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Books and Jasim Uddin: Poet of Rural Bengal


  • 1. Books on Environment
  • 2. Jasimuddin (1904-1976) poet and litterateur
  • 3.Bengali Folklore and Children's Literature
  • 4. Jasimuddin's rural saga
  • 5. Jasim Uddin: Poet of Rural Bengal
  • 6. Sojan Badiyar Ghat, Gypsy Wharf     (also in    Italien: Zingaro Sugiom
  • 7. Books of Jasim Uddin in English and Bengali
  • 8. Palli Kabi's Gani Mia dies
  • Jasimuddin - Poet of the People of Bangladesh - A Film by Khan Ata

    1. Books on Environment

    Books on Arsenic By descending year of publication.

  • Arsenic Poisoning in Bangladesh: End of A Civilization. By Dr. Jamal Anwar. Published by Palash Media and Publisher, Dhaka, May 2000. ISBN-984-460-035-9.
  • Arsenic in Drinking Water. Subcommittee on Arsenic in Drinking Water, National Research Council, 1999. 330pp. "... evaluates epidemiological data on the carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic health effects of arsenic exposure of Taiwanese populations and compares those effects with the effects of arsenic exposure demonstrated in other countries—including the United States. The book also reviews data on toxicokinetics, metabolism, and mechanism and mode of action of arsenic to ascertain how these data could assist in assessing human health risks from arsenic exposures. This volume recommends specific changes to improve the toxicity analyses and risk characterization. The implications of ... [the proposed reduction of] EPA’s current MCL for arsenic are also described."
  • Arsenic in Drinking Water (1999). Commission on Life Sciences. National Academy Press. [Whole book online] (I haven't figured out yet if this and the previous reference are to the same book ... could be.)
  • Arsenic - Exposure & Health Effects III, 1999. Abernathy, Calderon, Chappell, eds. Elsevier 440 pp. Proceedings of the Society of Environmental Geochemistry and Health (SEGH) Third International Conference on Arsenic Exposure and Health Effects, San Diego, California, 12-15 July, 1998. "The Third SEGH Conference continued the theme of global impact of arsenic. In addition, two new countries with significant arsenic problems, Inner Mongolia and Bangladesh, were represented. The Bangladesh problem could be larger than the one in West Bengal with a possible two-thirds of the population at risk. The conference also featured a session on mechanisms of cancer carcinogenesis. Several scientists presented their work on this important issue which is central to considerations of such questions as the shape of the dose-response curve at low doses. This latter issue was featured in the final session of the conference. Another session that was new and of great interest was on the treatment of victims of chronic arsenic poisoning."
  • Arsenic - Exposure & Health Effects. 1997. Abernathy, Calderon, Chappell, eds. Chapman & Hall. Proceedings of the Society of Environmental Geochemistry and Health (SEGH) Second International Conference on Arsenic Exposure and Health Effects. "This book presents the most up-to-date summary of environmental arsenic problems worldwide, containing new reports on arsenic exposure in Thailand, Mongolia and China. It also presents papers on the arsenic problems in Central Europe, Asia and the USA. There are chapters describing the sources, pathways, toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics of arsenic in the environment, as well as the latest information on prevention, control and treatment of arsenic exposure. The latest work on epidemiologic studies of the reproductive, cardiovascular and neurologic effects of arsenic is presented here, along with papers on the cancer and non-cancer health effects of arsenic and drinking water treatment technology." [NB - the Barnes & Noble listing states "Vol. 2", probably to distiguish it from the 1995 book (see next entry).]
  • Arsenic Exposure & Health. 1995. Chappell, Abernathy, Cothern, eds. 336pp. Proceedings of the Society of Environmental Geochemistry and Health (SEGH) First International Conference on Arsenic Exposure and Health Effects. "Section 1: Methodology and Modeling. Hydrogeochemical Modeling to predict subsurface transport. Modeling of diffuse-source nitrate transport beneath grazed leguminous pastures. Section 2 : Case studies. Nitrates in groundwater in the southeastern USA. Residual soil nitrate after application of nitrogen fertilizer to crops. Effect of crops and fertilisation of crops and fertilisation regimes on the leaching of solutes in an irrigated soil. Groundwater pollution in Australian regional aquifers. Groundwater contamination from municipal landfills in the USA. Aqueous behaviour of elements in a flue gas desulfurisation sludge disposal site. Subsurface movement of polychlorinated biphenyls. The value of research on health effects of inorganic ingested arsenic. Human oral exposure to inorganic arsenic." etc.
  • Arsenic Removal by Enhanced Coagulation Arsenic Removal by Enhanced Coagulation & Membrane Processes 1996. Hering & Elimelech.
  • Arsenic in the Environment 1994. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Selenium in Nutrition. Revised edition. [Whole book online]
  • Occurrence & Pathways of Lead, Mercury, Cadium & Arsenic in the Environment: Scope 31 1987. Hutchinson &Meema (Eds.)
  • Environmental Chemistry of Arsenic. Edited by: William T. Frankenberger. Print Published: 12/01/2001. Hard Cover. 410 pages. Illustrated. Print ISBN: 0- 8247-0676-5. Description: Highlights new developments in the transport kinetics, seasonal cycling, accumulation, geochemistry, transformation, and toxicology of arsenic.
  • Environmental Health Criteria 18: Arsenic 1981. WHO EHC series publication. Full text available online.
  • Arsenic: Medical and Biological Effects of Environmental Pollutants (1977). Commission on Life Sciences. National Academy Press.Whole book online.

    Environment Conscious Education for Students and Teachers
    by Jamal Anwar:

    Hardbound 144pp
    US Dollars 10
    Published by CARDMA- IUCN (June 2003).
    ISBN: 984024711-5

    On 23rd June 2003 the book opening ceremoy was organized by Dhaka Community Hospital and Jounalist Forum for Health and environment. Prof.K. Qaumruzaman (Dhaka Community Hospital), Prof. M.Feroze Ahmed (BUET), Mr. S. K. M. Abdullah and several jornalists made attribute to the importance of publication of such book in the developing countries and specially to Bangladesh for its disastrous water resource. Education is the key instrument to conserve environment. and save our blue planet

    The Book Deals with: Water Resources, Water Related Diseases, Arsenic in Drinking Water, Infants and Children more Vunerable to Chemicals and Pollutants, Prevention and Solution of Water Related Diseases, Home Garden to save Herbs and Trditiol Plants from Extinction and Water protection.

    Water is life, 60 to 70 percent of our body comprises of water and without safe water we cannot survive. About 1.1 billion people lack of clean water and 2.2 million children under five die each year due to contaminated water borne diseases. Two thirds of world population would be affected by water shortages by 2025 (UN, 1997). Bangladesh like other developing countries is more venerable due to arsenic contamination of ground water. More than 10 percent deaths are occurring in those who drinking 500 µg/l arsenic contaminated water.

    Since alternative water such as surface water, containing dangerous level of biological contamination, a thorough knowledge on water and simple disinfection methods are urgently needed. Infants and young children are more vulnerable to chemicals and pollutions. The Johns Hopkins School and Public Health, USA (1998) reports that pesticides are found in water and food in Bangladesh more than 25 times the WHO recommended maximum level. Many pesticides are illegally used in the country for the conservation of food. Pesticide contamination of ground water is a subject of national importance

    Improving public sanitation and providing a clean water supply are the two steps needed to prevent most water-born diseases and deaths. Several methods of filtration and removal of arsenic and water born diseases have been discussed in this book. Source water protection works by involving all members of the community and citizens can voice their support for controlling the use of land and water

    This book was targeted under the project "Environment Consciousness Education" to students and teachers of Faridpur rural area in 2002. Give your wisdom on water and environment to others to protect our life and save our blue planet. We inhabit only one planet in the entire universe; water is life - so use it with utmost care, as we have nowhere else to go.


    The Independent (June 24, 2003, BSS Report) reports:

    Speakers at a seminar yesterday pointed out that the people were forced to depend on underground waters instead of available surface waters due to wrong prescription by the donors. They said despite having huge surface water resources, the donor's had compelled the innocent people of the country to go for underground waters, which has currently become a curse for the whole nation.

