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 3 - Poetic genius of Rabindranath Tagore
[Full title: Poetic genius of Rabindranath Tagore and the influence he received from Baul tradition]
In 1319 of Bangla calendar Rabindranth Tagore published Jiban Smiriti (Memory of Life) one of his biographies. In the preface he very categorically mentioned that when he was roaming around the world, he got to know the variety of world music; its spontaneity and the appeal. It instantly reminded him Bauls who also roam around the surrounding locality and propagates the demand and the universality of their music. Emulating them Tagore composed:
Bhuban vromiya seshe ami esechi notun deshe
Ami otithi tomari dare, ogo bideshini|
“Traversing the world, I have come to the door step of your country, oh foreigner!”
After a long period of time, he once came across a Baul singing a same type of song:
Khachar vitor ochin pakhi kemne ase jai
Tare dhorte parle mono beri ditam tari pai|
“How does this unknown bird comes and goes from the cage of heart. If I would know it, I would have chained him.”
He was really stunned by their thought process and presentation. This achin pakhi frequents the locked cage of human heart and tries to share the experience of infinite bonding and converse with the soul but surprisingly it does not happen. He was quite amazed to solve the riddle of infinity though he himself made out none but the time and tune can answer the universe. The research can show ample of examples where Tagore could not come out of the riddle of these two lines. In different occasions he just referred to these lines to get an idea about it. In 1332 while he was delivering a lecture as a president in “Bharatiya Darshanik Sangha” (Indian Philisophical Group), he quotes these two lines with an intent to compare with P. B. Shelley to justify the fact that these uneducated Bauls and the famous uneducated English poet had the same clue to reach to such infinite destination and they are capable of. The only difference is in their medium and audience; Shelley is meant for so called educated and elite group and Bauls are for common people.
After that Tagore in ‘Haramoni’ section of ‘Prabasi’ Patrika, he not only collected twenty songs of Lalon Fakir but also published those songs in ‘Prabasi’ with some modifications. Later on in so many seminars he presented those songs with critical annotations. The research can cite an essay titled “Channder Prakriti” (The Nature of Rhetoric) in which he undertook these songs to illustrate the poetic excellence of the songs especially in rhythm and rhetoric. According to him, the rhythm of the journey is monotonous but so many turns and twists make it novel and unparallel. He also praised the guts to unfold the harsh reality or bare truth of life quite effortlessly. He even rationalizes that the simplicity of heart and clarity of understanding make them relentless about anything they do. These all proved nothing but an impending impression on Tagore at that point of time. If the research refers to some other instances, it proves the same. In an essay he praises the use of “Bangalir din ratrir bhasa” (a language of day and dark). What is much more interesting is that for such an illustration of this idea of playing with two different sides, he selects one of the songs of Lalon Fakir. These songs are almost imprinted at the bottom of the heart. The gulf between two great minds, Lalon and Tagore is obvious in terms of time and place. On the contrary, art bridges the gap of time and place rather helps conquer the barrier of time and place. In “Channder Prakriti” (The Nature of Rhetoric) he widely accepted Lalon’s contribution on Rhetoric in Bengali Literature. The can term the essay as a green field where he cultivated the seed of Lalon. Therefore, the discussion on Lalon and his songs leads the readers and researchers to consider Baul Gaan, Baul religion and Lalon himself for further scope of research. The ides surprisingly fired his successors to rethink and reconsider accordingly. One perfect example of Kazi Nazrul Islaam, one of the most celebrated poets in Bengal after Rabindranath and the great follower of Tagore, equated himself with Bauls “Ami vai Khapa Baul”. This is the first bold step in his field of art. He then directly comes through characterization, an adaptation of Bauls characters. Perfect example is Falguni, Bengali drama in which many characters are modeled on them. That is why these characters are very close to the poet. Readers will be startled to know this that in the play he played the role of his favourite character that is Baul.
What is much more important is the words he spoke when he handed over this play to Dinendrachandra Thakur:
Jarhara Falgunir falgunoditike briddho kobir chitto saroborer tolodesh hoite upore taniya aniyache tahader ebong sei songe balokder sokol natyer kandari amar sokol ganer bhandari Shreeman Dinendrachandranather hate kobi-bauler aktarar moto somorpon korilam| (Hasan, 160).
“Those who inspired the old poet to write Falguni, are really close to me. Here I bestow my best to Dinendrachandranath just like Bauls offer aktara as the only thing in their life to others.”
On the whole Tagore had full embellishment and nourishment when he closely came in contact with the Bauls and witnessed their living and the process of living. Austere thinking and living as a human being and its theorization becomes the source of his life and living as well.
Therefore, the poet sings:
Amar praner manush ache prane
Tai heri tai sokol khane
Ache se noyon tarai
Tai na harai alokdharai
Ogo tai heri tai jethai sethai takai ami|.
“The heart of man is in me. Wherever I see and seek I get him. He is at the center of my eyes. Therefore, I only see the world through him”.
Or Amar hiyar majhe lukiye chile
Dekhte ami paini tomai dekhte ami paini
Bahir pane chokh melechi
Bahir pane, amr hridoy pane chaini|
“I could not see because you hid yourself at the bottom of my heart. I searched everywhere but I forgot to stare at my heart.”
He was quite fanatic about the stereotyped traditions and rituals of so called Brahmin family. He later realized that these are all blind processes which only disturb the normal way of living. Hence, to breathe in an open air, he comes in contact with Bauls. Here lies an enigmatic question which aspect of Bauls attracts him and makes introduce some changes. Among so many confusions and assumptions, one point is clear that he could not help being inspired by the theory of universal love devoid of any contamination and respect which is based on neither ‘Shastras’ nor ‘religion’ but only at the heart of human being, sahaj manush. These all enamored him and molded him so much that it enforced him to cut the cocoon of pomposity, full of complexities and formalities. Simply they taught him to be free and made him be free to be born as a ‘simple man’, the concept of sahaj manush.
His simple confession is
“Amar dharma ki, ta j ajo ami sompurno abong sushposto kore jani emon kotha bolte parine-onosashan akare kono puthite lekha amr dharmo noi” (Hasan, p. 162).
“I do not know about my religion till now. But I am sure my religion is beyond any part of religion that is written in a scripture.”
At this point of time he very critically viewed the negativity and subjectivity of ritual based religion. This concept bridged up the gulf of these two great poets, Lalon and Tagore. Their journey is as parallel as a railway track. Later on so many promising poets followed the way Tagore had trodden. Subsequently he himself becomes a railway junction where all the parallel and unparallel lines meet together.
Both Lolon and Tagore are like:
“Aki brinte duti kusum”
“Two flowers in the same branch”.
But the research must mention that they were the least bothered or concerned regarding this petty cause to be identified as Hindu or Muslim. They are the twin flowers of the single stem that is humanity. They voice out the same mantra and focused on the fertility of human aspect that can flourish at any time and in any situation and any state of mind.
Bauls obey the creator simply because they believe in creation. But the creator is neither God nor Goddess, basically an image celebrated through bundle of prejudices. According to them, the God is ‘the man of heart’ who can be worshipped through three simple mantras namely loving, caring and living. Bauls are the seekers of unity in diversity and the way is unique. Through songs they try to drain away all the narrowness and negativity. They inspire to be broad minded free from finite forges of life. Tagore writes “Where the mind is without fear”. If it is so, one can witness “bibbidher majhe dekha milono mohan” (Translation: unity is the best among all).
His variegated comments on Baul songs; its rhythm, language, wordings, depth and simplicity specifically point out his deepest concern for them. At the same time it inherently suggests his strenuous research on them. On the other hand it has another importance. These comments help reconsider their literary value and the anxiety for social reformation. What Tagore wants to mean is that they have a wonderful balance and propriety in them to usher a unity only to create a cosmos in chaos. Therefore, they have the blending of the revolution for its future and reformation for the beautification of the same. If the research tries to show the scraps of writing, it will definitely authenticate his love for them. He wrote “Chhotobaro”, the title of one of the essays from a book named ‘Shantiniketan’, a collection of essays that hankers after Baul songs. He clearly remembered what he sang “ami kothai pabo tare, amar moner manush jare” and “amar moner manush jekhane”. He became restless when he happened to remember the songs of these vagabond singers. He perceived their feeling to feel a spirit, a man in his own soul who is always greater than him, mere physical appearance. Physic is finite but psyche is infinite. They have their own understanding and sense of limitation. Therefore, their songs always aspire for the remote and infinite which is always beyond our reach or capacity to reach. They teach this sensible journey to reach the infinite unknown space free from all local mundane bindings.
Tagore realized they not only fired up our desire or longing for the journey but also showed the way to be destined. Infinite is neither far nor unknown. Only crossing from our infinite space is much more important criterion. They suggested knowing the soul is the simplest or easier way to be a habitant of infinity. In one poem it is very radically dealt by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow. He talks about ‘mournful numbers’ and the reason is ‘soul is still sleepy’. The entire world is within us. A peson has to feel its vibration in the vortex of daily lives. Therefore, life should be dedicated in search of moner manush, one who can madden you, magnify you and make a man. He is not only a simple man like Tom, Dick and Harry, those who are lured by perishable materials or befooled by any promise or proposal. Everybody has to embrace him with utmost simplicity, dedication, love and care. Thus the Bauls sing “amar moner manush ke re / ami kothai pabo tare” (Translation: Oh my man, how I shall get you.). It is a paradoxical utterance when they say he is a known one though unknown within you. Here is the twist, they cannot be known not through bookish knowledge, but through the knowledge of selfless soul. One can offer him through offering to others, love him by loving others.
