- 1. INTRODUCTION
- 1.1 Monosha Mongol
- 2. Folk songs, culture, heritage now receding
- 3. Pat-chitra culture, Manasa Mangal ritual
- 3.1. "Shora" A Quintessential Part of our Pottery
- 4.Glimpse of Adivasi Cultures of Bangladesh
- 5. Aborigines celebrate 'Karam Puja'
- 6. Raas Mela (Festival)
- 7. Chaitra Shankranti Puja
- 7. 1. Garo Festival
- 8. Rong Chu Gala festival
- 8.1 The forest for Hansel and Gretel
- 8.2 Festivities in the hills
- 9. Jatra, the traditional open-air folk opera of Bengal
- 9.1 Dhulis (drummers) forced to abandon ancestral profession
- 10. Gazir Gaan
- 11. Sonai Bibir Pala
- 11.1 Kirtan
- 11.2 Raibeshe--A martial dance form of Bengal
- 12. Save'Patachitra' 'scroll painting'- Our National Heritage
Bengali Culture and its Excellence
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 Chowdhury, Abbasuddin Ahmed, Shachin Dev Burman, Purnadas Baul, Sadhan Bairagi 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, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty 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 (Dr. Nirmal C. Dhar).
Pôhela Boishakh or Pôila Boishakh is the first day of the Bangla Calendar. Pôhela Boishakh is celebrated in a festive manner in both Bangladesh and West Bengal. In Bangladesh, Pôhela Boishakh is a public holiday and in West Bengal it is a national holiday. It falls on April 14 or April 15 of the Gregorian calendar depending on the use of the new amended or the old Bangla calendar respectively. In Bangladesh, it is celebrated on April 14 according to the official amended calendar designed by the Bangla Academy. Pôhela Boishakh is also known as Nobo Bôrsho, Bengali New Year, as it is the first day of the first month of Boishakh in the Bônggabdo (Bangla Calendar). This day is a very festive time for Bengalis.
The first day of the Bangla New Year is celebrated with characteristic splendour. The day begins for all as the very first rays of the sun hit the ground. The Dhaka University campus area is filled with music, colourful rallies, street vendors selling glass bangles, sweetmeats, sugarcane juice, wood and clay jewellery, and of course the very recent addition to the streets of Dhaka - ‘petis' sandwiches. Pahela Baishakh, today, is much more than just a Government holiday on the calendar. It is a day of celebration for people from all walks of life; a day, indeed, when the past is allowed to cast away, the future embraced with open arms and the present lived with a sense of identity.
Just like any other festival in Bangladesh, plenty of preparations are taken to celebrate this day. Weeks before Baishak, the shopping spree begins all over the country and is believed to even beat the Eid and Puja enthusiasm. Red and white are not the only colours that define Baishakh anymore. Shoppers are seen with bags filled with combinations of white, red, black, olive green and even peach.
The history of the Bangla calendar is muddled and confused, like many of our histories. But it is relatively easy to pick a logical path through the contradicting beliefs.
The most common belief is that the Mughal Emperor Akbar had this calendar formulated around 1584. The calendar used by the Mughals was the Hijri calendar, which is lunar. This caused some problems with the taxpayers, who were mostly farmers, since the months did not coincide with harvesting cycle. So Amir Fatehullah Shiraji was charged with making the necessary calculations for this calendar. The starting date for this new calendar was set at 1556, the date of Akbar's acquisition of the throne. At the starting moment, the Bangla year was taken to be the same as the Hijri year,
There are some arguments against this theory. Some people ask why the names of the months are in Sanskrit if Muslims formed the calendar. There is also the matter of Hindu festivals, the dates of which are calculated using a mixture of both lunar days and Bangla calendar.
The answer is pretty simple. The names of the months were determined using the Surya Siddhanta, a complex calculation that calculates the Sun's position in the sky. But this is not the only calendar in the area mind you. Such calendars were already is use, parallel to the Hindu calendar. What is commonly thought is, Akbar took a Hindu calendar and modified it slightly to suit the harvesting seasons. The dates would still be parallel to the Hindu calendar. Why call it the Bengali calendar? To please the freedom-crazed Bangalees, probably the most unruly people during the span of the Mughal era.
The song has become an anthem for the first day of the new year. The day begins with this song, continues through out and ends with it too. Why shouldn’t it! Robithakur explicitly defines all that can be possibly imagined to be done on such a festive day. Women dressed in ‘laal paar shada shari’ (white saari with red border) and men in punjabi.’Paanta eilish’(soaked rice with fried Hilsha). Rally with colorful festoons and models. Streets flushed with color and happiness.
Overall, this is a well-known calendar in South and South East Asia. There are many countries that follow this calendar due to its compatibility with the harvest season.
Pahela Baishakh can be defined as a day when all Bangladeshis leave their differences at their doorsteps and come forward to celebrate in their very own ways. The day is proof enough to say that it is the spirit of being a Bangladeshi, within us, that truly defines our race and unites us.
At crack of dawn on Pahela Baishakh, Chhayanat artistes began their traditional 'barsho-boron' (new year celebration) at Ramna Batomul. Since 1967, this event has been at the centre of Dhaka's Bengali New Year celebrations. Even the horrifying bomb blast in 2001 at the event could not deter people from thronging the venue from the early hours of the day. A total of 120 artistes of Chhayanat, including young students, have been rehearsing for this gala over the last month. Treasurer of Chhayanat, Dr. Sarwar Ali (one of the founder members of the organisation), went over how the event became a major landmark in Pahela Baishakh celebrations.
"Chhayanat was founded in 1961, the year that marked the birth centennial of Tagore. The organisation sought to counter the fundamentalist ideologies that were forcefully imposed upon the Bengalis during Pakistani rule.
Chhayanat started holding cultural programmes to celebrate the change of Bengali seasons, as the seasons are deeply connected with the lives of the masses. Beside, 'Ritu Utshab' (seasonal programmes), there were programmes on Nazrul and Tagore too. In those days, celebrating Bengali New Year was limited to opening 'haal khata,'" said Sarwar Ali.
"Chhayanat began celebrating the occasion with an informal arrangement at the Udayan School premises (the then English preparatory school). Waheedul Haque and Sanjida Khatun conceived and orchestrated Chhayanat's first 'barsho-boron' programme at the altar of the huge 'bot' (banyan) tree (though it's actually an 'ashwattha' tree).
In 1967, with only a few artistes Chhayanat began this tradition," he added. The event started with "taal badon," a composition featuring 'tabla,' 'mridanga,' 'pakhawaj' and 'pung' (a Manipuri instrument) at 6:15 am on April 14. One after another, artistes of Chhayanat performed songs of the five poets (Rabindranath, Nazrul, D.L. Roy, Atul Prasad and Rajanikant) along with folk and other traditional songs and recitation.
Bijon Chandra Mistri, Elora Ahmed Shukla, Shahed Imam, Aditi Mohsin, Mita Haque, Anindita Chowdhury, Nusrat Jahan Runa, Kahirul Anam Shakil, Biman Chandra Biswas and others performed songs at the programme. Jharna Sharkar and Hassan Imam recited poems. The programme concluded with a rendition of the National Anthem. "The aim of this event is to call upon people to unite and take pride in Bengali nationalism through music," said Sarwar Ali (Daily Star, April 16, 2009).
Under the Mughals, agricultural taxes were collected according to the Hijri calendar. However, as the Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar, it does not coincide with the harvest. As a result, farmers were hard-pressed to pay taxes out of season. In order to streamline tax collection, the Mughal Emperor Akbar ordered a reform of the calendar. Accordingly, Fatehullah Shirazi, a renowned scholar and astronomer, formulated the Bangla year on the basis of the lunar Hijri and Bangla solar calendars. The new Fasli San (agricultural year) was introduced on 10/11 March 1584, but was dated from Akbar's ascension to the throne in 1556. The new year subsequently became known as Bôngabdo or Bengali year. Celebrations of Pôhela Boishakh started from Akbar's reign. It was customary to clear up all dues on the last day of Choitro. On the next day, or the first day of the new year, landlords would entertain their tenants with sweets. On this occasion there used to be fairs and other festivities. In due course the occasion became part of domestic and social life, and turned into a day of merriment.
The people of India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and some other south-eastern Buddhist countries also have programmes on this day. Apart from us, other speakers of Bangla in India, especially in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura consider the day to be a cultural event. The Assamese call it Bihu, the Burmese, Thingyan and The Thai, Songkran. The Burmese and Thai words originate from the Sanskrit word sangkranti. Several ethnic groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts also celebrate the same day as the beginning of their year. They call it Baisabi-from Baisu, as the Tripuras call it, Marmas call it Sangrayen and the Chakmas know it as Biju. They celebrate the festival as a major socio-cultural event. They have a celebration spanning three days starting from April 12.
Dhaka - the city of Mosque
As the city prepares to celebrate its 400 years as the capital of Bengal, a good number of old mosques and some Mughal-era edifices are in a vulnerable state due to ignorance and negligence of the authorities. Once called 'The city of mosques', many of its mosques are now demolished or are left in a tattered shape for constructing new buildings. Structures of mosques and buildings were changed over the years for 'renovation and development' work. "The Mughal mosque structures had unique characteristics because of the riverine features of the city. Those features are lost to a greater extent for river encroachment and filling up of canals to make space for housing and to construct roads," said Dr Abu Sayeed M Ahmed, a conservation architect with vast expertise in mosque architecture.
Noted historian Prof Muntasir Mamoon said the Mughals while building mosques and other structures considered the presence of rivers and water bodies around the city. The surroundings of these structures contained canals and beautiful gardens. In the Mughal period the city was encircled and intertwined by canals like Dholai Khal, Hatirjheel, Begunbari canal and Segunbagicha canal, all of which are now gone or are encroached on by land grabbers.
Use of lime and powdered brick to create a pinkish tone is a prominent feature of Mughal-era mosques in the city. "In Delhi the Mughals used red sand stones, for an example the Red Fort. But in Bengal red sand stones were not abundant, so they invented chun-surki (lime and powdered brick) to replicate the effect of red sand stone. For an example Sat Masjid and Lalbagh Fort," said Dr Sayeed .
Binat Bibi Masjid, the oldest mosque of the city, is now overshadowed by the construction of a new building.
"Built in the 17th century Sat Masjid had Turag River on its three sides. It has four pavilions or kiosks on all corners. The Mughals liked enjoying the view of the river sitting inside a kiosk," said the expert.
After the construction of an embankment the area between the mosque and the river turned into a solid ground and the river-view was lost. Besides, the backdrop of the mosque now contains a six-storey madrasa building constructed breaching the Building Construction Rules 2008 that forbids any new construction within 250 meters of a heritage site (D. Ghias. Daily Star, July 19, 2008).
The history of the Bengali New Year
Most probably the celebration of the Bengali New Year is connected with the Bengali year. In Bengal, Emperor Akbar started the Bengali calender-year on 10 March, 1585, but it became effective from 16 March, 1586 the day of his ascension to the throne. The basis of the Bengali year is the Hejiri lunar year (Muslim era counted from the year of Muhammad's (SM) going to Medina in 622 AD and the Bengali solar year. The Bengali year was accepted even at the grassroot level. A possible reason for this may be that the basis of the Bengali year is agriculture and the beginning of the Bengali year is a time of collection of taxes from the farmers. For instance, the farmer does not plough the field even if it rains in Chaitra (the last month of the Bengali year and corresponding to mid-march to Mid-April. The fields are generally ploughed in the month of Baisakh (April-May) and the prayer for the rains is also because of this. However, the common man still refers to the Bengali calender of his day to day activiites and the city-dwellers to the Juliun calender. In this context, Shamsuzzaman Khan hasrightly remarked that Akbar had once started the pan-Indian Islamic year as well as the Bengali year. "The introduction of Bengali year had not only survived but at one time had also given the unique power of nationalistic feelings and pride to the separated and divided mainly joint Bengali socity."
The New Year begins in different seasons in different countries of the world. The Bengali New Year is in summer. Summer is not a pleasant time in Bangladesh. Festivals and merriments are not as much possible in summer as during the beginning of winter or spring.
Many people believe that the Bengali New Year should have begun in the month of Agrahayan (the eighth month of the Bengali year and corresponds to Mid-November to Mid-December) even considering from the point of agriculture as Agrahayan is, for instance, the month of reaping. Yet New Year is celebrated in Baisakh. Pallab Sengupta writes: "The New Year is calculated either from Hemanta or late autumn (between autumn and winter) or spring, that is from the time when new crops, flowers and fruits start growing. This, at least, was the custom initially. Later, with the passage of time, it shifted to other seasons due to practical necessities. The custom of beginning the year from January 1 or Baisakh 1 is thus quite foolish."
But that mystery has not been unravelled. As our country is located in the Tropics the importance of summer in this region is natural. Moreover, the drying up of the canals, rivers and streams at that time and the acute crisis for water makes the tremendous changes in season easily felt. And then comes the Nor'westers like wild buffaloes throwing everything in complete disorder. The rains start immediately lowering the temperature and making the conditions favourable for ploughing.
In any country the principal festival has been organised with respect to the particular season which has gained importance there. Moreover, the minor seasonal festivals are also regularly held. Bengal has a unique position in this regard. It is clear that its main seasonal festival was in summer. Just as elsewhere in the world, the main seasonal festival have been considered as the New Year festival, the main summer festival of our country is likewise considered as the New Year festival. One feels that the devastating form of nature and the consequent creativity of nature and the consequent creativity of nature that one witnesses in Bangladesh, must have made summer and the summer festivals so important in our ancient culture. Otherwise the New Year celebration and festival of Bangladesh would have been greatly influenced by religion. Our country is largely inhabited by the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians but "no particular influence of these religions are observed in our New Year celebrations and festival."
During the last four hundred years, that is after the introduction of the Bengali year by Akbar, many festivals connected probably with agriculture and seasons have become associated with it. And the first of Baisakh gradully changed in this way to become the New Year. To the special features of the Bengali New Year that Enamul Huq has mentioned, we can add here that the Bengali New Year saw the addition of a new political dimension from the 60's of the present century. No season in any other country has such a political aspect.
The most important function of Baisakh and the first day of Baisakh is the fair. The New Year fairs of our country are also nothing but the changed forms of the oldest 'seasonal festivals' and 'agricultural festivals' of Bangladesh. This is because local agricultural products and handicrafts are sold in these fairs even today. According to a survey, about two hundred fairs are organised throughout Bangladesh on the first day and the first week of Baisakh.
It has already been mentioned before that in Bangladesh celebration of the first day of Baisakh began as a part of the cultural movement and it added a new dimension to the political movements. During the regime of Ayub Khan in the late sixties, when attack was made against Rabindra Sangeet (Tagore Song) and the Bengali culture, the Chhayanat group organised a programme of Rabindrasangeet on the first of Baisakh under the banyan tree at Ramna to celebrate the New Year. It was a protest against religious fundamentalism. This endeavour by Chhayanat gradually became popular and in the perspective of the freedom movement the Bengali New Year was celebrated in a grand way as a protest against the ideology of the ruling class. After the independence of Bangladesh, the Bengali New Year was declared as public holiday. Thus with the celebration of the New Year at the grass-root level was added the endeavour of the urban people.
We may conclude that the only secular festival of Bangladesh, in every sense of the term, is the Bengali New Year. Its speciality lies in the fact that in spite of being the festival of a country where the majority are Muslims, it is not melancholic. Although the state has been successful in the other areas it has failed to incorporate the religious factor in this case. Moreover, the New Year still adds a new dimension to the movements against tyranny. Considering all these aspects we can refer to the Bengali New Year as a festival of the world which has rare characteristic (M. Mamun, The Festivals of Bangladesh) .
Honour daughters of the soil:
Geeta Dutt and Suman Kalyanpur
MOST Bangladeshis do not know that two famous playback singers of Hindi movies in the 1950s and 1960s, the late Geeta Dutt and Suman Kalyanpur, are Bangladeshi natives. Geeta Dutt (Geeta Ghosh Roy Chowdhuri) was born into a rich Zamindar family in Faridpur on November 23, 1930 and stayed there until 1942. Suman Kalyanpur (Suman Hemadey) was born in Dhaka on January 28, 1937 and lived there until 1943.
Who can forget Geeta's immortal Bengali songs, Tumi Je Amar ("Harano Shur,"1958), Ei Shundar Shwarnali Shandhyay ("Hospital," 1960) and Nishi Raat Baka Chand Akashey. Geeta could sing all types of songs, "soft, snappy, teasing, sad," seductive or western. Geeta developed her talents under the tutelage of Sachin Dev Burman and O. P. Nayyar. Her famous Hindi songs include: Mera Sundar Swapna Beet Gaya, ("Do Bhai," 1947), Babuji Dhire Chalna, ("Aar Paar," 1954), Ae Dil Mujhe Bata De, ("Bhai Bhai," 1956) and Aaj sajan mohe ang lagalo ("Pyasaa," 1957). Geeta's disastrous marriage with the director of "Pyasaa," Guru Dutt, who was in love with Waheeda Rahman, destroyed them both. Guru Dutt committed suicide in 1964; Geeta died of liver cirrhosis on July 20, 1972, at the age of 41!
Harano Sur - Tumi Je amar
Ye Raat Bheegi Bheegi - [UNSEEN] - Geeta Dutt & Bhushan
Nir Choto Hemanta Mukherjee, Geeta Dutt
Prithibi Amare Chai - Nishi raat baka chand, Geeta Dutt
Fagun Jane , Geeta Dutt
Ogo Sundoro , Geeta Dutt
Tumi Je Amar a vuboner , Geeta Dutt
Surjo Dober , Geeta Dutt
Suman sang several memorable duets with Rafi Saab: Parbaton Ke Petron Par, ("Shagun," 1964), classical Ajahunaa Aaye Baalaama, ("Sanjh Aur Saveera," 1964) Aaj Kaal Tere Mere ('Brahmachari," 1968). Other famous Suman Hindi songs include: Na Tum Hamen Jano, ("Baat Ek Raat Ki," 1962), Mere Mehboob Na Ja ("Noor Mahal," 1965) and Sharaabi Sharaabi, ("Noor Jehan," 1967). Thrice, she won the prestigious Sur Sringar Samsad award for the best classical song in a Hindi movie. Suman's Bengali hits include, Tomar Akash Theke, Mone Karo Ami Nei, and Shudhu Swapno Niye (Daily Star. April6, 2008).
Tere Hum O Sanam - Rafi + Suman Kalyanpur
"Muhabbat Kar Lo"-Mohammad Rafi, Geeta Dutt, Suman Kalyanpur
Rafi & Suman Kalyanpur -Saawan Beeta Jaaye-Saanjh Aur Savera
Tumhi mere meet ho(Suman Hemant Pyase Panchhi)
Kishore Kumar, Suman - Mehfil Mein Paimana
Our Bangali cultural nationality is remarkably different from that of the rest of the world in two ways: first, we have a glorious history behind our language, and then, we have a vast treasure of music.there are many types of folk music from bengal baul, keertan, probhati, bhayaiya, dhankatergan, naban nergan, bhatiyali, brishtirgan, tusurgan, kabigan, chatka, murshidi, fakirigan and many more.....baul songs are mostly related in moods of spirituality, deep philosophy, human body and nature. keertan, songs of the vaishnavas. bhatiyali the boat songs of bengal. Also seasonal songs are there like rain songs (brishtirgan) festival songs celebrating the eating (nabannergan) and worship songs for different god and goddess are also a vital place in folk music of Bengal.
Unlike the Islamic revivalist movements, popular Islam assimilated many local traditions and naturally became invigorated. The numerous Prophet-oriented folk songs may be taken as an illustration. Among the various Bengali folk songs in which the image of the Prophet is portrayed, the following forms should be noted.
Baul songs: The bauls of Bengal belonged to a community of mendicant singers noted for their liberal attitude to all religions. They were influenced both by sufism and vaishnavism (a sort of Hindu mysticism). The nineteenth century was the heyday of the bauls when the famous exponents of baul songs such as Faqir Lalan Shah, (d. 1891) , Panju Shah (b.1851) and Lalan's disciple Duddu Shah flourished (S.M Lutfor Rahman , Bangladeshi Jari Gan, Dacca ,1986). Lalon - Bauls Mysticism Bouls of Bengal Jari Songs: Jari is a kind of dirge, which owes its origin to the tragic events of Medina and Karbala leading to the death of Hazrat Imam Hassan and Hussain. The shia community of South Asia commemorate the events of Karbala in the month of Muharram by singing marsiyas or dirges in Urdu, while jari is its Bengali version. Rain Songs: In the oriental world where agricultural is the principal occupation of the people, proper rainfall is regarded as essential for good harvest. During, drought the peasants find it difficult to use the plough in the field. Under such circumstances, the religious minded people in the countryside pray to god for rain. They often offer their prayer in the form of songs, which can be called songs to invite rain, or simply rain songs. Unlike the baul and jari songs, much information about contemporary social, economic, or political conditions are not available from the rain songs. Sarigaan :Sari (or Shaeri) songs are associated with boat races. Boat races used to be a popular pastime in East Bengal during the monsoon months. Village youths would draw immense courage, determination and pleasure to take part and win in the races. Large crowds would gather along the banks of the river to celebrate the occasions. Boats would be gracefully prepared with colorful decorations. Before the race began, and sometimes after it was completed, festivitivities continued all day long with sing-a-song-sing-along sarigaan.
However, religious beliefs of the rural people are captured in these songs, which were often influenced by sufism. The sufi notion of creation owes its origin to the philosophical ideas of al-Farabi and Ibn Sina who tried to establish a connection between the divine light (nur) and the intellect, the former being communicated to the latter at the first instance by the prime cause, the Creator. The nur is the light of the sun around which everything revolves. And around this nuclear concept of nur , the Sufis developed the doctrine of nur-i-Muhammadi, believed to have been created before all things.
It is significant to remember in this context that in the same period the bauls of Bengal were also singing songs on the concept of nur-i-Muhammadi , presenting the Prophet Muhammad and his mediatorship of creation as a source of authority
In doing so, the bauls were probably responding in a subconscious way to the missionary enterprise aiming at enhancing the status of Jesus Christ and Christianity as compared to Islam and its Prophet. It may be mentioned here that the north Indian Muslim religious group called the Barelwis, who also had a rural base responded to the missionary challenge in a similar fashion by focusing on the sufi doctrine of nur-i-Muhammadi as a source of authority (S.M Lutfor Rahman , Bangladeshi Jari Gan, Dacca ,1986).
Vaisnava perception not only influenced the jari singers, but the bauls as well. According to the baul philosophy, the Prophet Muhammad, Krishna and Chaitanya, have become both man and superman because of His sudden touch. In other words, the bauls regard Muhammad, Krishna and Chaitanya as God incarnate.
As Radha is inseparable from Krishna who is the incarnation of God, similarly Fatima is also inseparable from Allah, being the beloved daughter of Muhammad who is the incarnation of God. Both Radha and Fatima enjoy a loftier position in the mystical tradition of Bengal. Both are also women, and it is not surprising that the bauls pose themselves as women because they believe that true love can only be experienced by transforming oneself into a woman. From this concept stemmed their idea of Shain or the Man of the Heart who is also the eternal Beloved of the sufi tradition.
In the imagination of the Muslim mystic poet Radha (the beloved of Lord Krishna) appears as Fatima and Krishna as Allah.
When scholars talk about nineteenth century Bengal Renaissance, they use lofty words for Rammohun Roy and others for their rationalist thinking or the spirit of enquiry. These scholars seldom shift their focus from urban to rural Bengal to explore the likes of Lalan Shah, a contemporary of Rammohun. Lalan did not receive western education unlike many of his urban counterparts. But many of his songs revealed a spirit of enquiry which was significant in its own way and which often went to the extent of challenging the established order. For example, Lalan once attacked the shariati Muslims by singing (Lutfor Rahman ed. Lalan Giti Chayan, Dhaka, 1985) :If shariat is the only way to salvation then why did the Prophet spend fifteen years in the solitary cave of Hira for meditation? It is said that those who do not perform the prayer and fasting are subject to punishment on the Day of Judgement. It should be remembered that the merciful Prophet did not perform the prayer during the first forty years of his life
From time immemorial, Bangladesh has earned a reputation as the high quality producer of handloom, especially muslin. Poets of the Mughal Durbar (court) likened our muslins to Baft hawa (woven air), Abe rawan (running water) and Shabnam (morning dew). So fine was its texture and quality that it was said to be woven with the thread of the winds and the Greek and the Roman texts mention the Gangetic muslins as one of the most coveted luxury items.
Green and yellow my paddy sways its shoots tenderly
It calls me every day as I stand by the roadside.
It stalks touching and kissing and parting in the breeze.
O Blind Cloud, You are my Brother!
Give a little more rain so that we may eat good rice
An ancient Bengali mystic poet describes:
The mind is a tree, the five senses are its branches.
Hope bears fruits and leaves in 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 samasara to receive pain.
(From Cayapada 45, Kanhupada, Raga Mallari)
Hasan Raja and others
Ishq Kameena - aishwarya rai vs Hason Raja
Jamiroquai vs Hason Raja: corner of the earth
Krishno Krishno O garial bhai bhawai music
Bhaoaia: A popular folk music of north Bangla especially of Rangpur and Dinajpur districts. Bhaoaia is derived from the word Bhao or Bhab which means mood. Bhaoaya actually originated in the Malsi region: greater Bogra and Rajshahi districts including Naogaon sub division (except Raninagar and Atrai PSs). The name Malsi is derived from the malsi raag.
Gombhira region: This region includes Rajshahi town, Nababganj and Natore sub division (except Singra, Borai and Gurudaspur PSs). Gombhira means ‘little room’. This was the meaning associated witht the word Gombhira in ancient Bangla literature.
Origin: Gombhira was originated in the Maldaha district of West Bangla. The subject matter of gombhira is primarily the review of the main events of the year. Traditionally gombhira music festival takes place during the last three days of the last month of Bangla calendar (Chaitra). During the festival the lead singer sings about the major events of the year.
Barashe region: Barashe is popular in the Gombhira region as well as in Khulna, Jessore, Faridpur and Kushtia districts. Bareshe music is about the rain and its principal theme is love.
Pala region: Pala songs evolved between 13th to 16th centuries.
Pala gaan is a traditional Bangalee folk theatre. It evolved as a performance genre in the greater Mymensingh district of East Bangla. Due to its secular nature, this particular folk theatre is popular among the Bangalee rural populace across the border and collectively sponsored and subscribed by both the Hindus and the Muslims. It is an essential component of all the major rural festivals especially those that are celebrated during the dry seasons. As a traditional Bangalee folk theatre, Pala gaan is performed by a group of performers. The bayati (the lead narrator) leads a Pala gaan troupe and five to eight choral singers/musicians (dohar and pail) play traditional such as harmonium and dhol (drum) and indigenous such as judi, kathi, and dotara instruments.
The performance of Pala gaan constitutes two distinctive parts: bandana (invocation) and main body of performance. The bandana is rendered by the lead narrator with dohars singing choral refrain and music. The bandana is usually addressed to Allah, prophet, the sun god in the east and Himalayas in the north, Mecca is the west, sea in the south, saint, mythical heroes and spectators. After the end of bandana, the lead narrator begins the main body or the story of Pala gaan. The features of main body of performance are as follows: Narrative performance in lyric: the bayati describes events of his narrative in lyric accompanied by the dohars playing music and singing choral passages. Usually the bayati’s assistant, known as the daina, heightens the effect of the song by singing a few words embellishing the action described in the song. As he sings, the bayati also dances and enacts what is described in the song. Often he embodies the characters by rearranging his costume. Narrative performance in prose: interspersed between the lyrical passages are sections of improvised prose rendered solely by the bayati. In those passages he describes parts of action and renders words spoken by the characters accompanied by appropriate gestures and movements. He also rearranges his costume and uses a few props to depict the character.
Dialogic performance in prose: the bayati switches from narrative to dialogic performance with the help of the daina. In these prose passages the daina remains seated in his position without effecting any costume change, but the bayati rearranges his costume to portray the character and applies gestures and movements necessary to enact the action. Often he also uses props such as a pillow, a pair of sunglasses or a rope etc. As a rule, the bayati always enacts the main characters and leads the scene while the daina supports him with brief statements. The performers always improvise all these passages of dialogue. According to the scholars of folk theatre there are seventy narratives performed in Bangladesh as forms of pala gaan. Kamala Ranir Sagar Dighi is one of the most popular oral legends in Bangladesh.
It's back to the roots. Several groups of youth in the country have launched a concerted effort to popularise the important chapters of Mymensingh Geetika (indigenous compilation of the great bards). Among the facets of Mymensingh Geetika that they have staged are Mahua Sundari, Malua Sundari, Dewana Madina, Chandrabati, Kajol Rekha, Velua Sundari, Sonai Madhab and Kamala Ranir Sagar Dighi. These literary works have been promoted by Mahua Shilpigoshthi, a cultural organisation, for the last few years.
Nowadays, such significant palas (folk plays) are being ignored at the face of the advent of many modern sources of entertainment including the satellite television, said Palakar Mrinal Dutta, an advocate and the chief artiste of Mahua Shilpigoshthi. "As a nation's culture gives it an identity, traditional culture should not be over looked. For this reason we have launched the mission to preserve our heritage. Quality performances of folk plays can draw a huge audience which has been proven over and over again. However, in many cases, due to lack of support we face financial crises and are unable to stage our shows on a regular basis," he added. Afzalur Rahman Bhuiyan, professor of Bangla Department of Government Ananda Mohan College, told The Daily Star that all the palas of Mymensingh Geetika depict Bangalee society hundreds of years ago when people lived in peace and harmony. (Daily Star, February, 2005).
Jasimuddin- Poet of the people of Bangladesh- A film by Khan Ata 1978
The ballads were collected from Mymensingh, Netrakona, Chittagong, Noakhali, Faridpur, Sylhet and Tripura. The main collectors of these ballads include Chandra Kumar De, Dinesh Chandra Sen, Ashutosh Chaudhuri, Jasim Udin, Nagendrachandra Dey, Rajanikanta Bhadra, Bihari Lal Roy and Bijay Narayan Acharya.
Dr. Dinesh chandra Sen, long time Ramtanu lahari Professor of Calcutta University (1866-1939) contributed much to folk lore of Bengal (Calcutta, 1920):
"In this present treatise I have for the first time brought to the notice of the scholars considerable materials about bengali folk-tales chiefly those current amongst the Mohmedans of the Lowe Gangetic valley.
It has been a surprise to us to find the stories of Rupamala, Kanchamala, Madhumala, Puspamala, etc. are not only the heritage of Hindu children but also their Moslem cousins who have been listening to these nursery and fairy tales, recited to them by their grandmotheers, from a remote historical period
The Hindu Budhhhistic convert who gave their faith in the older religions did not forego their attachment to these folktales in which legend of Buddhist and Hindu gods are sometimes closely intermix (Folk Literature of Bengal( Calcutta, 1915)
Dinesh Chandra Sen's monumental work, four volumes I Ballads from Estern Bengal, contains the bulk of popular ballads (Mahua, Chndravati, Kamala, Dewan Bhavna, Kenaram,Rupavati, Kanaka and Lilia, Kajal Rekha, and Dewan Madina. still current in oral tradition of Bangladesh (Eastern Bengal) These volumes are highly appreciated by Maurice Materlinck, Sylvian Levy, gegorge Grieson, Rabinranath Tagore and other because of its literary excellence (Asutosh, Calcutta 1936). The ballads are are sung in the district of Mymensingh generally by Muhamedans and low cast Hindus... The minstrel or chief singer is called gyan.
Except Kenram, all the ballads are based on love episodes. All four volumes contain exhaustive analysis of the historical, sociological and cultural background of East Bengal, along with notes and explanations (Eastern Bengal Ballads: Mymensingh, Calcutta 1923)Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen in the first volume presented a popular kind of song called Baromasi or the songs of twelve months are given mostly by a woman whose husband is away from home.
Prof. W. Sutton,University of London writes in a review:
They are in themselves worthy of a high place in Bengali literature and in the treasury of ballad literature of the world.
Baul region: Greater Kushtia, Jessore and Khulna (except the Sundarban area such as Rampal, Saronkhola, Morelganj, Paikegachha, Dakopa and Shyamnagar), Faridpur (except Madaripur and Shariatpur sub divisions), Jamalpur (except Sribordi, Jhariagati, Nakla, Dewanganj, Sherpur and Nolitabari), Sylhet town (except Jayantia and Gorainghat), Maulabhibazar, Chhatak, jagannathpur, Sunamganj, Hobiganj, Chunarughat and Nobinganj. It is spiritual songs of a particular religious community known as Baul. Many experts believe that the word baul was derived from the word Aulia which means saint. Baul music was deeply influenced by the thoughts of Sri Chaitanna and its themes are mainly borrowed from Charyapada.
Origin: the marsh lands of Sylhet and Mymensingh districts. These are the songs of the river. Boats were the primary communication of East Bangla. The boatmen always sing while rowing. The songs of boatmen are called bhatiali.
