about the book “Bauls of Birbhum” by Manas Roy. He mainly stressed on the social aspect of Bauls. Consequently the book has missed out the valuable identity of Bauls which itself is beyond any social function. Next he appreciates the hardy task of Shaktinath Jha for his “Bastubadi Baul” which is basically Murshidabad centric. Here the writer, Sudhir Chakraborty is very much concerned about the administrative boundary of Bauls obviously not by any charted district location. Hence the writer undertakes an extensive survey to get in touch with them to solve the gaps which is very common in other ‘table centred’ research book. This invariably helps him get two essential groups called ‘Sadhak Baul’ and ‘Gayak Baul’ and their uniqueness and uniformity on one hand and the difference between on the other. He further informs the ongoing trend to translate the songs of Bauls in different regional languages and sing with ease for entertainment and the subsequent income.

At the very outset, the book is divided into two parts which are named simply as ‘One’ and ‘Two’. First part is called “Atmapakkha” describing the writer’s research oriented discussion and is divided into nine sub parts. Second part is exceptionally unique because it deals with Bauls dwelling in different parts of West Bengal with details. It provides a rich variety of Baul songs composed by popular and unpopular Bauls. Not only that, he has given vivid illustration through notations of tune. At last the convivial conversation with those Bauls adds ‘sublimity’ to the text.

The writer begins the essay with a symbolic title “Surjo and Sishir” (Sun and Dew). Here in this section he talks about Tagore’s contribution on Bauls in the shortest possible way. What is his own is that he mentioned Tagore to be the first one who took Bauls always positive. Bauls taught him “apon hote bahir hoye apni dara” (you come out of your own self). Therefore, Tagore, the sun here, who has a tremendous power of heat over all the contemporary writers or artists, urges to reach to a dew drop, weak ones prone to die by any means. At last the writer proclaims that after Tagore Bauls become a common entity among mass in an uncommon way.

In the same essay, he acknowledges those researchers or personalities who whole heartedly devoted themselves for searching the moner manush for themselves and others. He mentioned the name of Aditya Mukhopadyay who had meticulously roamed different parts of Birbhum in particular and entire Bengal in general to get the subtle difference among Bauls both in terms of gesture and texture and find out a distinct group who is a product of such mistake. Except Aditya Mukhopadhyay, he also mentioned Liyakat Ali and Shaktinath Jha to be authentic researchers.

In the next essay, the writer takes the reader to his field of personal experience very much connected to academics. Which is interesting is that he initiates the struggles to attend a seminar based on Bauls in Institutions like school, college or a university and the charm to be a group of Bauls. He further mentioned that when the Bauls are invited in a formal seminar, they are not properly taken care of. Sometimes they come by walking from distant places.

Along with this he means a valid point regarding their present condition:

Ager tulanai Baulder morjada kichuta valo| manush akhon Baulder onyo drishtite dekhe| age Baulder jibon jibika chilo vikkhabrittir upor nirvorshil| Bortomane sekhan theke artho samajik byabasthar fole sore eleo Baulder doino somajer lojja| Age beshir vag Baulder jiban katto ashrambasi hisabe, ekhon oneke keno keno beshir vag Baul i grihobasi| Darodro tader nityasongi| Khete khamare kathor porishram kore Baul songit ke eta bachiye rajhar chesta kore jacchen| Monche hajar hajar manusher hridoy joy kore je porompurush sei jokhon abar mathe mati kate tokhon keu dekhe abar nak sitkoi| Kajei bauldet ovab, onoton, daridro, shikkhs, swastho provitir somosya khub bedonadayak|... (p. 41).


“Now they are respectable position if not at least better than earlier. But still there is a trend of indifference or ignorance among men. Earlier they were relied on collection from door to door for livelihood. They have now come up from that condition. Few are of the opinion that this is a shame of such society. Earlier they were Ashram dwellers. Now they have own family and own house. They are extremely poor. Poverty is with them. Still they worked on field, went on begging to preserve the tradition of their culture. On stage, they mesmerize thousands of people, win their hearts. But in the morning they need to get ready with their instrument to beg for the two square meals. They are then disparaged. It is really a painful sight that they are the victims of society.”

Next essay is named “Gopya Sadhanar Tribeni”. The essay is very catchy because it deals with the disciplines and philosophy of Bauls. On the other hand it also traces other writers who took resort on Bauls depending on their demands. He began with Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, the reputed novelist in West Bengal and a son of Birbhum, who began his famous novel “Raikamal” with a direct reference of Bauls. Gradually, he mentioned the guidelines of Bauls.

They opined on ‘Man’:

Manush hoye manush jano
Manush hoye manush cheno
Manush hoye manush mano
Manush roton dhon
Karo sei manusher onneshon |


“Being a human being, we should know, identify and respect human being because he is the wealth. Therefore, in life search for that life that can enlighten your life.”

They have talked on ‘God’:

Mole Isharprapta hobe keno bole?
Mole hoi Ishwarpapta sadhu osadhu sokole
Tobe keno eto joptop eto kore jolethole?


“Why do people say that after death one gets God? If death can offer you ‘God’, why do people waste time in worship and contemplation?”

They think ‘Life is either a feast or fast’. They further go on saying:

Tumi khao tumi khilao
Tumi dao tumi bilao
Toiyari ghor pele tumi palao
Tomar bhabvongi bojha thakthaki|


“You eat first and then feed others, you take first and then distribute others and you come first within us and then leave us to a new. It is really difficult to understand or predict your action.”

At last he pointed about their view on life style:

Musthibokkhe ami khete paine Udor pure|
Ghore ghore ghurbo koto Bhut khatuni khatbo kato?


“I cannot eat properly. My stomach is still empty. I cannot move from door to door. How much can I work without food?”

In a similar way, he dealt various aspects of Bauls in number of essays. What is important to know is that the time he has spent in travelling from one place to another, from one village to another where right communication is rare and from one street to another. Different types of pictures in different postures of those Bauls make this book very lively and authentic. In part ‘two’, he provides a catalogue of songs both popular and unpopular by both popular and unpopular Bauls. He minutely noted down the conversations he had with Bauls. This is incredible. At that point of time the research means during conversation, he extracted not only the artistic or aesthetic details for academic purpose but also the details of everyday life along with the information of wages for the social purpose.

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