Later on, through essays his expression gets a vivid reflection. The research tries to elude some of his essays with the extracts that bear his intense involvement with the topic. “Atmabodh” (Self-cognition) he begins in a storytelling manner. He says few days ago he happened to meet with two Bauls of different religion.
They belong to different villages as well. Then he continued to say:
Curiously I did ask if they could tell the novelty and specificity of Bauls religion and the religion of Baul. One of them answered in a straight forward way it is very difficult to explain while the other man said it is easy to feel but tough to explain. But one clue they mentioned is that only through the teaching of gurus rather their touch can make one feel about the religion of Baul.
Actually they stressed not on book but on practice. The time you can experience yourself, feel yourself, you can feel the presence of him.
He continues to share his views:
I became more and more curious in conversation. My next question was why you did not propound the theory of your religion to the entire world. He refuted in a symbolic way, Ganges is a river of sanity and sanctity. Those who are keen to witness the vastness, beauty and the depth of Ganges, he will come. My next question was why you are thinking this. Is this really happening? He chuckled a lot. Immediately I perceived the broadness and the generosity of his thinking and proper sense of understanding. He simply answered with conviction-everyone will come-they have to come to them (Hasan, p. 164).
After the incident Tagore rethought and ruminated all the symbolic and semantic aspects of the conversation. It ensues series of questions in his mind; “why does he mention Ganges?”, “why is he talking about thirst?” and “why is this emphatic declaration that they have to come?”. He became enchanted with the possible answers; Ganges is the purely religious river, a symbol of fluidity, thirst is the quench for knowledge or religious spirit. Moreover, what he tries to mean is that they sing so religiously that it will fetch people to gather at a place for ‘sangam’ (confluence). These uneducated people never lie. It is their realization at the bottom of their heart. Even he can also experience all people are moving not in a calm and cool state. But one similarity is always there i.e. the utmost urgency to reach towards perfection. Tagore reflects the same in one of his poems: “Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection”.
All people are in a state of procession towards the pilgrimage. But the question is where they are marching having no iota of their destination. Sometimes it seems the urge to reach to the final destination is always a bigger call than food and dress, the primordial elements for living. ‘Why is this’ is answered by those yogis and uncultured and uneducated Bauls of Bangladesh. They are in search of the unknown spirit, a spirit that can never be seen, experienced rather be felt and perceived. According to their philosophy, know thyself. It is the original learning. Those who do not have such basic self learning about selves are fruitless and futile. These Baul sitting in a small hut thatched by straw by the side of a river is constantly searching for his own self. It is the call of inner self to reach to him not a theory of live or for the purpose of versification. What is much more striking is that the great poet understood at the core the simplicity of their living and the complexity of those Vaisnavite Sadhakas. For Bauls God becomes the soul mate or rather soul of living. Which is why they can easily sing “Mon majhi tor boitha ne re, ami r baite parlam na” (Translation: Heart, the boatman, you take the charge to send me to the other bank). Tagore sings: “Majhir lagi achi jagi / sokol ratri bela...” (Translation: I am waiting for the boatman throughout the night). It is an earnest request the man of heart, you hold the sail, you come back as I am entirely lost and tossed in the sea of life. My utmost desire directs me to derive you.
In his book The Religion of Man he restated the concept of moner manush. He said the God within man is moner manush, the man of heart. It is a universal truth. For this one needs accomplishment, perfection, purity and own priority to be with himself, stay with himself and learn within himself. Man faces misfortunes when he tries to be perfect through material success, tries to search himself through rituals. In the process he distances himself quite unknowingly from ‘him’. Here lies the contradiction but Tagore retells the same agony to come out from the selfish shell of life. Only then one can feel the touch of ‘sublimity’.
Tagore very minutely points out the same expression in one of his poems:
“Apon hote bahir hoye baire dara”
“Come out of your self”.
It invariably talks about the negation to search the ultimate through money, prosperity and pomposity. Here he only beckons the thorns of life and subsequently “he bleeds upon the thorns of life” (Shelley). Tagore heard such songs from Bauls when they are lost in themselves.
Imitating them he writes:
Ami kothai pabo tare/ amr moner manush jere
Haraye sei manushe tar uddeshe/ desh bideshe berai ghure|
“Where shall I get the man? Once he is lost means nowhere he can be met again in the entire world.”
“Amar moner koner baire/ ami janla khule chaire” revolves the same theme. He further informed that “I listened to those illiterate villagers saying ‘Tor i vittor otol sagar’”. The same mad man sang “Moner modhye moner manush karo onneson” (Translation: Begin to search the man within your heart). The poet composed another with the same thread: “Ami rup sagore dub diyechi arup roton asa kori”.
Baul sadhana, Baul song, indigenous tune of singing and Lalon as a whole keep an indelible message in the mind of Tagore. It is none other than Tagore who introduced Lalon Fokir in Bengali Folk culture. The music of Lalon Fakir is a self reflection of Tagore. Here the research tries to unfold a story. His responsibility as a Jamindar makes him move out the four walls of Tagore family. When he was sailing through the areas of Shilaidaha and Sajadpur of Pabna district, the real view of nature impelled him. He was reading then. Suddenly, leaving all he concentrated on the passerby playing aktara; somebody playing dotara (an instrument) or somebody playing dubki (an instrument). The poet becomes rejuvenated. It is his rebirth not as a poet but more importantly as a man. It is the place where the poet came in contact with these minstrels.
The research includes some instances and discussions of the poet which will illustrate the impression of the Bauls and their songs, the presentation of the gravity of their thinking and feeling at the same time the nature of Shilaidaha—
i) He says for nature and enjoyment. He does not wish to roam around the world. The reader finds the direct reflection of such expression in his sketch of Mini’s father in the short story the Kabuliwala. He further mentioned: our beauty is unparallel and is the store house of pristine beauty. The only thing that makes the difference is the desire to see, most importantly an eye to see. He wrote a poem on the theme to bring into the intension of common folk in the real beauty of rural Bengal.
Dekhite giyachi porbotmala/ dekhite giyachi sindhu
Dekha hoi nai chokkhu meliya/ akti dhaner sisher agai akti sishir bindu|
“I went to visit the vastness of sea and the towering mountains. But I did not notice the charming beauty of paddy when it blinks in sun light.”
ii) My intense curiosity leads me to visit their dwelling places. I looked into their religion and manuscripts as well. After reading very carefully, it is inevitable that there is no smell of artificiality that is the bench mark of their modernity.
iii) Once he was sharing a story of his stay to one of his family members. He very ecstatically mentioned his sitting and talking continued hour after hour. It was an untiring conversation with the disciples of Lalon Fakir. They unveiled the unseen sights of life and brought me to the core of my realization. They are very needy even if they are dress less. But astonishingly they can easily theorize the philosophy of life. It is as if the saying of William Wordsworth “those who cannot wear fine clothes can think richly”.
iv) These three places widen the expansion or the horizon of his poetic genius and made him a subtle thinker of life and nature. He perceived the solace being with nature. He realized enjoying nature in her vastness has its own charm and consequence.
Prof. Gulam Murshid dealt the confrontation of Rabindranath Tagore against the stereotypical religious process, manners and rituals. It is worth mentioning that at one point of time it created restlessness in his mind and made him ruthless. His belief in the philosophy of Baul helped him transform this chaos into creation, simplify the equations and untie the jolts of his psyche. Consequently, the impression he derived from them helps him permute a sense of living and loving in his poetic mind. In another term it can be stated Sahaja Darshan (Baul Philosophy) quieted the ebbs and tides of his mind. He quoted- “Purbo bonger sadharan manusher sikkha … tar sahityer nana sthnaei tar sakkhar bibirito hoyeche”.
Without feeling any shame or contamination, he whole heartedly imbibes the intonations of Baul in his compositions. Shantidev Ghosh commented on this inclusion or easiness of his acceptance as an emblem of his generosity and commonplaceness. He further includes that this tendency offered him a new identity, ‘Ravi Baul’. Later on, those songs, composed imitating Bauls, came to be popular as traditional Rabindra Sangeet. On having a direct link with Lord Krishna, some critics are more comfortable to entitle them as ‘Ravi Kirtan’. It must be mentioned that towards the end of his life he composed numberless compositions on this genre. Gagan Harkara, the disciple of Lalon Fakir is very famous for his composition: “Amr moner manush ache je re / ami kothai pabo tare”. Surprisingly, the composer of Bangladeshi national Anthem, none other than Rabindranath Tagore very minutely followed the track of the song. There are so many similarities. Not only that in several other works of Tagore, he exemplified Bauls and their specific tradition, he used their language pattern. Notwithstanding, Tagore is unique and separate individual for his own. He is a perfect example of the proverbial expression “Mediocre poet copies and genius steals”. Not only Tagore, another dominant poet of Bengali literature, Kazi Nazrul Islam could not help being moved by the philosophy of Bauls. Subsequently, his compositions known as Nazrul Geeti bear the evident marks of Bauls.