Royani region: Greater Barisal, Patuakhali and Madaripur and Shariatpur districts of greater Faridpur. Based on the sagas of Chand Saodagar, Lakkhindar and Behula and composed to praise the greatness of Monosa debi. Some believe that Royani may have derived from the word Rajani which means night as the Royani songs goes on for all night.
Murshidi, Marfoti and Maijbhandari: Greater Chittagong (except Ukhia and Teknaf), Noakhali and Comilla (except Chandpur, Matlob, Daudkandi, Homna and Brahmanbaria)
Tribal music region: The music of the tribal people. Whole of Chittagong Hill Tracts, Ukhia and Teknaf of Chittagong district; Taherpur, Jayantia and Goainghat of Sylhet district; Kamalakanda, Durgapur, Haluaghat, Jhariagati, Nalitabar and Sribordi of Mymensingh district and Madhupur of Tangail district
1.1 Monosha Mongol
If one was to look, one would find quite a few versions of the famed verses of Monsha Mongol, but a single, definitive version would be much harder to locate. Of course, when it comes to products of the folk traditions of the land, traditions that lives and breathes in the performances of the Charan (folk) poets, it is perhaps somewhat imprudent to search for absolutes. After all, we are not talking about inert, isolated art, manifest on lifeless reels of film or paper. These are art forms that are manifest in the very lives of the Charan poets, art that is produced and consumed in chorus.
But with the ways of these Charan poets under increasing pressure, we are running a very real risk of losing large chunks of irreplaceable traditions. Kazi Sayed Hossain Dulal, an eminent drama researcher, spent 11 years researching the pala (play) of Monosha Mongol, and transcribing the verses from the performances of these Charan poets and artistes. In this segment, week by week, we will present Monsha Mongol in its entirety, as transcribed by Kazi Sayed Hossain Dulal.
The Monsha (Serpent) Debi is a Hindu deity, is worshipped mainly for good fortune, prevention and cure of snake bites, and for prosperity and fertility. Traditionally, Manosha Puja in Bangladesh starts on the last day of Shrabon and lasts until the third day of Bhadra. However, Monoshar Pala is performed throughout the year, albeit in different forms and guises in different regions of the country. In Tangail, this is referred to as Bhasan Jaatra, and is performed as such: a jaatra with fixed characters and dialogue and musical interludes. In Kushtia, it is called Padma's Nachon, and is much more song and dance based. In the southern parts of the country, it is called Royan, in Ponchogor : Paddabati, in Dinajpur: Dishohori, and in greater Rajshahi region: Monsha Mongol.
The Monsha Mongol kabba (epic poem) consists of seven chapters. It tells the tale of Monsha Debi, her birth, her expulsion from the heavens, her struggle to establish her place as a deity, and her eventual triumph. In this issue, we present the Monsha Bondona, a hymn that traditionally starts off the pala of Monsha Mongol.
Story Chandra Shagar,
the great merchant has refused to worship Monosha, the Serpent Godess, and they have been locked in battle. Monosha has unleashed all her fury on the mortal, but Chandra Shagar, armed with a weapon endowed to him by Shib himself, has repelled each one of the Serpent Goddess's attacks. In defeat, Monosha seeks vengeance, and kills Chandra Shagar's six sons. Anurudha and Usha, from their place in the heavens, watch on as the bodies of the dead sons are set afloat on the mighty Padma1. The Dhuwa and the Poyar are not characters from the play. Rather they are narrators that help in the flow of the plot, and takes part in the song and dance sequences.
2. An earthen vase used as an implement of worship.
The Hymn of Monosha
In BengaliPronomoho Bishohori Bissharupa Bisshoshori
Tumi Debi Jagatjanani
Tumi Debi Horosuta Astikasha Munir Mata
Nagmata Bhubon Mohini.
Tumi Shiber Nondini Tribhubon Uddharini
Aushtanag Shonge Loye Pujasthane Nam Giye
Seboker Nishtar karini
Choturmukhe Projapoti Tomake Koren Stuti
Stobo Koren Joto Debgon.
Bhobobhoy Nistaroni Tumi Tritara Harini
Ashorete koro odhisthan
Mohamuni Jabat Karu Shadhok Jonab Guru She Tomake Bibaha Korilo.
Holo Tobo Iccharongo Muni Holo Stobo Bhongo
Toma Taagi Katadur Gelo.
Munir Chorone Dhori Rakhilo Binosh Kori
Punorupi Firiya Ashilo
Muni Toma Dile Bor Jonmolek Putrobor
Ashtik Kumar Nam Holo.
Obodh Je Sodagore Tor Shonge Bad kore
Obosheshe Loylo Shoron
Oputrike Putro Dao Odhonike Dhon Dao
Rok Shok Koro Bimochon
Monoshar Shricharon Je jon kore shoron
Tar Shotru Name je Khoy
Romokanto Shrudhomoti Podmar Chorone Goti
Chirokal Rangapod Chai.
The Birth of Chondrodhor
Dhuya: Oh what will not be witnessed in this strange world of Shonkor.
Poyar: Amongst the races of men and animals, Topossha reigns supreme.
Forever in worship of Shonkor and Paroboti,
Eats fruits and wears tree bark.
Mind at peace eternal, chants the name of Hor.
Into the Ganges she walked to meditate,
Where she saw two youngs of a bird floating downstream.
Tossed and turned by the waves,
Unable to fly, screaming for their lives.
Her heart cried out, she saved them from the waters and brought them home.
She cared for them, and watched them grow.
Built them a house on a tree.
In this nest the birds laid their eggs,
And soon the tree became a shelter for hundred of birds.
But none defies the laws of nature and god.
The serpents of Monosha devour a young.
And the birds twitter in fear from the trees.
When Toposshi returned,
She saw her birds suffering from the venom of the snakes.
The birds, from fear and pain,
Left their abode in the tree and went away.
Without the birds, her sadness was great,
And her hearty was heavy.
Futility overtakes her life,
She leaves her home from fear of the serpent.
She builds her home in the depths of the world,
So that no serpent can reach her.
So no that all serpents fear her.
And with this resolve she dies.
Poyar: Kotishor, King of Dhononjoy,
Reigns over his happy kingdom,
Spends his time in joy.
In his kingdom, there is no sadness.
Yet Kotishor has no son,
And with each passing day, his mind grew heavier.
With much care, he prayed to the Lord of the World.
His worship pleased the Lord,
And the Lord bequeathed unto him the promise of a son.
You shall have a splendid son of beauty and ability,
He shall revere me the most in this infinite world.
He will achieve many things, and do many deeds,
And I shall call him Chandradhar.
This the Lord promised to Kotishor,
And a contented Kotishor returned home.
Soon a son was born in the house of Kotishor.
A son of perfect body and beautiful mind.
In his happiness, the king gave out much from the royal treasury.
He watched the newborn's face at an auspicious moment,
Performed the sacred rights, and named him what Shib willed, Chandradhar.
The child soon grew into a young man,
And by the will of his father dedicated himself to the worship of Shankar.
His offerings were many, no expenses were spared.
Holy music marked the sacred rites,
Hands held together in prayer to the Lord.
The greatest of the Lords, The greatest of the Gods,
The Lord of the Universe.
The Original Man, possessor of the mighty trident.
He of the three universal forms. Pleased with his worship, Shankar arrived, “Tell me what you desire, Chand” Kissing the Lord's feet in complete deference, Chandradhar asked for Ultimate Knowledge. The Lord had, please with his devotion, Granted him his will. Keep it with care, he said, Keep it to yourself, reveal not unto others. Having been given his heart desire, Chandradhar returned home. Much have been reveled unto him by the Lord of Existence, The gratitude of Chandradhar knew naught but deference.
Monosha Puja By Shoneka
The shouts of joy resound, in the worship of the enchantress of the world,
The mother of the universe.
You are the Saviour, without you there is no rescue,
Goddess daughter of the Lord.
You are the Light, You are the Pure, You are the Mother Padmaboti,
You are the giver of all.
The rescuer in times of trouble, the possessor of infinite knowledge,
And the destroyer of existence.
Bless me so that I can worship you for an eternity,
And that my devotion brings you happiness.
Give me this blessing, so that the moon, the husband, my next life,
Remain in your service.
Prayers to the mighty Ram
Was answered with six sons.
With you by our side, all will be well,
Unless the Moon is otherwise inclined.
Dhuwa: Uhe Bondo Mata Bondo Monshar Choron
Poyar: Uhe Bondo Deb Gonopoti A Mata Jahar Parboti
Pita Jahar Bhola, Moheshor.
Bondo Debi Soroshwati, A Mata Jahr Poriboti Bangar Bhola Nath.
Bondo Debi Lokhir Pa, Uhe Mondodori Jahar Ma He
Jahar Gaane Mohit Jogonnath.
Shiber Haate Trishiul Ban Boshumata Kornoban Shureshwari Noreru Jononi
Bondoder Monoshadebi Purane Mohima Shuni
Potit Pabone Puraton.
Aile Monoshar Bore Gonga Jole Ghot Bhore
Tahar Upor Diya Amroshor.
Jeba Nari Jaha Chay Seba Nari Taha Pay
Bol Loge Pera Ar Chagol.
(Ustad Guru Bondona)
Monoshar Pronam U Bondona GaanAstikosho Munir Mata Bhogni Basuki Stotha
Jorot Karukmuni Potni, Monosha Debi Nomstute
Dhuwa: Uhe Bondo Mata Bonde Monoshar ChoronPoyar: Bondo Deb Gonopoti A Mata Jahar Parboti
Pita Jahar Bhola, Moheshor.
Aniya Gongar Bari Gonga Jole Mayers Ghot Bhori,
Tahar Upor Diya Amer Shor.
Noibeddho Thore Thore, Brakkhonete Chondi Pore,
Boli Pore Pera Ar Chagol.
Bali Bole Hay! Hay, Ato Dukh Prane Soy,
Bayon Hoye Chad Hat Baray.
Aso Mago Sarashwati Konthe De Mor Pa,
Golay De Ma Surer Dbhoni Jihbay Kor Ra.
Choudike Ram; Chondro Bondo Patale Bashuki Bondo
Shorge Bondo Joto Debgon.
Ami Ikhha Gurur Bonde Nilam, Sri Horir Pa.
Amar Ashore Je Ja Choraibe Khao, Dohai Lage
Podma Dedir Honumaner Matha Khao.Hymn to the Master
Dhuwa: Oh Hail Mother Hail The Footsteps Of MonoshaPoyar: Oh Hail The Leader Of The Gods, The Daughter Of Paroboti
The Son Of Bhola, God Among Gods.
Hail The Goddess Soroshwati, Whose Mother Was Poriboti Father Bhangor Bhola Nath
Hail The Foot Of Lakhi, Oh Whose Mother Is Mondodori
Whose Songs Holds The Master Of The Universe To Its Thrall.
The Trident Of Shib Mother Of Earth
Sureswari, Mother Of Men.
Hail Goddess Monosha, The Ancients Sing Whose Praise
The Saviour of Sinners.
Praise Be To Monosha For Filling Up The Ghot With Water From The Ganges
On Top Of Which Sits Mango Buds.
That Which She Shall Want, That She Shall Get
On The Pit Of Sacrifice Sits The Offerings.
Salutations To Monosha And A HymnMother Of The Sage Ashtikassha, Sister Of The Snake King
Wife Of The Sage Karukmuni, All Hail The Monosha Godess
Dhuwa: Oh Hail Mother Hail The Footsteps Of MonoshaPoyar: Oh Hail The Leader Of The Gods, The Daughter Of Paroboti
The Son Of Bhola, God Among Gods.
Bring Home The Goddess And Fill Your Ghot With Her Waters,
A Mango Bud Placed On Top.
Hymns Bit By Bit, The Brahman Recites His Chants
And The Sacraments Of Sacrifice.
Bali Says Oh Woe! The Spirit Cannot Endure Such Grief,
A Dwarf Wants To Touch The Moon.
Come Mother Soroshwati, Bless My Voice
Give Me Melody And Rhythm.
Rama Is In All Side; Hail Moon, Hail The Serpant King
Hail All Gods In Heaven.
In Honour If Ikkha Guru, I Touched Dikkha Guru's Foot,
In Honour Of All Gurus I Touched Hori's Foot.
Eat What You Will Here, But Please
Make Sure You Have Godess Padma's Monkey's Head.
Translated by Saba El Kabir
2. Folk songs, culture, heritage now receding
The traditional Bangla folk songs of the greater Mymensingh region are going to be extinct as folk singers have been leading a miserable life due to absence of patronisation from any circle. There are innumerable folk-songs sung by the rural people and singers in different parts of the region. The true picture of the people of the region comes to light in the soft strains of Bhatiali, Shari, Jari, Baul, Murshidi, Punthi Gan and many other such forms of folk songs. Folk culture of the region is also on the wane although it is expression of the totality of rural life from rice husking, sticking quilts, making cakes, harvesting of crops, boat oaring manifesting the active life of the village folk.
Folk lore, folksongs and folktales are the integral part of the folk culture and tradition of simple rustic masses. The folk songs are an indispensable part of our folk culture, basing on rural as well as national beauty and oriental myths fascinate the audience through their lucid melody. Poets and lyricists of the locality usually compose the reflections of the nature with great empathy of joys and sorrows, woe and bliss, passion and peace. It is observed that the relation between human beings and nature is eternal as like as relation between nature and folk music.
Nature here is adorned with seasons and every-seasons adds new enchantment to her changing beauty. Summer enriches nature of the region with different local fruits . Nature in the season becomes hot while the rainy season comes here with different colours. The green on the earth darkness, the clouds begin to swell and roar and frogs croak with full-throated each day and night as rain pours on. Peasants use to go to their fields and fishermen to the water bodies with the tune of mystic natures songs.
With the arrival of Autumn, nature again takes a new turn. Gentle breeze begins to blow and peasants go to fields and sow seeds. It is prelude to a new life full of vigour and joy. Then comes the harvesting season. Rural people celebrate each season especially the harvesting one with dances and songs. Winter comes with rich worm and sunlight, the leaves of trees began to fall as such the nature gets ready to give birth to a new season spring.
The flower blooms and one feels that the Nature is breathing a new life after the Winter. It is spring which is said the season of mirth and joy, songs and music celebration and festivals. However folk music like nature in this region is also varied and beautiful that it is difficult to remain insenate to its appeals. As it is very much a culture of each and everywhere of the region the people here have been obsessed by folk music invites earnest fervour. Songs were invited by the rich people and well-to-do people on different occasions and used to enjoy songs and singers to get handsome remuneration which they could run their livelihood.
But the old culture is overwhelmingly shattered by electronic appliances like television, video cassette player and satellite television. Most people now-a-days are least interested in listening the traditional songs as perhaps these have had a lack of real portrayal of diverse aspects of lives and no new dimension could be added with the changing circumstances by the singers.
We also have failed to uphold our traditional culture in the electronic media world with positive manners. As a consequence of all these, the earnings of them declined sharply and they have been passing hard days. Local devotees and elite opined that in order to know the folk culture people must know the folk songs and village folks. It is only when succeed in painting on our minds canvass the picture of what influences in moulding their life pattern. Shall we not in truth, be able to know of the folk culture and tradition, in short, the folk heritage? (The Bangladesh Observer, December 4, 2004).
'Ghatu Gaan': In dire need of preservation
Ghatu gaan depicts various aspects of life of the common people
Ghatu Gaan (folk song) an element of traditional Bengali culture has almost gone into oblivion. Once it was popular in Mymensingh region, especially in Mymensingh, Netrokona and Kishoreganj districts. Now it is an antiquated art form for the younger generation though the nostalgic elders cling to its memory. Ghatu gaan depicts various aspects of life of the common people. The chorus, led by a young boy dressed up as a teenaged girl called 'Ghatu', homes in on the sorrows and happiness of the masses.
The Ghatu Gaan, like other indigenous sources of entertainment such as Kabi gaan, Jari gaan, Shari gaan, Pala gaan, Baul songs and jatra pala, used to draw a large audience. It was performed widely in Trishal, Bhaluka, Gouripur and Iswarganj of Mymensingh; Khaliajuri, Mohanganj and Madan of Netrokona; Mithamoin of Kishoreganj and the haor areas of the two latter districts. In Mymensingh, Ghatu Gaan was performed mainly in the winter season while in haor areas the rainy season was an opportune time as the haor people were out of work, being inundated by flood water.
From a book written by Mohammed Abdus Sattar, titled Folklore and Culture of Greater Mymensingh, it is learnt that Ghatu Gaan is performed by a group accompanied by instruments like drum, mandira, khanjani, bamboo flute, wooden chatti and harmonium. A young man, dressed as a girl with long hair, wearing string of bells (ghungroo) round the ankles and a coloured handkerchief in hand performs the lead role. The senior artiste who plays the commanding role is called 'Shakhin' in Mymensingh, Bayati in Netrokona and 'Sarker' in Kishoreganj. The artistes in the chorus are called 'Pail', 'Dohar' and 'Bahari' in different areas of this region.
The zamindars of this region, aficionados of the local culture, extended patronage to Ghatu Gaan and such programmes were held round the year especially in the moonlit nights of Bhadro when the people in remote areas enjoyed a respite from the floods. However, such performances are very rare now. In recent years the Ghatu chorus is seen only on the completion of construction work of the buildings' roofs in the district town and other places of the district. "Once Ghat Gaan was the main source of entertainment for village dwellers and even townspeople. Today the cable TV has invaded our traditional culture and pushed it on the road to extinction," said 85-year-old Sohrab Hossain, of village Char Gobindapur in Sadar upazila.
Another fan of this art form is Patit Paban Saha, a small vendor in the district town. "In my youth I enjoyed Ghatu Gaan. It was a good source of entertainment and even the village women enjoyed it. We should preserve this rich cultural heritage for our future generations," said Patit. Likewise, Afzalur Rahman Bhuiyan, a professor of Bengali Department, Government Ananda Mohan College, told The Daily Star that while Bengalis are getting westernised and reeling from the assault on their traditional culture, we should keep in mind, a civilised nation always remember its roots (Daily Star, August 26, 2006).
Dance traditions of Bengal
Dance and music are ingrained in Bengali traditions. Originating in the rural areas, almost all customs involve narration in the form of songs and certain physical movements. Today, burdened under financial woes and threatened by the invasive global electronic media, these traditions are gradually losing ground. Adding to that loss is the lack of government and non-government initiatives to conserve the art forms and the escalating preference for razzle-dazzle over authentic folklore.
According to Nipa's paper, "What we see -- labelled as 'folk dance' -- on the urban stage, is basically movements developed by reputable dancers, using everyday rural objects like 'gamchha,' 'paulo,' 'langal' etc as props. These compositions don't have history or a background involving rituals. "
The diverse ethnic groups in our country have remarkable dance traditions. Rabindranath Tagore introduced Manipuri dance to the world (Manipuri is now considered one of the major Indian classical dance forms). 'Jhumur' dance performed during 'Karam Puja' by the Ora(n)os have been appreciated by the mainstream Bengali enthusiasts. But unfortunately, majority of the traditional dance forms of Bengal remain unexposed. Through this project Nrityanchal intends to re-evaluate and restructure what is commonly known as 'folk dance' in our country."
Folk researcher Simon Zakaria was the chief discussant. Zakaria's work on performing arts of rural Bengal has garnered wide appreciation among cultural enthusiasts. According to him, "Narrative, music and dance cannot be separated from each other in the context of rural Bengali traditions. The tradition of these folk art forms date back at least 3,000 years. Terracotta plaques on temple walls throughout Bengal support this notion." Zakaria cited Chaitanya Mahaprabhu inviting his disciples to join him in dancing as a reference to social/spiritual significance of the art form in this region during the Middle Ages.
Zakaria also mentioned some indigenous dance forms like "Padmar Nachon"; "Behular Nachari," "Baidyar Naach" and "Pori Naach" (of Tangail); "Ashtak Naach" (of Narail) and "Lathi Naach," "Bahurupi Nritya," "Gazir Jatra" (of Manikganj) . A video clip featuring these performances was screened at the seminar (Daily Star, April 4, 2005).
3. Pat-chitra culture
Potchitro or story telling through depicting images on canvas has always been a traditional form of art and entertainment. The trail goes a long way back to the Middle Ages when story telling was an important form of entertainment in Bengal. Poets told tales of gods, saints and the virtuous, of kings and queens, through their writings. Artists portrayed these verses through colours and motifs. The age-old folk art survived centuries to tell the tale. It still continues to entertain the art enthusiasts.
The exhibition displays 45 pieces of Raghunath's work depicting everyday life of the rural people and the popular motifs of Bengal. Raghunath Chakravarty does not have any academic training. He did however found inspiration from his mother and later on from renowned potchitro artist Shambhu Acharya. The stroke of the brush came to him naturally.
“I learned from my mother. She used to paint potchitro and decorate the house with alpona whenever there was an occasion”, he said. “From then on I had colours in my mind. I just started to compose in my head and started with a brush one day”, he added.
The term Pata is derived from the Sanskrit word Patto, meaning cloth. In ancient times, before paper was introduced, artistes used to paint on thick cotton fabric. Usually mythical or religious stories were the themes. However, in time contemporary issues, animals and more found their place on these painting.
The old folklore tells the story of Gazi Pir, a mythical warrior saint who battled demons, confronted the god of death, and worked miracles like restoring dead trees to full bloom, and getting dried-up cows to milk again. These and more such fantastic and colourful fables and legends have been immortalised through pat gaans and patchitra. Patachitra is one of the earliest forms of popular art in Bangladesh.
"Pata-chitra is perhaps the oldest art form in the Indian subcontinent and the tradition continues to this date. In fact, the art form can be traced all the way back to sixth BCE."
Besides being visual delights, the scroll paintings are also used in pat gaan or patua gaan. Through the medium of scroll painting, a choir narrates a story.
A painting featuring Raashleela of Radha-Krishna is stunning. Snake-like creatures with three heads on another one are interesting. Another painting shows three gruesome rakhkhoshi (females monsters) in their "full glory" -- teeth shaped like carrots sticking out, talons sharper than an eagle's -- staring back at the viewer as if to warn them to keep a safe distance.
Goddess Durga is the subject of several scrolls. One of the paintings show the Goddess smiting the beast Mahishashur. Vibrant colours -- yellow, indigo, bottle green, khaki, crimson and dark brown -- create a dazzling effect. Four Gods and Goddessess -- Ganesh, Karthik, Lakshmi and Saraswati -- ornate the corners of the painting.
The story of Goddess Kali stamping on God Shiva is the subject on a scroll. The Goddess is bare, as she is portrayed traditionally and painted in deep purple. In episodes from the Ramayana, Rama and Sita are seen getting married in the first segment. Other scenes featured are Lakshman cutting the nose of the monster, Suparnekha and Sita abducted and imprisoned by Ravana.
Take the snail shells. Crush them. Refine them till the shells turn into dust. Mix them with water. What do you gets? All white pigment.
Using this idea, you can take the red soil of Dhaka-Mymensingh area. Refine it and you get red pigments. You can use locally grown indigo for making deep blue pigment, dark ash to make black paint, brick dust and different types of vegetables for making different kinds of pigments.
These pigments were the indigenous artists' tools in Bangladesh and India for hundreds of years before modern paints took over and before internationally practiced art-form started to take root. One can use these paints along with natural adhesive processed out of boiling tamarind seeds.
The indigenous paint--making formula is almost a lost technology. May be a few persons across Bangladesh still manufacture such paints. The country's last Pata painter (scroll artist) Shambhu Acharya is one of those persons who makes these paints using traditional methods and use them for painting pata chitra (scroll art). Shambhu's family is maintaining this technology and art form for the last nine generations. This struggling artist from Kalindipara area of Munshiganj district has in recent times drawn enthusiasm and interest of mainstream art lovers and artists thanks to the mission taken by artist Goutam Chakrabarti, Director of Galleri Kaya. Goutam's new artistic mission is to save Shambhu's indigenous artform and artistic technology while he is alive so that Bangladesh keeps its own home grown original artform alive.
Goutam's mission has got a new direction through a four-day art camp at the Jamuna Resort, by the great river Jamuna throughout July 27 to 30. Being popular with artists with his innovative concepts, 13 mainstream artists plus Shambhu Acharya enthusiastically participated in this camp to try out Shambhu's paints and painting technology. The idea of this camp was to fuse mainstream painting techniques with Shambhu's painting materials.
Yellow is never brighter, red more festive, green more alive or blue more serene as they are in 'pata-chitra.' 'Patua' Raghunath Chakroborty says, "Colours don't overlap in 'pata-chitra,' as in other mediums and styles. 'Patuas' (painters of this form) paint with locally produced vegetable colours, which not only make the scroll paintings very bright but also, add life to them." The sheen apparently lasts over 50-60 years -- a remarkable feat for water-colour.
"Its indigenous, inexpensive and its allure is uncomplicated. Materials like oyster shell powder, yellow puree, gum made from tamarind seed and 'bel' (wood-apple) are easily available and I make my own brush for line-work," Chakroborty says.
Subjects are varied. The 'pata-chitra' at the exhibit features myths and deities like "Janmashtomi," "Sita," "Lokkhi" as well as everyday scenes and objects like a lotus blossom, boatmen taking a break, a village belle putting her trinkets on, and the eternal mother and child image.
Raghunath however personalised the art. From religious stories he moved on to everyday life of the rural people. From traditional practice of story telling on clay pots he moved to canvas. “I find it more attractive the lives of the ordinary folks, everyday struggle, the beauty of the rural landscape”, said Raghunath. Raghunath's favourite theme is the eternal love between mother and child. In his work the theme keep coming back along with boat race, the weavers and the carpenters at work, rural wife's cooking preparation, the bangles seller lady, women fetching water, ethnic women at work and many more (S. Parveen, October 24, 2007).
Manasa Mangal ritual
Manasa Mangal, (Bipradas Pipalai 1545 AD) a medieval Bengali classic about the serpent-goddess Manasa. These stories related to mythology are the main elemnets of the Pat-chitra culture.
Patuas, like the kumars, started out in the village tradition as painters of scrolls or pats telling the popular mangal stories of the gods and goddesses. For generations these scroll painters or patuas have gone from village to village with their scrolls or pat singing stories in return for money or food. Many come from the different villages of Bengal. The pats or scrolls are made of sheets of paper of equal or different sizes which are sown together and painted with ordinary poster paints. Originally they would have been painted on cloth and used to tell religious stories such as the medieval mangal poems. Today they may be used to comment on social and political issues such as the evils of cinema or the promotion of literacy.
Mangal kavyas are auspicious poems dedicated to rural deities and appear as a distinctive feature of medieval Bengali literature. Mangals can still be heard today in rural areas of West Bengal often during the festivals of the deities they celebrate, for example Manasa puja in the rainy season during July-August when the danger of snake bite is at its peak. Interestingly, it is the mangal stories connected with this particular art form that provide us with some of the earliest clues about the worship of clay images in Bengal.
The two most famous poems in this respect are the Chandi Mangal and the Manasa Mangal. In the Chandi Mangal of the Bengali poet Mukundarama Chakravarti (16th c), known as Kavikankana, the village goddess Chandi takes on the form of the Puranic deity Mahisasuramarddini (Durga) before the startled eyes of the hunter Kalketu and his wife.
Chandika took the form of Mahisasuramarddini In eight directions the Ashtanayikas shone forth
Her right foot rested on the back of a lion
Her left foot on the back of the demon Mahisha
With her left hand she held Mahisha's hair
With her right hand she placed her trident in his chest
On her left side shone her matted locks
Her headress encompassed the whole circle of the sky
Bracletes and armlets adorned her ten arms
In this form she receives puja from the whole world
A noose, a goad, bell, mace and bow
These five weapons gleam in her five left hands
A sword, discus, trident, spear and brightly-shining arrows
In her right hands gleam these weapons
To her left is Karttikeya, to her right Ganesa
Above, Shiva rides on the head of a bull
To her right is Laksmi, to the left Sarasvati
Facing her, deities sing various hymns
Her limbs outshine molten gold
The colour of her three eyes outcolours blue lotuses
And her face outshines the autumnal moon.
What this mangal poem hints at is that the style of Durga images seen today in the clay images of Bengal was already popular in the 16th c. Durga is popularised as the beleagured wife of the farmer god Shiva. She may be the mighty awe-inspiring goddess who kills demons, but she is also the compassionate mother or Ma and the devoted daughter who returns home during the autumnal festival of Durgotsava. Throughout mangal literature, the village deities are shown as very accessible figures who communicate freely with mortals and share their griefs and delights.
Tha main part of the mangal concerns the fate of Lakhindar and his bride Behula. Manasa warns that Lakhindar will die on their wedding night. So Chando has an iron room built to keep out any snakes that might kill his only son. However, Manasa persuades the architect to leave a gap big enough for one of her deadliest snakes to squeeze through at night and bite Lakhindar as he sleeps. Behula wakes up too late to help her newly-wed husband.
In this pat the snake goddess Manasa sends a poisonous snake to kill the hero Lakhindar while his wife Behula looks on helplessly. The iron room made to protect them on their wedding night proves useless.
The distraught Behula scolds Chando for his quarrel with Manasa and returns her wedding gifts. Instead of cremating her husband's body and scattering his ashes in the river as is the Hindu custom, she sets off downriver in a desperate bid to persuade to gods to revive her husband so that she avoids the fate of being made a young widow
Manasa pat shows how Behula sets off downriver on a raft made of banana bark carrying her husband's corpse on her lap hoping to persuade the gods to revive Lakhindar. On the way she meets the fisherman Goda who taunts her but Behula replies that she worships only the mother Manasa and she floats off again downstream. Further on, she visits the city of the gods where she meets the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva who are impressed by her skills as a dancer and washerwoman to the gods. Shiva decides to persuade Manasa to revive Lakhindar and his six brothers in return for persuading Chando to worship the snake goddess.
Appeasing the snake goddess with music, recitation and offerings Manasa Puja in Barisal
August 19, 2009, Daily Star -The festival of 'Manasa Puja' was celebrated peacefully amidst religious fervour and harmony at the Goila Manasha Temple in Agoiljhara Upazila, Barisal district last Monday. Ardent devotees from different parts of the Bangladesh and West Bengal (India), as well as groups of bedey (gypsies) and shapurey (snake charmers) thronged the temple premises to observe the festival and make their offerings to the snake goddess. Goats were sacrificed to the goddess, "Manasa Mangal" was recited, and Royani Gaan was performed at the festival that began early morning on Monday.
A mela (village fair) also held on the occasion and law enforcement officers took adequate measures to ensure safety of the devotees and visitors. Rabindranath Adhikari, Sebayet (caretaker) of the Goila Manasa Temple, told The Daily Star that the temple -- about 500 years old -- has an illustrious history.
He further informed that the festival goes back to the time of Bijoy Gupta, the late 15th century Bengali poet who wrote "Manasa Mangal." The reconstruction of the temple was completed last year and locals have repeatedly called to declare the venue as a heritage spot.
The Snake Litanies
About ten kilometers to the south of Rangpur, in the village of Fatehpur the widows have a tradition of singing these songs about Manasa, or snakes. It is said that not everybody can appreciate this art. After receiving the letter from my friend Nurunnabi Shanto, I got the strong desire to go and see this performance by the widows. I was particularly excited because I had never before seen women perform this Manasa Mangal ritual. And yet, Manasa naturally seems like a woman's territory. But in the performances that I had seen before, there were no actual women. The female roles were played by men. So why were the women of Rangpur an exception? A hundred possible explanations came to my mind; I couldn't decide. I couldn't wait to visit Fatehpur village. But the first thing on my pre-set itinerary was visiting Pirojpur, Bagerhat. My Rangpur trip then, had to come later.
Behula is the heroine in the Bangla epic of Manasamangal. Manasamangal was written between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. Though its religious purpose is that to glorify the Hindu goddess of Manasa, it is more well known for depicting the love story of Behula and her husband Lakhindar. Lakhindar's father angers Manasa, who causes Lakhindar to be bitten by a snake on his wedding night, though he and Behula are enclosed in an iron made house. Behula sails alone with her husband's dead body on a boat. She finally appeases the goddess and brings Lakhindar back to life. Behula continues to fascinate the Bengali mind, both in Bangladesh and West Bengal. She is often seen as the archetypal Bengali woman, full of love and courage.
In Hinduism, Manasa is a naga and goddess of fertility. She is popularly known as the goddess of wish fulfilment and one who protects against snakebite. She is also associated with the earth and higher knowledge. Though she is venerated mostly in eastern India. She is probably a pre-Aryan goddess but this tale is of more recent vintage and comes from Bengal where she is most revered and tells how she gained recognition for herself as a potent member of the Hindu pantheon.
When Manasa approached Chand, he refused to worship her. This infuriated Manasa, and she killed all his sons. After this event, Chand's wife Sonika gave birth to their seventh son Lakhinder (also referred as Bala). Manasa's wrath had not been pacified even by the time when Lakhinder's marriage to Bihula was fixed.