    Health and Environment Journalist Forum, Bangladesh (HEJFB)in cooperation with Dhaka Community Hospital organised the seminar on 'Water and Water Resources ' at DCH auditorium here. President of HEJFB Naimul Huq, General Secretary Masud Kamal, Chairman of intellectual Farhad Mazhar, DCH Prof. Quazi Quamruzzaman, Economist Hossain Zillur Rahman, UBINIG Executive Director Farida Akhter, and Dr Jamal Anwar and Firoz Ahmed of BUET, were among others, spoke on the occasion. The speakers said that decades ago surface water irrigation was a common practice among the farmers, but today peasants are dependant on groundwater cultivation. This practice has, however, increased the production, but posed serious threat to safe drinking waters and environment.Dr Jamal Anwar said lands

    Dr Jamal Anwar said lands within dikes or embankments showed a picture that crops grown inside the embankment is less yielding compared to crops grown outside the barrier. "It is a clear evidence of how water resources are being misused and mismanaged by the people often prescribed by development partners," Anwar said.

    Hossain Zillur said any plan regarding water resources should be carefully reviewed and it should also be linked with the country's development strategy. Local government should be involved in managing water resources, he said. Professor Quamruzzaman said millions of people are exposed to arsenic and other heavy metal contamination but we can see that the government continue to drill tubewells even deeper which may cause another disaster. He urged the government to stop installing tubewells and deep tubewells.


    Jamal Anwar

    Hardbound 321pp
    US Dollars 20
    Publisher: Palash Media Publisher

    This is the first book in Bangladesh that describes that arsenic does not occur naturally in ground water of Bangladesh and deals with arsenic source, processes and toxicology. It makes critical view on the surveys of British Geological Survey, present arsenic mitigation projects, arsenic in agrochemical, arsenic purification methods and importance of surface water irrigation in Bangladesh.

    The Independent (31. 05. 2000) writes:

    As a scholarly study Dr. Anwar's book is full of excellent raw material - of immense value to all those who wishes to know more about arsenic in Bangladesh. As a work of reference, it is praiseworthy, containing as it does meticulously researched and cross-referenced evidence of research papers, the author's own field studies, contemporary views and discussions, as well as several chapters dedicated to information on arsenic contamination, its impact on health and lesser known mitigation methods."

    THE INDEPENDENT - May 31, 2000.


    Jamal Anwar

    Published by: CARDMA (IUCN).
    ISBN 984-465-033-X

    US Dollars 15

    Harry M. Freeman, Chief, Pollution Prevention Research Branch, United States Environmental Protection Agency descibes:

    About this book it is really outstanding. It gives the reader a real appreciation of not only the environmental situation in Bangladesh, but also an appreciation of the problems and potential of an extremely interesting country.

    This book should be required reading for anyone charged with developing approaches to resolving environmental problems in Bangladesh.


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    2. Jasimuddin (1904-1976) poet and litterateur

    1. Album:The Birth Centennial of Poet Jasimuddin The Painted Verse
    2. Jasimuddin (1904-1976) poet and litterateur
    3.The Birth Centennial of Poet Jasimuddin The Painted Verse
    4. Bengali Language
    5. The History of Ancient Bengal

    Commemorating Jasimuddin's birth centennial Abdus Shakoor talks about his exhibition at Shilpakala Academy

    Fayza Haq

    Shojon Badhiar Ghat
    Abdus Shakoor Shah, talking about his ongoing exhibition said, "It was Shubir Chowdhury of the Shilpakala Academy who decided the subject. I spent three months over it. There is some experimentation here for I had to deal with Jasimuddin's 'Shojon Badhiar Ghat' and 'Nakshi Kanthar Math' as there are characters here like the go between in a marriage and protagonists like Dulali and Sujon and their love affairs. There is the presentation of the 'lathial' and other important personalities called Saju and Rupa. The subject has differed somewhat while I used water, acrylic and oil as before. Thus it is the composition which has changed from before such as when I've put my subjects in a round circle. I did this to bring a variation in my work. However, the vastness of the poems is such that I felt I could not do justice to them in the short time given to me. It would require about seven years to treat the subject adequately. I have treated the subjects briefly and with the help of symbols."

    Asked to elaborate on his symbols, Shakoor said, "I have presented the ways the poetry has described the girls such as with dark skin but inimitable beauty, the birds have come in standing for freedom, the thatched huts are there with banana trees standing for peace and harmony. The influence of older relatives like uncles and aunts have come in to show strong family bonds that characters like Saju and Rupa enjoyed in their lives and which is there even today in rural existence. The plot of 'Nakshi Kanthar Math' however is a vast canvas that requires at least a year from an artist like myself."

    Speaking his treatment of his subjects, Shakoor said, " 'Nakshi Kanthar Math' deals mostly with love affairs. It brings in the setting of a vast area, which I've been unable to bring in. Saju for instance is seen speaking with her father discussing her love and marriage. Again, in 'Sujon Badiar Ghat' there are important characters like Dulali and her friend talking together which I've delineated in a red circle along with leaves and birds. I've used black and blue to bring in the complexion of the bronzed beauties in the villages." Touching on how he formulated his particular style, Shakoor said, "For six years now I've been bringing in the impact of folk art in my work. I did work of that type at times before but I did not have it uppermost in my mind that I should reflect Bangladesh, its language and its culture in my work. While working on this particular theme of Jasimuddin's poetry I've had the fear that the work might be illustrative which I didn't want. In order to bring in the quality of painting I've maintained my old style keeping in mind the surface and the composition. As for the lettering it is a part of the poems that the paintings are about. I do not consider it as calligraphy as in that one plays with the shapes of the lettering, and forms designs and motifs with them. The writing, however, is an integral part of the composition of the paintings. Calligraphy, on its own, can be an art by itself."

    Continuing about the use of flat colours with the contrasting blues and reds, the delineation of the clothes and jewellery, Shakoor said, "I want the viewer to straight away say that he is viewing a Bangladeshi work when he/she sees my painting. I want to maintain my Asian identity and revel in the flat surfaces. The colours are bright while the heroes and heroines are black or blue or even brown and gray. I've been influenced by the works of Jamini Roy, Quamrul Hassan, Qayyum Chowdhury and Rashid Chowdhury. My teacher in India, K G Subramaniam also painted in this flat surface style. I chose folk art for my work by an incident in my life. "My painting won a prize in Japan in 1991 when I was dealing with the problems of the third world countries. I had used four entries with motifs taken from the 'shital pati', and out of 22,000 five countries won the prizes.. I was basically influenced by the Bengal School of Art but I did not use any religious overtures. I've tried to present my human figures and the accompanying motifs of birds, fish, animals and flowers in the simplest possible way. There are six canvases and 34 drawings and paintings on paper.

    Abdus Shakoor has had ten solo exhibits and has participated in over 25 international and national exhibitions in India, Italy, France, Russia, UK, Japan, Denmark, Czech Republic, Brazil and Bangladesh. He has won nine awards including the Best Prize at the Lalitkala Academy, Gujrat, India in 1977. He is the head of the department of the Crafts, Institute of Fine Arts, DU. Daily Star, . June 24, 2003 .

    Romantic Archives: Literature and the Politics of Identity in Bengal

    by Dipesh Chakrabarty

    is Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History and South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His latest book is Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies (Chicago, 2002).

    The long Bengali nineteenth century is perhaps finally dying. It may therefore make sense to treat its death as a proper object of historical study. In the context of the remarks made by my friend whose sentiments made me think of the subject of this essay, I want to ask: What was the nature of the bhadralok investment in literature and language that once made these into the means of feeling one's Bengaliness? Here it is useful to pay some attention to the works of Dinesh Chandra Sen, the pioneering historian and a lifelong devotee of Bengali literature.4 Once hailed as the foremost historian of Bengali literature, he was lampooned by a younger generation of intellectuals in the 1930s who faulted his sense of both politics and history. It is the story of the early reception and the later rejection of Sen's work that I want to use here as a way to think about the questions raised by my friend.