What is much more important for Tagore is that he could reach the bottom-line of their creation. He can breathe in them. His attachment and consequent affection proves “man is greater than anything and life is greater than creation”. Man is a replica of God. Humanity is his supreme virtue which celebrates the inner soul and saves the self from the salvation of life. Indubitably, these aspects of Baul sadhana brought him very close to them as ‘Ravi Baul’. Consequently, whenever and wherever he encountered any problem, straightway he took resort in the quiet place of Bauls.
He wrote a long introduction in “Haramoni”, a book written by Maniruddin:
Amr lekha jara porechen tara janen Baul padabalir proti amr anurag ami amr nek lekhai prakash korechi| silaidahe jokhon chilam, Baul doler sathe amr sorbodai dekha sakkhat o alap alochana hoto, amr anek ganei ami Baul er sur grohon korechi ebong anek gane onnyo rag raginir songe ame gyato o ogyatosare Baul surer milon ghoteche| er theke bojha jabe Baul er sur o bani kon ak somoye amr moner modhye sohoj hoye mishe geche| (Hasan, p. 167).
“Those who have gone through my works can easily grasp a kind of inclination towards Bauls. During the days in Silaidaha, I used to meet them only to talk and discuss on various topics. Subsequently, in number of my compositions typically Baul tunes crept in quite unconsciously. Later on, when I look back them, it surprises me that how much tight they are in my compositions.”
Innumeranle researchers and critics of Tagore are of the opinion that it was first Gagan Harkara who impelled him and help him turn towards them. His strong bond with these unpopular artists of interior rural villages of rural Bengal inseminates the seed of yogic world. Having left Shilaidaha, he researched on Baul in several places like Birbhum, Nadia and Murshidabad districts. In ‘Poush mela’, now an international fair held in Shantiniketan, Bauls are invited for performances. Very clearly his motive was to initiate these unheard singers in front of the common folk of Bengal. The research also tries to mention or inform to the readers that during “Swadeshi Movement” he wrote innumerable songs which he published under the title of “Bauls”. These songs are the direct reflection of his indebtedness towards those common folk. It certainly embodies the message of his inspiration and acknowledgement. Not only in the poetry but also in dramas he deliberately used Baul songs for his own purpose. His Hibbert lecture known as The Religion of Man highlights his reading on “Upanishads” and the essence rather the implementation or practical outlook of such theories in our day to day life.
It is also stuffed with his philosophical discussion with Baul darshan. So many songs like:
“Moner manus moner majhe karo onneswan”
“Search for moner manush”.
“Jibe nityalila chamatkar” are beautifully illustrated as references in his argumentative essay, The Religion of Man.
In this phase Tagore enters a new world, a visualization that searches the finest spirit of life and living. Already it is mentioned that he came across this world of moner manush around 1891. He experienced a new style of living where people are different without expectation and their culture and desire are also entirely different without exasperation. The nature and its people in her lap widen his sight dodging the limits of cultural boundary. In this world, he became untouchable from the negative aspects of life. He became a devotee. This is exactly the time when he constantly chasing after moner manush. He was so close to them sometimes the readers think he is specifically in search of Bauls, now his moner manush. When he got it, nothing even no emotion can overpower him. As time moves on, he became very close and intimate with them. Surprisingly, he not only considers the theory of human religion as the supreme religion especially from Baul tradition but also discovers in him a real man similar to what the readers know as moner manush. In his later half of life during 1936, he composed Patraput. In this collection especially in poem no 15, he drew a picture of moner manush, an ideal search of moner manush.
Conceiving the concept of moner manush he wrote:
Kotodin dekhechi oder sadhak k
Akta provater roudre sei pdmanodir dhare...
Dekhechi aktara hate choleche ganer dhara beye
Moner manush sondhan korbar
Govir nirjon pothe| (Hasan, p. 168)
“For a long time I have seen the sadhak to move around the bank od Padma neglecting the tiring sun. Lonely through the streets, he was actually seraching moner manush.”
Bauls did not search their moner manush in limited space or a particular location contrary to what common people usually think of. What they understood is the concept of ‘mon’(mind) and believes in its extension i.e. infinite. Consequently, moner manush can only be perceived through this infinite nature. Bauls are really unbiased regarding this. Any sense of caste, creed and religion cannot contaminate them. Harshly it can be stated that these things are like dirt to them. It definitely needs a revolutionary zeal and stamina.
Andhokare debaloyer kone
Cheye achis ore
Valo kore dekh dekhi tui cheye
Debota nei ghore|.
“Why are you searching you in a dark room closing the door? Do not search around the corners. He is nowhere.”
Now onwards he began to term himself as ‘jatihara’ (a lost self from his caste), ‘bratya’ (separated sometimes rejected by his own culture), ‘mantrahin’ (without specific religion) and so on just like Bauls. He prayed for ‘men for all men’ that is his ultimate identity and dignity of man.
If the research looks at the family history, it invites numberless information to the readers. Having born in a rich family by blood he may be rich but by manners he was the opposite pole as compared to the other family members. Therefore, selfless simple people from East Bengal were inundated by the influence of Tagore. On the hand these so called poor people are the centre of his attention and sole concern even in his field of creation. He realized that life is not wrapped up with a gold or silver foil rather it is all about toil. He deeply experienced the agony and anxiety of these people who fully depend on soil.
The smell of soil turns his entire gamut of his thinking. He wrote:
Krishaner jiber shromikj jon
Korme o kothai atmiyata koreche orjon
Je ache matir kacha kachi
Se kir bani lagi kan patiyachi|
“I am eager to listen to the words of such poet who is very close to those common people who are very close to soil.”
He decried his endeavour as fruitless. The greatness of Tagore comes to the fore when he evaluates his works to be useless simply because these people were really untouchable to be a part of his poetry.
Having felt no shame he sings:
“Geleo bichitro pothe hoinai se sorbotrogami...”
“Though it has travelled different parts, it cannot complete the circle”.
The real reason of his indebtedness lies in the fact that they drained out his subdued and submerged thoughts and purged his soul for a new life. It is his resurrection, second birth. Sukumar Sen, the famous critic on Rabindranath Tagore, was of the view that that Bauls changed his direction from book to man, real to unreal or ideal, after all from imagination to creation. There is no doubt o consider the fact in Gitanjali, Gitimalya and Gitali, there are enough references of psychological confrontations regarding Shastras and their relevance in life more than that the first part of the title shows that they are deeply intertwined to ‘git’ (song). To exemplify this, the research includes one of his illustrations. One day he went to listen Modern Baul based on the sava (a formal sitting for the discussion regarding religion) of Shastras.
Most importantly he memorized the lyrics of the song on the spot:
“Ogo sain, Tomar poth Dhakaiche / mondire mmosjide...”.
The song was so mesmerizing that he felt the vibration of his own soul if it is singing. It is his self visualization of his own supreme power of soul. This specific shift bring changes in his career calling to an end of his dilemmas and deep seated confusions in different aspects of life. Gradually he began to follow ‘the religion of man’. It wound not be an exaggeration to state that he turned out to be an earnest follower rather blind follower of ‘the religion of man’ so much so that he entitled a book under this name. Twists and turnings are very common in life rather they ate the parts of life. Similarly in the life of Tagore, Baul paved a new way to make him a round figure, a complete artist. Binay Ghosh connected that he searched for ‘Oikkyotan’, the unity in diversity. He makes it very clear in one of poems bearing the same title. Here the research intends to put forward a letter rather an extract of a letter that succinctly provides his sense of oneness and unity in all fields of life.
In one his letters to Indira Devi written during his short errand in Sahajadpur dated 10th February, 1891, he wrote:
Oi je somosto prithibita chup kore pore ache otak emon valobasi or ei gachpala nodi math kolahol nishtobdhota provat sondha somostota suddho du hate akre dhorte iccha kore| … kintu emon komolota durbolota noi, emon sokorun ashonka vora oporinato ei manush gulir moto emon adorer dhon kotha theke dito| (Hasan, p. 169).
“I wish to get everything of the silent nature. The trees, river, open ground, hustle and bustle, silence of the morning and evening are so pure that they can create a mystery in lives… but softness is not weakness. Except these nature has gifted these uncouth people. They are the real wealth of the mother nature.”
The extract of the letter exemplifies his oneness with himself and the outside world, a rare strategy in the writings of Tagore.
What is strange to readers is that during his short errand in East Bengal, he came to know about them and became engrossed in their songs. Few instances will prove his unflinching attachment with those down trodden people. The old poet not only calls everybody by their names but also he can categorize them by their choice and taste. It can be called ‘the research of man’ which inculcates in him to investigate ‘the religion of man’. In different term, ‘the research of man’ becomes ‘the religion of man’ for him. He cannot but stunned to feel the richness of their soul. He perceived at the core that external beautification without a touch of inner quality is meaningless and nothing. Internal beauty is the original version of beauty, somebody possessing internal beauty is having real sense of beauty. For this any simple and silly act becomes an act of idea to be dealt further.