She vowed to kill him on the Suhaag Raat (The night after wedding, when bride and groom sleep together for the first time). To counter the threat, Chand planned to construct an iron room for Lakhinder's Suhaag Raat. However, Manasa threatened the blacksmith as well, and asked him to keep a small pinhole in the room. As nobody noticed this hole, In the night, Manasa sent a very thin snake to enter the room through the pinhole. Once inside the room, this snake turned into a Cobra and bit Lakhinder, killing him instantaneously. Bihula overcame grief and built a boat to go to Heaven to present this injustice to gods. Lakhinder was then revived by the gods. During the return from Heaven, Bihula managed to persuade Chand to worship Manasa. Chanda grudgingly agreed to worship her with his left hand. To this day, Manasa is the only Hindu goddess worshipped by the left hand. In the Anga region, she is also known as Bishahari and worshipped to prevent snake-bite related deaths. The boat created by Bihula was made up of jute straws (Manjusha) and paper. This led to development of Manjusha art, which is now on verge of extinction.
Royani is the music of Manasas. It is the music of Behula.” At Meeradi's words I come back to the topic of Manasa, she seemed to make perfect sense. Of course, the songs were about the two women- Manasa and Behula. Both of these women have had to overcome many obstacles to be well respected in society. Men do not understand the pain and anguish these women have had to go through. One woman has many forms-the mother, the daughter, the sister.The whole performance was about the self-image and self-perception of these women. In that way, the show was kind of autobiographical.
The whole performance is about singing and dancing. And throughout the performance the women of the whole village tirelessly performed the whole night, but in a manner as mundane as their lives. There were no frills. It seemed as though the show was inseparable from their lives- it was nothing special. For these women, performing is not much different from doing everyday chores like cooking. They all routinely get up to make rafts out of tree trunks as if they have done this many times before. Behula and Lakhshmindar get up on the raft and sail off. Lakhshimdar had been bitten, and bite victims must be put on a raft and sent away. Behula accompanied him as a perfectly virtuous wife. At this point in the performance, we feel the pain of Behula. The story of Behula is well known in Bangladesh. But this performance opens ones eyes to other things. Other sociocultural aspects come through in the way the performance unfolds, that one cannot understand from just casually hearing about the story. My experience at Rangpur was unique. The evening did shed light on the lives of these women, what songs mean to them and their lives (Simon Zakaria, Daily Star, July 21, 2007).
...The Bridal Chamber of Behula is stand in the south 2 k.m. from Mohaastan garh, Rangpur, Bangladesh.
A tradition which ridicules the clash of civilisations
The Legend of Gazi
Gazi Pir was a Muslim saint who is said to have spread the Islamic religion in Bengal. According to local myth, he could control dangerous animals and make them harmless and gentle. He is shown riding a fearsome Bengal tiger while holding a poisonous snake in his hand without coming to any danger. He also battled with the crocodiles who were a constant threat to the people of the area called the Sunderbans, the watery jungle where the river Ganges meets the sea. Through his influence over all of these animals, he is said to have made it possible for people to live and farm in that jungle and people still pray to him to protect them while they go about their daily chores.
When we talk about patchitra, first of all, the images of Kalighater pats come in our mind. This genre of painting developed in the nineteenth century which flourished in the market places around the Kalighat Mandir on the bank of the Ganges in Kolkata. But according some historians, older than the Kalighater pat were Gazir pats which most probably emerged around the 16th century. Unlike the Kalighater pat, the uniqueness of Gazir pat is of profound importance and influence in the history of painting and literature in Bengal both in subject and form. The scroll paintings of Gazir pat (pat meaning cloth), present the valour of legendary figure Gazi Pir, who was respected and worshiped as a warrior-saint.
Gazir Pir is not mentioned in history, according to some scholars, the Muslim saint Gazi, might have appeared around the 15th century and seemed to be related to the rise of Sufism in Bengal. Islam Gazi, a Muslim general, served Sultan Barbak (1459-74) in Delhi and conquered Orissa and Kamrup (now Assam). Towards the end of the 16th century, Shaikh Faizullah praised the valour and spiritual qualities of this general in his verse Gazi Bijoy, the victory of Gazi.
To the worshipers of Gazi, this warrior-saint protected his devotees from attacks of wild animals and demons in the forests. In Bangladesh, particularly, in the regions of the Sundarban, the story and images of Gazi Pir had earned much popularity among the forest dwellers, like woodcutters, beekeepers and others. These communities still believe in the supernatural powers of the Pir and utter his name when they venture in to the forest. In the plains, Gazi is worshiped as the protector against demons and harmful deities and saves them from all sorts of dangers. The villagers usually call the gayens or folksingers, who know the story of Gazi Pir to sing the saint? praise
The singers·preaching created a demand for the pats among the devotees, irrespective of caste, creed and community and the pats had gained a huge popularity in the rural areas across the country, in the early years. Traditionally, the singers were Muslims while the patuas belonged to the Hindu religion. Sadly, at present, this combined form of art, paintings on pats and rendering of Gazir praise, has lost its purpose as a savoir from evil.
Until the recent past, the narration of the story of Gazi Pir with the help of a Gazir pat was a popular form of entertainment in rural areas, especially in greater Dhaka, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Comilla, Noakhali, Faridpur, Jessore, Khulna and Rajshahi.
Gazir pat has specific images painted on a single canvas which have remained unchanged through the centuries. These images have been honoured as sacred symbols of good omen. There are twenty seven panels in a traditional Gazir pat, which measures 60 inches X 22 inches. The ankaiya (painter) follows the traditional styles in depicting the images. In the twenty-seven panels, the ankiya draws the images of a shimul tree; a cow; drum to depict triumph of Kalu Gazi; sawdagar or merchant; a deer being slaughtered; Asha or hope, the symbol of Gazi; Kahelia; Andura and Khandura; tiger; umbrella in the hand of Gazi? disciple; Suk and Sari birds sitting on the umbrella; Lakhmi; charka, the spinning wheel; two witches; goala or milkman; mother of the goala; a cow and a tiger; an old woman beautifying herself; Baksila; Ganga; Jamdut; Kaldut; mother of Jam raja; and in the centre Gazi riding on a tiger. The singer or singers narrate sometimes the night long story, pointing at the characters, which appear in the twenty seven panels of the pat.
Red and blue are the two pigments mainly used in the pats. There are slight variations of colour, with crimson and pink from red, and grey and sky-blue from blue. Every figure is flat and two-dimensional. In order to bring in variety, various abstract designs (such as diagonal, vertical and horizontal lines and small circles) are often used. Trees, Gazi? mace, the tasbih or prayer beads, birds, deer, hookahs etc, are extremely stylised. The figures of Gazi, his disciples Kalu and Manik Pir, Jama? (the Hindu god of death) messengers, etc appear rigid and lifeless. Though there is no attempt at realism in the images of Gazir pats, the sort of painting has a time value as primitive work.
Gazir Gan songs to a legendary saint popularly known as Gazi Pir. Gazi songs were particularly popular in the districts of faridpur, noakhali, chittagong and sylhet. They were performed for boons received or wished for, such as for a child, after a cure, for the fertility of the soil, for the well-being of cattle, for success in business, etc. Gazi songs would be presented while unfurling a scroll depicting different events in the life of Gazi Pir. On the scroll would also be depicted the field of Karbala, the Ka'aba, Hindu temples, etc. Sometimes these paintings were also done on earthenware pots.
The lead singer or gain, wearing a long robe and a turban, would twirl an asa and move about in the performance area and sing. He would be accompanied by drummers, flautists and four or five dohars or choral singers, who would sing the refrain.
Gazi songs were preceded by a bandana or hymn, sung by the main singer. He would sing: 'I turn to the east in reverence to Bhanushvar (sun) whose rise brightens the world. Then I adore Gazi, the kind-hearted, who is saluted by Hindus and Mussalmans'. Then he would narrate the story of Gazi's birth, his wars with the demons and the evil spirits, as well as his rescue of a merchant at sea. Although Gazi Pir was a Muslim, his followers included people from other religious communities as well. Many Gazi songs point out how people who did not respect him were punished. At least one song narrates how Gazi Pir saved the peasantry from the oppression of a zamindar. Another song describes how a devotee won a court case. In Gazi songs spiritual and material interests are often intertwined. The audience give money in charity in the name of Gazi Pir. This genre of songs is almost extinct in Bangladesh today. [Ashraf Siddiqui] The tradition of Gazir pat can be traced back to the 7th century. It is also possible that the scroll paintings of Bangladesh are linked to the traditional pictorial art of continental India of the pre-Buddhist and pre-Ajanta epochs, and of Tibet, Nepal, China and Japan of later times.
One of the most striking exhibits in the current British Museum exhibition Myths of Bengal is the beautiful Gazi scroll - not just for its rich colours and vivid figures, but because it illustrates the enriching coexistence of two of the world's great faiths. Images of Hindus making puja offerings are juxtaposed with those of Muslims making similar offerings at the tombs of their saints (pirs). It shows how a remarkable, syncretic culture emerged in which the tombs of many pirs became places of pilgrimage for both Hindus and Muslims.
The syncretism is also evident in the Bengali tradition of bauls, itinerant singers who came from both faiths and used the same songs, full of the yearning of the humble man for God. These songs were a great inspiration to the Bengali Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore (whose paintings are also on show at the British Museum) and expressed the same sentiments found in both religious traditions. The national anthems of the predominantly Muslim country of Bangladesh and the predominantly Hindu country of India were both written by Tagore.
In his most recent book, Identity and Violence, Amartya Sen, a Bengali, describes how civilisations are built on the exchange and encounter of different cultural traditions. It is both an impoverishment and a deeply dangerous development to recast the identity of regions in terms of just one faith. He cites Tagore, who described his family background as a "confluence of three cultures, Hindu, Mohammedan and British".
Bengal has been one of the world's great melting pots, perhaps the place where east has met west for the longest period of settled coexistence. For more than 200 years it was at the heart of Britain's power in India, and Calcutta was the second city of the British empire. British rule brought shocking misgovernment, such as the Bengal famine of 1943 and economic exploitation, but it also brought western ideas, producing a vibrant cultural life in the 19th century.
Vestiges of the syncretism survive, despite the fact that West Bengal is now largely Hindu, and Bangladesh Muslim, but the process of erosion grinds on. In both countries, wealthier diasporas exacerbate the sharpening of antagonistic religious identities. The faith of huge numbers of Bangladeshi migrant workers now owes more to a global Islam influenced by Saudi Arabia than to Bengal's traditional Sufism. Upward social mobility in the villages of Sylhet - the region from which most British Bangladeshis come - is associated with a rejection of the folkloric piety in which even Bengal's pre-Islamic Buddhism was discernible.
Looking at the Gazi scroll, one cannot but conclude that the past offers more enlightened models of living with difference than we are achieving. We need to be reminded - and inspired - by the history of places such as Bengal so that we can guard against the easy simplification that human beings can be parcelled into discrete civilisational categories based on faith. Some of the world's richest cultural traditions are the legacy of the interaction of several faiths (Madeleine Bunting Wednesday November 29, 2006,The Guardian) .
3.1. "Shora" A Quintessential Part of our Pottery
One of the most popular forms of folk art enmeshed in religious myths and rural tradition is the Lakshmi Shora - a circular clay plaque. The Lakshmi Shora, with images of goddess Lakshmi was kept to bring 'lakshmi' or good vibes that could mean peace and harmony, into the home.
Shora, related to Bangladeshi craft, belongs to the pottery section, of which there are often exhibitions in Dhaka -- in various venues, such as the Zainul Gallery and the Bangladesh Shilpakala Gallery. This clay curio is also seen at numerous Dhaka and many other district fairs, during the Lakshmi Puja festival and other seasons. It is sometimes spotted in Bangladeshi homes, where the pottery piece remains an important part of the interior décor-- where nostalgia remains an integral part of the visits to various places-- both at home and abroad.
Numerous images, that of both flora and fauna, along with abstract lines and dots of numerous juxtaposing colours and symbols go into the making of a Lokkhir Shora. The designs on the pottery piece-- all of folk, taken from religion, myth and allegory-- make different designs and patterns. Made by potters, they have various qualities. Those from Rajshahi are perhaps the most well known, says Nisar Hossain, a professor of the Institute of Fine Arts, Dhaka. Nisar Hossain is known to carry out many unflagging researches into fine arts and related crafts, over the years . His discovery trips take him to regions of both Bangladesh and India, at all seasons and times. The painters of "Shokher Hari" are painters of remarkable talent who have been often trained for years by their "guru", whether it be a member of the family or friend circle.
Many Bangladeshi award-winning artists of repute have tried their hand at the painting pottery but never the "Lakshmi Shora", as far as has been seen or recorded. Nevertheless, on examining the " Shora" pieces, one realises the tremendous imagination and expertise that has gone into the painting of these curios, says Hossain. "These originally formed the lids of clay cookery utensils, and maybe seen in use in some Old Dhaka homes, as one realizes." Even the fish and birds, that often surround the human figures of gods and goddess, have been simplified in the mind and transferred into painting. It is different from painting human figures. Painting over the circular form of the "Shora" is difficult to conceive and manage successfully. Unless the painter has tremendous skill this is not possible or probable."
There are many types "Shora", more demands for them being in districts outside Dhaka. Gulshan Dutt, a craftsperson of a high repute, has left signs of his expertise in many places, far and near Dhaka. In Dhaka alone there are 13 types of "Shora" that maybe traced down to Dutt, says Nisar Hossain. In Faridpur too there are at least six types of "Shora" done by Dutt. It is during "Gauri Purnima", often related to the "Lakshmi Puja", after the rains, that one finds the "Shora". It is in certain sections of Barisal, Dhaka and Faridpur, where the land is inundated with rainwater -- and where there is an extra crop of rain, which is known as "Aush" (originating from the word "Haush", meaning "happiness").
If there is flooding or less water than normal, this crop will not come to fruition. The year this "Aush" rice is harvested, this leads to an extra income, which helps satisfy all the farmers' hopes and desires. The other name for "Lakshmi" is "Sri"(which means beauty or beautifying oneself and ones home). "Lakshmi'" is the Hindu goddess of wealth, related to "Durga" (representing power) of which is the largest festival in Bangladesh, goes the explanation.
In most traditional Bangladeshi homes, says Nisar Hossain, it is women who look after the home and hearth and so the "Lakshmi Puja" is more related to them than the man, who, conventionally, brings in the earnings. Thus the "Lakshmi puja" takes place in the homes, rather than the "mandab", in public. Thus the worship of the goddess Lakshmi takes place at home , and is related to the " shora", where the goddess has been painted. Thus one gets the saying, "Amar ghore Lakshmi elo".
The two main styles are that of Faridpur and Dhaka.The "shoras" made by astrologers (astrologers began painting them at one time) kept the background white while that of the "Ganka shoras" are painted red with white dots and flowers. These are of two types: In one the image of Radha and Krishna are prominent. The images are profiles, with one eye. In other the images of the deities (except that of Ganesh) are done with complete images, with two eyes. The Radha-Krishna images are presented as a pair, and Lakshmi has to be painted singly at the bottom. All the images are put in a separate compartment, by drawing straight lines on both sides. The edge of the bottom is edged with black. As much more time and colour are spent for painting these "shoras", the prices go up, says Nisar Hossain.
On the upper portion trees and creepers are placed in straight lines in red on the edges. Circular lines are drawn, one after another, in red, green, black etc. As regards painting and styles, says Nisar Hussain, the "Dhakai shoras" are similar to the ones from Faridpur. The goddess Lakshmi, however are drawn on these as sitting on the "mayurpankhi". Besides some marked distinctions in the use of colour and lines. One can mark, for example, absence of green, predominance of red on the backgrounds of light red and the use of only stripes as designs. The garments of the figures painted on the Lakshmi-Saraswati or Durga "Shora" in the regions of Dhaka, and places like Nawabganj, Manikganj Dhamrai, Kashimpur etc and the adjoining regions have, at times, depicted with extra drawing of flowers, vines, or leaves.
The white "pati" or border encircles the "shora" to unify the picture. At times, the clothes are made with fine lines and dots so that they may be compared to gold ornaments. The images are more ornamental and attractive in the Durga image in the large "Lakshmi Shora". Red or pink, green or blue flowers are juxtaposed at the back. The balance in the minimised colours have tremendous appeal to the sensibilities of those that long for finesse and subtlety, says Nisar Hossain.
Beauty of Clay
Debashis Pal (Artist Debashis was born in 1971 in Netro-kona. He completed his MFA in Ceramics in 1996. This is his first solo exhibition. He won 'Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Award' in 2007. Now he is working as Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts in Dhaka University. )brings in the beauty of the countryside and its legends in the ceramic wall hangings at the ongoing(January 1-14, 2009) exhibition at Bengal Gallery. Deftly coloured with earthy hues and touches of pale blue and green, they bring out the simple sophistication of early portrayals of women, birds, flowers and the charming elements of folk art. Embellished with dots, lines and curls, they take one away to the land of damsels waiting by the window sides for their beloved ones. Sketched in figures of farmers, fishermen, folksingers in muted colours are included in the backdrop.
The painting is executed in thick and opaque colours to enhance the brightness of colours, as the white coating is not applied to the background. At times, flies are included in the background to invoke flooding which draws flies, symbolising plentitude (Fayza Haq. November 7, 2008). Entwining lilies present village beauties with elongated faces. Birds in blue and red add to the simple but artistic setting. Tiny sketched figures in brown at the bottom stress on the origin of the countryside. One portrayal faces the front while the other is a profile. The artist brings in other elements of village life like the "kula", earthen cooking pots and fish, in orange, green and black.
Circles of orange heighten the effect of portrayal of female faces. At times the sari contains little motifs of dots at the side. Catchments of green and pale blue glass hint at the existence of water in the lives of the country people in the ceramic delineation, where otherwise grays and browns have been adhered to --- and yet the scenes are far from dull or unimaginative. At times the younger woman is seen confiding to an older one. Sometimes the pining lover is seen talking to a bird, for lack of companionship. One also brings in a nursing mother, in which the long hair of the little girl forms a pattern, as does also her dress.
A "baul" has a standing woman at his side. Another entrée has a cow as the main subject with 3-D effects of the horn and tail. The "baul" at the side adds more elements of the countryside and its charms.
While Debashis is fascinated by the natural beauty of his village home, he is also stirred on to create scenes of suffering and destruction, as in the recent Sidr scene. Here he has brought in the broken down huts, stranded and hapless people and animal, looking out desperately for escape and refuge. Grays and browns also usher in the scenes of despair of 1971. Flat and 3-D images merge with one another. Fragments of curled newspapers have been included with screen-print and firing. Crustations-- in the form of scorpions and crabs-- are another subject which intrigues the artist. He has brought them in shades of turquoise blue and brown, curled up in rounded containers. Flutes and hands of herdsmen are also presented in a lyrical manner, along with decorative leaves. In this, as with all presentations, the traditional is combined with the conventional. The impact is that of a small mural.
Another such medley of creations from nature, includes an owl, a dragonfly, a handful of bird's eggs, "pitha" (traditional sweetmeat), and flowers on long stems. The items are placed on a rectangle base, with neat segments. Dots, lines and scratches add to the texture work (F. Haq, 24.01.2009).
4. Glimpse of Adivasi Cultures of Bangladesh
The Adivasis of Bangladesh demonstrate unique cultures, traditions, knowledge and much more. Their diverse cultures, languages and traditions contribute profusely to make Bangladesh a culturally rich country. Eleven indigenous communities in the southeast [Chittagong Hill Tracts; Santal, Oraon, Munda, Malo, Mahato, Koch, Rajbangshi in the north; the Garos and Hajongs in the north-central plains; Monipuri, Khasi, Patra and tea garden communities in the northeast; and Rakhaings in the coastal districts of Cox's Bazar, Barguna and Patuakhali districts have distinct features in their cultural life.
Bangladesh can surely take pride in its diverse cultural life with such distinct indigenous peoples. Their languages and cultures also enrich the language and cultural life of the majority Bengalis. The boundary of cultural life goes far beyond stage performance of dances, songs and drama. Language, knowledge, thought, belief, tradition, technology, behavior, morality, rights, festivals-all these are parts of the cultural life of a human community. Protection of cultures cannot be limited to mere efforts for the protection of dances, songs and dramas. If a community's right to land, local resources, education and practice of traditions in their own language, and use of knowledge and local technologies are not secure, efforts for protection of culture become meaningless.
The Santal and Oraon
The Santal and the Oraon are two major indigenous peoples of the North Bengal (Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Thakurgaon, Bogra and Sirajganj districts). The history and culture of these two ethnic communities, who were among the first people to populate India, is old and rich. In course of time and under pressure, many of the elements of their cultures are disappearing. They still try hard to keep their distinct cultural heritage. The cultures of these two peoples contain diverse rites and rituals.
Cultural Diversity is Our Pride
The Adivasis of Bangladesh demonstrate unique cultures. Their diverse cultures, languages and traditions contribute profusely to make Bangladesh a culturally rich country. For the past many months SEHD has facilitated interaction of different peoples and cultures. Partha Shankar Saha has been closely following these peoples of different cultures and has recorded some features of the selected peoples and their cultures. Philip Gain writes an introduction to go with his report. Sayeeda Saani has helped in the translation of Partha's report.
Some Santal Festivals
Dasai Festival and Dance:
Dasai is a Santal festival. Many tunes and dances originated from it. Dasai festival is related with the story of Ramchandra's conquering of Lanka. King Ramchandra killed Raban (ruler of Lanka) by worshipping Goddess Shrichandi. The Santals believe that Rama is their king and they are his lost subjects. King Rama will find them when they will have completed 70 graves on the top of one grave. The followers of Rama arrange this festival to seek help of Srichandi for salvation from war, epidemic, diseases, despair, etc. The Santals perform Dasai dance during the Durga Puja (a major festival of Hindus in Bangladesh and Indian State of West Bengal). Sarjom Festival and Dance:
Sarjom is a traditional Santal festival. At this festival, Santal women put fresh sal flowers in their topknots and men eagerly await the taste of the home-made alcoholic beverage. They dance for the whole night. They arrange marriage of the sal trees with the Bonbibi (goddes of forest) for the protection of the sal trees. They decorate the tree with vermilion, sari, etc. and keep dancing all night around the container of the alcoholic beverage.
Baha Festival and Dance:This is a very favorite festival of the Santals. Actually, spring festival is the Baha festival. In this festival the Santal women put wild flowers in their topknots and get deeply engaged in singing and dancing in the courtyard of the Manjhi, village head.
Bhantan:Bhantan is the funeral ceremony. There are many rules for Bhantan. The Santals believe that the deceased can not eat if they do not arrange Bhantan. He or she remains starving which brings bad luck for the family. Bhantan is arranged for good luck of the family. Songs and dances are part of the ceremony.
Sohrar Festival and dance:It is Santal's foremost festival. It is usually held at the end of the year. It is a three-day festival. The first day is named, Khuntao, second day Um and third day Gadate. In Sohrar festival, the Santals sacrifice all their crops and vegetables of the year in the name of their supreme God, Sinch Chand (Sun). On the first day, the domestic animal, bull, is tied in the worship pavilion. Then, different kinds of cakes are hanged from the bull's neck in a fine thread. On the second day, everybody takes bath after worshipping the god of water, Daku Banga. On the third day, everybody takes bath in the ocean to get rid of sin, sorrow and tiredness of the past year.
The Garo (Mandi):The Garo is one of the major ethnic communities of Bangladesh. The Garos preferred to be called Mandi, which means human being. The Mandis are concentrated in greater Tangail and Mymensingh districts. A significant percentage of them live in Modhupur sal forest. Literacy and education rate among the Mandis are high compared to the national average. A good number of them live and work in Dhaka. In Bangladesh they are estimated at about 100,000. The total number of the Mandis [in Bangladesh and India] is about 600,000; majority of whom live in the Indian State of Meghalaya. The district of this state in which they are concentrated is known as 'Garo hills' according to the Indian Government record.
The language of the Mandis of the Mongoloid race originated from the Tibeto-Burmese language family. Migration history of the Mandis to what is now Bangladesh is not very clear. The Mandis of the Modhupur think that they came to this region from the Garo hills of the Meghalaya State. Their migration happened many centuries ago. In the records of the British in the 19th century, Northern Mymensingh was marked as Mandi inhabited area.
The Mandis are unique for their matrilineal system. It does not mean that the Mandi society is female dominated. Both man and woman in Mandi society enjoy equal rights, which is absent in other ethnic groups in Bangladesh. Actually, in this social system, maternal lineage is followed. There are quite a number of clans in Mandi society. All Mandi men and women are identified according to their mother's clan. Marital relation cannot take place within the same clan. In the Mandi society women inherit property. Sangsarek is the original Mandi religion. Now a days Most of the Mandis of Bangladesh are Christians. Only a small percentage of them continue to follow the Sangsarek religion these days
Once jum (slash-and-burn) cultivation was one principal farming system in the Mandi-inhabited areas. Many of the aged Mandis of the Modhupur Tract, still remember their experience on jum cultivation. Jum is no more practiced by the Mandis of Bangladesh. The houses of the Mandis with earthen walls are very beautiful. The literacy and education rate among the Mandis in Bangladesh are much higher than the national average. Even at the end of the British regime, very few Mandi men and women used to go to school. With the expansion of education, changes occurred to the original occupation of the Mandi and their professions have also diversified.
Mandi Cultural Festivals and Dances
Greekka: It is a dance of joy, war and victory. In ancient days, the Mandis used to confront the enemy with their traditional weapons-Millam (sword), Sphi (shield); they also used these for hunting. Even now, in any worship or social gathering, Chra (leader of the clan), expresses his joy, gratitude and pain through this Greekka dance. Bisa Dim Dima (to make a child sleep): Mother makes her restless child sleep by taking him or her in her lap or back and by singing or telling stories. Mothers arouse the heroism within the child by narrating heroic deeds of the race through these songs and stories. Summary of a Bisa Dim Dima song is like this-O my boy, do not be naughty, sleep quietly.
If the Gnal (enemy) comes to know you are still awake, he will take you away.
You will kill even the lion, eagle
when they will come to attack you.
A. Ba. Cha a (jum dance): Once, jum cultivation was the traditional farming system of the Mandis. Mandi men and women use to work on the jum plots in groups. The present modern agricultural equipments were absent in those days. Only chopper, spade, axe, hoe and thin sticks were used as agricultural tools. Generally they could complete the jum cultivation with these simple tools. This dance depicts how they used to clear the jungle and carry out jumming. Nomil Roa (gathering of young girls): The young heart of teen-age girls is full of joy and restlessness. They share their joy with each others in groups or individually. Nomil Roya is a dance performed by young girls to show joy and feelings. Wangala Festival:Wangala is the biggest and most colorful of all the traditional festivals of the Mandis. It is a thanksgiving festival after the harvest of crops that normally takes place in the months of October-November. Traditional Wangala festival may continue for one week and in individual houses. But nowadays, big Wangala festivals are arranged in missions of different Churches. One can see influence of Christianity in such Wangala festivals. The Mandis living in Dhaka also arrange colorful Wangala festivals.
The Mandis perform various rituals, songs and dances at Wangala. Some of them are, Gori Rua, Greekka, Bisa Dim Dima, Na. Wal Dekka, Dokrusua, A. Ba. Cha, Serenjing, Dellang Mangpina, Rere, An Ding Salla, Sasat Soa, Wanthi Khoka, Gure Wata and Dama Gogato. All these rituals and items have different meanings. All of these rituals and items are related to the life and culture of the Mandis. During this festival, the Mandi villages decorated with new adornment. All of them prepare good foods. Locally brewed rice bear flows freely during the festival. Wangala is not only a festival but also an event of reunion. Relatives, friends, neighbors and visitors come together through this ceremony.
Some Festivals of the Oraon
Fagua Festival: Bengali Falgun (February-March) month is the first month of the Oraon calendar. Summer starts on from this month. Fagua festival is celebrated on the last day of the Falgun month. In the night of this day they set branches of different trees on the ground and hang some hay in these branches; then they set fire on the hay. The Oraons think that this festival symbolizes the death of mother earth. Sarhul Festival: This ceremony is celebrated in the Bengali month of Chaitra (March-April). The Oraon arrange this (spring) festival in case of rain or intense drought. In Chaitra, if there is a desire of rain, pitchers filled with water, are kept in the village heads' houses. As the Oraon girls come dancing to these houses, the water is poured in them. The Oraons believe that this act will bring the rains. If more rain is desired, Pahan (the village head) and his wife sit beside each other and vermilion is smeared on their forehead. This is a symbolic marriage of earth and sky. Then water is poured on their head and the villagers cry out by saying, barso barso meaning let there be rain so that the land becomes fertile and produces huge quantity of crops. Karam Festival: Karam is a major festival of the Oraons. This festival is held in the Bengali month of Bhadra (July-August). To celebrate this festival, the Oraon cut a branch of a Karam tree and set it on the ground. Then they worship it with songs and dances. The Oraons believe that the Karam tree is equal to the protector. They believe that in the past when they were driven by the Arayans, this Karam tree gave them refuge. From then on, out of gratitude, they celebrate this Karam festival. This festival brings the Oraon together. Sohrai Festival: This festival is celebrated on the day of the new moon in the Bengali month of Kartik. This occasion is held on the day of Diwali, a festival of the Hindus. On the day of this festival, the domestic animals (believed to be gifts of God Dharmesh)-cows, buffalos, goats, lambs, which help in cultivation are given baths and smeared with vermilion and oil. The tools used in agriculture are also cleaned and smeared with vermilion. The animals are served a lunch of rice mixed with Maskalai, a kind of pulse. The family members share the same food for lunch. Cowshed is thoroughly cleaned. The Oraon are primarily agriculturists. The festival is arranged to express thanks and gratitude to the artefacts used in agriculture.
Adivasis belonging to different corners of Bangladesh are disadvantaged and marginal peoples today. In many instances, they have lost their identities and languages. This has severe consequences in their social, political, economic and cultural life. They have become defenseless, excluded and are compelled to assimilate in many instances. It is a tough struggle to provide political protection to the Adivasi life and culture. While State attention and policy are much needed for the protection of the Adivasis, increased human communication of the cultural majority with these cultural minorities is imperative. If the common masses have greater understanding of the Adivasi cultural diversity, they can play a role in influencing the state attention in the favor of the Adivasis. With this in mind the Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD) that has been working closely with the indigenous communities has initiated a programme (from April 2004) for the promotion of the cultural diversity of the indigenous communities of Bangladesh. The programme is intended to facilitate (i) interaction and solidarity among peoples of different cultures, (ii) sharing of life and cultural experiences between the cultural majority and ethnic minority communities, and (iii) creation of positive impression about the cultural world of the indigenous communities among the members of the cultural majority in particular.
From history we learn that the 'Meities', early inhabitants of Manipur, performed certain ritualistic dances characterized by repetitive but disciplined movements to invoke the deity. The 'maibas', 'lai haroba' and the 'khamba thoibi' were a part of their repertoire. However, during the 17th century the advent of Hinduism, specifically Vaishnavism, brought about an evolution of a distinct dance form which shows mutual interaction between the earlier ritualistic dances and the Vaishnava 'bhakti' cult. The present form of the Manipuri dance is said to have evolved during the reign of Maharaja Bhagyachandra during 1964-1789.
Jawaharlal Nehru once said, "The world would be more peaceful if people were to desist from imposing their ways of living on other people and countries." Tolerating and celebrating difference is the key to a successful and prosperous culture. Diversity only enriches us.
Thousands of years before the Bangali nation existed in the domain we now call our motherland, the Santals and Bheems inhabited this land. They are the indigenous people of this land. The Adivasis of Bangladesh demonstrate an array of unique cultures, traditions and much more. Their diverse languages and cultural heritage enrich the collective culture of Bangladesh. Eleven indigenous communities in the southeast; Santal, Oraon, Munda, Malo, Mahato, Koch, Rajbangshi in the north; the Garos and Hajongs in the north-central plains; Monipuri, Khasi, Patra and tea garden communities in the northeast; Rakhaings in the coastal districts of Cox's Bazar, Barguna and Patuakhali districts have distinct features in their cultural life.Manipuri is a living force in this land of verdant hills and flowing landscapes. Every occasion worth celebrating merits a Manipuri performance be it a birth, a marriage, or any such festivity. In Manipur it is rare to see anyone without the knowledge of dance and music. Royalty, too, have been known to mingle with the commoners on the 'mandapa' or stage as a mark of their proficiency in the aesthetic arts.
The first impression that one gets after viewing a Manipuri performance is the personification of power contained. Underlying the inherent fluidity and excruciating grace of the performance is the impression of control and restrain excercised by the performer. This characteristic of ease and fluidity contrasts distinctively from the precision and terse clarity of the South Indian style but in no way negates a high degree of technicality.