    A few biographical details are in order. Born in a village in the district of Dhaka in 1866, Dinesh Chandra Sen (or Dinesh Sen for short) graduated from the University of Calcutta with honors in English literature in 1889 and was appointed the headmaster of Comilla Victoria School in 1891 in Comilla in Bangladesh. While working there, he started scouring parts of the countryside in Eastern Bengal in search of old Bengali manuscripts. The research and publications resulting from his efforts led to his connections with Ashutosh Mukherjee, the famed educator of Bengal and twice the vice chancellor of the University of Calcutta (1906–1914 and 1921–23). In 1909, Mukherjee appointed Sen to a readership and subsequently to a research fellowship in Bengali at the university. 5. Sen was eventually chosen to head up the postgraduate department of Bengali at the University of Calcutta when that department—perhaps the first such department devoted to postgraduate teaching of a modern Indian language—was founded in 1919. Sen served in this position until 1932. He died in Calcutta in 1939. Sen produced two very large books on the history of Bengali literature: Bangabhasha o shahitya (Bengali Language and Literature) in Bengali, first published in 1896, and History of Bengali Language and Literature (in English), based on a series of lectures delivered at the University of Calcutta and published in 1911. 6. He also produced many other books including an autobiography. All his life, Sen remained a devoted, tireless researcher of Bengali language and literature. 7.

    Sen, today, is truly a man of the past. His almost exclusive identification of Bengali literature with the Hindu heritage, his idealization of many patriarchal and Brahmanical precepts, and his search for a pure Bengali essence bereft of all foreign influence will today arouse the legitimate ire of contemporary critics. It is not my purpose to discuss Sen as a person. But, for the sake of the record, it should be noted that, like many other intellectuals of his time, Sen was a complex and contradictory human being. This ardently and (by his own admission) provincial Bengali man loved many English poets and kept a day's fast to express his grief on hearing about the death of Tennyson. 8. For all his commitment to his own Hindu-Bengali identity, he remained a foremost patron of the Muslim-Bengali poet Jasimuddin. 9. The inclusion of a poem by Jasimuddin in the selection of texts for the matriculation examination in Bengali in 1929, when Hindu-Muslim relations were heading for a new low in Bengal, was directly due to Sen's intervention at the appropriate levels. 10. And his patriarchal sense of the extended family did not stop him from encouraging his daughters-in-law to pursue higher studies. 11.

    6. For a factual revision of Dinesh Sen’s research findings see the appendices added by Prabodh Chandra Bagchi and Asitkumar Bandyopadhyay to Dinesh Chandra Sen, Bangabhasha o shahitya, ed. Asitkumar Bandyopadhyay, 2 vols. (Calcutta, 1991), 2:868–89.

    7. Biographical details on Dinesh Sen are culled here from his autobiography, Gharer katha o jugashahitya (1922; Calcutta, 1969; Supriya Sen, Dineshchandra; biographical note entitled "The Author's Biography" published in Dinesh Chandra Sen, Bangabhasha o shahitya, 1:43–5; and "The Author's Life," in Dinesh Chandra Sen, Banglar puronari (Calcutta, 1939), pp. 1–32. A later reprint of this book (1983) says in a publisher’s note that this short biography given in the first edition contains some factual errors. But the facts stated here seem to stand corroborated by other sources.
    8. Supriya Sen, Dineshchandra, p. 19.
    9. Sen’s relationship to Jasimuddin is the subject of the latter’s reminiscence in Smaraner sharani bahi (Calcutta, 1976). Jasimuddin writes:

        Here was a man who took me from one station in life to another. My student life perhaps would have ended with the I.A. [Intermediate of Arts] degree if I had not met him. Perhaps I would have spent my life as an ill-paid teacher in some village school. I think of this not just only once. I think this every day and every night and repeatedly offer my pronam [obeisance] to this great man. [P. 71]

    10. Wahidul Alam writes:

  • I was surprised when in 1929 I read Jasimuddin's poem "Kabar" in Calcutta University’s selection of Bengali texts for the Matriculation examination. A poem by a Muslim writer in the Matriculation selections! And that too under the auspices of the University of Calcutta? . . . A teacher of mine told me a story about this. There was forceful opposition in [the University's] Syndicate to the inclusion of by a student. But Dr Dinesh Sen was the number one advocate for Jasimuddin. . . . Apparently, he countered the opposition by saying, "All right, please be patient and just listen to me recite the poem." He had a passionate voice and could recite poetry well. He read the poem with such wonderful effect that the eyes of many members of the Syndicate were glistening with tears.

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    3. Bengali Folklore and Children's Literature

    Barnita Bagchi, INDIAN FOLKLIFE SERIAL NO.21 APRIL 2006 BARNITA BAGCHI, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata (IDSK), Calcutta University Alipur Campus, E-mail:,

    Jasimuddin (1903-1976), who became one of the iconic poets of liberated EastPakistan, namely Bangladesh, was also heavily influenced by Dineshchandra Sen, under whom he worked as Ramtanu Lahiri Assistant Research Fellow from 1931 to 1937, collecting folk literature. His very first book of verse, Rakhali (shepherd) (1927) offered evidence of his passionate love and commitment to rural Bengal as a utopian and lyrical locus. Some of his most famous works were Naksi Kanthar Math (The Field of the Embroidered Quilt) (1929) and Bangalir Hasir Galpa INDIAN FOLKLIFE SERIAL NO.21 APRIL 2006 (Humorous Tales of Bengalis). Again, Jasimuddin's deep involvement in non-communal socio-political movements championing the cause of Bengali language and literature gives his lyric and folksy poetry a keen edge of commitment and protest. His poems are popular as part of school curricula in West Bengal, India as much as in Bangladesh. Satyajit Ray records in his autobiography that he was taught in school by Jasimuddin.

    In 1968, Ray directed a film which is to date one of the most loved works , among children and adults alike: Goopy Byne Bagha Byne (The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha). The folk-tale like story on which the film is based was written by Ray's grandfather Upendrakishore Roy Chowdhury (1863-1915), a man of numerous talents like his son Sukumar Ray and his grandson Satyajit. It was Upendrakishore who started the legendary children's magazine Sandesh, which was revived by Satyajit and his cousins, and which is still published.

    Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne is the story of two simple village lads, who speak a distinctive East Bengal dialect. In Ray's hands, the earthiness, good nature, and simplicity of the lower-caste Goopy, the singer, and Bagha, the drummer, assume a particularly potent positive force when contrasted with the exploitative, parasitic, rapacious malice of the upper caste village elders Goopy is banished by. A bad singer and a bad drummer, Goopy and Bagha are blessed by a marvellously eerie King of Ghosts, who give them three boons whereby they can eat what they want, go where they want, and please people with their music. On their adventures, Goopy and Bagha go off to a country misruled by a wicked, imperialistic, warmongering minister-again, Ray's social commentary, in the context of the anti-US imperialist movement of the late 1960s is obvious. Alongside, Ray created charming, lilting songs that are still on the lips of most Bengalis.

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    3. Bengali Folklore and Children's Literature

    You've set me adrift . . .

    Sudeshna Banerjee

    bangladeshA long time ago, when man did not obstruct rivers to suit his petty needs, the river channels served as goodwill ambassadors to extensive geographical areas - a river originating in one country flowing through another, joining another river, forming a filigree of merging and diverging rivers - with the social and cultural heritage of one region blending into another, each drawing on the rich yet varied perspectives in the whole process of cultural evolution. This is perhaps most apparent in Bengal's rich and enviable variety of folksongs. Rivers form an integral part of the topography of Bengal: "Bangladesh is the land of rivers. Ganga, Meghna, Dhaleshwari, Shitalakshya, Gadai - in so many names and in such myriad forms these rivers encircle Bangladesh. Playing on the silvery strings of the rivers, an invisible musician has with his delicate touch composed the song of its heart - the bhatiyali. Several areas remain submerged in rainwater for almost six months in a year, with the boat the only mode of transport . . . separated from their families for months on end, they have for their companion only the river on which they row their boats, with the waters merging into the horizons, and the azure heavens above. It is as if the waters are limitless. And the boatman, in his solitude questions his own existence - where have I come from? Where do I go hence? such questions pervade the songs of boatmen. Like the lyrics of these songs which have taken shape from the waters of these rivers, the tunes too have blended into the lyrics from the lilting waters of the rivers."
    - Jasimuddin, "Murshida Gaan", Dhaka, 1977

    Though the bhatiyali remains one of the most popular folk melodies, with the river and the boatman as integral parts of its content and composition, the river and the boat are very common symbols with spiritual overtones used in folksongs all over Bengal. The scope of this essay will not permit me to go into the complexities and the variety of the spiritual problems and themes used in folksongs with the symbolic use of the river. I will try to cite a few examples to illustrate only some ways in which the river features in some folksongs of Bengal.