He wrote the following lines for his expression of untold truth and respect:
Era nitantoi matir sontan, jara nitantoi prithibir gayer songe lege ache, eder modhyeo soundorjer akarshan ebong poroshporer monoronjoner cheshta ache|… eder thik obosthata, thik moner vab ta jante iccha kore (Hasan, p. 169).
“They are the product of soil and are really connected to it. They have a sense of ideal beauty. That is why they try to exchange the concept of beauty through sharing. I am very curious to know their actual socio economic mental condition.”
Everybody will be amazed for such a transformation in Tagore. He stepped in the dome of soil. The very first poem of Gitanjali is an illustration of the idea “Amr matha nato kore dao he tomar chorono dhular pore”.
He understood that the immolation of self pride should be the first step into the world of human being as far as the word ‘human’ is concerned. Self pride kills the roots of human structure. Therefore, the self operation of self pride is the prior identification of human being. Tagore ideally notices the normal tendency of human beings to be popular through the advertisements of his little work one did for the society and the people of the society. Bauls are very happy and contented became no such emotion and can hamper their normal way of living.
The third poem in Gitanjali bears ample examples:
Koto ojanare janaile tumi
Koto ghore dile thai
Dur ke korile nikot bondhu
Por k korile vai|
The research tries to emphasize in his two words ‘vai’ (Brother) and ‘bondhu’ (Friend). These are not very common for or in Tagore as far as his writings are concerned. ‘Unity’ is the central theme and for that intimation he introduced these two words ‘vai’ considering the children of mother India. Therefore, people need to have an initiative to make friends with others. If they can do it, the world turns to be a utopia. ‘Vai’ (brother) is a symbol of universal and religion, all the people of the world are ‘vai’. The research can say the poem is call for universal brotherhood.
Next the research tries to probe Gitanjali especially Poem No 4:
Bipode more rokkha karo e nohe mor prarthone
Bipode ami na jeno kori voi|
In this famous poem, the poet takes resort in the name of God. He wants God as his infinite inspiration. God will ignite the power within him so that he becomes fearless. Psychological balance is also very important where there are dangers in family. He also prayed to bestow power in him to tackle the tassels in the outside world also. Poem No 5 also reiterates the same theme: “Anatara mama bikoshito karo/ antarotaro he|”. Here it seems the worship of God is nothing but the worship of power and a prayer for achieving power. He is imploring to brush out all the affluent to make it pure and perfect heart. He craves for a mind without superstition. Then only one can have a cherishable soul in our self. Lalon Fakir’s language is also same:
Mon na muriye matha morale
Tai ki r roton mele?
“Shaved head does not prove that one is having a shaved heart. How can you expect to acquire ‘him’?”
Tagore became stunned when he came to know about the intensive meaning of these lines and especially when they can easily generate these ideas.
Therefore, the poet salutes them with his poem:
Tumi kemon kore gan kao he guni
Ami obak hoye shuni|
It invariably illustrates his ideological intensity about Veda, Upanishads and Baul sufi tatto (theory) and thus this is his emphatic declaration.
The research can tell Baul is the be all and end all of his life. Nowhere in the world such kind of tradition is so dominating as in India specially Bangladesh (undivided). He believes in the fact that soul leaving the physical body takes another shape and the essential spirit moves through great persons through different ages. Sadhak Chandidas was a sage and devotee of Lord Krishna. In the next era, Shri Chaitanya Mahapravu held the spirit during such turmoil and after that it was Tagore who universalizes the tradition through writing. The only difference between these two giants is that what Shri Chaitanya Mahapravu revolutionized Bengal through the act of living, Tagore does the same through an act of creation. They are also successful to impress or motivate the revolutionist readers or freedom fighter like Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and Bangabandhu Mujibar Rahman. However, the discussion can be summarized by saying that Sadhak Chandidas, Lalon, Tagore and Kabi Nazrul are same in a line of remodeling the fragmented parts of divided or undivided Bengal.
In another poem Tagore sings:
Doya diye hobe go mor/ jibon dhute
Noile ki r parbo tomar charan chute|
“Your kindness can wash my body. Otherwise I cannot touch your feet.”
Undoubtedly, it prioritizes the quality of selflessness that ultimately leads anybody to deep devotion. The research must mention that like Bauls he becomes dead against the ostentatious rituals of worship with fruits and fasting because God is in heart not in temple. Filthy mind is not at all appropriate for devotion. Therefore, one must, according to Tagore, take an honesty movement to achieve that philosophical understanding of the soul, the God of self.
Ei korecho valo, nithur/ Ei korecho valo
Emni kore hridoye mor/ tibro dohon jalo
Amr e dhup na porale/ gondhokichu nahi dhale,
Amr e dip na jalale dei na kichu alo|
One of the most foregrounding ideas of the song is that how Tagore delineates the traditional way to achieve God. Bauls do not believe in rebirth and death as well. Tagore opined the same.
He is always ready to accept death as his deliverance:
Moron Jedin diner seshe ashbe tomar duare
Sedin tumi ki dhon dibe uhare|
Sommukhe tar dibo ani,
Sunyo bidai korbi nato uhare,
Moron Jedin diner seshe ashbe amar duare|
Ogo amr ei sesh jiboner poriounota
Moron amr moron, tumi kaho amre kotha
Sara janom tomar lagi/ protidin je achi jagi,
Tomar tore bohe beraidukkho sukher byatha|
These two songs reverberate the similarities between Tagore and Bauls and foreground their inseparability.
What is very interesting is that they know how to celebrate death celebrated by the American poet Sypiva Paith. They do not think that death draws end to life. Life remains alive, vibrant though actions done / accomplished during life time. In death lies the greatest satisfaction of life. Lalon sings:
Emon manob janom ki r hobe
Mon ja kor torai kor ei vobe|
“The life as man is limited. Therefore, what things you want to achieve are to be hastened by mind.”
Lalon is the real man in the true sense of the term. According to him, life being the best gift from God he believed in real human existence, the rare gift, He acclaims that one has to work in such a way that life become memorable. Pride spoils the seed of basic human quality and it ushers death, an imperfect and immature death. Lalon had a microscopic vision of life. He has internalized the intricate aspects of life through the power of introspection. Therefore, hunger may physical or psychological is the deepest problem which makes one feel the intensity of life and its relationship.
Apon khobor nai aponare
Berao pore khobor kore
Monre aponare chinle pore
Por ke chena jai tokhon|
“Without tracing yourself, you are moving here and there to feel others. If you know yourself completely, you can feel others.”
Surprisingly, it was a translated version by Tagore himself. It is known to all that Kabir was mainly an admirer or follower or thinker of Sufism. In Bangla Tagore and Lalon both of them were on the same track. It can undoubtedly state that Tagore was a devotee of Kabir and follower of Lalon Fakir. The research tends to quote one composed by Tagore who delineates the feeling of Lalon Fakir stated in his two songs.
These are following:
Simar majhe, osim, tumi
Bajao apon sur|
Amr moddhe tomar prokash tai eto madhur|
Amr majhe tomar lila hobe
Taiti ami esechi vobe|
Here the research tries to initiate some instances where Lalon breathes in compositions by Tagore.
The readers cannot but appreciate the unmistakable poetic creation. These are all dramatic compositions where there is part of question and answer simultaneously. It is his craftsmanship which fits them in the limited space of a song or poem. It is as if an orchestra where not a particular instrument is stressed upon. Tagore in his many compositions used the words used by Lalon Fakir.
At one stage of his life, Lalon answered one fundamental question, a question of becoming a Baul. According to Lalon, only pure soul can reach to that. Daddu Shah vehemently says reading of Veda cannot fulfill, it rather divides. It is really scathing remark ‘Veda’ divides people. Therefore, he became Baul due to such fear of division. The statement attests that they are free from all backlogs of caste, creed and religion. Baul is a school of thought and feeling. Lalon was the principal of such institutionalized thinking. Later on Tagore became an obedient student. Here lies the history of evolution in the life of Rabindranath Tagore. For his new designation, he termed himself ‘mantrahin’ (nonreligious), ‘bratya’ (rejected) and ‘jatihara’(casteless). He understands in their blood there the warmth of living God. What Milton tries to justify the ways of God to a man, Bauls try to justify the ways of man to man who is the real God. Researchers and critics of Tagore find no discrimination between ‘Jeevandevta’ of Rabindranath Tagore and moner maush of Baul. This discussion is further illustrated in his own words and in his authentic writing The Religion of Man. There is a very deep and dedicated discussion on them.
Modernists think that Lalon’s moner manush is variable with time and space. The concept of moner manush impelled the entire structure of cultural taste of Bangladesh. Annada Shankar Roy opined unity between the Baul and Rabindranath is the unity of ‘real man’. But the only difference is for Tagore ‘man’ means mystic not isobaric. To Bauls real man of mind is moner manush and for Rabindranath, praner manush.They are same from all aspects though he named them according to his own colour. It is very much true because the man is his praner maush, jeevanvevta, viswamohini, bideshini, manush sundari etc.Rabindranath wrote extensively wrote on Bauls especially in his Naivedya, Smaran, Kheya and in Gitimalya.