The 'cholams', one of the three aspects of tandava dance, comprise a major portion of a Manipuri repertoire. Sri Chaitanya, a leading exponent of the Bhakti cult, popularised the 'kirtanas' or devotional songs performed en masse, as a mark or spiritual devotion. 'Cholams' are an extension of this ritual of 'Sankirtan' where the devotee in an excess of emotion embarks on dance. The 'cholams' are performed in groups and instruments like the 'karatali' and 'poong', used as accompaniments during 'kirtana', are incorporated within the dance. The ritual dances of the Shaivite period have, also, survived and are very much a part of the repertoire. Strictly speaking these dances are on the margin of classical and folk dances. They are invariably performed in groups and are known to the community at large.
It is only when we come to the 'Raas' that we encounter the richness and classicism of both 'nritya' and 'abhinaya' in the Manipuri style. As per the 'Natyashastra', the 'Raas' is a drama performed on a circular stage.
There are three main varieties of 'Raas Lila' prevalent today in Manipur.
'Basanta Raas' performed on the full moon day of Chaitra (Bengali month) represents the amorous scenes of th eromance of Krishna and Radha.
'Kunja Raas' performed during Dasara depicts the dance in an arbour made of leaves where the daily meetings of the divine lovers Radha and Krishna are enacted.
'Maha Raas' performed on the full moon day of Kartik (Bengali month - November) is the very romantic story Krishna as a lover- be it with the Gopis or with Radha.
Despite the separation from their motherland, they never parted with their religion, culture and heritage. Defying the regional influence, they always maintained the practice of their traditional rites, their own religion and culture. Evidence of this is the Raash Festival, which has been observed from generation to generation by the Monipuri people every year. The magnificence and solemnity that the attire, the presentation and even the stage decorations of the Raashleela festival possess are seldom or even nowhere seen in any of our cultural presentations. Despite being the religious and cultural representation of the common people, the Raash Festival is often mistaken as being a royal ceremony. In reality although the festival had its origin in the royal court, the common people spontaneously accepted it as their own.
Raas Mela (Festival)
Mostly celebrated by the Bishnupriya group of Manipuri community of Bangladesh, Rash Purnima is held on the day of full moon in the Bangla month of Kartik (late Autumn). In the afternoon the festival begins with a dance depicting Lord Krishna's notorious young life. Children dress up as Krishna and perform in front of hundreds of devotees. In the evening begins Rash Nritya, a Manipuri style dance performed by young girls wearing traditional Manipuri garbs.
Thousands of people congregated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal at Kuakata beach to attend the 3-day-long Raas Mela, a religious fair that started on November 25, 2004. Ranjit Karmakar, the president of the Kuakata Raas Ujjapan Committee, said that already about 50,000 people including tourists and devotees from all over the country and abroad has arrived in Kuakata (S. Bangladesh).
The two hundred year old Raas Mela (fair) is arranged in accordance with the Raas Purnima Utsav (full moon festival) and the number of attendants will exceed one lakh on the closing day, he added. Seven pairs of joint statue (jugol protima) of goddess Radha and God Krishna were established at the side of the Kuakata Buddha Bihar. Arati (dance devoted to the god and goddess), recitations from the Bhagavat Gita and other holy books of Hindu religion, songs of Padaboli Kirtan, religious and philosophical discussion on the life and activities of the God Sree Krishna, Raas Puja (worship), Punnaya Snayan (holy bath) in the sea at the time of sun rise and setting and other religious functions would be observed with great enthusiasms, proper religious merit and honor during this three days long festival (Bangladesh Observer, November 27, 2004).
The Rabindra Nritya Dhaka & ManipurDeeply moved by the Raas Lila during his visit to Manipur in 1917, Rabindranath Tagore is credited with introducing this enchnting style of dance to the other parts of the world. Renowned teachers were invited to teach this dance form in tagore's idylic institute in Shantiniketan. Furthermore, Tagore borrowed elements liberally from this dance to mould his own dance-dramas like Chitrangada, Chandalika and Shapmochan. The softness and grace that form a characteristic feature of Tagore's own style and rightly attributed to the Manipuri elements incorporated in the dramas.
(Sharmila Bandyopadhyay,Nov. 8, 2003).
5.Aborigines celebrate 'Karam Puja'
With a view to starting the festival the 'Thakur' (priest) along with some of the members of their community went to Jonepur, some two kilometres away from Natshal, to cut a branch of Karam or Kadamba tree. There they lighted an earthen lamp (Pradip) and offered worship at the foot of the tree. Then one of them climbed the tree and cut a branch of it. They returned to Natshal, one of the venues of the festival with that branch of the Karam tree and planted it.
The aborigine men and women passed the whole night by singing and dancing surrounding the branch of the 'Karam' with 'Madal' and 'Karatal'. In the morning, they sank the branch in a nearby pond. This was the main ritual the aborigines had long been performing. But there is a story that they believe to be the cause of introduction of Karam Puja.
The aborigines, who live mainly on agriculture, believe that to get proper benefit from agriculture they must worship the branch of Karma (Kadamba) in the name of the 'Karma God'.The story that they believe is like this : Karma and Dharam were two brothers. Karma worked hard but Dharma did not work. He only worshipped a branch of a tree.
At this, being very angry Karma once threw away the branch which fell on an island across seven seas and thirteen rivers. Karma began to suffer for his neglect of the Kadamba branch and found no more success in agriculture. Karma realised his guilt and after toiling too much took back the branch and started worshipping it. At this he regained his success in agriculture. From that moment 'Dal Puja' or 'Karam festival' came in culture of the aborigines.
Karam festival was actually the festival of the 'Orao' tribe who used to celebrate the festival at their respective areas. Jatiya Adibasi Parishad and Adibashi Sangskritik Parishad jointly started celebrating the festival about eight years ago at Natshal field on the next day of the main ritual. Now it has become a great communion of all the aborigines like Orao, Santal, Munda, Mahato and Raichatri.
Sounds of 'dhol' and clapping of the aborigine men, women, old, young and children create a dancing excitement in the blood of all gathered there. But it was closely observed that a section of political personalities have spread their claws to take the minority group under their control. They make the total arrangement of the festival at Natshal field from background although they do not belong to that community (The Independent, September 4, 2004).
65. Garaiya Dance - unique culture of the Tripura
As the third biggest tribal group in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the unique culture of the Tripura stands out among the other tribes with its legendary dances, songs and folklore. The 'Bottle Dance' and the "Garaiya Dance" are most popular among the folk dances that are steeped in the rich cultural heritage of the people of Tripura.
The main attraction of Baisyu festival, the Garaiya dance, which goes on for three to seven days, has recently seen participation of women along with the traditional male dancers. The Garaiya god, often associated with Shiva as symbols of the Sky God, enjoys two pujas at his temple at the beginning and end of the Garaiya dance, which also starts and ends at the same house. The agri-based Tripura society dances in between the two pujas in their prayer for rain, protection of the Jum crops from evil and keep them safe from harm.
The Tripura tribe has come to hold the belief that if they pray to the goddess Gauri, who is locally known as Gauraiya, she will send down the rains in return during the month of Chaitra (Bengali month) in the Bengali year. The ritual is conducted by a priest, the 22 rhythms and changes of pace of the Garaiya dance describes the journey of life and afterlife from birth through the 22 gestures or mudras, such as conquering front yards, planting Jum, calling women, and dancing like deers (Arunendu Tripura , August 15, 2004).
7. Chaitra Shankranti Puja
The Kochs are believed to be the oldest and original inhabitants of the Bhawal forests. However, over the last few decades, they have become a minority in their own land, thanks to continuous Bangalee migration to the region. These indigenous people strive hard to keep alive their own ancient traditions of festivals, dances and rituals. Saying goes that the Kochs have 13 festivals a year. These festivals are Kal Baishakhi, Kali Puja, Kamakkha Puja, Poddo Puja, Maddhop Puja, Durga Puja, Roth Mela, Kartik Puja, Ganesh Puja, Bura-Buri Puja, Saraswati Puja, Chaitra Shankranti Puja and Chaitra Shankranti Mela. The Kochs believe that observing these festivals and rituals bring them closer to God. Chaitra Shankranti Puja .
The Kochs celebrate Chaitra Shankranti by devoutly offering a puja to their god Mohadev. Legend goes that Mohadev used to live in isolated places such as graveyards and forests. Fond of drinking wine, he was disliked by everyone. When his wife Gouri died, he lost his mental balance and became homeless with the burnt ashes of Gouri. Hindu people celebrate the occasion of Mohadev's tour to Gouri's house. This event occurred in Chaitra, the last month of the Bangla calendar, and thus the Hindus offer pujas in the course of this month. The symbol of Mohadev is trishul and Gouri is pat (a wooden sculpture).
The preparation for the festival begins a week before the arrival of Baishakh. The puja begins with the bathing ceremony of the pat on the first night of the festival, which is called patsnan. Ganga puja, Delghora, Purnago Pat puja, Phuljol puja, Bhikhkhamaga, Pater shesh puja, Bahirbhog puja follow and continue till two nights before the 1st of Baishakh. The monks go to every house to collect bhog (sacred food) during Delghora, the word "del" meaning house. Mohadev goes to the house of his father-in-law and takes a meal. To depict this, the Koch people make someone the father-in-law of Mohadev and go to his house and offer a Purnago pat puja with flower, banana, rice and incense. People partake of a special bhog. All the monks then get back to Mohadev's house with the images of Mohadev and Gouri at night. The priests prepare for the sacred rituals while a person, known as Maktoma, recites the mantra. Not all the priests but only two or three chosen ones believed to bring good luck offer the pujas.
Chaitra Shankranti is one of the biggest festivals of the Kochs that bids farewell to the Bangla year. The Koch people gather at a huge fair on the Bahadurpur Primary School field. The fair sells sweets of different kinds--batasha, naru, mowa, kodma etc. Apart from food items, earthen dolls, money banks, pots and pans are also found in the fair that attract the children. About 1,56,000 Kochs lived in Bangladesh once. Now, they are mostly settled in Dhaka, Bogra, Rajshahi and Rangpur. These indigenous people have adopted so much of the Bangalee culture that their own culture is running the risk of being extinct (Tanveen Zaman & Khaled, 2005).
7.1 Garo Festival Wangala
In its original incarnation, Wanna, Wangala, or Drua Wanbola, as it was traditionally called, was a time for Garos to take a break from the hardships of daily life and rejoice in the prosperity of a new harvest. The abundance of the season was inspiration to wear new clothes and parade in village processions, dance to the beat of drums and sing thanks to the gods. It was an occasion for youth to choose their partners, for elders to preside over rituals and for everyone to dance, drink and be merry.
Up until two years ago, however, there was little evidence of such celebration. The systematic breakup of Garo traditions through religious conversion, land grabbing, and the pressures of modern life fractured the community and threatened to render extinct the most important festival of the Garos. The few communities that remained intact had become too impoverished over the years to organise a harvest festival with the pomp and magnitude of its pre-20th century heyday.
Realising the loss, a group of modern Garos took the matter into their own hands and in December of 2003, revived the tradition in their hometown Askipara district of Mymensingh after a 100-year hiatus that began with the mass conversion of Garos to Christianity. The second Wangala celebrated this past December was a testament to the steady progress and the growing strength of the Garo community.
The ceremony began with the burning of incense to show respect and pray for the return of the Mother Goddess, whose grace is believed to bring a good yield.
As the event was designed to educate the next generation of Garos, a group of young children displayed the indigenous agricultural process of jhum cultivation. Symbolic dance movements depicted the slash and burn method of clearing forest land and then the planting of seeds. Young boys came out on stage yielding makeshift swords and shields in a vigourous dance to frighten the evil spirits and protect their growing crops. These performances, which are part of the Sangshareq religion, aim to appease spirits through oblations and to ward off ghosts and demons by frightening them away. At the end of the dance, the dancers, both girls and boys depicted the picking and gathering of crops, making way for festivities to begin.
A main element in traditional festivities is flirtation among the youth. In a special performance, inviting humour from the audience, children depicted young men and women selecting their partners. Through dance, each boy struggled to get past a stubborn dancing drummer in a 'battle of drums' to 'gain access' to the group of young women. (In the matriarchal Garo society, the husband goes to the wife's house after marriage, but these days many Garos have assimilated to the mainstream Bengali tradition of practicing the reverse custom.)
The people of North East India and hilly areas of Bangladesh represent a fascinating variety of cultures. Jhum plays an important cultural role in local customs, traditions, and practices, besides offering economic security to farmers. It would be unfortunate if developmental programmes based on misguided opinions about jhum suppress this unique form of agriculture. Only occupations providing monetary and social benefits perceived by jhumias to outweigh the cultural and security benefits embodied by jhum are likely to gain acceptance. A balanced approach to development that also recognises the merits of jhum is needed. Then, this remarkable form of organic farming may persist into the 21st century.
Jhum as commonly practised by indigenous tribes in North East India. This 'primitive' form of agriculture, according to supporters of "deforestation":
resulted in serious environmental problems: loss of forest cover, erosion of topsoil, desertification, and declines in forest productivity.
Others have also decried jhum as an inefficient form of agriculture, an impediment to progress of forestry, and an agent of destruction of biodiversity. Such beliefs have been widespread since British times, and have even resulted in forcible suppression of the practice, oppression and relocation of tribals in Central India and other hill regions.
Rapid demographic and social changes have occurred in many tribal societies of North East India. The environmental impacts of jhum cultivation and its role in people's lives have concurrently changed. The conversion of over 80% of the population to Christianity in less than a century (1894-1994) has dislodged the significant role of superstition and mystique in peoples' relationship with their natural environment. A large majority of peoples is tribal and dependent on jhum for its subsistence and livelihood.
Advantage of Jhum Cultivation:
In contrast, studies by ethnologists have tended to view shifting cultivation favourably. It is considered a diversified system, well adapted to local conditions in moist forest and hilly tracts.Others have argued that traditional shifting cultivation may not be as destructive as modern forest exploitation for timber. Clearance of small patches of forest with long fallow periods may even enhance biodiversity in the landscape due to the creation of a variety of habitats. Amidst such contrasting views, there is a clear need for reliable empirical and scientific data on the nature and ecological impact of jhum.
Jhum cultivation usually involves cutting of second-growth bamboo forests. Since old growth or primary forest is less extensively available and is more difficult to clear, they are cultivated infrequently. The clearing work usually begins in January-February. The slashed vegetation is allowed to dry on the hill slopes for 1-2 months prior to burning in March-April. Crops are sown with the first rains in April in plots that are 1-4 ha in area. Usually, inter-cropping of one or more paddy varieties with 15-20 other crops (vegetables, maize, chillies, gourds, cotton, arum, and mustard) is carried out.
Studies showed that, far from being primitive and inefficient, jhum is an ingenious system of organic multiple cropping well suited to the heavy rainfall areas of the hill tracts. The economic and energetic efficiency of jhum is higher than alternative forms of agriculture such as terrace and valley cultivation. This is mainly because terrace and valley cultivation needs expensive external input such as fertilisers (which often get leached or lost in the heavy rainfall hill slopes) and pesticides, besides labour for terracing.
The superiority of jhum cultivation over some forms of sedentary cultivation partly explains the persistence of this form of agriculture in North East India. Other reasons include the economic security provided by jhum and its cultural importance to indigenous tribes. Poor access to markets, capital, and technical knowhow of more commercially rewarding alternatives such as horticulture and cash crop cultivation also hinders the transition to other occupations. Clearly, one cannot do away with jhum assuming it to be a primitive and inefficient system, as attempted in governmental jhum control programmes and new land use policies. Instead, an unbiased understanding of the advantages of jhum is required for proper design and implementation of developmental programmes.
Erosion of valuable topsoil in the hills due to jhum has been alleged to cause siltation and floods in the plains. Singh has reviewed studies carried out by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research that compared soil erosion from jhum fields with other forms of cultivation on terraces and contour bunds. These studies show that jhum fields cultivated for a single year and abandoned (the most common practice) have less erosive losses of soil than the other forms of settled cultivation.
Soil erosion is minimised in jhum due to the retaining of rootstocks of bamboo and trees in burned plots, the rapid recovery of weeds and bamboo following abandonment, and the interspersion of forests and fields on hill slopes. The evidence for siltation of rivers and floods because of soil erosion due to jhum is weak and possibly untenable. Other factors, such as large scale logging for timber extraction, may be responsible to a greater extent for the deforestation and environmental problems in North East India.
P.D. Stracey, 1967, 'A note on Nagaland', Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 64: 440-446.
D. Borah and N.R. Goswami, 1973, A comparative study of crop production under shifting and terrace cultivation (a case study in the Garo hills, Meghalaya). Ad hoc Study 35, Agro-economic Research Centre for North East India, Jorhat; A.P. Dwivedi, 1993, Forests: the ecological ramifications. Natraj Publishers, Dehradun;
R.R. Rao and P.K. Hajra, 1986, 'Floristic diversity of the eastern Himalaya in a conservation perspective', Proceedings of the Indian Academy of Sciences (Animal Sciences/Plant Science Supplement) November: 103-125.
C. von Fürer-Haimendorf, 1982, Tribes of India: the struggle for survival. Oxford University Press, Delhi;
M. Gadgil, and R. Guha, 1992, This Fissured Land: an ecological history of India. Oxford University Press, Delhi.
H. Conklin, 1969, An ethnoecological approach to shifting agriculture, pp. 221-233, in A.P. Vayda (ed),
Environment and Cultural Behaviour. Academic Press, New York; O. Horst, 1989, 'The persistence of milpa agriculture in highland Guatemala', Journal of Cultural Geography 9: 13-29;
M.J. Eden, 1987, 'Traditional shifting cultivation and the tropical forest system', Trends in Ecology and Evolution 2: 340-343;
R. Guha, 1994, Fighting for the Forest: state forestry and social change in tribal India, pp. 20-37, in O. Mendelsohn and U. Baxi (eds), The Rights of Subordinated Peoples. Oxford University Press, Delhi.
M. Gadgil and R. Guha, 1992, op. cit. P.S. Ramakrishnan, 1992, Shifting Agriculture and Sustainable Development: an interdisciplinary study from north-eastern India. MAB Series, Volume 10, UNESCO, Paris.
8. Rong Chu Gala festival
The Pirgachha village of Modhupur thana is situated in the Tangail district. The Mandi community, widely known as the Garos, primarily inhabit this locality. Throughout the months of Bhadra and Ashwin (Autumn) the air around the villages of Modhupur is filled with the sounds of the Aduri, a traditional trumpet of the Mandis, made from an ox's horn. The Aduri is usually played during the festivals. Like any other autumn, the sounds of the Aduri vibrated in the air of Modhupur announcing the Rong Chu Gala festival. Mandis celebrate the Rong Chu Gala festival right after the sowing of the Aman rice. They worship Shaljong (the sun god), asking for his blessings for a good harvest.
During the festival, everyone gathers at the house of the village chief. The festival starts at his house after the sowing is completed. The chief along with his team of dancers go from house to house and perform the War Dance. In every house the head of the family and elderly members of the clan join the dance. The War Dance is a group dance with wooden swords and shields. The women folk usually have a reunion during this festival. In every house they have a rice wine called Chu. It is a custom to share the wine with the members of the family and to offer every visitor a glass.
Important event of the Rong Chu Gala festiva issymbolic offering to the dead. Every family offers a token amount of paddy as yearly ration to the departed members. They believe the dead need food too. A memorial is built in the backyard. Every dead member of the family gets a Khimma, a curved wooden pole fixed on the ground symbolising deceased elderly relatives.
Dancers were sitting in the round shaped yard playing Aduri along with other instruments like the Dama and Natup ,both traditional drums. They say that the Dama is the mother drum and the Natup, a little drum of a similar shape, is the baby. The rice wine Chu was kept in one corner. Every adult member of the homestead was sipping from his or her own glass.Around the Khimma they hang paddy on bamboo poles. This freshly picked paddy is a token amount of the yearly ration. Rounds of Chu are also a part of this occasion.
Today like every other indigenous community living in Bangladesh, the Mandis too are gradually altering their lifestyles, trying to fit in with the fast changing world. The majority of the Mandis being Christians, festivals like Rong Chu Gala is losing its touch. Many families do not celebrate the occasion anymore. Yet many still join in the celebration, praying to the sun god, hoping for a good harvest. The singing and dancing continues until the last house of the village is visited. Rong Chu Gala ends at the house of the chief, from where it had all started (Shahnaz Parveen, 21 Sept. 2005).
Lyrics from Rivers
A 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 (Jasim Uddin, "Murshida Gaan", Dhaka, 1977)."
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.
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..." ?
Ratargul: The forest for Hansel and Gretel
Inam Ahmed describes (July 15, 2008):
We were in the rain country and it was wet, wet, wet all around. We could feel the wetness through to our bones. And it was unbelievably green. It seemed we were floating on a green soup. In a surreal atmosphere.
We were heading towards Jaflong and a black rain cloud hung low over us, swirling slowly, and then it started pouring. Our car windshield got blurred and the wiper worked overtime to make visibility clear. The empty asphalt road ran through a marshy land. Nothing grows here, we could see. Rain had lifted long reeds in clumps and in the strange low light they looked like the scenes of Ingrid Bergman's black and white movies. The silver water simmered dull and bluish in the diffused afternoon light. Frogs croaked.
We felt desolated. We felt somehow hollow inside. We felt somehow anguished and embattled. Against life and civilisation. Against existence and trivialities. Of promises and broken notes. But then we stopped the car to bathe in the strange greenish sunlight that gently wrapped us around. We felt that we were immersing in a sea and our vision was getting murkier and murkier. We felt the gentle sweep of the palm trees. As if even the trees had been feeling that unexplained gloom.
Further on, the Jointa hills came into view. And they became bigger and bigger until it seemed we could just reach out and touch them. The undiluted hills looked blue under a thin veil of cloud, their tops invisible behind black ominous clouds. The hill range stretched as far as the eyes went. The clouds were flying in, in packs, and gliding over us. They mingled with the ridges before finally crossing over to cause more rains in Shilong and Cherapunji. No wonder, they are the wettest places on earth.
We followed a narrow canal into the Ratargul swamp forest and were immediately sucked into a sinister looking wonder. We had never seen anything like this before -- all around us are Karach trees and some occasional Hijal and Borun trees. And they were all partly submerged in a huge basin of water. Some were just visible above the surface. Others were submerged half their trunks.
The canal became narrower and narrower and we had to stop our engine boat and get on to a paddleboat. It was a narrow thing; we could hardly fit into it with efforts. And any movement proved to be dangerous as the boat jogged perilously. With the stroke of the paddle the boat progressed swiftly across the still water.
We left the canal and ventured into the forest. We had to be extra cautious this time as the serpentine trunks and branches blocked our passage at every corner. It was a strange place -- the shaded sunlight, the tree trunks and the serenity makes you feel that you are in a village woodlot where children would appear anytime to play with spins or marbles any time. But then you know this is not to happen. No children will ever play here; only water will lap, and crabs and snakes will slither across the water.
8.2 Festivities in the hills
Winter festival is now the only carrier of fading cultural heritage of one of the world's most ancient communities, known as Mros, in the southeastern part of Bandarban. Trekking up the hills, one would be surprised to find the Mros inhabiting the most remote pockets of land, small hills or sometimes near streams. Chiyachot, a winter festival celebrated with the slaughter of cows and dance, has been a religious practice of the Mros. The Mros believe that God created different religions for different societies, and the responsibility to bring their religion was given to a cow. They believe the cow exhausted from a long journey, became hungry and ate their holy book. Therefore the cow must be punished in the most cruel manner, hence the tradition of cow slaughter began after an order from their leader.
THOSE living in other parts of the country also hold on to their traditions and customs that date back hundreds of years. Garos in Mymensingh celebrate one of their biggest festivals called Wanna, a thanksgiving event to their God in Winter through much pomp and festivities. Hundreds of Garos from the nearby areas join the celebrations.
While the Bangalees prepare for Pahela Boishakh, the tribal community of the Chittagong Hill Tracts get ready for Baishabi, a festival unique to the people and their land. The population living in the hill tracts mainly comprise of the Chakma, Marma, Tanchanga and Tripura people. Each tribe celebrate the New Year in their distinctive ethnic style. Tripura's celebrate Baishu, Marma's observe the Shangraing, Tanchanga's call it the Bishu and to the Chamka the celebration is termed Bijhu. The indigenous people of Bangladesh have been continuing with their distinct tradition, no matter how strong the outside influence was. These festivals are not restricted to only a few of the tribes, with the change of time, people belonging to marginal tribes like Rakhaines also celebrate the festival in a similar way.
Cultural and Social Life of the Hill People
Dance and music play a vital role in the religious, cultural and social life of the hill people. The stage performances of the dance and music created an opportunity for the city dwellers to enjoy and learn about the cultural diversity and richness of the indigenous communities. Artistes from Marma, Mru, Bawm, Khyang and Tanchangya communities presented their traditional dances at the programme.
The event showcased the varied styles of traditional dances within the multicultural space of Bandarban. The programme began with a "candle dance", a ritualistic tradition of the Marmas seeking blessings. Tanchangya dancers performed Jum dance centring the agricultural practices in the community. Bawm dancers performed Shiakidong (horn) dance. This is a ritualistic dance performed all through the night to drive away the evil spirits.
Marma dancers performed a "fan dance". It is performed during Sangrai, the Marma New Year. On the occasion, young men and women participate in a daylong water-game. The artistes also performed the dance that is a part of this water festival.
Tanchangya dancers depicted different activities of their social life in the Jibondhara dance. Chhiachhat Ply or "cow killing dance" was performed by Mru dancers. In Marma communities "plate dance" has become very popular as part of their wedding traditions. Dancers balancing plates on thumbs mesmerised the audience. Popular Tripuri "bottle dance" was performed placing bottles on the head. The show ended with Rogha Lang (bamboo dance) by Bawm dancers. "Bamboo dance" is performed in honour of the deceased.
The dance performances were mingled with rendition of songs. Popular Marma song of "full moon festival", a religious Bawm song, a patriotic Khyang song by indigenous artistes as well as Bangla songs performed by Saw Thue Prue delighted the audience.
9. Jatra, the traditional open-air folk opera of Bangladesh
Jatra is known to have commenced in the 16th century. Especially in Chaitanyabhagavad (1548), Brindavan Das describes the dramatic performance of Sri Chaitanya in the role of Rukmini in the Krishnai Jatra. 'Beginning of a journey' is the literal meaning of the Bangla word jatra. This performing art is a form of folk drama combining acting, songs, music and dance. It is characterised by stylised delivery and exaggerated gestures and oration.
The older palas were purely based on mythology and history. Now social palas are also performed. 'Especially during the period of mass uprising in 1969 and Liberation War in 1971, striking changes in the scripts of jatra were seen. Palas were staged to create awareness of this movement among the rural denizens,'
'To stage the jatra was not as hard as it is today. Before the Liberation War, jatra was an unparalleled medium of entertainment for the rural people. Those were the good old days when people from all walks of life, including, the educated people formed the audience. This was also the time when jatras were staged for social reforms by aiding the schools, colleges and clubs.
Jatra peaked in the period from 1947 to 1971 when 22 jatra troupes were established. Tracing the history of jatra in the country, Milon says 'At that point of time, most of the jatra groups dwelled at Brahmanbaria. Joydurga Opera (1947), Volanath Opera (1955) and Vagyalokkhi Opera (1960) of Brahmanbaria, Raycompany Jatraparty (1949) Bashanti Muktomancha Natyaprotishthan (1954) of Gopalgang, Babul Opera (1958) of Chittagong , Bulbul Opera (1967) of Mymensingh, New Bashanti Opera of Faridpur (1968) and Dipali Opera (1969) of Gopalgang were some of the noteworthy groups of this period. Babul Opera revolutionised jatra by casting women artistes in this art form for the first time in our country.
This was the era when artistes such as Amalendu Biswas, Tusher Dasgupta, Manjusri Mukherji, Jotsna Biswas and Jahanara Begum appeared in the field of jatra. At this stage, the audience got a glimpse of the first ever Muslim female artiste Jahanara Begum.
Jatra, the traditional open-air folk opera of Bangladesh, is an integral part of folk life. There are about 210 registered Jatra Groups but every year only 50 become active. This is the only source of income for almost 4000 people, and as such around 2,00,000 people depend on Jatra. But is now going to disapper due to protest of radical religious groups and introduction of western culture through modern communication system.
The main attraction of Jatra, a loud and vigorous form of art, is the orchestra and body movements. Music and dance -- the very essence of Jatra, has gone through marked changes down the years. Dance has taken over and has now become Jatra's charm. This change has thrown aside the talent and skill of the Jatra artists. In a sense, Jatra has lost its characteristic flavour.
The entire scenario is that Bengali art is losing its glory with the introduction of other forms of modern art. If local art is not protected, Jatra artists will have to soon look at other ways to earn their living. It is high time the public should think of preserving, at any cost, the originality of Jatra.
Today, many of us are ignorant of Gazir Gaan, Gazir Yatra, Gazir Pat, Puthi Pat, Kiccha-Kahini jari and so on and on. Saymon Zakaria has been travelling to different parts of Bangladesh to find out and let others know of what remains of the indigenous cultural performances, which still survive like the flickering light of a burnt away candle.
Jatra Mother of the theatre art
Niranjan Adhikary, professor, Department of Sanskrit, Dhaka University, and a veteran Jatra artiste, said that Jatra has played a vital role in forming traditional theatre art of Bengal. In early times there was a rite in which people used to wear masks representing Shiva and Parvati. They used to travel from one place to another. Sometimes they used to act in front of a temple or at an open space or beside a street. From this the term 'Jatra' (Journey) came.
It later evolved to Nana-Nati (grandfather-grandson) form, where the grandson asks questions to his grandfather, saying 'Nana he'. It is called Gombhira in the northern region, said Prof Niranjan. In the next stage the dialogues were formed on rhymes and songs. It was called Sri Krishna Kirtan in the Sultani period. It had three roles -- Radha, Krishna and an old matron who used to escort Radha when she was out. It was a bit more descriptive than before.
In later periods musical drama groups like the leto evolved where poet Kazi Nazrul Islam used to perform in his teens, said Prof Niranjan. Gradually prose replaced songs and Jatra characters and dialogues evolved.
Prof Niranjan thinks the British period was the golden age of Jatra. A subjective change arrived during the period. Previously it was based on myths but then it started to address social and political crises. It played a strong role in Swadeshi movement. "Jatra is like the root of the traditional Bengali theatre. At the beginning of modern theatre in Bengal there was a trend to follow the style of European theatre and proscenium stage where audience sits on one side,” said Prof Niranjan. “
In recent times we have seen that modern theatre artistes are after the root of traditional Jatra form and some of them are working in arena stage like Jatra where audience sits on three sides,” he added. “Jatra can move side by side the modern theatre. We should not shun it because of its primitiveness but admire it for the same. We should be careful so that we do not lose this root. It will have to stand on its own feet. Its style of presentation, staging strategies are different,” said Adhikari.
Saymon Zakaria, manuscript editor, Folklore Department, Bangla Academy, and a researcher of rural theatre said that one of the characteristics of Jatra is to elongate the words of the dialogues and highlight body language and parts of dialogues. It happens because Jatra is generally seen by thousands of people surrounding a small dais. "It is over-dramatic but this is more acceptable to the general people," he said.
“To me real acting and real expressions is possible in Jatra only,” said Roxana Parveen Rupa, a Jatra artiste and an advocate of Dhaka Bar. Azad Abul Kalam, director of theatre group Prachyanat, said modern theatre was influenced by Jatra from the beginning. “Traditional Jatra artistes are our forefathers in acting. The modern form of theatre practised by theatre groups in the city is very much influenced by Jatra especially when it comes to presentation,” said Azad (Daily Star, March 30, 2008).
Traditional jatra artistes eke out miserable lives.
Once jatra, a form of folk drama combining acting, songs, music, dance, characterised by stylised dialogue delivery and exaggerated gestures and orations, was an important form of entertainment. Nowadays, the genre has been sidelined by other modern theatrical forms. The taste of the audiences has also changed. Thus, the demand for jatra has diminished to a great extent. Jatra performances are therefore being modified, and are nowadays often merely the subject of seminars and symposiums. As a result the traditional jatra artistes eke out miserable lives.
Known as Jatra Samragnee (queen of jatra), Jyotsna Biswas is a peerless actress of the decaying performing art form of jatra pala. She has taken initiatives for the preservation of the performing art form as well as for the welfare of the jatra artistes. Commenting on her recent endeavour, Jyotsna asserts, "My family has formed an organisation at Manikganj named Amalendu Biswas Kalyan Trust to extend patronage to jatra artistes, whose performing art has become endangered. The trust's aim is to arrange workshops for the newcomers and provide earning sources for seasoned jatra artistes. Moreover, we are giving these artistes a chance to perform in TV plays."
