Monday, May 11, 2009

Baul Songs

By Dr. Ashraf Siddiqui, "Rabindranath Tagore and folklore" - The New Nation - Bangladesh
Friday, May 8, 2009

Earlier that the last quarter of the nineteenth century saw the establishment of Hindu Mela (1872), National Congress (1885) and similar other societies for the propagating of nationalistic feelings among the Indian people.

As Bengal was the largest province and as it contained the largest number of politically conscious intelligentsia, it was quite natural that political and national movements in India should originate or receive a strong impetus from Bengal.

The object of Hindu Mela and other national societies was to "resist the powerful tendency of imitating the West by reviving old tradition, old festivals, Hindu medicines, traditional arts and crafts, traditional songs and dances, sports, games, storytelling and recreations in every walk of life".

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the grandson of Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, a great patron of art, music and literature, and the youngest son of Devendranath Tagore, the Founder of Tatwabodhini Sova, took the initiative in collecting folklore from various parts of Bengal. Early in 1883, Tagore wrote an article in the Journal 'Bharati' touching upon the importance of traditional lore in a nation's heritage. It should be remembered that in the same year, Dey's classic collection of Bengali folk-tales was published.

Dey was, however, more a patriotic Bengali, than he was an Indian nationalist. Tagore, who was greatly influenced by the traditional lore, himself wrote: Is there any other greater thing of one's own country than Thakur Mar Jhuly ? Where are those Rajputrat Bengama-Bengami--- Sat-Samudra and Tero-Nadit. These fairy tales through the ages, through the destruction of kingdoms incessantly penetrates the hearts of our Bengali boys. This affection has come down from the monarch to the poorest farmers. These tales have originated from the old and deep affection of eternal Bangladesh. Where are those Bengali festivals, Jatra and Kothokota? Where are those Bengali villages where gay and lively passions would flow in endless streamst (preface to Thakurmar Jhuly, Dakshina Ronjan Mitra Majumder, P.11 -Calcutta, 1906).

The nursery rhymes and tales told by the maids, created a wonderful fairyland within me. My exchange of garlands (the betrothal ceremony) with the poetic fancy was already duly celebrated. (Tagore, Glimpses of Bengal Macmillan, London, 1921, P. 100)

In 1893, Tagore, along with others, established the Bangiya Sahitya Parisat, a society for enquiring into ethnology, tradition and folkore of Bengal. The journal Sahitya Parisat from the year of its inception in 1894, began publishing innumerable items of folklore materials collected from the various regions of Bengal. Tagore's first collection of folklore contains a good number of rhymes collected from his estate in different parts of Bengal. Before Tagore, William Morton in 1832 and James Long in 1868-1873 had published collections of proverbs in which some rhymes were included. Grierson, in the same way, included a few rhymes in his "Songs of Manikchandra" published in 1878.

But rhymes were not a primary concern of these collectors and it was Tagore who first initiated the extensive collection of rhymes. In 1301 BS. 1894), when his first two series of rhymes came out in the Journals Sadhana and Sahitya-Parisat containing more than one hundred rhymes with interesting variants, several other Bengali collectors began to collect similar rhymes from various parts of Bengal.

Sankar Sen Gupta has assessed Tagore's influence as follows: "How Rabindranath gave impetus to the collectors of charas (folk rhymes) and other folklore materials has been mirrored in Bangiya Sahita-Parisat Patrika. If we turn over the pages of this organ we can see their valuable contribution to folklore which appeared both in this and other journals. We quote names of some folklore writers here from Parisat Patrika: Basanta Ranjan Roy (1301, B.S.) Rajani Kanta Gupta (1302), Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharad (1309-1312), Braja Sundar Sanyal (1310), Moksadaranjan Bhattacharya (1311, 1312, 1314), Probash Chandra Bhattacharya (1315), Haridas Palit (1316), Jibendra Kumar Datta (1317), Biswaraj Dhanwantari (1318), Chintaharan Chakravarty (1340, 1341), and many others." ("Rabindranath Tagore's Role in Bengal's Folklore Movement", Folklore, IV Calcutta, 1963 ,. P 143.) (Cited by Bhattacharya in his Bangla Loka-Sahitya, Part II Calcutta, 1963, PO. 10-11.)

Tagore collected most of these rhymes through the offices of his zemindary estates. His collection consists of four principal kinds of rhymes; lullabies, social, ritual and game rhymes. In 1302 B.S. Tagore published "Kabi-Sangeet" (Village Poets' Songs) in Sadhana illustrating a few songs of professional folk poets near Calcutta. In 1305 B.S. was published his "Grammya Sahitya (Rural Literature) in Bharati which contained several dozens of folksongs collected from various places. He wrote : "Only the elderly ladies can recite these songs; one is to go to five people to collect these materials."