Like Buals he sings:
Amr nai ba holo pare jawa|
Je hawate cholte tori
Ongete sei lagai hawa|
“I would not repent if I fail to reach my destination. I will enjoy the gentle breeze patting my body during the sailing.”
What is noteworthy is that at the end of the poem he specifically mentioned ‘Baul Sur’. Though it was written as a poem later on he treated like Baul song.
Likewise, the research can cite innumerable songs and poems of Tagore which will invariably lead the readers to any aspect of Baul tradition. It is noticeable that Tagore never loses himself in the desert of Baul. He has his own ‘clear stream of reason’ that tries to achieve perfection through ‘tireless striving’. He clearly observed that Baul not only stressed on soul and selfless self but also about perishable body at the centre. And Tagore wrote on these aspects in his other writings. One aspect of Tagore that the research wants to highlight is that he sometimes twisted the wordings and changed things and replaced in his own way.
Baul song is an expression of dejected self and a patch work of pains of rural Bengal. It is very traditional way of expression. But unique is its rich colours and colourful richness. They have the same identity and the ramifications are either moner manush or ‘a chin pakhi’ or ‘Arshinnagar’. Here is a mystic game to find the abstract within concrete, to know the unknown within known. There are all under currents of Baul songs. Therefore, in their long journey they sometimes have been ‘Sadhak’ (Wriddho Purush), ‘Vakta-premik’ (devotional lover) or ‘Pagol’ (Mad).
All these three are surprisingly caught by Tagore in one of his famous songs though occasioned for a different reason:
Kon alote praner prodip jaliye tumi dhorai aso
Sadhok ogo, premik ogo, pagol ogo, dharai aso|
“Oh Sadhak, Lover and mad how do you come on this earth? In whose light are you illuminated?”
It is worth mentioning that he is celebrating welcoming them for their great arrival on this earth. No doubt the reference shows the extreme esteem for those ‘Sadhanas’ and ‘searchers of enlightenment’.
It is very expected that Tagore quite unbiasedly introduce them and brought into limelight their stern ‘sadhana’ i.e. a way of living with rigid restriction and search for the spirit of life without any expectation and ambition for any personal touch even in his creation. By creation the research here tries to mean all the genres he contributed. What is strange in Tagore is power to balance between two extremes romantic and religious for romanticism means freedom while religion means restriction and a superb skill to fulfill these emotions and feelings in life being in state of congestion. Upanishad was the first choice of Tagore. He noticed a sense of deep bonding between Bauls and Upanishad. Therefore, it leads him to neither any confusion nor any contradiction between these two bodies. Consequently, the research can opine that his spirituality is stemmed from his closeness of life of his own in particular and lives of Bauls in general. ‘Chitra’, an anthology is its prime example. Bauls have injected in him the spirit or essence of spirituality through the love of mankind.
Aptly Buddhadev Basu, one of the pioneering novelists of West Bengal comments that:
Rabindranther valobasar patra bohu ebong bichitra bolei onanya vakti rosashrito ba
mystic kobider sathe take ak poghtite bosate parina | (Rafique, p. 11).
“We cannot place Rabindrath in the line with other mystic or devotional poets for he has multiple qualities and fans.”
It can further be illustrated through several of examples. In Falguni he designates himself as ‘Ravi Baul’ and the drama as ‘aktara’. Symbolically, it can be conveyed that just like aktara, the one stringed instrument in the hands of Bauls, ‘Ravi Baul’ in Falguni has played the tones of his heart through his aktara. In the process Falguni becomes the instrument to express his ideas. More prominently ‘Andho Baul’ in Falguni (Blind Baul) was one of the favourite characters of Tagore. The drama becomes the storehouse of his songs, thoughts and passionate characters.
The only difference between Baul and Tagore is that Bauls search the ‘absolute’ through songs while Tagore through all forms of literature namely poems, songs, painting, essays, novel and so on. It is obvious that he followed them in all aspects of life and tried to connect wherever they fit in. Here the research tries to initiate his Falguni. Being blind the character of ‘Andha Baul’ becomes a storehouse of dreams. It is the dream of Tagore and the dream is colourful not through the eyes but through hands of Tagore. The character epitomizes the Bauls. If another prospect of the drama can be explained, the versatility of Tagore and variety of meaning of the drama get a new dimension. According to the history of the time, it was staged in 1322 (Bangla Calender) when there was a catalogue of the programmes and it was surprisingly designed by Tagore himself. It was named as Natun puratoner punorabritti (Translation: Repetation of old and new). But in one the letters dated 1912 he noted Natun puratoner lila (Translation: a play of old and new). Falguni may be its name but ‘What is in a name?’. It wonderfully connects nature and concocts human nature of Bengal. The piece is famous for its wonderful collection. Critics are engrossed in it for its ever widening sources. After stage performance, ‘The Bengal Magazine’ (30th January, 1915) brought out a review in which they (critics) mainly focused on the character ‘Andha Baul’ and few other discussions related to the character. They also delve into it and tried to drain out the secret of the character. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it is one of the prolific characters created by Tagore.
His biographer Prashanta Kumar Paul informed in Rabijibani, 7th Part, p. 142:
The dramatic motif crystallizes at the appearance of the blind singer. The author has taken upon himself the most difficult role of the opera... the dialogue with the blind singer is carried on in a great style of mystic art which is the latest feature of the poet.
The famous poet began to receive invitation from different parts of West Bengal through letters. In one of such letters by C.F Andruse who addresses Tagore as ‘Kabi Baul’. These are the exact words when he welcomed Tagore at Shantiniketan. After that he became ever popular as ‘Rabi Baul’ or ‘Kabi Baul’. Basically, it talks about a transformation and the completion of such desire that Tagore intended. Affection or attraction for the Bauls is never new for Tagore, it is very evident from his childhood days. But here in the drama, the dream for them becomes materialized. It frames an ideal shape of such traditions and transformation. Thematically, the play celebrates the days of youth and the glory of those days. But stunningly the play at the end glorifies his poetic/dramatic and artistic career as well. Famous critic Shaktinath Jha thought it to be a ‘Baul Centric’ art.
He continues to opine in his book Fakir Lalon Sain: Desh Kal Ebong Shilpo:
Ei natoke Baul brihotto,o morjada peyeche| Chandra has je ovistho lokkhe pouchate chai, se pother sondhan jane akmatro andho Baul| tar poth nijer vetore; gane tar chola ebong sadhana| (13)
Baul gets the prime importance in it. Andho Baul embodies the spirit of infinite. The concept to know the world, to feel the senses of worldly emotions, to be with the people of the world is taught to Tagore by none other than Bauls. They are as if the essence which gets a meaningful expression basically through poems and plays, very few in words and essays.
Plays are numberless in such consideration namely Falguni, Grihaprabesh, Achalayalatan, Raja etc.
One of the songs used and composed only for Falguni is based on his philosophy of Baul:
Tui fele esechis kare, mon, mon re amr
Tai jonom gelo, shanty peli nare, mon, mon re amr|
Je poth diye chole eli se poth ekhon vule geli-
Kemon kore firbi tahar dare, mon, mon re amr|
“You have spent the entire life to search the things you have already left. If you forget the way you have used, how can you come back to the door? Ask your heart for that.”
To search the way to get back a home is the motif of the song. He very creatively used the nuance of ‘home’. It is the only search for Bauls to trace the home. Initially it was very difficult for Tagore to come out from the cocoon of his traditional beliefs, feeling, thoughts and system of so called elite group. In his case the first and the foremost impediment is his family set up or standard. It looks awkward when a poet of such status and grandeur has been following Bauls. Not only that he even searching them from street to street and staying with them in their simple huts. Therefore, shaking off all the hindrances, he peeps into nature and tried to catch the essence of nature in the humble appeal of those Bauls. At this stage old poet very earnestly wanted to become / be as student of nature in all respects “Sobar Ami Chhatra” (A Student of All), a title of a poem. He closely observed the fluidity of a river which reminds of his life in general and lives in particular. Symbolic presentation is the sole in Tagore. Here also he succinctly analysed the direction of life in terms of life. But at the end river wants to meet vast sea when it loses its spontaneity and fluidity and sternly dragging the affluences. Similarly life at the last phase becomes hectic, boring, teary due to carrying the logs of family responsibility and stock of memories irrespective of happy and sad and misfortunes. Tagore is not an exception to it. The research tries to add that the ‘sea’ is none other than huge, expansive, endless concept of Bauls. He earnestly wants to meet the sea, the Bauls when he is simply staggering in his old days losing the flow of vitality just like the river in its last stage. The cataract sound of leaves reminds him the vibration of his heart and life. Like withered leaves he also knows that one day he will be detached from the main stem and will be washed away by the tear drops of his relatives. Again he is desirous to mix with a river that will ultimately lead you to sea. As a nature poet, he tried to understand the language of flowers, the concept of beauty and the broadness to sacrifice for human beings. Hence, it can be stated that he is in constant search rather investigation to find out the magic of life that can do miracles and bring back to his life discarding all the distractions, illusions and expectations of life. Ultimately it can be said that it Bauls who draws homeless Tagore to ‘home’ again. ‘Homecoming’ (Name of a drama by Harold Pinter) is a typical concept propounded by Bauls.