"Around 20,000 jatra artistes from over 200 troupes have become almost jobless, as authorities do not allow them to stage shows. As a result they are shifting to menial jobs. What's worse is the neglect of these unfortunate artistes, though jatra is still a recognised performing art form in India. During the Rathjatra eminent film actors of Kolkata perform in the jatras. However, in our country the scenario is exactly the opposite. The Dramatic Performances Act of 1876 was abrogated in Bangladesh by the Jatiya Sangsad on January 30, 2001. To date, atra troupes have to take permission from the district authorities before staging shows, which is the continuation of the 'District Endorsement Act' enacted by the British raj. The Act sought to stymie legendary jatra artiste Mukunda Das (1878-1934) and his troupe, the Swadeshi Jatra Party, who performed jatras on several contemporary issues such as colonial exploitation, patriotism and anti-colonial struggle, oppression of feudal and caste system and others. What's more, after the recent nationwide bomb blast, jatra troupes don't get permission to stage shows."
"In fact, jatra has the history of hundreds years and has been continuously modified. This performing art form was derived from rituals and by the 18th century, a good number of forms-- Shakti jatra, Nath jatra and Pala jatra. Krishna jatra and Chaitanya jatra-- of jatra had developed, which introduced comic characters and the gradual secularisation of the form. Later, being influenced by the 19th century colonial theatre, jatra performance has taken the form of 'five acts' performance, which is the existing form of jatra. When I began my career in the 1960s the situation was different." (Jyotsna Biswas, July 2006)
From glory days to gloominess: Jatra
Princess! If you leave me that's alright, but don't expect me to forget you,” cried the visibly upset prince as the glittering princess flounced off the scene amid rippling tunes of cornet and clarinet. This type of typical Jatra scenes are now rarely seen as staging of Jatrapala has gradually declined in the city due to lots of problems gripping the traditional theatre art and changes in people's taste.
There was a time when Jatra was a regular seasonal festival in Dhaka. Artistes wearing dazzling outfits and glittery jewellery would mesmerise the people during winter and the Durga Puja festival. Shows were arranged regularly in Badda, Kamalapur, Katasur, Kamrangirchar, Sutrapur, Kalabagan playground, and the open spaces around Manik Mia Avenue and Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.
“Even in 1970s there were at least two Jatra shows in the new part of Dhaka every winter. Jatra was entertainment to a big part of the city dwellers. To me it was like a festival,” said Aziz, a regular Jatra viewer of that time. The attraction of Jatra decreased in late 80s when television became a popular medium of entertainment. It became difficult to manage a few hours to watch Jatra when one can easily watch television at home. With the change in people's taste Jatra groups found it hard to survive.
Some groups introduced indecent dances to attract cheap audience that damaged the traditional theatre to a great extent. According to Jatra artistes and owners, one of the main reasons of declining trend of this art is the occasional restrictions imposed by successive governments that made it difficult to stage a show.
During the rule of BNP-Jamaat alliance it became difficult to take permission from the administration for staging a show, they said. Often Jatra groups had to incur losses when they missed programme schedule for delay in getting permission.
In metropolitan cities permission is given by the police commissioner following clearance from the deputy police commissioner of the concerned area. In district level permission is granted by the deputy commissioner following clearance from the police super (SP). "It is a long and complicated process. We have to secure permission after going through many tables,” said Md Alamgir Hossain, proprietor, Bishweshwari Natya Sangstha, a Jatra group of Dhaka. To start a Jatra group a proprietor has to invest around four to five lakh taka.
"During Jatra season (starting from Durga Puja for the next six months) we have to sign contract with around 50 artistes. Each artiste usually takes Tk 8,000. We have to arrange their food and accommodation,” Alamgir said. “If we don't get the permission for a show we face financial loss. We have to pay the artistes because the contracts are already done,” he added.
Despite being a popular traditional form of theatre, Jatra remains neglected. “There is no permanent stage for Jatra in the country. We are never invited for trips abroad,” Alamgir said, adding that the governments have never come forward to help the Jatra people financially. Swapan Pandey, proprietor, Choitali Opera, Magura, said it takes a lot of money for the groups outside Dhaka to come and stage shows in the capital.
Besides collection of artistes, they have to spend at least Tk 15,000 a day on costume, make-up, music, refreshment, conveyance and rehearsal. He said around 7/8 years ago they used to stage at least 9/10 nine shows in Dhaka every year. Later some unprofessional groups started arranging indecent dances and offering lower rates for viewers as their cost was lower that that of the professional groups. This trend gradually led to a decline in the professional group's trips to Dhaka. “Now we stage around 3 shows in a year,” he said.
Milon Kanti Dey, secretary general, Jatrashilpo Unnayan Parishad, the only organisation representing Jatra artistes in the country, said at present they do not face that much problem in getting permission for a show. He said the caretaker government's attitude towards Jatra is favourable but still a strong government policy is needed to save this traditional theatre.
“There are around 20,300 Jatra artistes in the country and five lakh more are dependent on this profession indirectly. In Dhaka there are around 1,200 artistes in 52 groups and 9,600 people are dependent. Many of them are unable to maintain their families,” Milon said. A series of government circulars (from November 1, 1991 to January 31, 2005) imposing temporary ban on Jatra for a certain period hampered staging of shows for 1,014 days, causing a financial loss of around Tk 33.20 crore for the groups during the period, said sources at the Parishad. During the rule of Awami League there was no ban on Jatra but there were administrative tangles.
“Due to a circular in December 2007 our problem of getting permission has resolved to some extent as now we need only the SP's clearance,” Milon said adding that Jatra is still regulated by the Bengal Places of Public Amusement Act 1933 which has been withdrawn for theatre. About the indecent dances he said that a taskforce, comprising cultural personalities and activists, should be formed under Shilpakala Academy in each district to monitor Jatra shows to stop this practice.
“As punishment the licence of that certain Jatra group can be postponed for the time being,” he said. Tapash Sarkar, secretary general, Lokonatya Goshthi, said involving educated persons is vital for Jatra's survival. “In West Bengal people are more interested to watch Jatra than watching cinema and drama. Then why won't it be possible here?” he added.
Abdur Rahim, another Jatra artiste and a lawyer by profession said that there is a common perception that Jatra is performed by lowly people. "We have to change that view,” he said, adding that Jatra and its artistes must get proper recognition and respect. Golam Sarwar, deputy director, Shilpakala Academy, said, “We have a plan for making a permanent stage for Jatra. But right now we can't say when it would be possible, because we need money and space."
About keeping Jatra artistes out of trips abroad, he said foreign countries prefer dance troupes, musicians, magicians and singing groups to drama because those can be enjoyed by all beyond language barrier. Besides, sending a drama or Jatra group abroad is much more expensive than a dance troupe as more people are needed to stage a drama.
“Most Jatra artistes are very naïve and dedicated but they are the victims of a few non-artistes blackening the image of the profession,” he said. “There is a dearth of talent and novelty as many of our good palakars (scriptwriters) have left for India. New faces are not coming," he said. About the government policy on Jatra, Dr Zakir Hossain, deputy secretary of the cultural affairs ministry, said, “We have received a letter from the Jatra people in this respect. We will start the process of forming the policy soon.”
From Film Pather Panchali- Jatra by Satajit Roy
9.1 Dhulis (Drummers) forced to abandon ancestral profession
It is an irony of fate that the dhuli (drummers) who add a special touch to celebrations and festivals with their craft, have to endure lifelong poverty and misery. Amidst financial woes, some dhulis continue their inherited profession while most of them have been forced to pursue new lines of work. These cases are apparent in the village Dogasi (renowned for its dhulis) under the Sadar upazila in Pabna. "Playing dhol is what I know best. My forefathers were dhulis and they led lives through this profession. There was a time when dhulis were in demand in the society. But those glorious days are gone. Now the dhulis are not sought after. Occasionally, at puja or weddings, the dhulis are called to perform but for the most part they are jobless. It's becoming impossible to afford even the basic requirements as a dhuli, due to changes in the social trends," says Prem Chandra Das, a leader of the dhulis in Dogasi village.
There are at least 300 dhuli families in the Dogasi village. Most of them are dirt poor. A large number of them have already left their ancestral profession. Many of them have joined the local craftsmen. Over 100 out of the 300 dhuli families are now directly involved with making handicrafts. These are mostly items made of bamboo including kula, chalun, dhaki and other household items. "For dhulis, work is not available for the most part of the year. So we, along with our family members have taken up this profession. I usually earn Tk 80 to 100 a day from making handicrafts," said the 60 year-old dhuli Shambhu Das. "When we are called to play the dhol at special occasions, we oblige but the female members of our family continue with the handicraft making," he added. Each dhuli family can produce 4/5 items a day, according to sources.
"Once upon a time, dhulis were rewarded with handsome amounts for their performances. But now the demand of the dhulis has receded. We are mostly neglected in the society. When the puja approaches, we are called. We are occasionally called to perform at weddings as well. But the remuneration is far from adequate. A group of dhulis usually receive Tk 5000 to 7000 (each group includes 7/8 dhulis) for a performance," Shambhu said. Rajkumar, son of a dhuli, now works as a barber while Noba, son of Shambhu, is working at a shoe store. And this is how gradually a traditional way of life is coming to an end. "We often cannot afford to buy a new dhol. A new dhol is worth Tk 6000/7000. We have to make do with our old dhols," said Ajit Kumar Das, a dhuli (Ahmed Humayun Kabir, Pabna, September 27, 2008).
The Fokre Paala of the Gazir Gaan (The Ascetical Drama of the Gazi Song) Dudhshar, a village in Shailkupa thana in Jhenaidaha district. There resides Rowshan Ali Jowardar, one of the lead singers or narrators (Gayen) of the Gazir Gaan (Gazi's song). The all time involvement with his performance keeps this man away from his home most of the time. In his absence, I get the address of Bhola, the leader of the troupe who resided in Bhatoi Bazar and succeed to meet him.
The Gazir Gaan singers and the instrumentalists took their seats facing north on the square shaped mat. Then commenced the starting ritual. As the lead singer implanted the symbolic icon, Gazir Asha (Hope of Gazi) north of the audience, music played on. Among the musical instruments were flutes, harmonium, juri or Mandira (a small hollow pair of cymbals) and the dhol (instrument of percussion which is not so much in width as a drum but longer in size). After the group instrumental, the lead singer presented a devotional song with his troupe accompanying him in stages.If you come, Oh Merciful to rescue the destitute / (Merciful) Please take and make me cross
(I) do not offer my prayers, nor do I fast / Please have mercy and make me cross
(I) coming into this world / about you I have forgotten/ under the spell of infatuation . . .
Each individual has the knowledge of good or bad and for the singers and the spectators or the audience of Gazir Gaan, the performance is as recreational as it is of devotion. Some show their devotion by praying, some by worshiping (Puja), some by offering a particular sacrifice to the deity on fulfillment of a prayer (Manot) and some may look for some other way to express their devotion. Gazir Gaan, whatsoever includes humour or even obscenity, ultimately it is something of sheer devotion.There are altogether 7 Paalas (episodes) in the Gazir Gaan performance:
1. Marriage 2. Didar Badshah 3. Dharma Badshah 4. Erong Badshah 5. Taijel Badshah 6. Tara Dakait 7. Jamal Badshah
But the performance commences with the "Fokre Paala" depicting the story behind Gazi and Kalu's becoming ascetics after which continues seven episodes. Gazi is very serious and sincere in his work, while the character of his brother Kalu is more comical and he is the one who creates the humour through his role. Through his jeers and meaningless dialogue and activities he very skillfully takes the audience into the embedded sorrow and depth of the story. Here are some quotes from the "Fokre Paala". After the dance performed by the "Chukris", the lead singer stands up and delivers some introducing words in his local accent.
After the introductory words of the narrator, starts the instrumental and then the Dhua or starting chorus of the narrative passes from the lead singer to his members of the chorus.
Singer starts the main narration of the Fokre Paala of Gazi and Kalu and at the beginning he requests Kalu earnestly to become Gazi's companion in his quest of becoming an ascetic leaving behind the earthly pleasures and luxury. As this song ends Kalu comes up and takes part in dialogue (in verse and prose)based drama with the lead singer. The statements and their replies are rather nonsense, comic in nature and sometimes with the use of indecent words (Saymon Zakaria, August 30, 2004) .
11. Sonai Bibir Pala
A play glorifying humanism
The narratives of our rural bards are wonderful treasures of literature. Beer-narayaner Pala, derived from Purba Bango Geetika (East bengal Ballet), is a love story of a Hindu Zamindar's son named Beernarayan and an ordinary Muslim girl named Sonai Bibi. However, young playwright Raihan Aktar's play Sonai Bibir Pala, an adaptation of Beernarayaner Pala, is not just a love story. Through the tragic end of the central characters' affair, the playwright has dealt with a contemporary issue -- the conflict between religion and humanism.
On September 10, the Centre for Asian Theatre (CAT) staged the first show of Sonai Bibir Pala at the National Theatre Stage in Dhaka. The show followwed on the heels of the premiere of the play last June 25, at the International Theatre Festival in Taipei. To the acoustics of dhol and mandira, the troupe entered the theatre hall and recreated a procession on the stage. In the midst of the gathering, the gayen (bard) began narrating the love story of Sonai Bibi and Beernarayan.
Director Kamaluddin Nilu has not only used the narrative technique (the traditional form of pala gaan), he has blended several other theatrical forms as well. Particularly in the 'post-marriage scene', Sanskrit theatre forms like Parikrama (circular movement) and Patti (using of curtain) have been used. And in the composition of the 'Zamindar's court scene', the artistes have followed the typical rhythmic high-pitched voice modulation used in jatra. The smooth transition of sequences in the play is the specialty of Nilu's directorial approach. Fifteen artistes on the stage have played different characters as well as given a choral rendering. There is a small interval during the transformation of 'characters' and 'choirs', which gave strength to the theatrical presentation. However, the blending of kirtan tune with palagaan was not effective.
Only a few stage crafts have been used. The light design is simple. Shamima Akhtar, as Sonai Bibi, enthusiastically threw herself into her role. Her body language, especially in the last scene when her beloved is being punished by his zamindar father, moved the audience. Young talent Shahadat Hossain was not in his best element. His spontaneous performance in the role of Beernarayan could have been more entertaining. The rest of the cast was impressive. In fact, Sonai Bibir Pala is a good example of teamwork (Daily Star, September 12, 2005).
Kirtan is a Sanskrit word which means to repeat the name refers to the call and response singing of spiritual chants. In the ancient Sanskrit text the Bhagavad-gita Krishna states that great souls are always engaged in glorifying him with kirtana
Kirtan, or Sankirtan, was popularized circa 1506 by the Bengali saint Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, also held to be the combined incarnation of Radha and Krishna
Previous to the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu mantras were chanted but not sung with melodies and instruments. Chaitanya introduced the singing in order to keep the restless mind peaceful. He taught that the mantra has to be heard with a calm and peaceful mind. Only then can it enter through the ear and into the heart where a purification process takes place.
Chaitanya preached that God is within the heart of every living being, and the heart is thus the abode of divine love. Kirtan opens up the heart chakra to revive the divine love that is already present - but now covered by material desires.
If one's mind is restless, with scattered thoughts always coming and going, then the hearing process is disrupted. The mantra cannot enter into the mind and heart, and thereby the purification process becomes restricted. It was for this reason that Mahaprabhu introduced the singing, and later the dancing, because when people sing and/or dance they are not thinking, but get caught up in the expression and feeling of the song.
The term "purifying the heart" refers to clearing out the unwanted things in our heart, like bigotry, resentment, anger, prejudice, jealousy, lust, greed, etc. So the goal of kirtan is to revive the divine love that lies dormant in the core of the heart. by cleaning the impurities that cover our consciousness.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu devoted his life to spreading Kirtan, and thus traveled throughout India bringing it to all communities. Chaitanya attracted thousands of followers and was received with great affection by people of every caste and creed. Largely due to his influence millions of people in India chant kirtan in one form or another.
Six palas- 'Jagoron-Rosodgar', 'Goushtho', 'Shurjo Puja', 'Uttoragoushtho', 'Rupanurag' and 'Rasa-lila'.
The subject is the Lord Krishna himself, playing with his friends by the river Jamuna. Later Krishna returns home- and this pala is concerned with all that happens in between. Even before the main keertanias arrive, the instrumentalists start playing their music. The lead keertania arrives and shows respect to the image of Krishna. The he starts singing: Probhu Krishna, Gobinda, Joy. Joy Radha Madhava. Joy Joy He. The devotees love it. Now the singers move forward into the main story. The instrumentals join the vocals to really set the mood.
The keertania sings:
Lord, will I not get the chance to touch your feet?
Lord, do I not deserve your feet? ….
Will I remain like this?
So many sinners have been absolved by taking your name.
If you do not love me, then…Lord, give me your feet…
The gardener in the forest is called a 'bonomali'. He cuts the weeds and makes the garden beautiful. If a king or a landlord has a large flower garden, there needs to be a gardener to tend to it. Gouroshundor, you are the gardener of the world. Men and women are the source of Bhakti. Gouro, you are the gardener of my heart. O Lord, look and see all the weeds of desire. Cleanse our hearts with your name, your love. Give us the privilege of serving you, Lord.
The gardener is playing binod. What does 'binod' mean? Beautiful. How was that play? The Lord used to play in Brindaban. How was the play in Brindaban?
Subol tells Balarama, “Balai dada, even after trying a hundred times, I could not beat Kanai. Tell us how we can hold him. He just touches us and leaves! The day we can hold him back, we'll win in the games. Every day we lose in the games and we have to carry him on our shoulders. But one day, I would like to ride on his shoulders.”
Hearing this, Balarama says, “Listen Subol. You can never hold him back, no matter what you say. If anyone in the world can hold his feet then he will own the Gobinda's feet forever. Kanai has come here to touch everyone.” Subol wants to be the first to touch Kanai's feet. As soon as he grabs Kanai's feet, he sees the Lord Krishna standing there. From then on, Balarama's group wins the games. The Lord is asked, “Kanai, why do you lose at the games these days? You used to win!”
The Lord Krishna says, “O Brother, this habit of losing is not new. For ages I have been losing to my devotees.” Sri Krishna loses to his devotees. Hare Krishna. Bhagaban says- my devotees are my mother and father. Devotees are my lords. I go in whatever direction the Bhakta wants me to go. Hare Krishna. Bhagaban says- when I lose and have to carry Subol on my shoulders, his feet rest on my chest. Then I embrace Subol's feet. Why? I embrace my devotee's feet.
I lose everyday and hold Subol's feet to my chest. Hare Krishna.
Gouro Hari is playing. Hare Krishna.
Both have come to the river banks to play. Krishna comes up to the river bank and calls the gopis.
Gouro Hari is calling the worldly people- O worldly folk, how much longer will you wallow in material things?
Come to the river banks. Hare Krishna. Nitai Gouro Hari says- I have no regrets about what life is.
But what I have gained and then lost makes me sad. You can forget the pain of never having.
But it is hard to forget the pain of losing.
Namamrito or Namakirtan
Usually Namamrito or Namakirtan, one of the three genres of traditional kirtan, is presented in an open space near temples and houses of rich Hindus. Kirtan troupes perform Namamrito chanting the names of Krishna and Ram through different ragas for several prohars (3 hours). Recently a 40 prohar (five day) Namamrito Kirtan presentation programme took place near the Harishava temple in Rajarbagh Madartek, where traditional Kirtan troupes from different corners of the country performed.
Most of the Namamrito Kirtan troupes consist of 12 members, of which four/five are kirtaniyas (singers) and rests are instrumentalists. Each show begins with a presentation of bansi (flute), the key instrument for kirtan. In most cases mridanga, dhol and kortal are used as accompanying instruments and a few of the troupes even use the violin and sarod.
Though the troupes repeat the same verse throughout their performance, it does not sound monotonous, because of the mastery in improvisation by the singers and musicians. The performance is very intimate and informal and the audience can join in as they please. At the end of a performance each troupe departs by blowing the conch shell and burning dhup, while another troupe appears accompanied by Bansi background music (Zahedul I Khan , Dec. 5, 2008).
Mayapur Kirtan Devotional song from a bengali movie, with Uttam Kumar Krishna Hare
For centuries, villages of Bangladesh have been staging plays based on Hinduism which, over the years, have evolved from being only about Hindu deities and have included others such as Sri Chaitanya Deb of Boishnobism.
IN Bangladesh, there are stage and open-yard productions based on Hinduism which, over the years, have evolved from being only about Hindu deities and have included preachers of similar yet other faiths, such as Sri Chaitanya Deb of Boishnobism. These plays center around Chaitanya, but the play is directed within an overall framework of “Krishna Lila” or “Ram Lila”. Usually these plays present how Sri Chaitanya left the material world (became a Shannashi). Alongside, the same plays include popular excerpts of “Krishno Lila”.
Originally, these plays were wholly dependent on the stories surrounding “Krishno”, but the inclusion of Chaitanya as the central character has gained popularity and are commonly known as “Nimay Shonnash”. Stories involving Krishno in the form of songs and plays are found throughout the villages of Bangladesh, and they have been reiterated in various local dialects. When Chaitannya Deb was alive, in the sixteenth century (between 1486 and 1533), plays and stage productions centering Krishno was popular. The Boishnob religion preached by Sri Chaitanya Deb at the time had a significant impact on the then Bengali community. In recorded biographies of Chaitanya Deb, it has been cited that he once played an important character in “Krishno Lila”.
In Chuariakhola village of Kaliganj thana in Gazipur, one such “Krishno Lila” is staged every first Thursday of the English year. A gathering of people and regular musical nights are arranged for at least two weeks prior to “Nimay Shonnash” of “Krishno Lila”, at Sri Sri Kanailal temple. Ordinary villagers are the main audience of the show, which is organized around a Kodom-Tomal tree in the evening. The audience sits in a circular fashion surrounding the tree, and the stage is the jute-mat covered open yard with the audience at the periphery and the tree at the centre. Musicians sit nearest to the tree to a side, and before the show is about to begin, the audience seems to build up to a large number, and the last row is seen standing at the back to get a decent view.
One particularly interesting trait about this show is the age of performers, usually school-going girls aged between 12 and 15 who read in classes between 6 and 9. Although, the male performers are usually in their middle ages. The show begins with six girls who sit near the musicians and sing songs of “Gourango-Nityanando”. At the end of their performance, they stand up, circle the staging area and leave. After this, the palakar (prompter/ director) enters the stage and sits at one side to oversee the production, and the play begins. One important fact to note here is that the palakar not only directs the show from his memory, but also the musicians.
“Krishno Lila” is a mixture of various plays that have been enacted in Bangladesh for centuries. Moreover, it bring together music, songs, dialogue and dance. The next paragraph is an excerpt of the play itself which is presented from Nimay's mother's point of view and is set at the time when Nimay makes up his mind to leave the material world to meditate for enlightenment.
Mother: It's so far into the day already and Nimay and Nitay still has not returned home. I have searched for them almost everywhere! Oh, there they are now. (As she approaches them, she sees tears in her sons' eyes.
Mother: I wonder what the two brothers are saying I wonder why they cry
Please tell me, my sons
Why do you cry?
Nitay: If you don't understand what I am feeling from looking at my face, then why are you my mother? I fear if I tell you, you will cry too…
Mother: Please tell me why I might cry too, please tell me why you cry.
Nitay: It pains me to speak the words
My mouth does not want to say
Nimay will leave our society
Nimay will leave this world to go and meditate (Shonnash)
Mother: What are you saying, Nitay?
Are you really leaving, Nimay?
Please stay at home with me and call me mother
Don't leave this woman in plight.
Nimay: Don't believe what brother is saying, mother. Do you think it is that easy? Do you think I'll be lucky enough to be able to achieve what I have set my sights on? So, don't believe what Nitay is saying. Let's return home together.
The dialogue above is a mixture of dialogue and song, with music thrown in at the right bits to arouse emotion and make the scene complete. Originally, only men used to act in such plays, and even the female characters were portrayed by male actors in disguise. It was only in 1990 when women were introduced in female characters by the famous palakar (director) Nogendro De. Such plays have been organized in Gazipur for the last one hundred years. Now, female characters receive the major share of the stage, with male actors in supporting roles mostly (Zakaria, August 1, 2010).
11.2 Raibeshe--A martial dance form of Bengal
Raibeshe (meaning “Royal Bamboo”) a popular dance form, finds many admirers in Medinipur district, West Bengal, India. The martial art form of Bengal was used by “lathiyals” deployed by the feudal lords to defend their little fiefdoms.
Gurushodoi Dutta, an IAS officer, who came across this art form in Birbhum in West Bengal, first documented it in the last century. He collected the 'Bolbani' of Raibeshe from East Bengal. The other dance forms that were performed during the demonstration were 'Paik', another martial dance and 'Pata-nach' which was danced by womenfolk and was named after the ceremony called 'Shoi-patano' or bonding with girl friends. Raibeshe has made inroads in Bangladesh too.
To introduce Raibeshe to Bangladeshi dancers, cultural organisation Shadhona invited Tarun Prodhan twice to Dhaka. In the ranks of the dancers was Samina Husein Prema. Shadhona also requested Tarun to work with Samina and teach her various forms of dances from Bengal.
Shadhona has been proactive on other fronts. The organisation has been working for the last two years with Syed Shamsul Huq to adapt Jasimuddin's “Beder Meye” into a dance-drama which he has named “Chompaboti”. After this Zahidul Kabir Liton was commissioned to add the music to the lyrics. Next, music of the dance-drama was recorded in Kolkata with the help of Durbadol. Now, Shadhona has commissioned Samina Husain to choreograph 'Chompaboti'. “Chompaboti will be Shadhona's first folk-narrative based dance-drama for which we have been working with various folk forms of dance, including 'lathi-khela'. Dhaka's audience will see various folk dance forms in this dance-drama which we hope to stage end of November, 2010,” says Lubna Mariam, general secretary of Shadhona.
“We think Samina is an extremely talented dancer and choreographer and have, therefore, put in tremendous effort to ensure that this dance-drama is a unique experience for our audience,” adds Lubna.
Samina was introduced into the world of dance and music at a very tender age. She received her initial training in Manipuri dance from Shantibala Sinha, Tamanna Rahman and Sharmila Banerjee. She picked up Bharatnatyam from Belayet Hossain Khan at Chhayanaut Sangeet Bidyayatan. She completed her Manipuri and Bhartnatyam dance studies with a first class from Chhayanaut. Later, she went in for advanced and special training from the renowned exponent of Manipuri dance, Guru Kalavati Devi who was appointed as the Manipuri dance guru at the cultural centre of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka.
Samina has completed her M.A. in Manipuri dance from Rabindra Bharati University of Kolkata and continues to receive training from Guru Kalavati Devi. She is also a student of Manipuri Nartanalaya, Kolkata, the pioneering institute of Manipuri dance in India, founded by the legendary Guru Bipin Singh along with Guru Kalavati Devi and the Jhaveri Sisters.
As for the future, Samina says, “I will continue as a classical Manipuri dancer; however I will always work on different dance styles. I also have an intention to work on modern plays while maintaining a traditional approach and authentic style. Simultaneously I want the opportunity to work on my own concepts so that I can discover and enhance my dancing skills. And with my dance school Bhabna whose director is Zeenat Afroze, I believe I can go forward with my goals *Daily Star, 17.10.10(.
12. Save 'Patachitra' 'scroll painting'- Our National Heritage
'Patachitra' or 'scroll painting', one of the age-old forms of popular art, has existed in Bangladesh since the 12th century. These patas depicted scenes from religious stories and cultural myths and themes from life in rural Bangladesh. Shambhu Acharya, a 'patachitra' artist from Bikrampur has in recent years received the attention and appreciation from a few art lovers and cultural activists. Shambhu Acharya was born in 1954. His father was Patua Shudhir Chandra Acharya and mother was Kalpana Bala Acharya who herself was an Alpona painter. His family has been practising patachitra for more than 400 years. The themes of their paintings include stories of Gazir Pata Sree Krishna, Muharram, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Manasha Mangal, Rass Leela and also various others themes from our local folk culture.
He uses all local materials for his paintings. For the canvas, Shambhu uses 'markin' cloth and the age-old techniques. The cloth is first layered with mud or cowdung and dried, it's then layered again with a paste made from tamarind seeds and powder of brick and chalk. Thus, surfaces of the patachitra canvas which is called 'doli' is prepared. This canvas lasts for ages.
For making his colour he uses black ink made from the smoke of lamp flames, zinc oxide, vermilion, egg yolk, the sticky juice of wood apples, sabu dana and various kinds of earth colour such as gopi mati,tilok mati, dheu mati, ela mati and raja neel (blue).
Unfortunately this recognition has mostly been confined to only a few connoisseurs of art living in the capital city and some places abroad where he held exhibitions, while most people of his own country know very little about Shambhu Acharya and the thousands of years' old art form that his family has been practising for more than 400 years.
The earliest 'patuas' (as the artists of scroll paintings are called) usually took the themes for their paintings from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, various legends, myths and religious stories , and later expanded the range by including many popular and secular stories of the land. One of the most popular themes of the 'patachitra' was the Gazi's Pat depicting the courageous deeds and conquests of Ismail Gazi, a Muslim general who served the Sultan Barbak in the 15th century.
Patachitra, like many other popular folk art of Bengal such as pottery, the weaving of the Muslin and i, and jatra, was practised in families through generation after generation. The skills and the commitment to the art form were handed down from fathers to their sons.
Shambhu Acharya, the patua, comes from such a long line of dedicated patuas of Bikrampur. His family has been working in this art form for the last eight generations. But it's only the art of Shambhu, the 9th generation of patuas, which has recently come to the limelight. The modern urban people of today are striving to find the roots of their traditional culture. Perhaps this well help to establish the art of patachitra once again with all its glory and popularity'.
It is amazing to think how a family has been struggling to practise this art form in a place like Bikrampur for so many generations. There are many artists like Shambhu Acharya about whom very few of us know. It is our responsibility to search for and promote such talents in any field anywhere (Daily Star, September 16, 2006).
12.1 Save Traditional Bengali Dolls- Our National Heritage
Like the rural folk-painters and potters of Bengal, Jamini Roy used cheap indigenous pigments for his art to make them within the reach of the affluent as well as the poor. Like the pata-painters of Bengal he proposed his own paintings from indigenous materials like lampblack, chawk-powder, leaves and creepers. Even today, modern paintings of Jamini Roy, executed in the ideal of folk-pata paintings and dolls, attract the connoisseur's eyes as well as the teeming multitude
A figurine of a dancing girl was discovered at Mohenjodaro. Excavations elsewhere have unearthed clay dolls, very similar to the mother goddess figures that village women form even today with a soft lump of clay. Dolls have also been unearthed at savar, mainamati, mahasthan and dinajpur in Bangladesh. Apart from human figures, animal and bird forms have also been discovered at these sites.
Clay dolls perhaps emerged from the potter's work of making images of gods and goddesses. These may be shaped by hand or made in moulds. It is easier and quicker to mould dolls. Ornamentation and costumes are drawn by means of pointed sticks. Handmade dolls are not painted, but dried in the sun and fired in kilns.
Moulds for making dolls are generally handed down, though new designs of moulds are also made. Dolls made in moulds are painted in various colours after they are fired. Common colours are white, blue, yellow, green, and black. mymensingh is famous for doll-making as are Savar, dhamrai and Rayerbazar.
Wooden dolls are also traditional and are usually made from kadam, amda, shyaoda, and shimul. Artisans shape the wood into triangular and semi-circular pieces to make the figures of women. The bodies of the dolls are painted as well as their dresses and ornaments. Colours commonly used are yellow, red, green and black. These female dolls are called 'mummy dolls' since they look like Egyptian mummies
Dolls - Our Heritage
by Abanindranath Tagore
Leader of the Revivalist Movement in the field of Modern Indian Painting in Bengal, Abanindranath Tagore is also credited with a key contribution towards ushering in the renaissance in Indian painting. Born on 7th August, 1871, at Jorasanko, at the family residence of the aristocratic Tagores, Abanindranath grew up in a family environment of multi-hued creativity, as the Tagores culturally spearheaded Calcutta in those days.
In 1907, Tagore established the Indian School of Oriental Art and founded ‘The Bengal School’, which was responsible in pioneering the Bengal Revivalist movement. Under his guidance, a new generation of painters was raised, like Nandalal Bose, Asit Halder, Kshitindranath Majumder and Jamini Roy, S.N.Gupta and a host of others. Nandalal Bose (1882-1966), one of his most outstanding students, revived the study and practice of art in India, later in life.
In his own way, Abanindranath also contributed to the Freedom struggle. Money was raised for the National Fund by singing processions who carried his painting, Bharat Mata, made into a flag. He also contributed handloom cloth from Jessore and Pabna to the swadeshi store. Abanindranath Tagore, regarded as the father of India's modern art, died in 1951
We have dolls as playthings for children; marionettes for play-acting of larger size; life -size, and sometimes larger than life, caricatures, effigies and clowns.
Toy dolls are about span high, thumb long, and smaller, down to the miniature size.
Clay, wood, pith and paper are the materials of which our dolls are made.
Toy dolls are first made in the rough by the potter or carpenter, whereupon the decorator steps in to do up the features and put in the colouring, before they finally find their way to the shops.
The making of idols for worship is much on the same lines.
The potter makes the figure according to tradition, with dress folds, ornaments, and crown, complete.
The decorator then adds the colouring of body, features and robes, the tinsel halo and other appurtenances.