    One of the most famous and extremely popular bhatiyali songs is from the collection of the renowned poet and the folk music exponent Jasimuddin (1904-76). Few Bengali poets have loved the villages of Bengal more and few have expressed in poems and songs the simple joys and sorrows of the villagers more poignantly and feelingly

    amay bhasaili rey
    amay dubaili rey
    akul dariyar bujhi kul nairey
    kul nai kinar nai naiko nadir padi
    tumi sabdhanetey chalaiyo majhi
    amar bhang tari rey

    (You've set me adrift
    You've sunk me
    The endless waters have no shore
    Limitless, with no shores, the waters have no banks
    O row with care boatman, my riven boat.)

    In 1964 in Calcutta, a group of committed scholars and folklorists had gathered together to form the Folk music and Folklore Research Institute at Khaled Choudhury's house, out of a growing "awareness of an impending crisis in folk music" compounded by "commercial distortion" and the consequential falsification of the folk genres. The commercial distortion has grown more and more macabre over the years, and one is pained to hear cosmetic bauls who sing pseudo melodies in a "heritage park" in Calcutta, forming just one of the trappings that make up India; or the lofty notes of a bhatiyali melody just serving a background score in a film - the rich earthy song of the soil decontextualised and deconstructed to serve the selfish ends of modern urban civilisation. The neglect that has ravaged folk music has been most evident in the glitzy packaging of the folk to sell as exotica abroad. The folk traditions of Bengal have died a slow death, despite the laudable efforts of Gurusaday Dutt, Dinesh Chandra Singha and other scholars and revivalists. What we require today is a serious and committed research which can save whatever is left of the fast depleting forms of folk music in Bengal. The rivers are ridden with the politics of water sharing. Where are the boatmen who can sing out into the blue heavens: "You've set me adrift..." ?

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    3. Bengali Folklore and Children's Literature


    Manjari Mohanty

    If ever there was a true sorority in the world of ideas, it must have been in the field of quilt making. Women, all over the world, took up the responsibility of providing everybody with the warmth against the cold, harsh winter. True, over time, some men joined into foray, but their numbers were never very significant. Hence, Niaz Zaman, in her book, " The Art of Kantha Embroidery," stated that kantha making is an "women's art".

    Bengal kantha making is a little different from other quilting artistry. The material is different, so is the stitching method. From a very long time, Bengal cotton and silk have been known in the world market for its finesse and quality. Bengal "muslin" was an item of export even at Perecles's time. When such beautiful creations were worn and old, Bengal women did not see any reason to throw them away. Beautiful sari borders (the everyday dress of Bengali women)were preserved , the soft dhotis (men's clothes) were placed layer upon layer and stitched encased in sari borders. Thus started the first recycling art of the world. The stitching patterns of Bengal kanthas are simple, but it can be very intricate depending on the inclination of the kantha maker.

    Bengal kantha makers reflect their traditions in choosing their designs. The Hindu kantha makers would tend to choose from religious motifs, like gods and goddesses, the "alpanas" representing lotus flower, conch shells, various birds and beast like peacock, parrots, elephants, lion, tiger, whereas the Muslim women are usually restricted to geometrical designs and plants and flowers. Within that restriction, they are able to create wonderful artifacts in "jainamaz kantha," "dastarkhan," or "gilaf embroidery."

    In Bengal, kanthas were originally used as baby's diapers, or wrappers. At present day, due to the high cost of hand crafted materials, kantha making for the baby's diaper is not cost effective at all. However, in the early seventies, there had been a revival in kantha art in both the Bengals. Sreelata Sirkar derived inspiration from Pratima Devi of Santiniketan and started designing kanthas for team work. Thus, she not only revived a dying art, but also made room for a great economic activity for West Bengal women. In Bangladesh, the search for a national identity led to a great kantha revival, where the Muslim women artists broke the earlier taboo of not representing human and animal figures in kantha. Now the Bangladeshi artists design fantastic tapestries, one like "Naksi kanthar math" after the narration of the poet Jasimuddin. Now both the Bengals have perfected the art of kantha making with infusions of new materials, concept in design, and various stitcheries, and it can be safely said that these days, it is as popular as woven designs in saris, dresses and upholsteries.

    The earliest mention of Bengal Kantha is found in the book, "Sri Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita" by Krishnadas Kaviraj which was written some five hundred years back. There the poet says, Sachi, the mother of Chaitanya, sent a homemade kantha to her son at Puri through some pilgrims. The same kantha still can be viewed in Gambhira, at Puri, displayed in a glass case. The second earliest reference is in Zaman's book about the famous artist Abanindranath Tagore, who seemed to have encountered a woman in a village in a district of Srihatta of Bangladesh, who recorded her life story in her kantha spanning a period starting from her marriage to old age. However, the present revival of kantha art has drawn the ire of some pundits who think that kantha art can be meaningful only when plied at the privacy of a home, by a single person. If the art is brought out into a factory and embroidered as team work, the soul of kantha gets lost! Anyway, such criticism has not been able to minimize the present spirit of teamwork effort which has uplifted homely kantha into a beautiful artifact besides engendering much sought economic well being. The only argument that can be made here, may be, that a real kantha is able to narrate a story, and is much more compact in design and it is made out of used materials. On the other hand, such kanthas may pass as art works, but its market value is difficult to determine. Kanthas which are made for the commercial purposes, out of new materials and by the trained artists have very well defined price range depending on the material used, the execution of the design and the total labor hour devoted in making it.

    One who wants to practice the art of kantha making in the U.S.A. may face certain difficulties. There is a dearth of used materials like sari borders, used dhotis, cotton and silk saris. Kantha makers can use all new materials to create beautiful tapestries, but it would not be the same. The time consuming work of pointillism is another obstacle the kantha maker has tackle in this fast paced life of America, where outside help for daily household work is very expensive and hence almost nonexistent. In spite of all these obstacles, kantha making is very rewarding. The concentration and contemplation that is required in building the harmony in color, design and execution is akin to the spiritual exercises. The kantha maker has to put all her energies into a single basket of mind and execute the design. At the end the kantha means more to the maker than to the viewer. Hence it is a lonely art and is totally bound by the whims of the artist. The second difficulty is the absence of a guild of Bengal kantha makers in the U.S.A. The present author hopes that there would be a time when the Bengal kantha makers would join the American quilt makers in formulating new designs and create new specimen of static beauty which would be joy for ever.

    This is an extraordinary book. It sold more than half a million copies before independence. All the maps are pre-independence (before 1947). This book would make every Indian proud!

    Our India
    by Minoo Masani Illustrated by C. H. G. Morehouse

    The verses on pages 54, 62 and 67 have been quoted from Shamrao and Elwin's Songs of the Forest, Ilin's Moscow Has a Plan, and Mrs. E. M. Milford's translation of Jasimuddin's The Field of the Embroidered Quilt.

    Don't you like this song of the village maidens from a Bengali poem by Jasimuddin? It is a rather beautiful poem about the love of a peasant boy and a village girl and it makes the simple village folk come to life before us. And, as this song tells us, one of their main anxieties is to get rain. Sometimes village folk meet and hold prayers for rain to come. This utter dependence on the rainfall is some thing peculiar to India. It dominates the life of our people in a way that people in most countries find difficult to understand. But all peasants know how important rain is.

    'Black Cloud, come down, come down;
    Flower-bearing Cloud, come down, come;
    Cloud like cotton, Cloud like dust,
    O let your sweat pour down!
    Blind Cloud, Blind Cloud, come,
    Let your twelve Brother Cloudlets come,
    Drop a little water that we
    May eat good rice.

    Straight Cloud, Strong Cloud, come,
    Lazy Cloud, Little Cloud, come,
    I will sell the jewel in my nose and buy
    An umbrella for your head!
    Soft Rain, gently fall,
    In the house the plough neglected lies,
    In the burning sun the farmer dies,
    O Rain with laughing-face, come!'