Meaning of the statement would be incomplete without any reference of Lalon Fakir. He says:
Je pothe eseche re mon
Jete hobe sei pothe|
“You have to follow the same way which you followed while coming.”
Tagore firmly believes in the fact that everyone is a part of the supreme. Therefore, an earnest attempt to reach to him is not very surprising for an artist rather a common phenomenon. It is the same with Tagore. But his process is unique because it is entirely different from the ways followed by others. Defamiliarization is an essence of creation. Melancholy, separation, dejection are very close to him in terms of his emancipation. The process of ‘alienation’ becomes the only way to be alighted. Here he is on the same page with the poets like Keats, Shelly and other modern writers. But undoubtedly Tagore imbibed the idea from Bauls. In the very beginning, it is stated that they are the delighted souls outside the domain of family, society and domesticity. Indifference towards life is their method to search the Almighty. Tagore cannot but be touched by such philosophy for his sublimation. Here the research defines it in a different way that readers need to understand. To be with nature for solace and peace is an old doctrine and when the poet is using it for propagation or from the propagandist perspective, it becomes a philosophy. At that moment it is not at all a norm of life. It was a belief in the mind of Tagore that when nature is nurtured poetry, poetry itself becomes a nature and nature on the other becomes an art. Tagore does the same when he comes in contact with Bauls. In this connection, it can be referred that the sense of alienation becomes the shadow or reflection of death. ‘Death’ is not both indefinable and undefeatable for Tagore. He could easily do it because innumerable songs are overshadowed by a deep sense of impending death. He defines death as a ‘deliverer’. If ‘to be with nature’ means life, death invariably denotes ‘the return of the native’ (the title of Thomas Hardy’s novel) in the other way. Through death one can be with nature and the vice versa. Hence, the famous song of Lalon Fakir “milon hobe kotodine” (When shall we meet?) can be rephrased as “moron hobe koto dine” (When shall I die?) to be with moner manush. It is believed if pure souls cannot meet in one life, they will surely be united in the other, death. Similarly, if the union with moner manush is not possible, do not go on saying with a sigh of repentance “milon hobe kotodine” (When shall we meet?) rather think of the other side “moron hobe koto dine” (When shall I die?) which will be a definite goal.
Bauls were alienated from society. It does not mean that they are the detached souls from society. It is portrayed; the deep concern for society is very much vivid in their songs. They dig human history and try to drive away the small petty divisions from it. Tagore was highly absorbed in this because slightest raft can damage the social structure mentioned in Where the Mind is without Fear. They did not maintain the slightest difference between ‘you and me’, ‘me and me’ and even ‘I from I’. Following them Tagore writes: ‘Amate ami hara’ (absence of I within me). Thus, the readers can realize that Tagore tries to shape the abstract feeling through language, a field where Bauls have no competition. Bauls were the representative of ‘unity’ and conveyor of ‘unity’ to the world people. Surprisingly, the ideology became unanimous in the hands of great poet. He says: “Shok, hundol, pathan, moghal ak dehe holo lin” (Translation: In India al the races became one and became incorporated in one single identity). Again in his song ‘Tomai amai milon hobe bole’ (Translation: As we are destined to be united...) he not only craves for human bonding but also a bonding with nature. These songs create a perfect ground for unison, a mission for Tagore. After all these are all hopes and expectations which are not stagnant but move on from time to time, from generation to generation, from one era to another. This also gets a wonderful expression in one of his songs: “Milon asha tori onadrite boye choleche” (Translation: Hope in a boat is continuously progressing). Repeatedly the reference of Boat, uncertain journey and non-destined journey through sea perfectly pinpoints his intension. The recurrence of these images reminds the readers about the poems like Sagar Songome, Sonar Tori, Niruddesh Jatra etc.
Aftermath, Tagore was alarmed with a new idea. He felt the importance to know himself before he starts searching spiritual sublimation. This is an age old concept in Baul tradition. Here again Tagore recapitulated with them. Surprisingly it was common topic for both the giants definitely the research wants to mean Tagore and Lalon Fakir. Favourably both the poets dealt with it in variegated manners.
Apanare aoni Jodi chen jai
Tobe tare chinite pari sei porichoy|
“If I would have known myself, I could know you using the same.”
Apanare chinitam Jodi
Milto atol choron bidhi|
“If I would have known myself, that would have offered me the feet of God.”
Almost in the similar fashion Tagore chanted:
Aponare ei jana amr furabe na
Ei janar songe songe tomai chena|
“To know myself is an endless process. In the process I will know you.”
It is noteworthy that the words like byabsa (business), hat (number of small shops gathered in a particular day of the week in rural villages, bechakena (transaction) are overused by Bauls. But the research would comment that it became cliché in the hands of Tagore. Undoubtedly his intention is to portray the rural Bengal and the status of rural Bengal with its own colloquial words. But it is Tagore’s genius that can transform compositions having common expressions with overused words or phrases into something unique. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he dealt the most common thing in an uncommon way and made it uncommon to his readers. In today’s language, he is the master of defamiliarization. Shilaidaha incubates the feeling in Tagore. One thing is very striking and shocking that Ganges, the goddess of river has no impact and influence on Tagore rather he was inundated both by beauty and its creativity of the river Padma. The name Padma is a river of Bangladesh and the national flower of India. Yet Padma is crucial for Tagore because it flows and conveys the tone and lyrics of those singers from one place to another, from one country to another country (India and Bangladesh), from one generation to another without much change and transformation quite untiringly. Therefore, the river Padma is an image of ‘maa’ (mother) giving a new birth to Tagore. Tagore first visited Shilaidaha and then Sajadpur for the purpose of Zamindari. There he came across a Baul on the bank of the river Padma singing his traditional song with local instrument. Astonishingly it becomes instrumental in Tagore’s poetic career. It dragged the poet from palace to hut, from cement to soil, after all from artificially to nature. Thus the river Padma nurtures the quality and genius in Tagore. The research finds ‘pad’ is used as pun. Superficial meaning is easy i.e ‘foot’ that helps move on and the twin lines are called ‘pad’ that initiates Tagore to the world of folk. In this connection the research feels refers to a story. The research again wants to share a story. On his jamindari purpose he was on his way to Shilaidaha through Padma. He was not happy with the books he was reading. Out of frustration he demanded Vaishnav Padabali for enlighentenment and it clicked. Immediately after sometime he met a Baul who changed the direction of Tagore. What the research wants to mean is that reading Padabali while sailing through Padma offers him the ‘pad’ to enter to the arena of Bauls and ‘pad’ to enrich his poetic career. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Bauls have replaced the books. For an avid reader like Tagore is taking resort to books in any trouble, failure, mishap, disappointment and despondency. Bauls, the children of soil, make him experience the softness of soil, the sweet smell of soil, the sobriety of soil and above all the shanti that one can get from soil.
Aktara, the one stringed only instrument, happens to be an aktara of Tagore. Symbolically the research tries to mean that the only string in aktara stands for Baul or Baul centric thinking. The research tries to prove the statement with an example. He listened to Gagan Harkara in Silaidaha singing all time popular “ami kothai pabo tare/ amr moner manush je re”. It maddens him so much that it compelled to compose a same that was later on selected as National Anthem of Bangladesh. The research probed into it for its innovation. A song embodying the spirit of a nation should appeal the feeling of a mother or affect the motherly affection. It is amazing that Tagore was highly successful to awaken a profound sense of love and respect for the nation when it is sung or heard. In this relation both are indebted for each other.
Here the research tries to reflect an extract form an essay The Religion of Man by Tagore where he dealt with moner manush of Gagan Harkara or vise versa:
Manusher jato durgoti ache sei apon moner manush k hariye, take bairer upokorone khujte giye, orthat apanakei po kore diye|... sei baire bikkhipto aponhara manusher bilapgan akdin sunechilem pothik vikharir mukhe|... sei nirikkhor gaon er mukhei sunechilem-Tori vitor otol sagar| sei pagol i geyechilo-moner modhe moner manush karo onneshan| sei onneshaner prarthona ved ei ache|
“Man is grieved much when he happened to lose his dear one. But he is grieved the most when he tries to find him or console him through outside liabilities. In the process, unknowingly he makes a separate from himself. One day I listened to a dejected mad man singing on the same topic while begging from door to door. The same mad man sang ‘you have the possibility to be a sea’. The same uneducated village poet sang ‘within heart you begin to search man of heart’.”
Here the research dares to say that initially the Bauls were his moner manush. He himself disclosed about the divisions in his own self realization. Bauls are invariably one part of his self realization which illuminates his feeling regarding life and the representative of life i.e art. During that point of time in each and every lecture he hovers round the notion of Jivandevta for him and moner manush for the Bauls. There are ample examples. In Grihoprobesh he used a Baul song to unveil the mystery of sadness in the character that is unconsciousness or indifference.