In the case of the play-acting marionettes, the carpenter makes the body and limbs separately, and the play- actor loosely fastens the limbs to the body with strings, so that they may be moved as required.
The dresser follows, colouring and dressing them up, on the eve of the performance, for the parts they are intended to play.
The animals and birds that are to come on the stage are designed by the carpenter on a common pattern, and subsequently made up to suit the occasion…the addition of mane or stripes, for instance, converting the same dummy into lion or tiger.
This kind of co-operation between the several artists is made to serve all the purposes of the play.
There are mainly three kinds of dolls or toys:
Immobile-such as a figure of Ganesh, or a fat woman-figure with a stump in place of legs to be dressed up by the playing child. Partly mobile - such as palm-leaf sepoys with jointed arms and legs jerked into martial attitudes by strings attached to a bamboo spring; pith birds and fishes, dangling on strings from a supporting frame, swaying to the breeze. Toys on wheels - such as clay carts, wooden or metal horses; etc.
Whistling tin birds or squeaking celluloid babies are beyond the resources of our toy makers. Our marionettes go through their movements in obedience to the string-pulling of the play actor and do their squeaking by proxy through his assistant.
A Doll from Bengal
This is a typical wooden doll found all over Bengal. It varies in its decorations and colours in different districts but the form remains the same. This particular one was bought in Kenduli in Birbhum district. The colour of the head, arms and feet is yellow. Upper garment covering the body below the waist is blue and green. The details and decorations of the figure are drawn with black and red thick brush lines.
Mr. Nandalal Bose says it is not possible for him to say when this toy was introduced in Bengal but the back of this toy resembles the back of the stone statues of Vishnu and other gods. He also feels that they somehow look like Egyptian mummy cases. Size of the original doll: 10 inches high x 3 inches wide approx.
Our old doll types are no longer to be seen in all their variety; some have even changed their forms and decorations to suit modern taste. Some idea of the different kinds of dolls or toys that were in use may be gathered from our nursery rhymes. I give a few examples:
The Moon Doll: --"Moon on her arms, moons on her feet, a moon on her forehead doth shine." The Car of Thirteen Spires: --"O look sister, how wonderful! The confectioner over the way has made a car with thirteen spires, and a monkey holding the banner." The Nodding Old Man: --"The aged one's head nods and nods, with a myna perched on top." Gopal (Krishna): --"Who says Gopal is flat-faced? I have brought clay from Sukhchar to make a straight nose for him. Who says Gopal is dark? I have brought turmeric from Patna to make his complexion shine." Animals: --"The Shy Cat", "The Royal Elephant", "The Black and White Cats of Shasthi", etc. There are the Smiling Doll, the Jolly Doll, the Merry Doll, the Crying Doll, and other descriptions…the meanings of which cannot now be traced. There are the Smiling Doll, the Jolly Doll, the Merry Doll, the Crying Doll, and other descriptions…the meanings of which cannot now be traced. A Queen Doll made of fire-wood is still to be seen in Kalighat shops.
The following portion of a fairy tale gives us a picture of the making of a doll queen:
"Four companions were going from one village to another. Dusk fell while they were passing through a wood before their journey's end, and they had to stay the night under a tree. The carpenter's son took the first watch. To while away the time he cut off a branch and carved a woman doll. The decorator's son took the second watch. He shaped the eyes and nose, gave golden colour to the body and rose colour to the palms and soles, and seated the naked doll under the tree. The weaver's son took the third watch and dressed her up, veil and all. The king's son woke last, and in the fourth watch chanted a magic spell, learnt from a holy man, which gave her life; then placing her in a palanquin, he took her away with him."
Gods come on the scene, and engage in a terrific battle with demons, in the course of which the floor is strewn with headless trunks, whereupon all the dolls on the stage register different degrees of alarm; and so on…...
(Source: Visva-Bharati Quarterly, New Series, Vol. I, Part I, May-July, 1935.)
WHEN I hear the tunes of Desh Raga, it reminds me of the beautiful sound of rain. It amazes me how Indian Ragas have strings attached with every season, every time of the day and every mood you can think of. And what's more spectacular is the way it is designed to go with a particular instrument that accompanies the raga giving it a whole new dimension. One of such instruments is the Esraj.
This 200 year old string instrument was mainly used for instance for accompanying Tagore songs in Bengal. The instrument's six playing strings and 15 resonance strings is equipped with frets as they are found in a similar shape on the Sitar. The sturdy, solid wooden body is covered with goat leather, like the Sarod, which serves as resonance cover. The base of the instrument is like saringda while the neck and strings are like sitar. It gives a sound very much like sarangi without being as difficult to play. The Esraj is played with a bow similar to the violin and produces a sound that is rich in overtones and resonance and which reminds of old Renaissance instruments from Europe. The instrument can be rested between the knees while the player kneels, or more commonly rested on the knee of the player while sitting, with the neck leaning on the left shoulder. “When you play esraj you are not supposed to actually use the frets on the finger board. The frets are simply to let you know where the notes are located. It is a rather squeaky instrument” as quoted by notable Esraj players. The traditional bows for this instrument is much heavier than violins or cellos. The Esraj is translated as the “Robber of the heart”.
The popularity of the esraj has been steadily declining. But A R Rahman's brilliant compositions used the Esraj in works like "Dil Se" and "Vande Mataram". Possibly the most famous exponent of the Esraj has been Pandit Ranadhir Ray, who died in 1988. Raga Desh, Ahir Bhairav, Rageshree and many more, breathes through the Esraj (Nazia Ahmed, November 5, 2008)
13. Alpana: A medley of exquisite colours and designs
Alpana, a very popular form of art, has a long history. Though the motifs are mostly flowers, there are also folk motifs, horses, birds and elephants. The techniques of Alpana differ. In the villages it is made out of rice powder. Now in the cities, it is mostly made in acrylic.
Alpana has a long tradition in our country. Alpana is used on many festive occasions like Ekushey, marriages and Bengali festivals like Pahela Baisakh. It is popular because it is related to every movement in the country. There have been changes in the form and design over the years. For instance, people are experimenting with geometrical forms.
Just as life is changing, so are designs. People want to introduce an element of innovation. Flowers, animals, birds, folk art --these are the recurrent motifs of Alpana. This art form adds to the ambience of occasions such as marriages and special days in our tradition.
The traditional wisdom that supported thousands of years of sustainable experience was extinguished and replaced by the wisdom from the North. Bengal's system of overflow irrigation in the 17th century ASD worked very well until the advent of the British. It not only enriched the soil, but also controlled maleria. According to Willcocks (1920), a British irrigation expert, riverwater in the early months of floods is gold. However, embankments have been constructed to inhibit fertile river water, fertiliser, pesticides and deep water wells. Hybrid seeds have been introduced since the 60's under the developing programme. Agarwal and Narain (1997) report:
In many villages where people had cared to maintain their traditional water systems, even after the arrival of piped water supply systems, there was no drinking water scarcity. But in villages that had neglected their traditional system, the drying up of the Rajasthan Canal had meant waterless pipes and hence an acute water crisis.
The capacity of American and European farmers to act and react to new technology that involves risk and dangers is not even a day-dream to the poor cultivators of Bangladesh and India.
Rights of Indigenous people are ignored all over the world and in Bangladesh the situation is even worse. To ensure their constitutional rights, even 33 years after the independence, people from different ethnic groups gathered in the city on August 9 like indigenous people of other countries. Dressed in ethnic clothes people from Chakma, Marma, Garo, Khashia, Tripura, Santal, Manipuri and others sang and danced to mark the World Indigenous People's Day dedicated to the cause of ethnic people. In Bangladesh there are nearly 45 groups who have been living for centuries and their rights have always been neglected though they have distinct cultural heritage, language, religion and life style that enrich us in many ways.
14. Tribal People- Tangtha--children of the hills
Tangtha--this is what the people of hill-tracts call themselves. It means 'children of the hills'. In general, however, these people are known as an indigenous hunting tribe called Bomang or Bom. Bandarban's Bomang depicts the ethnic Bom's heritage and culture and their history of survival. The word Bom came from 'Bomjao' meaning 'united nation'. If we take a look into the Bom history we can see that two different groups named Pangthaoye and Sunthola formed today's Bom tribe.
History has it that the ancestors of Bom came from China's Chingling Mountains and then settled into the Arakan province of present Myanmar. They came to the northeastern part of Bangladesh about 165 years back and at present around 10,000 Boms are living in the Bharatmoon Para of Bandarban district.
Bom has its own distinguish features. Medium height, yellowish skin, flat nose and oriental eyes--all these features prove that the Bom people bear the Mongolian blood. Theirs is the hunting tribe with rituals relating mostly to hunting. They are praised as heroes when they hunt tigers or mountain buffaloes. Even the traditional Shing Nrittya or 'horn dance' is celebrated with the horns of the hunted animals.
Bom youth named Santhuyang Sailuk Bom on a hunting spree where he uses the traditional flute called Tepoth for mimicking the sounds of the animals or birds to trap them. Another youth Lauthiyang Bom shows the traditional trap made of bamboo twigs, string and a wild red fruit for the bait to hunt wild fowls. Bamboo or Mautak is the most important material for the Bom's, from which artistic baskets and baby cots are made.
Another interesting emblematic feature is the using of Komor Tant--a special kind of handloom which has a belt to tie around the hip of the weaver. The Bom blankets, produced with these handlooms, are made from old wool that make it warmer. Their clothes are also different from other tribes. The women wear nufen and the males wear rinta.
The main source of income of the Bom is marketing of pineapple, wild banana, papaya and other crops, which are chiefly produced on the steps of hills by a process called Jhum or changing cultivation.
Earlier, the Bom were the worshippers of nature but now most of them have embraced Christianity. But it had little effect on their life style. The modern trends have however harmed their own traditional values. The word Bom means unity and there is little doubt that almost 80% literate Boms give prime importance to their own tradition.
The 1855-57 Santal revolution enkindled the spirit of independence from the then British rule. The imperialist forces killed at least two million people, mostly Santals and farmers and suppressed the uprising.
Hundreds of indigenous people yesterday observed the 151st anniversary of Santal Hul [revolution] in a festive manner in Godagari upazila calling upon all to prepare for a new revolution to establish their rights in society. The community through a daylong programme -- rally, discussion meeting and cultural programme -- narrated their plight under the oppression by land grabbers and social injustices in line with the repression of Zamindars (landlords) and British rulers 151 years ago. They also urged the government to constitutionally recognise the indigenous people. The 1855-57 Santal revolution is one of the major revolts against the British rule spreading across the then Birbhum to Bhagolpur in Bangla, Bihar and Orissa. The imperialist forces had killed around two million people, mostly Santals and farmers. A large colourful procession was brought out yesterday morning from Sundarpur of Godagari with traditional musical instruments playing. The indigenous people, wearing their traditional dresses, ended their procession at Sundarpur High School playground. The procession was organised by Adibashi Sangskritik Unnayan Sangstha.
"Since the independence the Santal people were not given their minimum rights," said National Adibashi Parishad President Anil Marandi. During the meeting, several speakers talked about the problems and plights of the Santal community living in the northern part of the country.
15. A Tale of Oppression
A tale of oppression
The story of oppression on the colourful ethnic people named Santal in the play Raaraang reminds of other stories of discriminating the ethnic people in different parts of the country by the ruling Bangalees. Aranyak Natya Dal staged the premier show of the 40th production of the group on September 2 at the Experimental Theatre Stage. Mamunur Rashid's first ethnic play Raaraang--a Santal word meaning battle cry--depicts the miserable struggle of the poor Santal people in northern Bangladesh against different oppressive measures like feudalism, religion and others imposed by the dominating Bangalees. Not just a fragmented story of oppression, it is also a tale of the Santals' struggle since the partition of the Indian subcontinent. Through the true story of Alfred Shoren the playwright has portrayed their revolution against the discrimination. However, the 'battle cry' fails in the face of treachery of the Bangalees. Mamun has used standard Bangla as dialect for both Bangalee and Santal communities in the play. But, to represent the culture of the ethnic group, he has used some traditional Santal songs.
Nacholer Rani: A tale of indomitable courage
BASED on the tumultuous years (early 1950s) of Ila Mitra's life, Nacholer Rani, a feature film directed by Syed Wahiduzzaman Diamond and produced by Pankowri, was released in theatres recently.
The Mitras were deeply involved in the 'Tebhaga Movement'. The objective of the movement was that a cultivating peasant must get two-third share of the total yield divided into three and rest one third would go to the land owner (mostly zamindars in British India). Zamindars and jotdars (middlemen) exploited the dirt-poor farmers to the brink of starvation. The British Raj ended with Partition (1947) but the plight of these have-nots did not change. The movement gained momentum. Ila and her comrades found themselves waging a war against the zamindars, backed by the law enforcement agencies in the newly formed East Pakistan. After a violent crack down, while trying to escape arrest, Ila disguised as a Santal and a few of her companions were spotted by the police near the Rohanpur Railway Station on January 7, 1950. They were immediately arrested and sent to Nachol police station.
Then began the torture that was documented (Ila Mitra's statement at the Rajshahi Court in January 1951) but too hellish to fathom. The 'ingenious' methods of physical and psychological torture, aimed to demoralise her included downright beating, pressing hands and legs in between two bamboo sticks (the infamous 'Pakistani injection' scene), kicking delicate parts of the body with boots on, starvation, gang rape, verbal abuse and more. Ila was eventually released on parole and was allowed to go to Calcutta for medical treatment in 1954.
Legendary theatre personality Richard Schechner, artistic director from USA, went to watch the play Raarang in New Delhi recently. He was full of praise for the show. In his words, "As I don't understand Bangla, I can't say much about the play. However, I do understand it's based on the tribal resistance to exploitation. I found the performances very energetic and I was impressed by the act."
Mamunur Rashid's play depicts the story of oppression on the Santals, an indigenous group, since the Partition. Raarang -- a Santal word meaning battle cry -- zeroes in on the struggle of the indigenous people in northern Bangladesh against feudalism and religious bigotry. Through the true story of Alfred Shoren, the playwright has portrayed their plight effectively. However, the 'battle cry' fails in the face of treachery by some interested quarters. To present an authentic picture of the Santal culture, traditional Santal songs have been used.
1st July was the 151st anniversary of the "Santal hool" (rebellion), against the British rulers and local landlords. Thousands of people, mostly the Santal farmers, sacrificed their lives during this great rebellion of 1855-57.Their demands like constitutional recognition, right to ancestral land, primary education in their mother language, protection of their culture for which they revolted need to be recognised. If we go through the Indian constitution, we will find that it recognises the tribals' existence. It also promises to protect their culture. But shockingly enough, our constitution remains silent on this issue. Another important fact is traditional land right of indigenous people for which they fought against the British rulers. So the existing laws need to be reviewed. Bangladesh is a pluralistic society. So our constitution should recognise this aspect of our existence.
The Bengalis became muslim through liberal sufi muslims. This is possibly due to our inheritence of traditional values of different religions but outside elements are trying to disintegrate them.On poverty rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam (National Poet of Bangladesh) writes:
O poverty, thou hast made me great.
Thou hast made me honoured like Christ
With his crown of thorns. Thou hast given me
Courage to reveal all. To thee I owe
My insolent, naked eyes and sharp tongue.
Thy curse has turned my violin to a sword.
O proud saint, thy terrible fire
Has rendered my heaven barren.
It has prematurely dried beauty.
My feelings and my life.
Time and again I stretched my lean, cupped hands
To accept the gift of the beautiful.
But those hungry ones always came before me.
And did snatch it away ruthlessly,
Now my word of imagination is
Dry as a vast desert.
And my own beautiful!
I grow listless in the shadowy skirt of the earth
And my dreams of beauty and goodness vanish!
With a bitter tongue thou ask,
"What's the use of nectar?
It has no sting, no intoxication, no madness in it.
The search for heaven's sacred drink
Is not for thee in this sorrow-filled earth.
Someone seems to have entwined my soul
With that of Mother Earth. She comes forward
And with her dust-adorned hands
Offers me her presents.
It seems to me that she is the youngest
daughter of mine,
My darling child! But suddenly I wake up with a start.
O cruel saint, being my child,
Thou weepest in my home, hungry and reviled!
O my child, my darling one
I could not give thee even a drop of milk
No right have I to rejoice.
Poverty weeps within my doors forever
As my spouse and my child.
Who will play the flute?
Where shall I get the happy smile I have drunk deep the hemlock
Of bitter tears!
And still even today
I hear the mournful tune of the Sanai (violin).
Daridro ("Poverty"). Translation by Kabir Chowdhury
A child's appeal to government
My name is Fahim and I am an eleven years old boy. I study in class five. I am writing about educational facilities of children.
In our country many children are illiterate. I do not think that we can blame their poor parents for their children's illiteracy. Some people are really poor and cannot afford much; even their children also work. They work as domestic servants and helpers in small motor garages, or as hawkers and so on. If we deeply think about these problems we will see that these problems have solutions. The government can help these poor children to overcome their problems. It makes me sad that children of my age do not get the chance of being educated. I hope that the problem will be solved sooner
(Daily Star, October 24, 2003).
Old Popular Songs
jayen to jayen kha song sung by lata from the film taxi driver
Two greats come together Lata and Nusrat
This song is spectacular both in Hindi by Lata mangeshkar and in punjabi by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Yeh raaten, yeh mausam, nadee ka kinara Vocalist: Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Lyrics: S.H.Bihari
O Majhi, by SD Burman
16. Why low tourism in Bangladesh?
Amazing ancient wrathful red tara, 5th century, amazing siva lingham and hevajra images at paharpur buddhist monastry ruins. 8th century.
Unless i process more of my amazing trip to Bangladesh and India over the summer this is my conclusiory note on blogging, travelling and Bangladesh. First of all, I really like blogging for the fact that the story is down on something written, ready for people to read at their own convenience. I come from a tradition of story-tellers and nowadays no one has time for stories. Here we are, storytellers, waiting on the sideline for people to get off their phones and blackberries in order for us to share the wisdom of experience and life. Well, thanks to blogging all the stories are there, and I have done my job, now it's up to you to read it!
I have made so many wonderful friends, and hopefully have fostered relationships that will last into the long future. It is so important for we Americans to get the real story on Islam, Islamic culture, and 'Muslim countries". Hopefully, anyone who had read this blog now understands that Bangaldesh is a democratic country with a Muslim majority. That is very different from a country run by Muslim law like Saudi Arabia. There is nothing within Islam that does not support democracy, in fact the two are very close to one another.
Kurukulla aka Yoli aka France (September, 2006)
Three major heritages of Bangladesh are still leading the contest for a place among seven new wonders of nature. Cox’s Bazar, the world’s longest natural sandy sea beaches (120 km), was in the top position till Friday among the 158 nominated sites across the world. Sundarban Delta, the largest mangrove forest in the world, was trailing second and the Ganges, the 2,510km-long river flowing through India and Bangladesh, was ranking third in the voting. Contest among the nominated natural sites will continue till December 31, 2008
Tourism requires friendly people and good service. No matter what the attraction may be, a tourism centre that lacks good customer service and friendly people will fail. In the same way, communities that offer poor service not only do not attract newcomers, but, in the end, have a difficult time holding on to their local population, young people and businesses. Tourism requires good restaurants, hotels and recreational facilities. These are the same factors that are essential to any community seeking economic development.
Bangladesh can be an ideal destination for community-based tourism. For sustainable progress in poverty eradication, the present time is suitable for considering the implementation of community-based tourism. Bangladesh is a country of thousands of villages. Most of its heritage sites and international tourist spots are positioned around villages. These are intended for education as well as recreation. Sometimes rare plants or animal species are the main attraction, sometimes traditional food, handicraft or historic buildings. A European example of well-developed rural tourism is France. Camping and caravans are the most popular forms of accommodation in rural areas, many of them on farms. Many farmers have developed camping sites on their farms. Others prefer to invest in various kinds of short-term rental houses known as "gîtes."
Bangladesh has huge potential for tourism. The concept of community-based rural tourism and its benefits are still unexplored. Now is the right time to think of rural tourism development. Apart from rural tourism, all general attractions, like archaeological sites, historical places, natural beaches are, more or less, getting importance. But rural tourism can turn into a booming sector for at least two reasons. First, through rural tourism, Bangladesh may rid itself of poverty, and second, the infrastructure of far-off and rural places will be developed.
Tourism is an important economic development tool for emerging and minority communities around the world. Since tourism is based on the appreciation of other cultures, tourism industries have been especially open to giving disadvantaged groups around the world opportunities that have often been denied to them by other economic sectors.
Buddhist archaeological sites
Archaeological sites, mainly the Buddhist monasteries and temples in the country, could be a major attraction for tourists if they were properly conserved and extensive campaign on them was conducted. Every year a good number of tourists, mainly the Chinese and Japanese pilgrims, visit different Buddhist sites in the subcontinent, which have a long history.
The industry insiders said tourism could flourish in Bangladesh if a small portion of these religious tourists would visit its sites having long lineage of Buddhist history. They said religious tourists mostly avoid this country as there is lack of campaign on these archaeological sites and they are not well-conserved.
Faridul Haque, a tour operator and former president of the Tour Operator Association of Bangladesh, said the history of Buddhism in this country is long and rich, and the number of related sites is more than any other countries mostly frequented by religious tourists. He said many tourists are interested to visit the archaeological sites like Somapura Vhiara at Paharpur, Salban Vhiara at Maynamati, Vasu Vhiara at Mohasthangarh in Bogra in our country.
Immediate conservation of these sites as well as ensuring their tourism-friendly environment is necessary to attract the tourists, he added. Golam Kibria, deputy chief executive officer of Riverain Tours, said last year they had 55 Japanese and Chinese tourists in three groups, and this year they expect more tourists who like both the eco-tourism and cultural tourism.
Tour operators said, besides the foreign tourists, local tourists have interest in the archaeological sites and museums of the country. Numerous Buddhist monasteries were set up in Bengal under the royal patronage of a series of Buddhist ruling dynasties between the 7th and the 12th century. These monasteries were used as centres of learning and pilgrimage.
The Vasu Vhiara at Mohasthangarh was the capital of the kingdom of the Mourjo, the Gupta and the Sen dynasty during 2500 BC. The Somapura Vhiara at Paharpur is another tourist attraction in north Bengal.
King Dharma Pal established the Paharpur Buddhist monastery in the 7th century, which is the most important and the largest known monastery in the south Himalayan countries. The Salban Vihara at Mainamati, which is almost in the middle of the Mainamati-Lalmai hill range, is also a good attraction for the tourists (New Age, August 30, 2008).
Jaflong's natural beauty has been systematically destroyed
Jaflong lies to the northeast of Sylhet, sixty kilometres as the crow flies. For part of the journey the road is straight as an arrow, and the car easily hits a hundred. The countryside appears pancake flat with swaying rice fields and thinly spread villages.
Jaflong's story turns on beauty, boulders and betel nuts. Nestled at the foot of the Khasia-Jainta hills, it is a place of pristine loveliness. The Piayin River slices through Jaflong and the river is woven tightly into the lives of the local people. Fishing is an important economic activity. The villages on the far side of the river are called Punjees, and they are populated by the secretive Khasia tribe. Named after the hills, the Khasias live by growing betel leafs and betel nuts. Around them, the river and the hills make up a diverse ecosystem rich with flora and fauna. Jaflong has the potential to be the dream destination for urban-weary tourists who want to get up close and personal with nature. But unfortunately, all is not well in paradise.
But this idyllic picture has been ruined by the careless and unregulated extraction of stone that has been going on for decades under the very noses of the administration. Commercial greed is ripping the heart out of Jaflong. The caretaker government took a step in the right direction by ordering the stone crushing plants further down river. But less than two years later, the crushers are back. What could have been an attractive tourist destination is in danger of becoming a barren wasteland. The rapacious operation is not only changing the landscape, but also threatening the delicate ecosystem.
Jaflong has always been known for its natural resources. The British East India Company's Resident Collector Robert Lindsay wrote about extracting limestone and iron ore from the Khasia hills. Stones that rolled downstream with the current have long been collected and sold by locals. But it is only in the recent past that heavy machinery and systematic excavation took quarrying to a new level.
It is small wonder that the great 'stone rush' has reached record proportions. But the unregulated quarrying has taken a terrible toll on the environment. Apart from air, soil and sound pollution, the Piyain river -- the lifeblood of Jaflong -- has been badly affected. Artificial sand dunes and makeshift bridges have altered the natural flow of the river. The crystal clear water of the Piyain is gradually turning a muddy brown.
The effects are being felt as far downstream as Darbast, 25 kilometres from Jaflong. According to Doloi Mia, a local fisherman, fish in the river is dwindling. “The nets used to be heavy with fish ten years ago,” says Doloi. “We could make two or even three trips to the market. Nowadays, it's becoming harder and harder to catch enough fish to feed our families. There are times when we get nothing in the nets except snails.” It is not only fishing communities that have an axe to grind with the unregulated extraction and processing of stone from the Piayin River. Farmers have seen their land decrease in fertility and their cattle become prone to disease. Human health has also suffered. “Many of the stone quarry workers suffer from respiratory tract illnesses,” says Dr Maruf Ali, medical officer at Sylhet Osmani Medical College Hospital. “Skin diseases are common. Many of the female workers suffer from urinary tract infections due to standing in the water for long periods.”
Tourism enriches with cultural, environmental and social awareness. Tourism brings peace and cooperation among nations, and builds bridges. While speaking to more than 60 tourism ministers from Muslim countries in Baku, Azerbaijan in the second week of this September, Francesco Frangialli, WTO secretary general, called on world leaders for strengthening tourism links to promote cross cultural understanding, and to use the power of tourism to build new global bridges of understanding between states.
Now, let us have a look at the tourism sector in Bangladesh. It does not present a pleasant picture. International tourist arrivals in 2001 stood at 207,199. Available sources suggest that the number stood at 207,662 in the year 2005. This means an addition of only 463 foreign tourists in four years. The meagre foreign exchange earnings due to low arrival of foreign tourists, particularly western tourists, represent one percent of Bangladesh's total export economy. Direct and indirect employment in the tourism sector is slightly over 100,000 and 200,000 respectively, and this is a discouraging figure against the country's total labour force of 75 million or so.
In Bangladesh, there are many tourist-areas and spots where the local people involvement could be taken into consideration for improvement of the total tourist increase in the country. There are many such possibilities we have in Bangladesh, but all of them cannot be brought into practice for description, only few could be taken. Modhupur Sal forest is the traditional important tourist area in the country. This is going to be perished very soon for the lack of proper maintenance and involvement of the local and tribal people there. This could be managed as ecotouristic important place with the involvement of local Garo tribe. Forest areas of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar districts (which ranges from Karerhat forest at the north to the Teknaf forest at the south) have several areas that can be treated as the ecotouristic spots. The areas are Karerhat, Mieresarai, Podua, Chunati, Fashiakhali Eidgaon, Eidgar and Teknaf forests. The local people in these areas could be involved and management is possible to uphold the importance of ecotouristic and financial augmentation of the local people.
The tribal people in the Chittagong Hills Tracts (CHT) are of different ethnic, philosophical and cultural origin. They have also different customs and traditions. Ecotouristic approach and practice is necessary there not only for local tribes and castes but also for conservation of their traditions. Biodiversity and natural beauties of the hilly areas could be conserved in the way. Though the management system in the CHT is different and difficult but is not impossible.
It is necessary to take serious measures in the field not only for economic benefits but also for conservation of unique natural beauties in the forests
"Just as Columbus 'discovered' America 500 years ago, the ecotourism establishment is out 'discovering' ecotourism sites in the underdeveloped countries. We who live in such settings hope that the ecotourism industry will take care to avoid repeating Columbus's crimes against indigenous people who have for centuries been the caretakers of the forests.
"We are not waiting for you to come 'develop' us. History has taught us to be cautious about your schemes. We are hoping that when you come to our communities you will come humbly, wanting to learn from us what we can teach you about environmentally responsible living.
We hope you will help us create opportunities to share our knowledge and the richness of our natural resources with you in ways that recognise and reinforce the dignity and autonomy of our people" (Salazar et. al. 1991).
In 1998, Cambodia received ninety-six thousand tourists, in that year Bangladesh received one hundred fifty thousand tourists. In 2006, Cambodia received about two million tourists and Bangladesh, two hundred thousand. The only tourism product in Cambodia is its cultural heritage, and the Angkor Wat -- an 11th century temple. Cambodia earned $1 billion from tourism in 2006, while Bangladesh earned $89 million. Last year, Malaysia received more than thirteen million tourists.
Nowadays different organisations often organise tourism fairs in Bangladesh, in which mainly outbound tour packages are sold. Sending tourists from Bangladesh to other countries cannot be treated as the development of tourism in our country.
These fairs are sellers' fairs in character from the perspective of Bangladesh because the foreign exhibitors or their counterparts in Bangladesh sell outbound tour packages, and only a few offer domestic tour packages. Instead of helping the country to earn foreign currency through tourism, the sellers' fairs help in depletion of the foreign exchange reserve of the country. We need buyers' fairs, where foreign buyers (travel agents) will come to Bangladesh to get offers of tour packages, so that they may send tourists to our country. If we cannot arrange this type of fair, then it is better for our country that we refrain from organising sellers' fairs. With insignificant foreign exchange reserve, Bangladesh cannot have the luxury of encouraging its people to go for holidays outside the country.
The number of eco-tourists in the world has been increasing by more than ten percent a year. Initially, Bangladesh may set its target to attract one million eco-tourists a year. To achieve that target, it will have to chalk out a down-to-earth tourism marketing strategy and go for aggressive marketing in countries, which produce most of the outbound tourists.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has identified six major reasons for ecotourism investment in local communities.
The reasons of ecotourism investment in local communities are:
"The travel and tourism industry employs 127 million workers (one in fifteen workers worldwide). Ecotourism is the largest growing sector of the tourism industry, with (1994 surveys showing) 40-60% of all international tourists (528.4 million) are nature tourists (211-317 million, contributing an international direct economic impact of US$166-250 billion), and that 20-40% are wildlife-related tourists (106-211 million, contributing an international direct economic impact of US$83-166 billion)". Tour operators, developers and governments obviously see future money to be made. Increasing human populations and their demand on natural resources make it almost impossible for developing countries to leave large areas undeveloped. It is this necessity for development of natural areas to produce economic benefits that makes ecotourism so attractive. "(Environmentalists and …officials in Madagascar) are counting on the burgeoning worldwide interest in 'ecotourism' to help to save what's left of the country's natural resources. They are hoping better roads and hotels will increase tourism enough to produce profits to save the island's remaining rainforests" (Hale, 1989). The world's biodiversity is being lost at an estimated 140 species per day. It is imperative that biosphere reserves are established in many tropical countries -- the "hot spots" of biodiversity -- in order to protect what is left. Ecotourism is an attractive use of these reserves, as it aims to protect natural resources, not destroy them. The government has the right to sell that land to foreign producers, to logging companies, or to create a reserve with it. Local people living in these areas may have no right to ownership of the land. Even when indigenous communities have been living there for generations, many times the land is not titled to them and therefore belongs to the government. However, in order to sustain a reserve and its ecotourism, government, developers, and scientists must invest in these communities and recognise the rights of local people, who have for so long protected these natural resources. Local communities must be involved from the very beginning in planning a reserve, and be able to give their opinions and to be heard. Ecotourism can bring many changes to a society, and these communities must have a say in what they are willing to accept. Some of these changes can be very culturally detrimental. Without the whole-hearted support of these local communities, ecotourism and the reserve can fail -- locals may actually start killing wildlife and destroying forests in retribution (Hughes 1996; Stonich 1996; Tchamie 1994). The community is an assemblage of interacting species of populations that occur together in same place at the same time. It is the biological part of an ecosystem, as distinct from its physical environment. So, it is also called a biological community. The community has interesting and complex properties arising from the interactions between species. Competition, predation, parasitism, and mutualism occurring among individuals appear to lie behind many patterns in community organisation. The best sustainable community is the Bishnoi of Rajasstan, India.
Aims of the "tourism enriches" campaign are:
To promote tourism as a basic human right, and way of life which enriches individuals, family, societies and nations; To stimulate communication about the benefits of tourism as the most prospective economic activity for the local communities and countries; To enhance cooperation between destinations, and the tourism industry with the local, regional and international media; and To link individual tourism entities to the larger community of international tourism.
The question that arises is: why is there such a low arrival of foreign tourists in spite of the existence of tourism products such as the world's longest unbroken beach, the world's largest mangrove forest, riverine beauty, third century BC archaeological sites, etc.
The answer to the question may be found in the problems and constraints faced by the country's tourism sector, and these are:
Bangladesh's image problem abroad as a tourist destination; Lack of knowledge among the planners and policy makers about the fast growing tourism industry in the world, and of its role as an important earner of foreign exchange; Discontinuity in the implementation of policies and programs for tourism promotion with the change of governments; Insufficient infrastructural facilities such as roads, railway, air and riverine communication, and lack of coordination among the government agencies responsible for their improvement; (f) poor investment from private sector; (g) lack of encouragement to foreign investors to develop tourism in isolated islands such as Saint Martin's, Sonadia, etc (especially for the foreign tourists); (h) lack of appropriate steps for promotion of rural based tourism; (h) lack of skilled and professional manpower; and Lack of easy availability of visa for regional and international tourists.