    That is why at the end of the last chapter we said that manuring the land would lead to a crop three times as big as it yielded otherwise, if there was a good monsoon. We have seen what a great part the monsoon plays in providing our land with water, without which little would grow on it. That part is played in two ways: first, by the rain which falls through- out the country, and secondly, by adding to the how of the rivers that come down from the mountains and flow through the plains.

    Our India

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    3. Bengali Folklore and Children's Literature

    Melancholy highlighted in rhythms Tonatuni stages Jasimuddin's dance drama Kabor

    The Grandfather and his bride being given reception after their childhood marriage.On the third day of the Tonatuni Festival, Tonatuni staged a dance drama Kabor adapted from the popular poem Kabor by Pallikobi Jasimuddin. The dance drama starts with the effect of the dawn when the last lines of the Fazr Azan is heard. A very old grandfather comes on stage in feeble steps and starts telling his story to his grandson. The unhappy grandfather tells him about the five deaths in his family. He also recollects the memories of his getting married, the little bride's doll playing, the fair they attended, the bride's bathing with her friends and other insignificant yet happy moments of his life. Directed by dancer Dipa Khondokar with light directions by famous light director of Kolkata Tapash Sen, the total performance was excellent.

    Earlier in the programme Tapash Sen, who is known as 'The Magician of Lights', was awarded a medal by the chief guest Minister for Cultural Affairs Selima Rahman. A CD of Jasimuddin's Nimantran, sung by Kiron Chandra Roy, was also launched by the wife of Pallikobi, Begum Mamataz Jasimuddin. To the delight of the audience, Kiron Chandra Roy sang the title song of the CD Nimantran.

    In a discussion session, Selima Rahman, Shamsuzzaman Khan, Kamal Lohani and the Managing Director of Tonatuni, Mahbubur Rahman Jaynal spoke about Jasimuddin and the Tonatuni Festival.

    exqusiteThe Tonatuni Awards 2003 were handed over to Momtaj Jasimuddin, Soumitra Chatterjee, Sandeep Ray, Mamota Shankar, Babita, Haradhan Banerjee, Shova Sen, Madhuri Mukherjee, Tapan Chatterjee, Baishakhi Ghosh, Kaderi Kibria, Ishita, Orin Haque, Shanta, Maria Promi and Tushar.

    Tonatuni Festival 2003 exhibits valuables of two legends of the subcontinent--Satyajit Ray and poet Jasimuddin.With the ongoing cultural festival organised by Tonatuni, the National Museum has become an eventful rendezvous for visitors interested in Stayajit Ray and Jasimuddin. An unprecedented exhibit of valuables, photographs and other interesting items of the two personalities has attracted hundreds of visitors. Simultaneously, films of Satyajit Ray are being screened at the museum's auditorium. The exhibition is being held at the Lalitakanta Bhattashali hall of the museum. The most attractive part of the exhibition is surely the collection of costumes used in Satyajit Ray's films. The collection displays mainly panjabis from films like Ashani Sanket, Pather Panchali, Apur Sansar, Tinkanya, Satranj ki Khilari, and Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath of the most famous amateur detective in Bangla literature--Felu'da. Besides, there are the panjabis worn by the King of Halla and renowned actor Victor Banerjee in the Goopy-Bagha films and Piku. What makes one wonder about the costumes is their artistic embellishment and grandeur. The exhibition also consists panjabis displaying several of Satyajit Ray's illustrations from his famous Kheror Khata (the Scrap Book) being embroidered on them. A panjabi shows the illustrious advancement of the genius of Satyajit Ray from Pather Panchali to his win of the Oscar award.
    Poet Jasimuddin's photographs show some eventful moments in the poet's life, his family members, and other acquaintances.

    Momtaz Jasimuddin and Jasimuddin Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Jasimuddin

    With the ongoing cultural festival organised by Tonatuni, the National Museum has become an eventful rendezvous for visitors interested in Stayajit Ray and Jasimuddin. (Daily Star Sept. 13, 2003).

    Exquisite -From stage to celluloid

    tona festivalThe ongoing Tonatuni Festival is holding an exhibition of photographs taken by Shakoor Majid that project a brief scenario of theatrical activities on stages in Dhaka. Entitled Rhythm on the Stage, the exhibit presents still pictures from selected 50 stage plays. On the occasion, an album was also launched in the evening of September 13 at the National Museum auditorium. Bijoya Ray, wife of Satyajit Ray, and Begum Mamtaz Jasimuddin, wife of Pollikobi Jasimuddin, inaugurated the exhibition. Shakoor Majid's photos generally depict some stories associated with his subjects--moments, people and objects. Shakoor selects 'mute, intensive things and drab moments that in his treatment become evocative,' says Dhaka University's Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam. 'These objects and moments, in their ordinariness, have a story to tell.' And this time Shakoor comes up with stories of the stages in Dhaka.

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    4. Jasimuddin's rural saga

    BAFA, the oldest art, dance and music academy in Bangladesh has its main branch in Wiseghat. If one person can represent the history of BAFA it is Rahija Khanam Jhunu. I was a student of Gandaria Girl's School and the headmistress was Bashanti Guha Thakurata, who was very culturally inclined. Every year after the final exam there used to be a function where students got the chance to show their talents in performing arts. When I was in class five, Ajit Sanyal, who was one of the founders and a teacher of the newly established BAFA, was summoned to direct a dance drama called Ghumanto Rajkanya, in which I got the part of the cowboy. The role attracted a lot of attention as well as accolades from those who attended the annual function," remembers Jhunu who at the insistence of Sanyal joined BAFA.

    However, Sanyal did not stay with BAFA for long. "After his departure GA Mannan came along and it was around 1958 that an offer came for BAFA to stage a dance drama. Mannan was adamant that he would do Jasimuddin's Nakshikanthar Math. Though everyone else was skeptical about it, and thought it was not suitable for the audience of the city, he stuck to his resolve. And after rehearsing for three long months it was staged in the then Eskander Mirza Hall, which is now the Engineers' Institute. The show was a resounding success," remembers Jhunu.

    It is noteworthy that the drama was staged in the year 1958, and at that period there were only six to seven students in the dance class. Mannan's acumen lay in the fact that he could sense who was fit for what role. "Not only was Mannan determined to perform Jasimuddin's rural saga but also decided on using me as its heroine," recalls Jhunu.

    The dance drama, staged for the first time, brought immediate renown for its director and the actors. "Offers started to pour in and we travelled to most of the cities of the then West Pakistan with the drama. We even visited Iran and Iraq to stage the same act. It was in Iran that I earned the epithet of ballerina," recalls Jhunu.

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    5. Jasim Uddin: Poet of Rural Bengal

    Written by: S M Mehdi Hassan

    In Bengali literature Jasimuddin is known as ‘PalliKabi’ (Rural poet). The main subject of his poem was the lives of the people of rural Bengal their simplicity, serenity, suffering, and various other aspects. Jasimuddin was born in the village of Tambulkhana of Faridpur District. He did his M.A in Bengali from Calcutta University and then worked on collecting Bengali folk songs. I remember that in all my Bengali text books upto class twelve all the books contained at least one poem of Jasimuddin. The teaching of Bengali literature will be incomplete without Jasimuddin. Bangladesh is an agro based country. Although industrialization is now taking place majority of the people live in village and in one way or the other related to agriculture. This is why agriculture and farmers are an important aspect of Bangladesh. Jasimuddin in his poet talked about their lives. My favorite poems of Jasimuddin are: Nimontron (invitation), Nokshikathar math (The Field of the Embroidered Quilt), Kobor (Grave) and many other poems.

    In Nimontron (Invitation) the poet invites one of his friends to come and enjoy natural landscape of his village. The village is a very beautiful place filled with abundant greeneries. There is a river flowing by the side of the village. The water of the river is very clean. He proposes to his friends that they would hang around in the nearby woods wearing garlands made of wild flowers. They would go to the field and poet would meet him with the shepherds and they will play with them all day. ‘Nimontron’ depicts the nature of Bengal abound with flora and fauna. Another beautiful poem is ‘Rakhal Chele’ (The Shepherd boy). Here the central character is a shepherd boy whom the poet is inviting to play with but he refuses to go and says that his work is his play. Everyday before dawn he takes his wooden plough and go to the field he ploughs the land and then sow seeds and when new plants shoot out they look very beautiful.