Tagore collected three kind of songs : (1) in connection with Hara and Gouri (Hindu God Siva and his consort Gouri) ; (2) Radha and Krishna (songs connected with the love episodes of Krishna and his beloved Radha) and (3) ordinary love songs. The above mentioned four essays were later on compiled in his Loka-Sahitya (Folk-Literature, Calcutta, 1907).

Tagore started collecting Baul songs in the 1890's, giving information about the singers. These songs were later on compiled in his "Baul-Sangeet" (Baul Songs ; Probashi, No. VII : Calcutta, 1915). Before Tagore, Nafar Chandra Datta's Baul-Sangeet (Baul Songs ; Calcutta, 1883) and Nirmal Chandra Chottopadhaya's Baul-Sangeet (Baul Songs ; Calcutta, 1886) were published. These compilations unfortunately, lack any systematic scholarship. It was Tagore, who first discussed the Bauls and their philosophy in a scholarly way.

Baul is a class of mystic folksingers in Bengal. Due to close contact with Iran from the thirteenth century on, Iranian Sufism much influenced the thoughts of the people of India, especially Bengal.

Baul Singers infused the mystic thought of the Sufis in their compositions.

To the Bauls the human body along with its five souls is the most precious object of worship. God can be discovered in the body of a person. Bauls always try to purify their souls through continuous devotion. (For further reference, see K. Sen, "The Bauls and Their Cult of Man', The Visva-Bharati Quarterly, VI (1928) 410-431.)

About the importance of folklore in general, Tagore wrote: As the roots of a tree are firmly buried together with the soil and its upper part is spread towards the sky, in the same way the lower part of a literature is always hidden, being to a large extent imprisoned in the soil of its mother country. There is a ceaseless inner connection between this lower literature and the higher one."

Rabindranath's approach to Bengali nursery rhymes and folk literature is different from that of most present-day folklorists. Along with the historicity of the materials he also discussed its beauty and its literary qualities.Tagore not only collected a huge amount of folklore but also employed folklore themes in much of his writing.

Eto bara, ranga jadu eto bara ranga
Char mithe dekhate paro jabo tomar sanga.
Barfi mithe, jilabi mitho, mithe son papri,
Tahar odhik mithe kanya, komal hater chapri.

Eto bara ranga, judu, eto bara ranga
Char sada dekhate pare, jabo tomar sanga.
Khir sada, nabani sada, sada malai rabri,
Tahar odhik sada tomar posto bhasar dabri.

Eto bara rango, jadu, eto bara ranga
Char tito deknate paro jabo tomar sanga.
Uche tito, palta tito, tito nimer sukta,
Tahar odhik tito Jaba bini bhashai ukta. (khapsara)

Readers can read with this the most popular rhymes current in the oral tradtion and collected by Tagore himself;

Jadu, eto bara ranga judu, eto baro ranga.
Char kalo dekhate paro jabo tomar sanga.
Kak kalo, kokil kalo, kalo finger besh.
Tahar odhik kalo, kanye, tomar mathar kesh.

Jadu, eto bara ranga jadu, eto bara ranga.
Char dhalo dekhate paro jabo tomar sango.
Bok dhalo, bastra dhalo, dhalo rajhansa.
Tahar odhik dhalo, kanye, tomar hater shankhot..etc. (Loka-Sahitya. P. 28-29)

This is one of the many instances how Tagore infused many of the popular folk-rhymes current in the oral tradition in his poems and songs not only in Khapsara but also in Manasi, Sonar Tari, Chitra, and many other poems, novels and drama.

Because of this intimate connection he named a popular folk rhyme as Charar Chanda in Bengali.

What student of Tagore did not read his Dui Bigha Jami where the fields, sky, mango groves, cowboys and a Bengali maiden of eternal Bangladesh appear thus:

Abarita math gagan lalat chumey taba padadhuli
Chaya sunibir santir nir choto choto gramguli.
Pallava ghana amra kanana rakhaler khela geho
Stabdha atal dighi kalo jal, nishitha seetala geho.

Bookbhara madhu banger badhu jal laye jai ghare,
Ma balite pran kare anchan choke ase jal bhare.

About the influence of vaishnava padavali, a reputed scholar wrote: The vaishnava philosophy of Bengal so much influenced his thoughts that out of his love for vaishnava faith he composed in imitation of vaishnava padavali (songs).

He utilised profitably the Jataka stories in his own composition.


1 comment:

keshley said...