Moner manush elo dare
Mon jokhon jagli nare|
“Mon, you did not respond when the man came to you. You were in slumber and let it go.”
After that the readers get of song sung by Boshtomi:
Monre ore mon/ tumi kon sadhanar dhon
Paine tomai paine/ sudhu khuji sarakkhan|
“Mon, I am not able to trace you. Though I am constantly searching, I am not able to get you.”
In the same text ‘Boshtomi’ again sings about Rajjaga Tara (sleepless star). It is actually an indicative of Sadhak Baul who spends hour, days and nights through sadhanas (devotion) and contemplation. Such Bauls are so devoted that the discrimination between day and night is not at all distinct. The research can vehemently say that Baul disclosed the concept of moner manus and Tagore made it a ‘discourse’, all pervasive in his poems, essays, novels and short stories.
Now the research tries to show another aspect of Rabindranath Tagore, an aspect of preparation. There goes a proverbial expression that childhood is the best stage for preparation, cultivation, practice and subsequent development for elevation. In this section the research tries to unfold the selected part of his life to furnish him in front of world as a representative of human being in general and Baul in particular. In his autobiography Jibansmiriti (memory of life) he mentioned the scraps of his life. As a child he was separated and brought up under the strict supervision of servants. Four walls of his house were his boundary world and the small window was the lens through which he experienced the world. It was the only medium of his expression and communication with the people of the surrounding. The readers can understand the painful pathetic life of Tagore. It was more painful when was kept within a “Laxman Gandi’ (Barrier as mentioned in Ramayana) drawn and threatened by the servants that if he crosses it, like Sita he will be abducted. Therefore, it is unnecessary to mention the impact of such incidents in the psychology of little Ravi. He felt like a bird that is caged when it is its time to fly after the sky. Naturally little Ravi did not get the exposure to experience the world. In a mansion like his, he has seen only pomposity, aridity and artificiality. For him ‘Nature’ was only a word in a dictionary and to be in nature and with nature was a far cry. But who can restrict the mind of a poet? Outside the window, he creates his own world where there was no place for his family members and the ‘Babus’ (rich, educated and aristocratic people) of so called society. Surprisingly, they were replaced by riffraff, the passersby, vendors, kabuliwala, Bauls, Boshtomis, cart driver, daily labourers and poor innocent children of the para (locality). He used to talk incessantly and share with them wholeheartedly. They only became the outlet of his gasping expression. Hence, from his childhood days he has grown up with those innocent, pure, uncorrupted people outside the window who made him feel rather taught him the value of simplicity, purity and above all the meaning of humanity. Then only from the very tender age he was fully aware of the emotions of life, morality of life and value / vibration of life. At the age of nine in his domestic imprisonment, he wrote his first lines, the first stepping stone in the world of art.
‘Jol pore pata nore’
“The leaves are trembling with the pouring rain drops”.
The readers cannot but be awestruck and stunned when they try to understand the depth and symbolic representation of his life at that stage. Obviously as child it was an unbearable suffering, a torture on his psyche. He could not breathe without the sooth. According to the research, when he talked about ‘rain’, it invariably becomes a symbol of deliverance. The drops of ‘rain’ would wash away the grief and grievances from him and bestow the glory of the sun when the cloud is dispersed.
On the other hand it refers to Ramkrishnadev with his profundity saying:
“kamala jalatala jibana talamamla”
“Life dwindles in every situation the way a little drop of water oscillates on the background of a lotus leaf.
There is a religion connotation as it is believed that life is in the hands of God. According to ‘his’ desire, the fate of an individual is decided or deciphered by the Almighty. It also means life is about dilemma after the day dream. Therefore, just like rain drops on a leaf of lotus, life will be unstable and imbalanced having ups and down, twists and turnings, misery and misfortune and finally fate and death.
“I fall upon the thorns of life and I bleed”.
Tagore immediately wrote:
‘rokter okkhore chinilam nijer rup’
“I knew myself with the words dipped in my blood”.
For Tagore the situation was problematic and pathetic that even if he cries, there will be nobody to console and wipe out his tears. That is why he might have thought about ‘rain’ as an alternative. Only rain according to Charle Chaplin can wash off the stains of tears from his cheek and can make him temporarily or momentarily happy because nobody can see him crying. ‘Pata nore’ (Translation: Leaves are trembling), the simple expression becomes an emotive expression that can leave the critics sleepless. He himself is a ‘leaf’, very soft and green stemming from the branches with a prospect to be a sturdy tree in future. In addition to beautification ‘leaves’ once the children of a trees become the source of food and energy for the tree itself. Tagore perhaps compares himself with green young leaf who can serve vitality to his family and society in future. But under such threatening tortures he is going to be ripped. To save him he needs Jeevandhara, the soothing rain drops that can bring back life for the withered, dusty leaves and make it fresh and new. Here ‘dust’ and the layer of dust indicate the bare of misfortune and grief and the layers of agony and anxiety. Thus, rain drops can make him oblivious about the sad memories of life.
Here lies a contrast. Imaginary world and the real world are poles apart. Consequently, one idea was very shocking for Tagore and it was really a contradictory one. In a dark room, a presence within four walls creates a sense of an impending doom while the wonderful world seen through window provides fresh air of hope and life. He was patiently lingering to come to a stage when he can feel the world of dreams and his fanciful imagination. But ‘the brave new world’ as it was supposed to be according to his tender imagination imposed a threat to him. He realized it is a world of violence, competition, enmity, selfishness and brutality. It may be compared to a journey of a person who is illuminated with light and is suddenly thrown into a pitch-dark world or hell. His notions, imagination, feeling, attachment and respect which dreamt to germinate under the open sky and sun, are shattered and battered within a moment. Anyway, he could not ‘retreat’ to his childhood days. But in the later half of his life, his connection with Bauls who offered him a new world quite untouched, unpolluted from material commercialization and the consequent chaos, partially compensated the loss. Which is why, perhaps, his attraction for there down trodden people is so pure and genuine because he too realized that it is too late. Bauls taught the concept of ‘negative capability’ in the real sense of the term with live examples. Normally who does not wish to retreat the golden and evergreen childhood days? Everyone wants to be Dylan Thomas either through expression or through attitude or sometimes by both because of its own charm. There is no expectation with Tagore also. He roamed the globe just like vagabond Bauls to get beck his lost innocence.
Neither he finds peace anywhere nor does somebody direct him to an ideal way to find peace and solitude. He understood the reality of the globe that in the world of “war and peace” “the war of the world” dominates. Therefore, the very existence or the presence of man seems to be time’s laughing stock. He is deeply indebted to Bauls who have successfully served both the purposes. They not only resurrect him as a poet of the world in general but also deify him as an ideal human being in particular. That is why people regard him as an ‘idol’ for the future generation. Basically, on this ground he is extremely indebted to Bauls because they create the space where he can recapitulate with same with vigour and valour. It became so nearer to him that he can touch it, feel it, smell it and experience it only because he knows their language and this is taught by none other than Bauls.
Now he longed to be not in rough and tough world but in local and rural village where:
Jethai thake diner hore din/ oi khanate charan tomar raje /
Sobar majhe sob harader majhe|
I want be in a place where poorest people live and lives the God among those people who have lost everything in their lives.
The research wants to say that his ideal moner manush that is Baul now turns out to be Jeevandevta in its true sense because they paved the way to be in the garden of God and play there eternally. Logically, it can be proved that someone who can lead up to God, can make a communion with God and can resurrect life is undoubtedly Jeevandevta. Moreover, Bauls renew the faith in God. Bauls basically sing for the unison and when Tagore finds himself amidst the Bauls, he gets a feeling of corporeal emancipation. Therefore, Bauls contribution is limitless and endless in his life.
The aforementioned discussion is an inherent rather symbolic representation of the influence of Bauls imbibed by Tagore. Now the research tries to refer some direct instances which will prove the same.
In his autobiographical Jivansmiriti (the memory of life), he recalled:
Bohu balyalake akta gam shuniyachilam, ‘tomai bideshini k sajiye dile’|... oi pod tar mohe amio likhechilam ‘ami chini go chini go tomare, odo bideshini’... amar mon bolie lagilo, amader ei jogoter modhye akti kon bideshini anagona kore-kon rohosyo sindhur poropre ghater upore tahader bari-tahakei sharadprate madhabi ratrite khone khone dekhte pai-hridoyer majhkhaneo majhe majhe tahar avas pawa geche, akshe kan patiya tahar kanthaswar khakhonoba shuniyachi| sei biswabrobhande bideshinir dware amar ganer sur amk aniya uposthit koril|
“I listen to one song during my childhood “who ornates you like a foreigner (female). I also wrote ‘I know you, know you oh my distant love’. My mind begins to prompt one foreigner frequents us. Where does she live nobody knows. Perhaps she lives on the other side of the river. I could feel her and see her at night on a particular season. I personified my ears to listen to her. The same foreigner brings me and introduces me in the world of music.”