    Sometimes when he feels tired he along with his fellow farmers sits under the shed of a tree and sing Murshidi songs ( a kind of folk song).

    In the end the shepherd boy says, My work is my game and I like to play it.I play all day and forget to take rest.It shows the hardworking nature of the farmers who live a very simple life and work very hard to earn their livelihood and they are very happy with what they have.

    Such beautiful description of Bangladesh and its farmer can not be found in any other poet’s writing. However, Kobor (The Grave) and NakshiKathar Math ( The field of an embroidered Quilt). Kobor is a monologue of a farmer who is standing in front of the graves of his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and his daughter. He along with his only grandson was asking for god’s forgiveness for the people who were lying in the graves. The farmer brought his grandson near the grave of his wife and telling him Here under the pomegranate tree lies your grand motherWho’s grave for thirty years I kept fresh with my tears.

    Then the farmer describes his wife. A simple woman who was very content with his life and deeply loved his husband. The farmer tells his grandson to raise his hands and ask for God’s forgiveness for them. It is a very emotional poem. I like this poem because the way the farmer talks reflects his loving and caring nature as a husband and a father. Such love and devotion is a rare quality in the present day world. ‘Nakshikathar Maath’ (The Field of an Embroidered Quilt) is a long narrative poem. It is about two young persons: Rupai and Shajoo. Rupai lives in one village and Shaju in another. One day Rupai went to collect bamboo (bamboo is an important construction material in rural Bengal) and then he saw Shajoo and Shajoo saw Rupai. They fall in love with each other and eventually gets married. Then one day Rupai gets involved in a serious fight with a group of people in the conflict he killed one and on that night he came to see his wife, Shajoo. After that Shajoo waited for her husband to return but he never returns. Shajoo loved her husband deeply and not seeing him for all these years made her very sad.

    She gave up eating and started to grow ill. The she decides to make a quilt.

    On the quilt she draws her house where she used to live with her husband and the beautiful field near the house.

    By the time she finished the quilt she died. Before death she tells her mother to hang the quilt on a bamboo near her grave.

    Then after few months people of the village saw another old person lying on that grave. The whole story is very beautifully narrated. It is divided in chapters and each chapter starts with a Murhsidi song. This poem was translated into English by Mrs. Milford. Jasimuddin loved the rural Bengal and all his life he wrote for them.

    A touch of the mystic

    The root of the word 'mysticism' lies in the word 'myein', which means 'to close eyes'. The Bangla word of mysticism is 'moromibad' which means transcendentalism. 'Transcendentalism is an esoteric knowledge (Truth) that means the perceptible knowledge and realisation of the creator. The ultimate question of this metaphysical discipline is 'who am I? and why am I?' said Mustafa in his paper. Asking 'who am I?' the devotees of all religions of the world have gone deep into the matter only to find that only the Creator is All, while 'I' is the pleasant manifestation of 'Him'.

    The earliest specimen of Bangla literature of olden days is Charyapada, a thousand-year- old 'Buddha gaan and doha' (Buddhist songs and couplets). Esoteric practice and mystic philosophy of Buddhism have found expression in them with the help of metaphors and allegories. These songs/lyrics have been composed on the basis of the theological spiritualism of the protagonists. The philosophy of Buddhism has been enriched in them. Upon first hearing the language of the Charyapada, one understands its meaning in one superficial way. But when reflected upon, another esoteric meaning reveals itself.

    Bangla musical genres like Aul, Baul, Marfati and Murshidi are heavily influenced by the mystic philosophy found in the Charyapadas. Besides, Vaishnava Padabalis--songs and verses praising Lord Vishnu--have also influenced Bangla music. Michael Madhusudan Dutta, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Jasimuddin were immensely influenced by mysticism, Sufism and Baul doctrines (A touch of the mystic , 2004.)

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    6. Sojan Badiyar Ghat Gypsy Wharf (also in Italien: Zingaro Sugiom)

    Nandikar’s latest production is based on Jasimuddin’s verse epic, Sojan Badiyar Ghat. One of the renowned poets of Bengal, Jasimuddin’s folk tales are based on strife, war, love and death that tear apart the two communities, Hindus and Muslims. Sojon, a Muslim youth, falls in love with his childhood friend, Duli, a Hindu girl. Their affair sparks off tension between the two communities, and the duo elope. But in no time, Sojon is traced and imprisoned. Duli is married off to a Hindu zamindar. But as fate has pre-ordained, their paths cross once again and they meet, but this time to give up their lives together for love. This simple and eternal tale of love is intricately woven with the larger reality of communal hatred and the petty political manipulations that go along with it. It is this aspect of the play that makes it meaningful and contemporary. The form of the play is painted on a diverse and ethnic canvas. Folk music and diverse rural activities, including laathi khela, have been extensively used in this production. Bamboo and traditional hand-painted patas contribute to the stage decor. The play has been directed and set to music by Goutam Halder (The Daily Telegraph, Calcutta, India,March 26, 2003).

    Abiding tale of love & revolt


    Pallikabi (village bard) Jasimuddin was born on the first day of 1903, and his birth centenary is being observed this year. But is he merely a village bard or, like Robert Burns, a remarkable poet who challenged the rural-urban and rustic-refined divide? When one reads his lyrics, like Gourigirir meye (a sensitive yet heartfelt invocation to Goddess Durga) and Anurodh (a chiselled love poem woven in folk rhythm) and then goes on to respond to his two evergreen dramatic poems Naksi-kanthar Math and Sojonbadiar Ghat, one concludes that the label ‘village-bard’ is an example of inadequate salutation. Both these ballads cross the prescribed limits of folk poetry. In fact, they articulate a secular and humanist vision in a diction that is earth-sprung and elegant. No wonder, both these ‘modern’ ballads, replete with social conflicts, have been dramatised. While Naksi-kanthar Math was given a vibrant, dramatic form by Kalyani Natya Charcha Kendra in 2001, Nandikar’s latest venture has transformed Sojonbadiar Ghat into a collective spectacle. The guiding spirit behind both these splendid productions is Gautam Halder, who has proved with his friends that Jasimuddin can inspire exciting theatre. Perhaps, ‘theatre’ is not the apposite descriptive. For, Nandikar’s centenary homage to the poet integrates the musical, dance-theatre and dialogue-based drama into one indivisible format.

    The closely-entwined personal and social layers, both equally intense in this dramatisation, convey the abiding message of love and revolt. While the Muslim village lad Sojon and his heartthrob Duli, a Nomosudra belle, trample barriers to come together, their village, Simultali, experiences bloody clashes between the two communities, engineered by the high-caste Hindu nayeb of the local landlord. Ultimately, the star-crossed lovers choose death and their last act of defiance perpetuates the message of deathless harmony. In all, 21 musical instruments, 40 singers and 51 actors merge and clash, coalesce and collide on the stage to embody the poet’s ideal. Jasimuddin’s flowing verse leaps and sparkles as the actors and singers turn his words into war cries and laments.

    Jasimuddin, who loved to infuse the lyric with the dramatic, would have loved two particular scenes. In the first, Duli lovingly explains the Hindu and Muslim themes of her paintings to Sojon, in an atmosphere of conjugal warmth. In the second, this syncretic ambience is shattered by the outbreak of sectarian vendetta. Incited by the crafty nayeb, fierce Nomosudras confront vengeful Muslims and their furious dance exposes the futility of it all. A fine excess of songs recreating the world of baul-bhatiyali-ajan-kirtan weaves the protesting, choric design.

    We recall Sojon and Duli with a sense of special urgency in our divisive times. They impart the mantra of love and tolerance in world vitiated by the Talibans and Togadias. Finicky post-moderns might find the ‘secular’ storyline grossly simplistic, even Utopian. But neither Jasimuddin nor Nandikar, anchored to the soil, have whitewashed the vitriol and violence ingrained in us. We confront their awesome might but then aspire for the resplendent Utopia from the sphere of our soiled lives. (The Telegraph, Calcutta, India, Thursday, May 15, 2003 )

    The Telegraph - Calcutta : At Leisure CIMA Gallery The Telegraph ...Gautam Halder ’ s concept , dramatisation and direction of Jasimuddin ’ s poetic work ... Jasimuddin ( 1903 - 76 ) was a pioneering folk revivalist poet

    New box-office formula, THEATRE , ANANDA LAL

    Going by sheer popularity, the current blockbuster that repudiates the supergroup idea as the only way to draw audiences comes from that tightly-knit and -run unit, Nandikar. For Sojan Badiyar Ghat, you must book your seat days in advance. I am not equating full houses with aesthetic achievement, but Nandikar evidently has given the lie to Bengali groups’ complaints that nobody watches theatre any more.