I recently came across your blog and I really enjoy reading it.. Thanks!
Music Online

Monday, May 11, 2009

Baul Songs
By Dr. Ashraf Siddiqui, "Rabindranath Tagore and folklore" - The New Nation - Bangladesh
Friday, May 8, 2009

Earlier that the last quarter of the nineteenth century saw the establishment of Hindu Mela (1872), National Congress (1885) and similar other societies for the propagating of nationalistic feelings among the Indian people.

As Bengal was the largest province and as it contained the largest number of politically conscious intelligentsia, it was quite natural that political and national movements in India should originate or receive a strong impetus from Bengal.

The object of Hindu Mela and other national societies was to "resist the powerful tendency of imitating the West by reviving old tradition, old festivals, Hindu medicines, traditional arts and crafts, traditional songs and dances, sports, games, storytelling and recreations in every walk of life".

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the grandson of Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, a great patron of art, music and literature, and the youngest son of Devendranath Tagore, the Founder of Tatwabodhini Sova, took the initiative in collecting folklore from various parts of Bengal. Early in 1883, Tagore wrote an article in the Journal 'Bharati' touching upon the importance of traditional lore in a nation's heritage. It should be remembered that in the same year, Dey's classic collection of Bengali folk-tales was published.

Dey was, however, more a patriotic Bengali, than he was an Indian nationalist. Tagore, who was greatly influenced by the traditional lore, himself wrote: Is there any other greater thing of one's own country than Thakur Mar Jhuly ? Where are those Rajputrat Bengama-Bengami--- Sat-Samudra and Tero-Nadit. These fairy tales through the ages, through the destruction of kingdoms incessantly penetrates the hearts of our Bengali boys. This affection has come down from the monarch to the poorest farmers. These tales have originated from the old and deep affection of eternal Bangladesh. Where are those Bengali festivals, Jatra and Kothokota? Where are those Bengali villages where gay and lively passions would flow in endless streamst (preface to Thakurmar Jhuly, Dakshina Ronjan Mitra Majumder, P.11 -Calcutta, 1906).

The nursery rhymes and tales told by the maids, created a wonderful fairyland within me. My exchange of garlands (the betrothal ceremony) with the poetic fancy was already duly celebrated. (Tagore, Glimpses of Bengal Macmillan, London, 1921, P. 100)

In 1893, Tagore, along with others, established the Bangiya Sahitya Parisat, a society for enquiring into ethnology, tradition and folkore of Bengal. The journal Sahitya Parisat from the year of its inception in 1894, began publishing innumerable items of folklore materials collected from the various regions of Bengal. Tagore's first collection of folklore contains a good number of rhymes collected from his estate in different parts of Bengal. Before Tagore, William Morton in 1832 and James Long in 1868-1873 had published collections of proverbs in which some rhymes were included. Grierson, in the same way, included a few rhymes in his "Songs of Manikchandra" published in 1878.

But rhymes were not a primary concern of these collectors and it was Tagore who first initiated the extensive collection of rhymes. In 1301 BS. 1894), when his first two series of rhymes came out in the Journals Sadhana and Sahitya-Parisat containing more than one hundred rhymes with interesting variants, several other Bengali collectors began to collect similar rhymes from various parts of Bengal.

Sankar Sen Gupta has assessed Tagore's influence as follows: "How Rabindranath gave impetus to the collectors of charas (folk rhymes) and other folklore materials has been mirrored in Bangiya Sahita-Parisat Patrika. If we turn over the pages of this organ we can see their valuable contribution to folklore which appeared both in this and other journals. We quote names of some folklore writers here from Parisat Patrika: Basanta Ranjan Roy (1301, B.S.) Rajani Kanta Gupta (1302), Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharad (1309-1312), Braja Sundar Sanyal (1310), Moksadaranjan Bhattacharya (1311, 1312, 1314), Probash Chandra Bhattacharya (1315), Haridas Palit (1316), Jibendra Kumar Datta (1317), Biswaraj Dhanwantari (1318), Chintaharan Chakravarty (1340, 1341), and many others." ("Rabindranath Tagore's Role in Bengal's Folklore Movement", Folklore, IV Calcutta, 1963 ,. P 143.) (Cited by Bhattacharya in his Bangla Loka-Sahitya, Part II Calcutta, 1963, PO. 10-11.)

Tagore collected most of these rhymes through the offices of his zemindary estates. His collection consists of four principal kinds of rhymes; lullabies, social, ritual and game rhymes. In 1302 B.S. Tagore published "Kabi-Sangeet" (Village Poets' Songs) in Sadhana illustrating a few songs of professional folk poets near Calcutta. In 1305 B.S. was published his "Grammya Sahitya (Rural Literature) in Bharati which contained several dozens of folksongs collected from various places. He wrote : "Only the elderly ladies can recite these songs; one is to go to five people to collect these materials."