If Bangladesh can solve the above problems and constraints on a priority basis, provide incentives to foreign investors to develop island tourism, and promote rural based tourism, she will shortly become an important destination for regional and international tourists. Tourism will enrich Bangladesh.
17. Sonar Bangla in Paris
Bangladesh's rich and colourful heritage caught the attention of the western eye last summer, when Bangladeshi and French archaeologists, in a joint excavation, unearthed a temple that dates back to the 800AD. This, however, did not come as news to veteran archaeologists as the country's civilisation is believed to be as old as the Aryan conquest of the South Asian sub-continent. In fact, the ancient city of Pundranagar, now situated in the village of Mahasthan (The Sacred Site) in Bogra, has been mentioned in the Vedas, and has remained one of the oldest urban settlements discovered in the eastern part of the sub-continent. The city, as the historians say, was the capital and most important city of Pundra Varendra Bhukti, one of the five Janapads (settlements) on the Ganges delta. It was also an important stop on trade routes leading to the east (Assam, Burma, Chinese Yunan) and to the Bay of Bengal to the south. The city lost its role of capital after the Muslim conquest of Bengal in the early 13th century.
French help in unearthing Bangladesh's forgotten and thus neglected past, is not new. After the Pundranagar was discovered in 1879 by Sir Alexander Cunningham, several excavation attempts were made throughout the last century, the most notable of which was led by Bangladeshi archaeologist Dr Nizamuddin Ahmed from 1961 to 1968. French archaeologists joined hands with their Bangladeshi counterparts in 1993 and have come up with a detailed stratigraphy from the late 4th century. B.C. to the 12th century A.D. and preliminary studies on different artefacts such as pottery coins and beads.
"Since 2001," says Shakhawat Hossain, Press Attachë of the French Embassy, "new excavations are being carried out in the Mazar area, near the south-eastern corner of the ancient city. New buildings have been brought to light, especially a large pillared room-- the function of which remains unknown, and beautiful defensive devices: two rampart-walls, a city gate with bastions, a paved access road, a protruding fortified bastion, etc. The latest discoveries provide evidence that there was a siege of the city, with sapping trenches by the attackers, probably at the end of the Pala-Sena (8th-13th century) period." The most amazing aspect of Pundranagar is its rampart-wall, which is over 1.5 km long from the north to south axis and 1.3 km long on the west-east axis; in places the wall is 15 m tall, and several well-built gates are clearly visible in the site.
Made exclusively of baked bricks, the rampart was re-built several times throughout the long history of the city; in its earlier phase, it was most probably built as a protection against floods," Hossain says.
From south to north, in the Mazar area there exist well-preserved public buildings and temples from the 14/15th century to earlier periods. Some other important discoveries include: the massive basalt threshold of a Hindu temple near Khodar Patar; a mosque at Mankalir Dhap; the Jiyat Kunda well, supposed to give new strength to men; the "Parasuram" building, which is thought to be a Mughul residence (16th century); the Hindu temples at Bairagir Bhita, the domestic area near the eastern rampart; the Munir Ghon bastion on the east side of the city-wall; the protruding buttress on the north-eastern rampart; and the restored Govinda Bhita temple outside the rampart to the north.
The country can also boast having the oldest Buddhist monastery in the world. Situated in Naogaon, Paharpur, has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Built by king Dharmapala in the 8th century, Paharpur Vihara was inhabited by Mahayana Buddhists and served as an important intellectual and cultural centre during the reign of the Pala dynasty. Its Buddhist architecture influenced building patterns throughout South Asia and it also has the ruins of Somapura Mahavihara, an important intellectual centre for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains.
The site bears the trademark quadrangular form of a traditional Buddhist stupa; it also has 177 cells, most of which were used by the monks for meditation.
The recent discoveries that Bangladesh has made of its past are no less than staggering; they include: a bronze Buddha measuring 1.33 metres (from Paharpur in 1982); a Gupta Buddha sculpted on both sides (from Mahasthan in 1992); a bronze Vajrasattva and an Avalokiteswara (both from Maintamati in 1995). All these artefacts will take their first journey abroad in the next autumn to be displayed in the French capital. The exhibition, primarily titled "The Collections of Bangladeshi Museums" aims to show, for the first time outside of Bangladesh, the unbelievably rich and complex heritage of this country. "Recent archaeological researches help us show works from the Maurya period and go on until the 19th century. Thus we are able to retrace history whilst emphasising on a certain number of major sites. As a matter of fact, one of the characteristics of this heritage is that a lot of the pieces are well documented and will enable us to situate the same in their precise historical and artistic context," Hossain says.
Most of the pieces to be showcased are from the 3rd century BC to 19th century AD. "As for the Hindu and Buddhist sculpture," says Hossain, "the iconographical variety of the two pantheons have been meticulously illustrated, and so remain representative of the larger tendencies. The exhibition has also had privileged pieces from the well-identified sites to present them as coherent ensembles."
Given the vast choice, he says, the museum has selected the most beautiful and impressive pieces. The grand bronze of Mainamati in particular is going to be a stunner. "It is interesting that even though some of these pieces have been published for an entirely scientific reader, these pieces are unknown to the larger public in the western world," Hossain adds. In fact, Musëe National des asiatiques Guimet, the host of the exhibition, is one of the most prestigious and important museums in the world that exhibit oriental arts. "It regularly hosts international exhibitions, the latest being on the lost treasures of Afghanistan, especially gold artefacts, which is currently attracting thousands of persons daily," says Hossain. This will be the first ever exhibition of Bangladeshi artefacts abroad. In addition, paintings drawn by famous Bangladeshi artists, music, fashion shows, photo and film shows will be organised during the exhibition, first ever in France. "It will continue for four months in Paris, the most visited city in the world," Hossain says. During this period, posters advertising Bangladesh's culture will be all over the walls in Paris and reports will appear in both national and international media, "And on top of it all," Hossain says, "it will surely become a major international attraction, helping Bangladesh join the cultural world stage that its rich culture so rightly deserves."
(The collections of Bangladesh's museums, (provisory title), 23rd October 2007 3rd March 2008, Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet 6, place d'Iéna 75116 Paris, A Hossain March 30, 2007).
Ancient Bengal treasures finally being flown to Paris for display ?
Finally, the 24 rare ancient Bengal treasures of Barind Research Museum (BRM) under Rajshahi University (RU) are being flown to Paris for display at a museum there for 'a great global exposure' of Bangladesh. The priceless objects of historical interest will be flown in the first week of next month.
A team from France's Guimet Museum are already in Bangladesh and it is due to visit BRM soon for packaging the treasures, said BRM Director Mohammad Zakaria. These are scheduled to be taken to Dhaka on August 1 and to be flown for Paris on August 4, he said. Some 120 objects selected from Bangladesh National Museum, Mahasthangarh, Paharpur and Mainamati Archeological Museum and BRM will be put on display at the mMuseum, said sources. France's famous Guimet Museum, dedicated to Asian arts, will sponsor a four-month exhibition styled 'Sonar Bangla' from Oct 24 this year to March 3 next year.
The BRM assets include two 5th century manuscripts and 22 other old sculptures of 7th to 12th centuries. They include a unique gold-coated bronze statue of Manjusri. The 'Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita' manuscript is a rare collection of texts of Mahayana doctrine in 32 chapters and 8000 lines. It has 49 polychrome miniatures representing gods and goddesses of ancient Vajra family. Dhyani Buddha Aksobhya was the founder of the family. The sculptures include 7th, 9th and 11th century Suriya, 10th century Bara Havtara and 12th century black stone statues of Ganga, Ardha Nariswar (half female and half male god), Shiva, Shiva Ardhanari Nritta Ganapati and Karttiketa.
Former Rajshahi Bar Association secretary Muhammad Yahiya in a public interest litigation on April 4 had challenged the RU decision to send BRM treasures abroad. But it was rejected on July 11. Besides, some 326 RU teachers on many occasions protested the decision. Established in 1910 by Dighapatiya Zamindar Kumar Sarat Kumar Roy, the BRM has 10,000 archaeological treasures that attract at least 300 visitors a day (Daily Star,July 24, 2007).
Musee Guimet controversy
What is the “Sonar Bangla” exhibition?
This exhibition is scheduled to showcase 189 pieces of Bangladeshi ancient art, over four months from October 2007 to March 2008 at the National Museum of Asiatic Art, the Musee Guimet, Paris. It has been planned for several years, and has involved extensive negotiations between the governments of France and Bangladesh.
It is being held at one of the most prestigious venues for Asian art in the whole of Europe, a major national museum which holds an important permanent collection of South Asian art. It recently held very well reviewed exhibitions of Afghan gold and Cambodian ancient art. It is the first major international exhibition of Bangladeshi ancient art — the first opportunity the world will have to see our national heritage, and to see it in all its diversity and richness. It will show a face of Bangladesh which is little known in the west. It is likely to generate not only new interest in Bangladesh, but to catalyse further research and perhaps also future cultural exchanges and engagement.
Why are some people objecting to the exhibition?As each objection has been met and responded to, new ones have been generated. It seems that the real objection of many of the “experts” is that they were not involved/consulted.
1. The Musee Guimet is not a state museum [stated by the writ petitioners’ lawyer]. The Museum is a national museum, and regulated, like all other national museums by the Director Museums, an official of the Ministry of Culture. It’s not very difficult to find this out, just go on the website of the French government. 2. The Musee Guimet is not well known and has a dubious past. The Museum is internationally renowned as one of the leading European museums of Asian art. 3. The artefacts listed for exhibition include unique pieces and these are too valuable too travel, so only replicas should be taken [stated by “experts” eg Prof. Shafi]. 4.International exhibitions do not show replicas, but only originals. Visitors to art exhibitions are interested in seeing original, unique pieces. Please check the details of the Tutankhamun exhibition, the Pompeii Exhibition, the Arts of Persia Exhibition etc. all held in major international venues, and more recently the Gupta sculptures exhibition held in Paris. 5.The artefacts if sent in the original will be copied while abroad, and the French Government will keep the originals and return the copies and no-one in Bangladesh will know the difference. [Dr. Yuree, and also Prof. Shafi] In addition to a clause in the agreement that the artifacts will be returned within four weeks, the French government has passed an order — as is usual — clearly stating that under no circumstances could the artefacts be retained in France on conclusion of the exhibition. It should be noted that while many artefacts have been and continue to be smuggled out of Bangladesh, this is invariably by individuals and is hardly likely in the context of a government to government agreement. 6. The French would never allow the Mona Lisa or Picassos to travel [Prof. Nizamuddin, an “expert” and petitioner seeking injunction]. Of course the Mona Lisa has travelled abroad as have many Picasso artworks (including to India). 7. The removal of the artefacts will hamper research [Prof. Shafi of Jahangirnagar Univ]. Quite the contrary. It will enable new interest in the artefacts to be generated. Physical examination of individual items is not always necessary for research.
Concerns for clarification.
One of the government officials who is supposed to travel with the exhibit has earlier been accused of theft of artefacts [raised by writ petitioners and their lawyer].
There is an absolute prohibition of any unique antiquities being taken abroad. This is a misreading of the law. Antiquities may be sent on “temporary export” “for purposes of exhibition etc…” [See Rule 22 (1) (a) Antiquities Act]. In this case the artefacts are obviously going abroad for temporary export as exhibits.
More about the artifacts from Ahmede Hussain:
Bangladesh’s rich and colourful heritage caught the attention of the western eye last summer, when Bangladeshi and French archaeologists, in a joint excavation, unearthed a temple that dates back to the 800AD. This, however, did not come as news to veteran archaeologists as the country’s civilisation is believed to be as old as the Aryan conquest of the South Asian sub-continent. In fact, the ancient city of Pundranagar, now situated in the village of Mahasthan (The Sacred Site) in Bogra, has been mentioned in the Vedas, and has remained one of the oldest urban settlements discovered in the eastern part of the sub-continent.
Two 1,500-year-old terracotta Vishnu statues stolen
Amid tight security, two 1,500-year-old terracotta Vishnu statues bound for an exhibition in Paris were stolen from the custody of Air France at Zia International Airport (ZIA) between late Friday night and Saturday noon. Named "Vishnu" and "Bust of Vishnu", the statues are from Gupta era of the 17th century. Since being discovered in a dig at Mahasthangarh of Bogra, they had been kept at the National Museum. Despite protest from art connoisseurs, the government was sending the statues along with 143 other artefacts to the Guimet Museum in the French capital under a deed signed with France. In the first phase, it sent 42 relics on December 1.
NOW that the scandal of the stolen artefacts has come to pass, there are some heads which need to roll. Let there be no question here of who is to blame and who ought to be hauled in for questioning. When Adviser Ayub Quadri acknowledged in so many words that he bore responsibility for the theft of the two Vishnu artefacts from the cargo space at the Zia International Airport the other day, he, in effect, admitted before the country that it was a sloppy job that people under his supervision had done.
And when such an admission of responsibility over a bad happening is there before the country, it is only fair that the one making the admission take the graceful way out. You might suggest here that on-going investigations into the affair preclude such an exit on the part of the individual at the top of the entire program of despatching our artefacts to the Guimet Museum in France.
Given the terrible exigencies of the situation arising out of the theft of the artefacts, as also the discovery of some other artefacts outside our frontiers, it is only natural to ask that those who failed to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of the items beings sent to France now do us all a favour by walking away from their jobs.
And then, of course, there was a bigger concern. Over the past two decades, a good number of items relating to the various periods of Bangladesh's history have been pilfered or destroyed or smuggled out.
Our security forces, with little to show for efficiency and expertise in protecting the evidence that substantiates our history, have naturally failed to make much headway in recovering the artefacts that have regularly gone missing. Small wonder then that our defensive instincts about our historical objects going abroad arouse our sensitivities (Syed Badrul Ahsan , Daily Star, Dec26, 2007).
Vishnu's torn face recovered
Three more fragments of the stolen statues the 'Bust of Vishnu' and the black-coloured 'Vishnu' were recovered from Baliarpur of Aminbazar dump yard yesterday. The Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) recovered the face and a fragment of left hand of the 'Bust of Vishnu' and a piece of the basement of black 'Vishnu'.
Md Aminul Huq of Rab-1 said: "We along with Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) employees have so far recovered 45 fragments of the broken statues." Swapan Kumar Biswas, acting keeper of the National Museum, who detected yesterday's recovered fragments at the Rab-1 office, told The Daily Star: "This is a major recovery of the broken 'Bust of Vishnu'". About 20 percent of the statue has so far been recovered, while the recovery of the 'Vishnu' is very insignificant, he added. According to eyewitnesses, the fragments of brown-coloured 'Bust of Vishnu' grew pale.
Talking to The Daily Star, Gazi Abdul Mannan, deputy assistant director of Rab-1 who led yesterday's drive, said: "We found the fragments by digging out at least four layers of the garbage. "Other fragments were also recovered from the spot yard and all the pieces were found within 30-40 yards. The remaining pieces might be hidden there."
Rab-1 sources said they also recovered two other fragments of the 'Bust of Vishnu' on Wednesday and 28 others on December 28. The two priceless artefacts were stolen on December 21 from the Zia International Airport (ZIA) while these were on way to France for an exhibition (Daily Star, January 4, 2008).
“Vishnu disparu au Bangladesh, le musée Guimet ébranlé” [Vishnu disappeared in Bangladesh, Musée Guimet shaken
If the situation has escalated in recent months, it is also because the organizers did not react sensitively to the comments that were made, they were strong to have the support of the government of Bangladesh (and probably surprised that we can challenge the organization of such an exhibition), but it would be wrong, as it tried to have us believe that this movement is only a review carried out by government opponents in place in Dhaka. Among the opponents, there are archaeologists, art historians, university professors and it is insulting them than to eliminate out of hand the criticism they have made. It’s true that the government of Bangladesh has made mistakes, but France took advantage. The opposition is not an opposition to the principle of the exhibition but is based fundamentally on the choice of objects.
Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country, it is true, but nevertheless, it is the Bengalis’ countries (Bangladesh), and they are extremely aware of their past and their culture. They are respectful of their ancestors and their achievements and do not expect the West to shed light on this matter, but it might actually help by supporting educational projects, or training (what Guimet tried to offering training museology), or by sharing our knowledge on the restoration, conservation, and so on. — But only if they apply: nothing is worse than being allowed to believe “help” when in fact, it does impose its own vision of the world.
And finally, knowing also retire at the right time: we are no longer the “blessed time of the settlements,” but unfortunately have bad habits die hard. Exhibitions of this kind we are happy, but we must not forget that we eat at this time of the culture that is not ours, and for which we do often than condescension. Let’s hear another on the spot and accept that his vision of the world can be radically different from ours (Illusion archaeologist, Dec. 2007).
Swash of the sea
Just a few kilometer (10) south of Cox's Bazar is not well known - one of the most beautiful spots of Bangladesh. Inani is unlike Cox's Bazar main beach in every aspect. The waves are calmer and the water much cleaner. And this is a coral beach. We walked across the sand dunes and found ourselves left to the lonely vastness. Because it is far away from Cox's Bazar main, very few people come here this early. We crossed a waist deep pool of water -- to us it was a lagoon. The water got trapped as the high tide receded in ebb. To us, it was a huge natural swimming pool. We could swim in it. And yet we could lie on the edge, half-submerged in water just as we do on the beach. And the water was salty. What a fun! A swimming pool with salty water!
But the real sea was more welcoming and we plodded through the sand towards the green waves breaking on the shore. The water was cool but we did not mind it. We dipped in the water until we shivered in the cold. Then we lay on the beach, basking the warmth of the sun and lazily watching the hills on the other side. This is another interesting feature of the place, you can find the sea and the hills together. The wind blew strong and the roar of the waves mingled with the rustle of the pines. On such a lonely beach nothing matters, one can shut out the outside world and get lost in ecstasy. When we were warmed up, we again jumped into the sea.
I. Ahmed (May 20, 2007) describes:
Tired of the frolicking, we wanted to explore around. The black coral masses peeking over the water were our next target. We climbed on the corals and walked along, but soon learnt the folly of it. The coral surfaces were too rough and almost bruised our soles. And they are difficult to walk on. We slipped quite a few times and got badly bruised. Then we gave up. Instead we wanted to act field biologists.
There were some scattered corals half sunk in the sands close to the sea. Small pools of water gathered around them. We probed in the water, peeping under the coral formations, into the crevices. And then we found them. The large greenish crabs. They moved slowly across the sandy bottom, their eyes revolving like radars in different directions. One, two, three, many of them. Big, medium and small. I dipped my finger and they tried to grab it with their long pincers. I lowered a twig and two of them clutched it until I lifted them clean out of water. Then we found a hermit crab. The hermit crabs are a funny creature and very crafty too. They always carry an empty mussel shell as a safe shield. This hermit crab was holding a large shell above its head like a helmet and was crawling fast. As we approached it, it withdrew itself completely inside the shell. From outside, one would think it a shell of a dead mussel. We lifted the shell and saw the crab's pincers. We dragged the thing out by its pincers. Dispossessed of its shield, the crab looked bewildered and lost. We put it down beside its shell and the creature sprinted inside its safe home again. We found some small fish swimming blissfully in the pool. And we found some live coral clusters, red and soft to the touch.
A group of fishermen beached their boat -- the first of the day -- and were hauling down the fishing net. We gathered there. These are the small boats, they don't wander far off into the sea and so their catch is small fishes and not much in quantity. There were some strange fishes leaf like and mud coloured. Their eyes were on one side. Kutta Jiva -- dog's tongue -- that is what the fishermen call them. They sorted the strange fishes and green crabs and threw them on the hot sand. The fish squirmed in pain and the upturned crabs slowly stretched and closed their feet. We felt bad and tried to rescue them by putting them into the small pools. As soon as they were released there, the crabs dug into the sand and the fish beat their strange bodies to cover themselves up in mud.
It was already noon and the beach was now crowding up with visitors who came by rented four-wheelers. The beach was sizzling with the blast from the sun. So we retreated to our guesthouse.
In the afternoon soft glow, we ventured out again. By now the beach had again become lonely. Only the whish of the breeze and the continuous roar of the breaking waves. Along the coast ran a wisp of white foam. We walked along the lonely beach. The fishing boats were bobbing up and down away in the sea -- visible this moment, gone the next second. We met two visitors now -- a pair of huge gulls running into shallow waves and pecking food. They cawed as we approached them, but then decided to disregard our presence. We walked along for another mile until the sun immersed into the distant sea like a huge fireball.
The night enwrapped us with a strange quietness -- a quietness that was made even more overbearing with the distant swash of the sea. We stepped out of the bungalow to witness a brilliant display of zillions of stars. Against the ink black sky, they looked like thousand searchlights. They reflected on the placid lagoons. In the pale starlight we walked to the beach. There were Ursa Major and Ursa Minors -- the bears -- and Orion-- the warrior. Pegasus shinning beside Andromeda. All splayed across the sky in celestial wonders.
We walked forward a few hundred yards and made out some strange black shapes stretching out, as it seemed, miles into the sea. A little closer and the shapes turned into huge coral formations -- hundreds and hundreds of them. They have emerged from the sea in low tide.
We watched a star shooting down into the sea -- a bright wisp of light fizzling out as abruptly as it started. Then two more shooting stars showered down. We stood there watching the phosphorus in the waves burning against the corals until we shivered in the cold.
Hinterland of Inani was once (only a few years ago) densely forested area of Arkan Forest, where elephants and other wild lives had their home. But now the forest is almost gone and only the roraing waves that complain!
1798 Francis Buchanan's Report
In 1798 Francis Buchanan, an English explorer and servant of the East India Company, toured the hilly and forested interior of Chittagong District on official business, and incidentally made important observations about the religions of the peoples he encountered. Among the “Arakanese” peoples of the Sitakund mountains, for example, Buchanan noticed some worship of siva. In central Chakaria, he found forest-dwelling Muslims who made their living collecting oil, honey, and wax. Further south, among the jhum cultivators of Ukhia, he found a form of Buddhism that he said “differs a good deal from that of the orthodox Burma”: their priests were styled “pungres,” and their chief god was Maha Muni, worshiped in the form of a great copper image. On the other hand, in the Cox’s Bazar region the Englishman was unable to find evidence of religious ideas of any sort. “They said they knew no god (Thakur) and that they never prayed to Maha Muni, Ram, nor Khooda”—that is, deities associated respectively with the Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim traditions. Clearly, by the end of the eighteenth century, scripturally legitimated religions had as yet gained only a tenuous foothold, if any at all, among the jhum population ofBengal’s extreme eastern edge. Here Allah—or his Persian equivalent, Khuda —was only one among several high gods in current circulation.
Myanmar-Bangladesh - Beauty of Naf River
A tranquil Naf river lapped gently, its surface blue and shiny almost like the surface of a mirror. Only gentle ripples broke the morning stillness. A line of mangrove trees frilled the river on both shores. It was high tide and the tree trunks were half submerged in water. The leaves, fresh from an overnight rain, A boat was tied to a tree, it floated still. Across the blue ribbon of the river stood tall the Arakan hills, unbroken and misty. They looked upside down in reflections on water. A deep blue sky streaked with white clouds. We sat on the balcony of the bungalow, sipped tea and took in the view. Slowly floated in a few fishing boats, the oars fell and rose, the boat proceeded with painstaking slowness. It is such postcard beauty of the nature that tourists come to Teknaf.
Inam Ahmed and S. Z. Hossain (Daily Star, June 3, 2007) describes:
We started climbing up the steep slope. There were some thin trails winding up trough trees and thick bushes. We followed one of them. There was something funny about the hills. Once they must have been covered with thick forest of tall trees. But today, very few of the trees were left - the rest fell victims to illegal loggers and corrupt forest officials (When we visited Teknaf, the chief conservator of forest was not arrested with his booty). Only a few of the mighty trees were still left, as if as reminders to what the place was, their trunks very wide and crooked with age. The rustle of the Chan (a kind of long grass) sang in our ears. In some place s they were so tall to hide us completely. Birds twittered merrily -- known and unknown sounds, sounds that you hear on any hills in Bangladesh.
We turned a bend through the thick undergrowth and found the droppings. Huge blobs of excreta full of fibers like grass and straw like things. We walked a little further along the narrow trail and found more of them. The animals that produced them are nothing other than elephants. Then we remembered one of the foresters saying that a herd of 15 elephants roam these hills. The droppings are not very old, only last night's work. A few things puzzled us -- how could these huge animals walk through the narrow trail without falling off and what they had for food? Apparently there are not enough food here on the hills because of the onslaught of the human population. These poor animals must have been suffering a lot.
We were now crossing the first hill into the next, a much higher one than the previous. First we climbed down to a valley and then trekked up the side of the hill. On the way we found more droppings and we were now walking with caution. The tuskers might not be very far away and we better be careful before chancing upon the hungry animals.
Half an hour later we were on top of the hill running unbroken for quite some distance. We stood there, looked down. The scene around simply took our breath away. It seemed we are on an aero plane, flying low over Teknaf. We could see the Naf river turning in the distance on our right and then meeting the sea. Where the river had widened to meet the sea, we could see long rows of fishing boats looking like some stick insects. The sea beach could be seen with the line of pines. The salt beds looked like the squares of a gigantic chessboard. The Myanmar landscape was just opposite us. We inspected it with our binoculars. We could see a vast empty land of green grass running deep into Myanmar. There was no human habitation in sight. The fields had ended with more hills and forests.
This sight we could never found anywhere in Teknaf unless we had taken this trekking trip. We walking along the ridge of the hill, keeping the Naf on our right. A white thin line kept constantly changing on the river -- the current had created a kind of foaming effect on the river. Right below us the river lapped gently and among the mangrove trees are moored two brightly coloured launches. A long pier had run into the river.
We kept walking along ridge. From here, everything looked so unreal and we felt we are some kind of eagles hovering over Teknaf in search of its beauty. And just then we had a chance to catch a flash in the sky. A serpent eagle darting out of the sky into the thickets of the hill. A few seconds later, it rose again, a long snake dangling from its beaks. A majestic bird with its wings spread across. We took in the view as long as we can. And then we started descending.
Architectural Heritage of Shakhari Bazar, the Oldest Mohalla in Puran (old) Dhaka
Architectural heritage of different ages in old Dhaka characterized by Mughal style, late Mughal style, colonial style and Raj style had been followed during the construction of the existing structures at Shakahari Bazar and seven adjacent areas -- Tati Bazaar, Kotwali Road, Panitola, Gowalnagar, Radhika Mohan, Boshak Lane and Jhulnabari. Ground floors of most of the 151 existing buildings at Shkhari Bazar were constructed in 18th century. Most of the people living in these buildings are conch-shell artisans, who have been practicing this craft for generations. All these features of Shakhari Bazar maintain the criteria required by UNESCO to be announced as a world heritage site.
Team leader of USG, Taimur Islam said, “Ground floors of most of the 151 existing buildings at Shkhari Bazar were constructed in 18th century. Most of the people living in these buildings are conch-shell artisans, who have been practicing this craft for generations. All these features of Shakhari Bazar maintain the criteria required by UNESCO to be announced as a world heritage site. “We are campaigning to prevent these architectural heritage sites from the demolition process initiated by Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) in 2004. In fact, it's the duty of the government and organisations like Department of Archaeology under Ministry of Cultural Affairs, DCC, Rajuk and others to renovate the buildings, maintaining the authenticity.”
Among the hurdles to restore the heritage sites, Taimur Islam pointed out financial constraints, lack of government interest, development programmes by locals and lack of technical knowledge. The buildings were constructed using lime masonry; the technique is not studied any more. Claiming Shakhari Bazar “a unique place”, Professor Nazrul Islam said, “Many cities of the world like Singapore, Beijing and others have taken initiatives to preserve areas of historic interest. We should chalk out plans to restore the historic buildings and ensure smooth continuation of the conch-shell craft. This can make the place appealing to tourists.” (Daily Star, September 6, 2007)
The last remaining gateway to historic Nimtali Palace
Nimtali Deuri, the last remaining gateway to the now-extinct 18th century Nimtali Palace, is now in a ramshackle state due to the lack of necessary steps to preserve it. Experts said the Deuri, which means gateway, is quite 'fragile' at present and it needs immediate restoration to preserve the glorious past of the 400-year-old city. “Already a few blocks have come off the walls of the structure. Unless restored, the structure will undoubtedly collapse in the next few years,” said Prof Sirajul Islam, renowned historian and president, Asiatic Society Bangladesh (ASB). The Deuri, situated on the premises of ASB, is now being looked after by the society.
During a visit to the Mughal-era building, this correspondent found the coating of the mixture of lime and surki (brick dust) has fallen at places in the structure. Ornate windows, wearing a decrepit look, infuse a regal glory in the structure that bears the history of the Nawabs of Dhaka who resided in the palace till 1743. The magnificent gateway in the middle of the structure stands with an air of splendour that instills a sense of pride into the hearts of the visitors.
The ASB has carried out a two-year survey for restoration of the building. The estimated cost of the restoration is around Tk 60 lakh, said sources at the society. However, the ASB could not yet manage funds for starting the renovation work.
ASB sources said the restoration work will include lime concrete and finishing to stop water sipping from the ceiling, lime coating and colour wash on both sides of the walls, replacement of wooden doors, windows and bolts, lime terracing, welding work of RCC conceal beams of the walls, setting up of a collapsible gate at the mouth of the Deuri and doors with intricate wooden designs of that time. To prevent alleged blunders committed at the time of restoring the Panam City at Sonargaon, the ASB has taken up some precautious measures that will help preserve the structure in its original design and shape.
“We have seen that in Panam City contactors replaced the slender bricks of that time with oversized bricks of present time and plastered all the intricate designs marring the beautiful edifices,” said Prof Islam. “To avoid this kind of blunders we have decided to make the materials for restoration at the spot. We will make the oven inside our premises so that bricks, brickbats and brick dust are specially made to match their previous counterparts,” he added. “We are trying to bring some artisans from India who has experience in heritage site restoration,” said Prof Islam, also chairman of the subcommittee for the restoration.
Terming the half-demolished state of the nearly 600-year old Binat Bibi mosque 'atrocious,' Prof Islam said that very few Mughal period structures remain in the city but they are falling apart due to apathy and lack of awareness. He said that Nimtali Deuri is an interesting feature of Mughal architecture. From north it looks like a gate and from south it looks like a palace.
“We should preserve this because there are very few Mughal period buildings in Bangladesh which are still in their previous shape. Nimtoli Deuri is one of them.” He also said: “The Deuri has immense heritage value because this building signifies the glory and glamour of late Mughal period.”
The Asiatic Society is now planning to appeal to the government and the public for collecting funds for the renovation of the structure. “We have not approached the government yet, but we have launched the campaign nationally. We are expecting that the government will provide fund for it in the interest of the conservation of national heritage and culture,” he said (Durdana Ghias February 17, 2008).
History of Nimtali Palace and the Deuri
Built towards the end of the Mughal rule, Nimtali Palace was the official residence of Naib-e-Nazim or deputy governor of Dhaka province during 1765-66. It was popularly known as the Nimtali Kothi, which once had four gateways. Nimtali Deuri is the last remaining gateway of the palace. The now-extinct palace consisted of a number of separate buildings and occupied a vast tract of area between the Nimtali mahallah and the High Court building. It was situated at the periphery of the city mostly surrounded by woodlands.
Apart from the gateways, the palace also had inner court, private residences, place of prayers, water tanks, barracks for soldiers and quarters for staff. A narrow channel running from the north would draw water from the Kamalapur River in the east to supply water to the palace.
The palace played a significant role in the social and cultural arena of Dhaka. It was the bastion of Mughal culture in Dhaka patronising classical music and dance, painting, arts, crafts and artisans. One colourful event that took place here regularly was the Eid procession, which used to start from and ended at the Nimtali Deuri. Bishop Heber who visited Dhaka in 1824 gives a graphic description of the palace complex although most of it was then in ruins.
He mentions a “really handsome gateway [Nimtali Deuri] with an open gallery, where the 'Nobut', or evening martial music, is performed, a mark of sovereign dignity … a very handsome hall, an octagon, supported by gothic arches, with a verandah round it, and with gothic windows …” Heber also mentioned one chamber with twelve doors known as 'Baraduari' for the individual entrance of the 12 Sardars (leaders) of the mahallas of the city. (Source: Banglapaedia and an article by Dr Sharif Uddin Ahmed, professor, Department of History, University of Dhaka, Daily Star, February 17, 2008)
KantanagarTemple, Kazihata, Rajshahi
Once upon a time this land was ruled by lords, kings and zaminders. During their times, they all tried to create something in their territory, so that even after a thousand years people could see their wonderful creations. The remnants of those days are still there in many places but most of them are not maintained properly. Lots of palaces, temples, mosques and other religious monuments have sunk into the black hole of time. The matter deserves a closer look. The time has come for the authorities concerned to awaken from their nap and take proper initiatives to conserve these historical relics.