    Part of the magic is the style that Nandikar has developed over the last few years: a vibrant, full-blooded, large-cast, scenographically spectacular, song-and-dance extravaganza, a feast for the eyes and ears. Plus, they go about it with such professionalism and precision choreography that one can only marvel at the discipline and intensive labour underlying what we see on stage. Gautam Halder’s concept, dramatisation and direction of Jasimuddin’s poetic work continue this pattern.

    Jasimuddin (1903-76) was a pioneering folk revivalist poet, who settled in East Pakistan after 1947. His verse has a simple, charming rural authenticity that gives it a near-pastoral feel, and many critics consider Sojan Badiyar Ghat as its acme. It tells of the love between a Muslim boy and Hindu girl, who elope, but he is jailed and she married off to a rich zamindar. After his release, the story moves to a Romeo-and-Juliet-like conclusion. Without polemics, it pleads strongly for communal amity.

    Halder himself and Sohini Sengupta Halder portray the romantic leads vivaciously, and convey Jasimuddin’s favourite theme of doomed love sympathetically. Both sing (Halder also composed the music) and the huge cast contributes to the colourful ensemble. Sanchayan Ghosh yet again designs impressive sets with bamboo ghats jutting into both flanks of the auditorium. This is not the first time Halder has attempted Jasimuddin; he applied similar treatment to Nakshikanthar Math for Kalyani Natyacharcha Kendra in 2000. It would be interesting if he shifted from Jasimuddin’s poems to his lyrical plays Beder Meye or Pallibadhu for a change, but using a different theatrical approach.

    Nandikar, a Kolkata-based theatre group, was part of the on-going Ranga Shankara theatre festival.


    Nandikar, a 40-year-old theatre group from Kolkata, has visited Bangalore a number of times in recent years. They were back recently with three productions, two of which were performed for the ongoing national theatre festival at Rangashankara.

    The first play, staged by the group on November 5, was at Ambedkar Bhavan for the Bengali Association. A musical based on poet Jasimuddin’s Sojon Badiyar Ghat was remarkable for the manner it was conceptualised as well as executed.

    Jasimuddin was a disciple of Nazrul, whose poetry and songs are an integral part of the Bengali cultural fabric. Legend has it that the proponents of modern Bengali poetry were reluctant to confer the status of poem to the simple, unsophisticated lyrics of Jasimuddin, until Rabindra Nath Tagore came out staunchly in his support stating “such pure and honest poetry cannot emerge from a pen that does not have a natural flair for writing.”

    Nandikar’s interpretation of the poet’s verse tale did ample justice to the timeless quality of the written work. The literature is 80 years old, but the concerns raised by it remain as topical as ever. Sojon Badiyar Ghat tells the tale of love between a Muslim boy, Sajan and a Hindu girl, Duli. Their love affair sparks communal tension and the two elope. Fate plays a cruel twist. Sojon is imprisoned and Duli married off to a rich Hindu zamindar. After a passage of time, they meet again, only to give up their lives on the banks of a river.

    Having a cast of over 35, the chorus of singers and dancers are as significant as the lead played with great verve and conviction by Gautam Halder and Sohini Haldar. A production like this lends itself to a lot of stylisation and director Rudra Prasad Sengupta does ample justice. Over the weekend, Nandikar performed a double bill at Ranga Shankara - Meghnad Badh Kabya and Shanu RoyChowdhury to a more cosmopolitan audience. Shanu RoyChowdhury is an adaptation in Bengali, English and Hindi of Willy Russel’s classic play about the redemption of a Liver Pool housewife, Shirley Valentine. The play has seen numerous avatars across the world and has also been made into an Academy nominated film. The adaptation is very basic - Shanu like Shirley is confined to an existence where her only emotional anchors are the walls of her kitchen.

    Only the setting has changed to Kolkata. She fries luchi and makes aloo dum instead of egg and chips. She goes for a holiday to Kathmandu instead of Greece. The simplicity of the adaptation also works against it. When Shanu meets her hooker friend over coffee in a cafe, a false note is struck. The sense of unreality is compounded as the play progresses. Which Indian housewife would risk standing at the window of her house and yell to her daughter that she is going for a holiday just to have sex with her lover. This is not to say that Indian housewives are any less oppressed than their counterparts anywhere in the world. But surely the context is different and so are the modes of expression.

    It leads the viewer to a fundamental question - Is it fair for great works of literature to be decontextualised and offered to a foreign audience under the guise of an adaptation? Shanu RoyChowdhury is redeemed in the final analysis by the performance of Swatilekha Sengupta. She is brilliant, playing it with the right mix of pathos and humour. Together with Willy Russell, she gives the audience a character they can go home with.

    Nokshi Kanthar Maath (The Field of the Embroidered Quilt)

    Nokshi Kanthar Maath (The Field of the Embroidered Quilt) is a dramatised version of the verse narrative written by Jasimuddin. The simple folk tale centres around a peasant youth, Rupa, who fell in love with a girl from his neighbouring village and they got married. But bitter sorrow followed them. Rupa left hearth and home, was forced to flee far away. The young wife waited every day with expectant, bated breath. False hopes fed her; long days passed; she pined away to death. The story, in a nutshell, is this simple, but as director Goutam Halder says, every return to the poem confronted him with the overwhelming quest for a theatrical form that would adequately express this realisation. “The search, in fact, began with a problem of classification: was Nokshi Kanthar Maath a folk verse-narrative or a fairy tale; was it a social-realist narrative in verse or a folk song; was it a tale of man's Edenic innocence or a paean to love; was it the remote wailing of a shepherd's flute among tales untold, a story of loss and pain that has been and will be again; or was it grandma's magical story-telling on an evening long ago? Was this poem a synthesis of all these and much more?” Produced by Kalyani Natyacharcha Kendra, this play will be followed by Barne Badye Kabye Gitite Goutam Halder — a musical performance by Goutam Halder and assisted by Swatilekha Sengupta. (The Telegraph, Calcutta, India, April 29, 2003)

    Bengali Culture and its Excellence

    Dr. Nirmal C. Dhar

    Historically Bengal has a very rich cultural heritage. Bengal is, indeed, noted for its rich culture in songs, music, drama, dances and language. Its indigenous style of music, art, dance and drama is very rich. Bengali is one of the oldest languages in the world. According to statistics, jointly with Spanish, Bengali is the fourth largest language group in the world, only surpassed by Chinese, English and Hindi It is the first of Indian languages to develop western style secular fiction and drama. It originated from the Indo-Aryan family of languages in the 7th century, thus making it comparable to English, French and German. Bengali language is much older than Hindi Urdu and even Portugese, Spanish and many other established modern languages.

    In the middle ages, Bengali was already a well-established language with popular poets like Bidyapati, Chandidas, Daulat Kazi and Alawol. It was during this period of middle ages that the famous Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata were translated in lyric forms from sanskrit into Bengali by Krittibas and Kashiram Das respectively. This period also saw a rich output of romantic songs, poems and dance centering around the love of Radha and Krishna. These were simply superb in their wording, rhythm and style.

    However, things started changing rapidly about 200 years ago. With the emergence of some great personalities like Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-91), Michael Madhusudan Datta (1824-73) and Bankim Chatterjee (1838-94) Bengali language and literature really got a new life. About one hundred and forty years ago came the famous Bengali poet Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and then rebel Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam appeared in 1899. These two great Bengali poets have actually initiated a new era for Bengali language and culture. Tagore represented this new era of cultural modernisation; others followed him almost as disciples. Palli Kabi Jasimuddin was also one of them. Tagore was urban, sophisticated and universal; Nazrul exhibited his spirit of protest and opposition to all social injustice, discrimination, oppression and exploitation while Jasimuddin vastly remained rural and provincial in his approach. Their common bond was their liberal outlook for secular Bengali culture.