To drive away the seed of gender discrimination he used Bauls as an instrument. In many poems and songs are mystified with the presence of bideshini (foreigner). The identity of the bideshini sets the researchers and critics into great trouble. But here the research can ease the enigma by saying that what Mr. W.H and ‘Dark lady’ were to Shakespeare, bideshini was the same to Tagore. However, the mystery remains unsolved after a series of research, assumption and confrontation. It is essential because mystery in literature is considered to be chemistry for poetry writing. The readers can consider bideshini as ‘Goddess of creation’ or an inspiring lady or female Baul or boshtomi. Whatever may the meaning and implication, he repeatedly used in various ways in poems like Niruddesh Jatra (Journey without a destination) and Sonar Tori (Golden Boat).
Though she is very close to the poet’s heart, he could not catch her, though tangible she turns out to be intangible with in a blink as it is evident in both the poems:
“Harai khone kkhon”
“I lose you within a moment”.
“Nirob hasir delha mele na”
“I cannot see the face smiling silently”.
He again writes:
“kotha acho, ogo, koroho porosh/ nikote ami”
“Where are you? Touch me, I am very close to you”.
At this stage Tagore was so impelled that in his autobiography he talkes about the bideshini though very insignificant.
But in this connection Tagore amalgamates the conceptual identity, between bideshini and Achin Pakhi in his autobiography:
... onek din por Bolpurer rasta diye k gahiya jaitechilo ‘khachar vitor achin pakhi kemne ase jai’...|
“After long interval I have heard a man singing the famous song across the road in Bolpur”.
The research can say that both bideshini and Achin-Pakhi are enigmatic to the poet. He hurdles hard to hold them but failed because the game of absence and presence bewilders him. Though confused to hold them, he incongruously held them in his works. The novel Gora (1907) incarnates the deep seated passion for Bauls. He began the novel with Lalon Fakir’s famous Achin Pakhi songs. Here the research tries point out that Gora, the protagonist has no radical connection with Achin Pakhi. On the other way it can be said that the song has nothing to do with the novel. Still he used it without much purpose, though it can never be fully negated because at the end of the novel Gora’s evolution emasculates the history Bauls and their ‘Sadhanas’. Had it not been Rabindranath Tagore, Lalon would have been an average artist. Among Bauls, Lalon possessed maximum space in Tagore’s mind and heart. The reason is very obvious why the research mentioned the duo. He wishfully wanted to multiply the meaning of Lalon Fakir not only in the field of academics but also in the cultural set up of W.B. At last the process to multiply one magnifies the other. Achin Pakhi is as keeps on taking with the poet like a pet.
In poem no 15 of Sesh Saptak (Last Phase) published in 1925, he connects the duo with deep sense of commemoration with:
Rashtai cholte cholte Baul ese thamlo|
Gailo, ‘achin pakhi ure ase khachai’|
Dekhe obujh mon bole-
Odhora k dhorechi| (Rafique, p. 19).
“While walking along the road the Baul suddenly stops his movement. He was singing ‘achin pakhi comes back to his cage’. When my mind says that now I am successful to catch the bird which can never be caught, it is senseless.”
A close reading of the poem oozes out the love of his personal life which ultimately gets channelized through Achin Pakhi menaing mukti (salvation). Achin is the other name of ‘unknown’. He begins an assignation for this ‘unknown’ destination, a title of his poem. In another poem No. 43 in the same anthology Tagore write about his own:
Tarun jouboner Baul
Sur bedhe nilo apon aktarate,
Niruddesh moner manush k |
“Baul with a sprit youth sings with the help aktara to call his moner manush. Throughout his life he was after Achin Pakhi and moner manush.”
Today’s language would say these two ideas manipulate Tagore and as a result any distress, any disturbance, any distraction drags him to them discarding the dilemma and digression, discrimination and distance. Bauls make him think, smile, cry and dance in his own premise before his demise. Therefore, his poems, songs are the store house rather gallery or an exhibition of Bauls. What is unique in Tagore is that using their words, he paints their pictures through language. It is this quality that makes him ever green and a world poet.
In the anthology of Patraput especially poem No 5, he retells a story where a blind vairagi sings:
Kal ashobole chole gelo
Ami sei kaler dike takiye achi|
“He left saying that tomorrow he will come. Every tomorrow I await him but he never turns up.”
Reading of Godot would say it is nothing but mad waiting that is the only examination to pass the Baul sadhana.
Tagore wrote in Patraput especially at end of the poem ‘tali dewa alkhalla pora ekele Bauler gan’ (1935):
Hat korte elem ami odhorar sondhane
Sobai dhore tane amai, ei je go eikhane|
“I came in the world for marketing. But everybody pulls me to come to them or their shop.”
Later on Patisar, another place also benumbed him. What is specific is that there is no change of his ideal with the changes of places. Here in Patisar on the bank of river Atrai, he wrote ‘I am waiting to listen to you’ (18th July 1922). So difficult it is to identify the song as Rabindra Sangeet. Throughout the texture the composer handles a mystery rather a mystic presentation of his ‘self’ which is unplayable. Again it is so close like Achin Pakhi that he himself could not trace its communion which is why time and again he infers bishshoi (mystery), odhora (unattainable), bideshini (foreigner), ojana (Unknown) to ascertain such mysticism and hopelessness to see it, feel it or chain it. Lalon also cannot catch the Achin Pakhi though he thought of encaging.
It is very strange that the thing which is in you is unknown to you. Out mind know it but our hearts denies to accept it. Rabindranath Tagore very skilfully handles this conflict between mind and soul with delicacy. Obviously it is too hard to believe that soul does not know his soul mate who frequents the soul.
There research tends to refer two such songs where he tried to capture this conflict between mind and soul:
“Ke se mor, kei ba jane”
“Who knows the person who is in me?”
“Keno tomra amai dako / amr mon na mane”
“Why are calling me I cannot hold myself”.
Here is a radical question why the research introduced a subtle tussle. The answer is as simple as this that it is a tussle between two abstract entities mind and soul, not the body and soul. Body being a concrete mass can easily be discriminated from soul. But here it is totally a different story. It is a wonderful game taking place either during day or night. But no one knows who comes and goes.
He earnestly sings:
Sudhu tomar bani noi go, he bondu he priyo
Majhe majhe prane tomar porosh khani dio|
“I crave to make me feel about your presence not only your words.”
At the end through the language of aktara, he tried to trace the spirit of achin pakhi. He writes:
Majhe majhe tar barta amr bhasa pai ki kotha re
O se amai jani pahhai bani ganer tane lukiye tare|
“Sometimes I get to know the language through the song.”
Truly, it is secret journey and non-destined journey as it is clarified in one of his poems.
Singing becomes the ideal way to search him for the Baul Poet:
Ami tare khuje barai
Je roi mone apon mone | (No 547).
“I search him in my own way with own whim.”
‘Apon mone’ (In his own whim) perhaps draws an inference of Pagol ‘madman’. Here it must be mentioned that Tagore did not believe in any difference of meaning when people say s adhak, pagol and khepa. They are all same, identical and indigenous. Hasan Raja, another famous Baul, personally mentioned in one of his compositions that sadhak, pagal and premik are deep rooted and hence impossible to be uprooted. Accordingly, Baulk kobi (poet) Rabindranath is in search of his Jibandevta in the form of moner manush, bideshini or Achin pakhi.
Citation of one song will instigate all shades of confusions in readers’ minds:
Kon alote praner prodip jaliye tumi dhorai aso
Sadhok ogo, premik ogo, pagol ogo, dharai aso|
“Oh Sadhak, Lover and mad how do you come on this earth? In whose light are you illuminated?”
Tagore is so multifaceted that sometimes in unconscious mind moner manush mingles in him and gets an aura of identity that is the lover of all human being of the world. It brings the shower of unity dispelling the difference between men. No 15 poem in Patraput he applauded for this universal appeal. Institutionalised customs and constitutional rituals were bashfully rejected and thrown away by Tagore. Now he only believes in aktara. As a result wherever he goes, he comes across people having aktara in their hands.
Fearlessly the research can ever that his songs are an invitation to join: It invites all to move on and on for the ultimate because he knows:
‘amr ei poth chlatei anondo’
“This journey gives me the pleasure”.
He also guided not to be influenced.
Therefore, if nobody moves, you step forward:
‘Jodi tor dak shune keu na ashe tobe akla chalo re |’.
Bauls makes him realize humanity is only reality in the world and tolls in him that being a human man should strive for being human.
Though the concept was widely propounded by philanthropists like Ramakrishna and his disciple Swamiji:
“sobar upore manush sotto”
“Man is the only truth above all”.
“Jib sebai shib seba”
“To serve man is to serve God”.
Tagore simplifies the concept among mass and makes it as the spirit of our blood that will further empower every organ of our body for actual growth and development. Therefore, the readers can perceive the Tagorian belief and the consequent degree of transformation that takes him to an out worldly plane relieving the pain of this world in general and Bauls to an esteemed status in the eyes of so called cultured, educated Bhadralok of West Bengal and to the world people in particular.