Mosques from the Sultani Period
In Barobazar, Jhenidah, once lived twelve Aulias. Barobazar is famous for its treasures such as its 10 mosques, 11 lakes and 4 graves of the Sultani period. There lived twelve Aulias in each 12 different bazaars. For which this historical capital was termed as Barobazar.
This habitation of twelve Aulias is located 11 kilometers to the south of Kaligonj upazila and 26 kilometers from the district town. The Dhaka-Khulna highway runs through it. These beautiful mosques of great archaeological value were established during the Sultani period. These ten mosques are some of the best archaeological sites in the country; they have lost most of their captivating artistic features due to the lack of proper maintenance and supervision.
Although time and nature have damaged most of the red terracotta plaques on the 500 year old mosques, their shape and structure still bear testimony to the rich legacy of the archaeological sites. The roofs of the mosques are inwardly concave with a thickness of wall 3.6 feet. Its height is 25 feet. Cracks have started to develop on the wall. Shrubs and trees have been growing all over the structure and this has become a shelter for stray animals. The domes are also noteworthy.
Barobazar was once an ancient capital city on the Bhairab River. It was the only Sea route to reach the eastern part from Gour and Patoliputra. The domes of the Bagerhat Shat Gambuj Mosque resemble to these 10 mosques here. These stones were transported by the river Bhairab and these mosques were constructed. According to historical records, 10 mosques were built during Sultani era, and 11 lakes were excavated during the same period. The Muslim period came to an end and the provincial capital Barobazar became desolate. At one stage, these structures were reduced to ruins without any maintenance and supervision
Shihab Uddin Md. Akbar, Regional Director of the Archeological Department, Khulna agreed that these mosques were built during the Sultani period (1500) and rediscovered in 1987 (Daily Star, March 15, 2008).
18. Rathajatra (chariot procession)
Rathajatra (chariot procession), one of the biggest festivals of Hindus was celebrated in the city with much fanfare. The nine-day event was marked with rituals and festivities a couple of weeks ago when the city's temples woke up with the boisterous presence of hundreds of devotees. Colourful processions started from Iscon Temple at Swamibagh and Jagannath Deb's Temple at Tantibazar. The chariot returned from Dhakeswari Temple to Iscon marking 'Ultoratha' on the concluding day. Country's biggest Rathajatra took place at Dhamrai, only 20 kilometres off the city.
The Chariot of Dhamrai
The departure of Krishna is depicted in the festival of "Rath Jatra on the chariot ride, a popular Hindu festival. In Dhak district, a wooden chariot believed to be 300 years old was cherished as one of the greatest treasures of Bengali heritage. Every year on the auspicious day of Ashadh Sud 2, in early July, Hindus celebrate the Rath Yatra festival. Rath means chariot, Yatra - a pilgrimage or procession. Though this festival is celebrated all over India, it originated in Jagannath Puri on the eastern coast. Every year the deities of Jagannath Mandir - Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra - are traditionally installed on huge chariots. Devotees pull the chariots in a yatra (procession) through the streets.
Chariot races were popular festival in Indian Sub-continent during the Vedic era. The races still exist in Miniature from in Bangladesh as Chariot festival. Ancient holy book Rig Veda cited that the Gods used kaleidoscopic Chariot as their carrier to war fields. To commemorate these holy war's Chariot festival is observed by thousands of people in Various parts of Bangladesh, Nepal and India. Just a way from the the out skirts of Dhaka, 'Joshomadhav's Chariot' at Dhamrai conducts the festival for over 400 years.People of all ages including women, children and senior Citizens visit Dhamrai at least once a year to celebrate the ritual. '
During 1971, Pakistan's fanatic army burnt it to ashes
The Chariot of Dhamrai
The Chariot of Dhamrai, engraved so beautifully
Over how many years by which old carpenter of
Whose skilled hands took hold of the blade
And curved over the hard wood
Images of fairies and flowers and forests.
In front of the chariot, a pair of horses
Are on the run from time immemorial.
They are still running and have not stopped ever since
Then came the folk painter whose touch of fine brush
Brought down from heaven many god and goddesses
And entaged them on the body of the Chariot
With the magic colour and lines to live forever.
What a great consolation he has created
On the body of this mortal world! Krisna is leaving Mathura, the milkmaids
Lay underneth the Chariot wheels
Begging Lord of Love, do not leave us in pretence.
And his beloved Radha, alas, her sorrows
Surpassing years and years
Are still pouring forth through the lines
On the rural painter.
Twice a year fairs were held around the Chariot
Shops and stalls and circus parties
Gathered on those occasions
To the tune of gazi songs;
Accompanied by the sweet sound of earthen drums
Many kings and queens used to roam about.
And they created the atmosphere of glorious deeds
In the folk tunes the ideology of mortality and justice
Soothed the ears of young and old,
Who was the enchanter who built this temple out of
What depth of affection evoked from his heart
That millions of people made pilgrimage to see chariot
And light the lamp of devotion?
Thae gurdians of pakistan in the guise of false saviours Burnt this beautiful chariot to ashes.
Agreat consolation for generations after generations
For the work that had come from the hands of the artist
What barbarian destroyed the solace forever.
( Translated by: Hasna Jasimuddin Moudud)
Ratha Yatra in Sri Jagannatha Puri
Ratha Yatra in Sri Jagannatha Puri-part1
Ratha Yatra -- The Chariot Festival in Puri
Bangladesh has a rich cultural heritage, with Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic structures dotting a green and vibrant landscape. But here the sense of people’s responsibility regarding preservation and protection of archaeology seems to be a bit deplorable. We do really take little care of our archaeological heritage, as we hardly realise their value. The remnants of history make inroads into decay and destruction due to people’s ignorance and greed, lack of custodian care, shortage of fund and improper planning.
The historical places scattered all over the country are lying in utter negligence, insufficiently taken care of by the government’s archaeological department. The Jaintapur Rajbari in Sylhet, Baliati Palace in Manikganj, Dhaperhat Dhibi in Bogra, Chaitrahati Mound in Sirajganj and many other archaeological sites around the country are reportedly in shaky condition for the lack of preservation initiatives. Also lying in negligence are architectural ruins of Handial in Pabna, Potajia in Sirajganj, Khetlal in Jaipurhat, Bharatbhaina in Khulna and Barobazar in Jhenaidah.
For some places, it was reported that the government people destroyed the original architectural designs in the name of renovation. The terracotta artworks and floral motifs on the columns, domes and walls of the Shat Gambuj Mosque in Bagerhat, a world heritage, were plastered with cement, apparently to make them strong and durable at the cost of originality! The basic structure with various designs of Binat Bibir Masjid at Narinda in Old Dhaka, the first ever mosque built during the Sultani era, was damaged, in an attempt to expand the compound. There are often reports of encroachment upon the places of archaeological importance. Many small archaeological sites in far countryside are rapidly disappearing as farmers remove smaller mounds to recover building materials and extend their agricultural fields.
Recently the ruins of a lost human habitation have been discovered at Wari in Narsingdi. It has been claimed that the city-like structure with road was more than three thousand years old. Many archaeologists think it is part of a fortified citadel dating back to 450 BC, acting as a stopping-off point along an ancient trade route. The well-planned road with even manholes proves that the citadel was managed by a very efficient administration. Artefacts found there include metal coins, metallic chisels, terracotta missiles, rouletted and knobbed pottery, stone hammers and bangles. Ornaments suggest Buddhism dominated life in the urban centres. The citadel may be a part of Harappan civilisation, possibly serving as a link between contemporary South Asian and Roman civilisations. The Harappan civilisation flourished in the Indus and Ganges valleys between 2,700 BC and 700 BC. In Wari and the nearby Bateshwar village there are some 47 raised areas and the archaeologists may expect to unearth many more surprises for us. But we feel sorry to see insignificant role of the government’s archaeological department in excavation and preservation of the site.
They are now in a collision course with the department of archaeology of Jahangirnagar Univeristy, that is for the time being looking after the site. We have many archaeological elements to be really proud of here. We have Mahasthan Garh, bearing the memory of Pundranagar of 3rd century BC; Paharpur Monastery, built during the rule of Dharmapal in 7th century; Shalban Bihar and Ananda Bihar of Mainamati, built during 7th and 8th centuries; Sitakot Bihar, built during Gupta dynasty in 5th century; and Jagaddal Bihar, built during Paul dynasty. In Dhaka we have Lalbagh Fort, Ahsan Manjil, Bara Katra, Chhoto Katra, Dhakeshwari Mandir, Armenian Church, Hossani Dalan and Ruplal House. We have Bhawal Rajbari and Ekdala Fort in Gazipur, Panam City in Narayanganj, Idrakpur Fort and Sonarang Mandir in Munshiganj, Kutubshahi Monque and Chandrabati Shibmandir in Kishoreganj, Shahi Lodge, Bokairnagar Fort and Kella Tajpur in Mymensingh, Kantajir Mandir in Dinajpur, Puthia Rajbari in Rajshahi, Rani Bhabani Rajbari, Dayarampur Rajbari and Dighaparia Rajbari (now Uttara Ganabhaban) in Natore, Jorabangla Mandir and Nabaratna Mandir in Pabna, Makhdum Shahdowlah Mosque in Sirajganj, Bhimer Jangal in Bogra, Rajbari in Dinajpur, Bhitargarh and Bahirgarh Forts in Panchagarh, Sujanagar Kella and Padrisibpur Church in Barishal, Chandranath Mandir in Sitakunda and Shahjalal and Shahparan Majars and Shankarpasha Mosque in Sylhet, only to cite a few. All these are priceless archaeological resources. As part of our history, these determine our distinct cultural identity, shedding light on our anthropological root.
There is plethora of allegations that they do not judiciously use the ‘small’ fund allocated from government exchequer as well as foreign grants. Corruption often eats into our archaeology. We have to be lovers of history, through developing and nurturing a good archaeological sense and responsibility. Poverty in riches is not always the reason of archaeological destruction; it is the poverty of mind that leads to self-destructive path of defacing history. We must pledge to protect our ‘gems of history’ and no excuse to refrain us from doing that. The government has a big responsibility in this regard; it can take initiatives to encourage people for archaeological outings. With this, the domestic tourism may also be benefited. We must remember when we save the ancient traces of human civilisation, we in fact save ourselves from being lost in the ever deepening darkness of the past.
Protect National Heritage
Our National Museum is the home of a countless number of rare and priceless artefacts from ancient periods. The recent artefact controversy and mysterious theft have drawn attention to the treasures that have received little attention from the public and state. More importantly there are concerns about the efficiency of the security measures taken by the museum to safeguard these invaluable relics of the past. Shyama Tara, sand stone structure from the 10th century AD, Munsiganj.
Visnu (right); Matsya Avatara, black stone from the 11th century AD, Dhaka.
In December, 2007, centuries-old statues, gold and silver coins and other invaluable historical structures belonging to the National Museum, Barendra Research Museum, Mahasthangarh Museum, Mainamati Museum and Paharpur Museum, were suddenly flown off in a rush to the Guimet Museum in Paris. "It was like transporting goods and vegetables from one place to another," says a journalist and one of the many protestors of the transfer. The artefacts were going to be displayed at an exhibition in Guimet Museum in Paris, titled "Masterpieces from Ganges Delta. Collections of the Bangladesh Museums." The big shock came right in the end when, amid more protests, during a second round of transferring artefacts from Dhaka to Paris, two statues, 'Vishnu' and 'Bust of Vishnu', were stolen from the Zia International Airport causing another wave of public uproar. Naturally a lot of the umbrage was directed at the National Museum.
The National Museum houses some of the most invaluable artefacts created by craftspeople of lost civilisations belonging to this part of the world. However, we fail to recognise their excellence because of our ignorance and unwillingness to educate ourselves about our national wealth. The artefacts controversy has only brought home the undeniable fact that greater attention has to be given to our national treasures both in terms of being educated about them as well as protecting them from theft and forgery (E. Karim,Daily Star, March 21, 2008).
The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971
Muktir Gaan (song of freedom
Muktir Gaan after the song by Jasimuddin Heyarah heya "Bangladesh" an Introduction to the world..
what mujib said
FATHER OF BANGLADESH, Mujibur Rahman Bangladesh - Tirish Bochor (30 Years)
Major Rulers of Bangla
Age of Glory
Pre 5-6th century BC Barman/Singh Rulers
Different Dravir principalities: Garh, Banga, Samatata, Pundhrabardhan etc. (probably Barman/Singh Rulers)
6-500 BC to 320 AD Barman/Singh Rulers
United into Gangaridai and Prasoi Empires
(Expansion in East Asia as far as Vietnam and Bali and south into Sri Lanka)
Age of Empires
320 -500 AD Part of Gupta Empire
Gupta rulers500-650 AD Different local rulers (chaos)
7th century AD Emperor Shashanka Gaur (Garh) independent and becomes nucleus of Shahanka's Empire.
750 AD - 775 AD Gopal dev
Bangla is unified and Pal Empire (last Bangla Empire) is formed.
775 - 810 AD Dharma Pal
Conquers Northern India and Gandhara (Afganistan) and expands empire after intial defeats. Founded 50 religious colleges -- the learning centres that India is much famed for. Married Rastrakuta princess. (Rastrakuta was the most powerful empire of India at the time and ruled South India)
810 - 847 AD Dev Pal
Another conqueror, he defeated the Huns, Utkala, Pragjyotisha, Dravid and Gurjarat.
847 - 860 AD Shur Pal (Ras Pal) 860 - 861 AD Vigraha Pal Saw begining of decline of empire. 861 - 917 AD Narayan Pal Empire declined to central Banga and Bihar. He attempts to restore empire but unsuccessful as Rastra kutas invaded... later Barman emperors (Dravir nations, like Bangla, were ruled by Varmans in ancient times) from South and North attacked. 917 - 952 AD Rajyo Pal 952 - 972 AD Bigraha Pal II
Magadha is lost and Banga also starts breaking up. End of First Pal period. Chandra and Deva dynasties rise in Central, South and East parts. Rise of mysterious Kambojas in the North.
977 - 1027 AD Mahi Pal
Empire reconstituted somewhat. His empire did not have the great expanse of his predecessors but maintained a dignified extent. Second Pal period begins at this point.
1027 - 1043 AD Naya Pal 1043 - 1070 AD Bigraha Pal III MahaMandalikas rise on the Western part (remnants of the mighty Rashtrakutas) and helps Bigraha Pal. 1070 - 1071 AD Mahi Pal II
Sens form small kingdom under Mahi Pal II.
1071 - 1072 AD Shura Pal II 1072 - 1126 AD Ram Pal
He tried hard to regain empire but had to fight harder to maintain whatever was left.
End of Second Pal Period.
1126 - 1128 AD Kumar Pal Third Pal Period. 1128 - 1143 AD Gopal III 1143 - 1161 AD Madan Pal
Kumar Pal's brother. He loses Asam to his general. Sens become independent in the south. Fought with Ganga and lost Patna. The sun starts to set for the last time over the Pal Empire.
1161 - 1174 AD Govinda Pal (not major ruler but one of the last notable Pal rulers)
Rules over small kingdom. However in parts of the first empire (Dharma Pal) ShahiPals continued to rule until much later some till the independence of India. Small local Pal kings continued in different parts of Bangla until recently.
NOTE: Varman Kings ruled SinghPur (SimhaPur or even SingaPur) with capital at BikramPur in Eastern Bangla from the 5th to the 11th century. They were eventually taken over by the Sens.
1070 AD Hemanta Sen s/o Samanta Sen establishes small kingdom under Emperor Mahi Pal.
(Vira Sen of the mythical candra or lunar dynasty of vaidya caste)
1096-1159 AD Vijay Sen
Conquered most of Bangla under smaller dynasties such as the Devas.
Married Vilasadevi, daughter of the Shura dynasty. Adi Shura was probably the founder of the Shura dynasty that ruled in Southern Bangla (he brought Aryan Brahmins to Bangla from Kanauj)
1159 - 1179 AD Ballal Sen
Conquered Gaur from probably Govinda Pal and married daughter of Malla king in southwest Bangla established their total control of Bangla by 1168. He established the caste system and Brahmin rule.
1179 - 1206 AD Lakshman Sen
Expanded rule atleast to Asam (Kamrup), Kalinga (Orissa), and maybe even to Kashi (the most sacred city of India) and probably warred with Cedi, the Mlechha king. Muslims had taken over most of Northern India by then and started attacks on Bangla. Ikhtiyaruddin Mohammed Bokhtiar Khilji (a murderous Turkish general) conquered and carried out massacres in Bihar and burned Vihars (the learning centres) with all its manuscripts robbing all humanity from accumulated knowledge. Then he invaded Bangla in 1201 or 1204 AD. He defeated Lakshan Sen at their capital in South Bangla. The Sens then ruled from BikramPur in central Eastern Bangla.
1206 - 1225 AD Vishvarup Sen
Defends Banga well from marauding invaders.
1225-1230 Keshab Sen
Vishvarup Sen and Keshab Sen (brothers) defend Banga from waves of marauding invaders. The Sens however capitulate ... but small independent Sen kings hold out as does other Deva kings. Bangla becomes fragmanted and some parts become loosely connected to the Turkish Sultanate at Delhi. Bangla became the stepping stone to power in Delhi for some.
Age of Darkness
Loose Rule by the Sultanate
1271 - 1278 AD Amin Khan
Bangla is lost to the foreigners for good before the end of the 13th century and for almost a millennium the foreigners would rule. Amin Khan was the governor of Bangla under the Delhi Sultan. The Sultanate at this point was Turk.
1278 - 1282 AD Tughril Khan (Sultan Mughis Uddin) He was Amin Khan's assistant but in reality was de-facto ruler of conquered parts of Bangla. He conquered JAjaNagar that ruled large portions of South Bangla. Defeats Amin Khan and declares Bangla independent and becomes Sultan Mughis-ud-din. He defends bangla several times from Delhi until 1282. Tries to flee to JajaNagar but caught and killed by Hashim-ud-din. 1282 AD Hashim Uddin
Appointed by Delhi Sultan, Ghias Uddin Balban Ulugh Khan (1266-1286) as ruler of Bangla to hunt Tughril Khan.
1282 - 1289 AD Nasir Uddin Mahmud Bughra Khan
Delhi Sultan appoints Bughra Khan (his youngest son) as governor of Bangla. Burga Khan's nephew was named heir to the throne in Delhi but his son, Kay Qubadh attained throne in Delhi. Bughra declares himself as Sultan of Bangla and goes to war with his son. However he stops and makes peace with son. But his son was killed by his general, Jalaluddin Khilji who founded the Khilji dynasty.
1301 - 1321 AD Shams Uddin Firuz Shah According to Ibn Batuta, Shams Uddin was Bughrra's son. He conquered many parts of Bangla. All but one of his sons were tyranical rulers. 1322 - 1324 AD Shihab Uddin Bughra Khan
Son of Firuz Shah
1324-1225 Ghiyas Uddin Bahadur Shah
Another son of Firuz Shah. He was the tyranical governor of Assam under his father. Defeated Shihab Uddin and killed all the brothers except Nasir Uddin and Shihab Uddin and took over.
1325 - 1351 AD Muhammad shah Tughlaq
Ghiyas Uddin did not get to enjoy his rule. His two brothers joined the new Delhi ruler (Jauna Khan, son of Ghiasuddin Tughluq, known as Muh.ammad shah Tuglaq), now of the Tughlaq dynasty, and attacked Ghiyas Uddin. Ghiyas was defeated and Bangla once again came under Delhi's rule. Several governors were appointed in Bangla by Tughlaq. Tughlaq ruled Delhi from 1325 to 1351 AD.
1338 - 1341 AD Mukhlis
The governor of SonarGaon (Central Bangla) died and his guard Fakhr-ud-din Mubarak Khan takes over. He is attacked and defeated by another governor, Kadar Khan, but Kadar is killed by Fakhr's supporters. Fakhr reconquers SonarGaon. He becomes ruler of most of Bangla (rules Sonargaon until 1350 ... he heavily taxed the Hindus). He appointed Mukhlis in power at Laknauti (centre of power).
1341 - 1342 AlaUddin Ali Shah
Ali Mubarak assasinated Mukhlis and called for Delhi to send a governor. The governor however died on the way. Ali Mubarak then continued to rule as Ala-ud-din Ali Shah. He fought a lot with Fakhr Uddin.
1342 - 1358 AD Shams Uddin Iliyas Shah
Malik Iliyas Haji kills AlaUddin and captures power. He was probably from Eastern Persia (Iran). He ruled under the name of Shams Uddin Iliyas Shah. He conquered much more of Bangla and defeated Nepal and Orissa and looted them. He destroyed many temples. The Delhi ruler came to war with him but failed to defeat him. He established the first strong Muslim dynasty in Bangla
1358 - 1390 AD Sikandar Shah His son took over and rebuffed more attacks from Delhi. He even meddled in TriPura politics. 1390 - 1410 (or 1396) AD Ghiyas Uddin Azam Shah
Sikandar was killed by his son Ghiyas Uddin. He was a poet and had contact with Hafiz of Iran and built Madrasas (Islamic school) in Mecca and Medina. He had very good diplomatic relations with China and other small neighbouring kingdoms. At the begining of the century he removed all high ranking Hindu officials (these were probably Brahmins) and Raja Gobinda (Hindu) has him assasinated.
1410 - 1412 or 1396 -1405 AD Sultan-us-salatin Saif Uddin Hamza Shah
Ghiyas' son takes over but is promptly killed by his slave Shihab Uddin Bayazid Shah.
1412-1414 or 1405-1415 AD ShihabUddin Bayazid Shah Also killed (probably by Raja Gobinda) who already is the real ruler. Was he an infiltrator really working for Raja Gobinda and maybe ... maybe ... was not really a Muslim. 1414 - 1415 AD AlaUddin Firoz Shah
Promptly deposed by Raja Gobinda. Delhi was in chaos at the time suffering from infighting and foreign invasions. Thus ends the first Shahi period.
1415 AD Raja Gobinda
In 1415, Raja Gobinda assumes the role as king and is a good ruler but destroyed some Mosques but also renovated a few. He also removed Muslims from political arena. Almost immediately, he was attacked by Muslims from within and without. Raja Gobinda was supported by Shiva Singh, the Hindu king of Mithila but is defeated. Even his son, Yadu, converted to Islam and fought against him assuming the name Sultan Jalal Uddin. He joined invading Ibrahim Shah Sharqui from JaunPur and took over Bangla in the same year. But as soon as Ibrahim Shah left, Yadu reverted back to Hindu.
He ruled later in a small Hindu Kingdom where later his other son probably ruled after him. He died in 1417.
1415 - 1431 or 33 AD Sultan Jalal Uddin (Yadu)
Yadu later reverted to Islam after his father's death and helped the king of Arakan regain his kingdom from Burma and became overlord of Arakan. His rule covered Bangla, parts of Bihar, Arakan and parts of Tripura.
The last attempt of self determination was stiffled. But it appears that he might have converted from political considerations and this is even seen in his son who was viewed as somewhat pro-hindu.
1431/33 - 1435/37 AD Shams Uddin Ahmad Shah
Raja Gobinda's grandson. He was possibly assasinated by slaves Nasir Khan and Sadi Khan and with him ended the Ganesh dynasty. Were they infiltrators too?
Shahi Dynasty (II)
1435/37 - 1459 AD Nasir Uddin Mahmud Shah
Nasir Khan took over power and either assumed the name Nasir Uddin Mahmud Shah or Nasir Uddin assumed power. Nasir Uddin was a grandson of Shams Uddin Ilyas Shah. If Nasir Khan was the grandson, he must have been a grandson through a slave or there my be some other intrigue. Under his rule, Muslim rule expanded in Bangla. Contact with China stopped at this point.
1455 - 1476 AD Rukn Uddin Barbak Shah
Nasir Uddin made his son Rukn Uddin joint ruler in 1455 AD. He expanded Muslim rule into more parts of Bangla and force coverted a Hindu King. But he also appointed many Hindus to high ranking positions. He also brought a lot of Afgans and Abyssinians to Bangla.
1474 - 1481/83 AD Shams Uddin Yusuf Shah
Rukn Uddin appointed his son joint ruler in 1474 and he further expanded into the Northwestern part. He converted many temples to mosques and destroyed idols.
1481/83 Sultan Sikandar Shah II
Shams Uddin's son. He was removed for his insanity within a few months. This insanity could have been induced using a poison that is used in Bangla.
1482 - 1487 or 1484 - assassinated in 1485 Jalal Uddin Fateh Shah
He was the next ruler. Under his rule, Hindus suffered. He was assasinated by Khoja Barbak, Palace chief in a conspiracy of Abyssinians living in Bangla.
1487 Khoja Barbak
He was assasinated by the Abyssinian, Malik Andil Khan Sultan, who was Jalal Uddin's Prime Minister.
1487 - 1490 Saif-ud-din Firoz Shah
He became first Abyssinian ruler of Bangla.
1490 Nasir Uddin Mahmud Shah II
Firoz Shah was succeeded by Nasir Uddin who was either the son of Saif Uddin Firoz Shah or of Jalal Uddin Fateh Shah.
1490 - 1493 Shams Uddin Abu Nasir Muhammad Shah
The real power was an Abyssinian called Habsh Khan. He was killed by another Abyssinian, Sidi Badr Khan. He also killed Nasir Uddin II and became ruler under the name Shams Uddin Abu Nasir Muhammad Shah. He is reputed to have been a tyrant. Interesting to note the name was similar to his predecessor.
1493 - 1519 Alauddin Hussain Shah
Hussain Shah killed the last tyrannical Abyssinian ruler and assumed power creating the Hussain-Shahi dynasty. He established law by killing a lot of people and he replaced all the palace guards (who were involved in previous assasinations) and transfered all the Abyssinians to south India and Gujarat. He destroyed a lot of idols. His rule was marked by oppression of Hindus. A large number of Hindus converted to Islam during this period.
1519 - 1533 Nasir Uddin Nusrat Shah
Nasib Shah became Nasir Uddin Nusrat Shah. During his time Mogul ruler (not emperor) took Delhi from its ruler Ibrahim Lodhi an Afgan. The Afgan nobles were given refuge in Bangla and Nasiruddin married a daughter of Ibrahim Lodhi. These Afgans tried to recapture power in Delhi but were defeated but managed to capture JaunPur. Nasir Uddin was assasinated in 1533.
1533 Alauddin-Firuz-Shah 1533 - 1538 Ghiasuddin Mahmud
Last Hussain-Shahi ruler.
1538 Muhammad Khan
Farid Khan (Shir Shah Sur) who became ruler of Bihar conquered Bangla. He appointed Muhammad Khan as governor. Gaur was ransacked. Humayun, son of Babur (Moghul ruler) took back Gaur in 1539 but lost it the next year.
1555 Muhammad Shah
In Delhi there was quick changes in power as different Shah's came to power. When Adil Shah became Emperor of India (at Delhi) Muhammad Shah, who was governor of Bangla from 1540 to 1555 declared independence. He took over Bihar and JaunPur but was killed in battle.
155 - 1560 Ghiasuddin Bahadur Shah
Khizr took over after Muhammad Shah and defeated Adil Shah. He became ruler as Ghiasuddin Bahadur Shah.
1560 - 1563 Ghiasuddin Abul Muzaffar Jalal Shah
Jalal Din took over after Khizr and became known as Ghiasuddin Abul Muzaffar Jalal Shah.
1564 -1566 Taj Khan Karrani
Taj Khan captures power in Bangla.
1565 - 1572 Sulaiman (II) Khan Karrani
Conquered Orissa and Kooch Bihar.
1572 Bayazid Karrani
He tried to assert his independence from the Afgan chiefs of India.
1574 - 75 Daud Khan
Afgan ruler of Bangla. Moguls conquer Bangla from Daud Khan in 1575. Bangla becomes a province.
A walk to remember: Timeless Mughal magic
In 1608, Dhaka was made the capital of the vast eastern provinces of the mighty Mughal Empire, then at the zenith of its power. From then on, the term “Puran (Old) Dhaka” frequently appeared in the journals of Mughal generals. Within 100 years, it was transformed from a garrison town, into a flourishing, cosmopolitan city with a population of approximately 700,000, and an impressive 11-mile long waterfront. Continuing its efforts to inject passion into heritage awareness, the Urban Study Group (USG), led by passionate architects Homaira Zaman and Taimur Islam, has 90 percent of Old Dhaka monuments and buildings surveyed and listed. For yet another flavour of the old town, one doesn't regret taking their Mughal Walk early on a Friday morning.
Across the long-reclaimed Dholaikhal, at the edge of Tanti Bazaar, the narrow streets lead to the Bongshal Talaab. Making an appearance in the 1908 version of the Cadastral Survey map, the roughly 100-year-old water tank is one of the few remaining in Dhaka and maintained by the community. It costs Tk 2 for an unlimited stay in the water, but a local panchayat member laments that sewage is leaking into the pond, killing the fish. The USG dreams of beautifying the area by relocating the surrounding timber merchants (kathpatti), transforming the area with a pedestrian zone and cafes. Totally modified buildings seem to be the norm in Kasaituli (butcher's market), the next maholla (neighbourhood), but within the concrete jungle, the Kasaituli Jaam-e mosque stands out like a dull jewel. The 125-year-old edifice is known for its intricate chini tikri mosaics and boasts unique enamel work. While the façade is well preserved, some older portions were compromised when the interior was recently renovated, the main chamber too perfectly remodelled.
Homaira explained, “Tiles are now used for the mosaic, obliterating the 3D effect of the original chini tikri. The old imperfections are gone; the new surfaces appear flattened.” Although built much later, the mosque displays typical Mughal period features, including a fluted dome sitting on an octagonal drum, flanked by two smaller side domes. Characteristic cusp arches divide the inner chamber into three. Several octagonal turrets are topped off with carved finials. Residents throw buckets of water against the outer walls to remove the dust, revealing amazing floral patterns in cobalt blue, emerald green, red and gold, glinting in the sunlight.
Turn back as you walk on to Mahut-tuli to see the enormity of challenges the USG faces in the form of haphazard new construction. On the border of what used to be the elephant keepers' neighbourhood and the old Armenian quarter Armanitola, lies the Star Mosque, its large central and two lateral domes, as the name implies, covered in blue stars. Said to have been built in the early 19th century, a substantial veranda was added about 80 years ago. Pretty Japanese floral tiles, some of them identical to those seen in Tanti Bazaar houses, were added at that time. The use of architectural ceramics became popular in Dhaka in the 1870s; today the insides of thermos flasks are used to create a modern version of chini tikri. In the 1980s, two further domes, one large and one small, were built as part of a northern extension, destroying the centrality of the Mughal-style mosque. The original main dome rests on the drum of a so-called half dome, typical of a genre of Mughal mosque architecture in Bengal.
Next door is the red-bricked Armanitola Boys' School, in 1904 Raj-style architecture. It was in the late 17th century that Armenian traders arrived and settled in Dhaka, gradually getting involved in politics, urban and social development. Affluent Armenian families built their own houses on marshy, reclaimed land, the jute industry flourishing under their beneficence in the mid 1800s.
On Noor Baksh Lane, clusters of houses with common courtyards can be seen, a regular feature of Dhaka's Muslim neighbourhoods. Among these lies landowner Abul Hasnat's 120-year-old mansion, with stained glass rose windows and wooden beamed ceilings, where two branches of his descendants still reside. From the swords displayed on the walls to the ornate, carved furniture, the once-upon-a-time grace of the house can be imagined.
Of the few remaining Mughal period structures is the 250-year-old Taqui House, once belonging to Syed Taqui Mohammed of Mughal elite lineage. The multi-cusp arched building serves as Mohammadi Begum's Imambara (Shia shrine), where the local Ashura (Muharram mourning) procession begins. Unlike other parts of Old Dhaka, Taimur and Homaira don't need to persuade the owners to preserve the houses here; happily, the awareness to save some part of the past lies ingrained in these old-world families.
Then quickly pass through Maulvi Bazaar, built on the untraceable ruins of Mukim Katra caravanserai, constructed in the 1600s, into further caravanserai territory. Built in 1644 during the Mughal glory days, for Shah Jahan's son Shah Shuja, Subedar (Governor) of Bengal, the highlight of the trip is the Bara Katra. Ensconced in a jumble of buildings, it could easily be missed. The South Gate is quietly imposing and only two of the four turrets remain. “It's comparable to many of the structures that were built in Delhi or Agra during Shah Jahan's time,” Taimur is pleased to add. Local merchants have set up shop in the cavernous side rooms that were once used for goods storage. Through the gatehouse, walkers are able to pass under the dome, a steep, jagged climb to the very top for a view of the Buriganga in the distance. Seeing that heritage conservation was a sensitive issue, the USG organised an art exhibition at a local school, which helped building bridges all around. Leaving via the Jail Gate, back out to colourful Chawk Bazaar, the largest fresh produce market in town, the walk is over after four hours (Nivedita Raitz, May 30, 2009).
Last Modified:June 19, 2013