    Music, songs, drama and dances are also part of rich Benali culture and there are three mainstreams of these Bengali Culture: folk, modern and classical. Folk music mainly based is rural Bengal. It has been nurtured by the village singers, musicians, actors and dancers. With sweet melodies, touching words of love, tragedy and devotion, folk music is the most popular form of music in all over Bengal. The best known forms of folk music are bhatiali, baul, bhawaia, jaari, marfati and murshidi. Lalan Fakir, Hasan Raja, Nirmalendu Choudhury, Abbasuddin Ahmed, Shachin Dev Burman, Purnadas Baul, Sadhan Bairaji and Abdul Halim are some of the greatest names in Bengali folk music.

    On the other hand, the pioneers of modern Bengali music were, indeed, the world famous Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore and the rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. Tagore initiated a blend of East and West and Nazrul experimented with the synthesis of folk and middle eastern strains.

    Bengal also shares the rich tradition of classical music of the subcontinent. Indeed, Bengal has produced many musicians and maestros of international repute like Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar who have successfully made sitar and sarode popular all over the world.

    Before I conclude let me describe a few words about the musical instruments which are also playing vital roles to promote the rich Bengali culture and its excellence. The typical Bengali folk musical instruments are Ektara (one string), Dotara (two, but actually four strings), Ghungur, Khol, Mandira, Behala (violin) and Banshi (flute) and the classical musical instruments are Sitar, Sarode, Tanpura, Sehnai, Eshraj, Pakhwaj, Tabla and Harmonium. Even now a large number of people in the villages of Bangladesh, West Bengal and Tripura regularly listen to the folk drama called Jatra and the age old melodic folk songs.

    Bengali Performing Arts' aim is to promote this rich Bengali cultural heritage and its excellence by organising year-round quality cultural programmes and to make it more and more familiar which, I believe, help in enriching our mulit-cultural society in a cosmopolitan Scotland.(Bengali Performing Arts, glasgow, April 2006)

    stamp-1976 stamp 2003

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    7. Books of Jasim Uddin in English and Bengali

  • His poetry appears like the breeze from the countryside that cools the sighs and sweats of urban living. He is congratulated for creating a new school of poetry ;
    Dr. Dinesh chandra Sen
    Jasim Uddin's poetry has a new trend, a new taste and a new language.
    - Rabinranath Tagore

    I read the poem with growing excitement and have returned to ist again and agiain to be delighted by its simplicity, its charm, and its deep humanity."
    Verrier Elwin

    Jasim Uddin knows every fact of village life in Bengal and is partial to rural people. The heroes of his poems and stories are farmers, fishermen, boatmen, weavers, cowherds, even roadside barbers, wandering gypsies, palmists and astrologers
    B. Painter and Y. Lovelock

    The Field of the Embroidered Quilt (also in Italien: Terra dalla Coltre Ricamta)
    Gypsy Wharf ( also in Italien: Zingaro Sugiom)
    The Folk Tales of Bangladesh
    In Bengali (US Dollars 5+ postal expense)

    1. Suchonayni (Collected Poems) US Dollars 8)
    2. Nakshi Kathar Math
    3. Sujon Badiar Ghat
    4. Rakhali
    5. Sakina
    6. Halud Barani
    7. Ogo Puspodhani
    8. Matir Kanna
    9. Jaler Lekhon
    10. Mago jalio Rakhish Alo
    11. Vhayabaho Shai Dinguli (Poems of Independence)

    Travel Stories:
    1. Germanir Shahara Bandaray (Germany)
    2. Chala Musafir (USA)
    3. Je Deshe Manush Bar (UDSSR)
    4. Halde Parir Desh (Jugosclavia)

    1. Boba kahini
    2. Bou Tubanir Phul

    1. Rangila Nayar Mazhi
    2. Padma Par
    3. Ganger Par
    4. Murshida Gan
    5. Jari Gan
    6. Baoul Gan
    1. Beder meya
    2. Madu Mala
    3. Palli Bodhu
    4. Gramer Maya
    5. Asman Singha
    6. Karimkhar Bari
    1. Thakur Barir Agina
    2. Saronay Saronbhai
    3.Sritir Pot
    Books for Children:
    1. Hasu
    2. Ek paishar Bashi
    3. Bangalir Hashir Galpo (1 and II)
    4. Jamunabati
    5. Dalim Kumar
    6. Asmanir Kabi Bhai

    A Thousand Year Old Bengali Mystic Poetry

    From time to time Bangladesh searches for its roots as if trying to put back the missing part of long history. In the search for these roots we must look its poetry.

    The mind is a tree, the five senses are its branches.
    Hope bears fruits and leaves abundance.

    One who does not know the mystery
    Of this tree's growth and destruction.
    Fool is he to have to come back again and again
    In the Samsara to receive pain.

    By Hasna J. Moudud
    Hardbound US Dollars 20

    <Order Your Book from:
    Palash Prakashani
    10, Kabi Jasimuddin Rd.
    Dhaka 1217, Bangladesh

    Theatre from other lands


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    8.Palli Kabi's Gani Mia dies

    FARIDPUR, June 24:–Gani Mia, a representative farmer character depicted by Palli Kabi Jasimuddin, died of a heart attack at his village Tambulkhana near Faridpur town on Friday at the age of 86, reports BSS. He is survived by two sons and six daughters. He was buried at his family graveyard today.

    In his well-read article at primary level textbook, Poet Jasimuddin wrote "Gani Mia ekjon garib krishak" means "Gani Mia is a poor farmer". "Tahar nijer jami nai, shey onyer jami chash karey" means "he has no land of his own and cultivates other's land," the article continues. Gani Mia became a well-known character to all through the story of Kabi Jasimuddin, who successfully projected the struggling life of marginal farmers living in remote Bangladesh.

    In real life, struggler Gani Mia managed to purchase four bighas of land of his own and spent the rest of his life as a self-dependent man. He was always found busy in his farmland cultivating paddy, jute, beans, cabbage, vegetables and other crops round the year. Palli Kabi Jasimuddin Foundation had honoured him on March 29 in 2006 at a colourful function at the Jasim Palli Mela ground in Faridpur town. Bangladesh Television aired a documentary on him on March 22 in 2006.(The Bangladesh Observer June 25, 2006).

    Institute on the Pallikobi demanded

    We are rich with the literary gift from three talents: Rabind-ranath- Nazrul -Jasimuddin. They are unique in their own world of art. Not only in poetry, but they are also distinct bright stars in the world of melody. Jasimuddin created his own world of music in folk style just as Tagore created his world in Dhrupadi and Nazrul in Kheyal. To practise the Viswakobi we have Shanti Niketan and Viswa Bharati, for our Jatiyo-kobi we have the Nazrul Academy and Nazrul Institute. But it's a matter of regret that still we do not have an institute to remember and practice the art of our beloved Pallikobi, the speakers menioned in a meeting observing the 100th birth anniversary of Pallikobi Jasimuddin by the Nazrul Academy at Moghbazar on June 09.

    Mayor Sadek Hossain Khoka attended the ceremony as the chief guest, while executive member of the Nazrul Academy, Dr. Nashid Kamal, poet Syed Shamsul Huda, music-researcher Asadul Haque spoke, recollecting their memories with the poet. The programme was presided over by Hasna Moudud, daughter of the poet and an executive member the Academy. Mayor Sadek hossain Khoka guaranteed to hand over the land on which the Academy is situated to the academy.

    The most important event of the occasion was handing over of the two recently discovered handwritten poems of the Pallikobi by Asadul Haque collected from one of his relatives. Until then this manuscript was unfamiliar even to the poet's family, said Hasna Moudud.

    'A poet like Jasimuddin with non-communal diction, in touch with nature and its objects, is still rare after Nazrul', said Syed Shamsul Huda in his speech. A cultural progamme followed the discussion participated by Nashid Kamal, two sons of the great singer Abdul Alim--Asgar Alim and Zahir Alim, Bina Majumder--the granddaughter of Kanai Shil who reformed the Dotara, and many others. (Kausar Islam Ayon; Daily Star, June 12,, 2003)

    Last Modified: October 24, 2006


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