Tagore collected three kind of songs : (1) in connection with Hara and Gouri (Hindu God Siva and his consort Gouri) ; (2) Radha and Krishna (songs connected with the love episodes of Krishna and his beloved Radha) and (3) ordinary love songs. The above mentioned four essays were later on compiled in his Loka-Sahitya (Folk-Literature, Calcutta, 1907).

Tagore started collecting Baul songs in the 1890's, giving information about the singers. These songs were later on compiled in his "Baul-Sangeet" (Baul Songs ; Probashi, No. VII : Calcutta, 1915). Before Tagore, Nafar Chandra Datta's Baul-Sangeet (Baul Songs ; Calcutta, 1883) and Nirmal Chandra Chottopadhaya's Baul-Sangeet (Baul Songs ; Calcutta, 1886) were published. These compilations unfortunately, lack any systematic scholarship. It was Tagore, who first discussed the Bauls and their philosophy in a scholarly way.

Baul is a class of mystic folksingers in Bengal. Due to close contact with Iran from the thirteenth century on, Iranian Sufism much influenced the thoughts of the people of India, especially Bengal.

Baul Singers infused the mystic thought of the Sufis in their compositions.

To the Bauls the human body along with its five souls is the most precious object of worship. God can be discovered in the body of a person. Bauls always try to purify their souls through continuous devotion. (For further reference, see K. Sen, "The Bauls and Their Cult of Man', The Visva-Bharati Quarterly, VI (1928) 410-431.)

About the importance of folklore in general, Tagore wrote: As the roots of a tree are firmly buried together with the soil and its upper part is spread towards the sky, in the same way the lower part of a literature is always hidden, being to a large extent imprisoned in the soil of its mother country. There is a ceaseless inner connection between this lower literature and the higher one."

Rabindranath's approach to Bengali nursery rhymes and folk literature is different from that of most present-day folklorists. Along with the historicity of the materials he also discussed its beauty and its literary qualities.Tagore not only collected a huge amount of folklore but also employed folklore themes in much of his writing.

Eto bara, ranga jadu eto bara ranga
Char mithe dekhate paro jabo tomar sanga.
Barfi mithe, jilabi mitho, mithe son papri,
Tahar odhik mithe kanya, komal hater chapri.

Eto bara ranga, judu, eto bara ranga
Char sada dekhate pare, jabo tomar sanga.
Khir sada, nabani sada, sada malai rabri,
Tahar odhik sada tomar posto bhasar dabri.

Eto bara rango, jadu, eto bara ranga
Char tito deknate paro jabo tomar sanga.
Uche tito, palta tito, tito nimer sukta,
Tahar odhik tito Jaba bini bhashai ukta. (khapsara)

Readers can read with this the most popular rhymes current in the oral tradtion and collected by Tagore himself;

Jadu, eto bara ranga judu, eto baro ranga.
Char kalo dekhate paro jabo tomar sanga.
Kak kalo, kokil kalo, kalo finger besh.
Tahar odhik kalo, kanye, tomar mathar kesh.

Jadu, eto bara ranga jadu, eto bara ranga.
Char dhalo dekhate paro jabo tomar sango.
Bok dhalo, bastra dhalo, dhalo rajhansa.
Tahar odhik dhalo, kanye, tomar hater shankhot..etc. (Loka-Sahitya. P. 28-29)

This is one of the many instances how Tagore infused many of the popular folk-rhymes current in the oral tradition in his poems and songs not only in Khapsara but also in Manasi, Sonar Tari, Chitra, and many other poems, novels and drama.

Because of this intimate connection he named a popular folk rhyme as Charar Chanda in Bengali.

What student of Tagore did not read his Dui Bigha Jami where the fields, sky, mango groves, cowboys and a Bengali maiden of eternal Bangladesh appear thus:

Abarita math gagan lalat chumey taba padadhuli
Chaya sunibir santir nir choto choto gramguli.
Pallava ghana amra kanana rakhaler khela geho
Stabdha atal dighi kalo jal, nishitha seetala geho.

Bookbhara madhu banger badhu jal laye jai ghare,
Ma balite pran kare anchan choke ase jal bhare.

About the influence of vaishnava padavali, a reputed scholar wrote: The vaishnava philosophy of Bengal so much influenced his thoughts that out of his love for vaishnava faith he composed in imitation of vaishnava padavali (songs).

He utilised profitably the Jataka stories in his own composition.


1 comment:

keshley said...

I recently came across your blog and I really enjoy reading it.. Thanks!
Music Online