FOLK CULTURE OF BENGAL

 

Sumit Talukdar

 

            The word ‘folk’ was associated with the culture of non-aryan sect of India. The people believed ‘nature’ as a living force and controlled their very existence. Thus different nature-gods with myths and legends were formed. When people suffered from draught they prayed and worshipped Varuna - the god of rain. Even Agni (the god of fire), Pavana (the god of air), Vasundhara (the goddess of earth) were also imagined and worshipped. Even trees, specially bannana tree, coconut tree were very much sacred and worshipped in some tribal sects like Santhals, Lodhas etc. From their primitive belief was given rise to a sense of pleasing those gods either in dancing or singing songs. Thus dances like Jumur, Gamveera, Chau and songs like Baul, Tusu, Bhadu were born. We can see in various fairy or folk-tales different mythical events being described. Even there are proverbs, doggerel verses (chara), potchitra (printed mythical figures on earthen bowls), Terracotta art, literatures (Dharma-mangal), Manasa-­mangal, Ramayana, Mahabharata). All these are mingled with and grouped under Folk-culture - a culture highly enriched consuming traditional and indigenous resources of our country during thousand years. The most ancient culture which is not only original but also a kind of recreation help us understand the socio-economic status of our primitive ancestors. Bengal is of course a great source of folk culture and Tagore always glorifies this culture in his various writings elevating this traditional subject of rural Bengal to a living art.

 

Folk Songs:

 

I. Baul = A mystic bohemian group of people of Birbhum and Murshidabad irrespective of caste and creed sing spiritual songs accompanied by ektara, a kind of musical instrument. Their religion is a unique blending of Muslim Sufi and Hindu Vaishnav cult Jalan Fakir, Fikirchand were greatest among them. They have on1y one god, believe in one caste, that is human-being.

 

2. Bhadu = Bhadu is a folk-goddess worshipped in the month of Bhadra (August-Sept.) specially in Manbhum region of Purulia district. Generally rural women singing songs glorify this goddess.

 

3. Tusu = Tusu is the goddess of agriculture. She looks like a female doll. Her crown is made of tin-foil and cloth of blue or red paper. She is worshipped by singing songs during the whole month of pansh (December-January) in Purulia, Bankura district.

 

Folk Dance:

 

1. Jumur = A kind of Santhal dance of forest life. A group dance with song like - give him water mother/give him water/The flirting boy/dances the jumur all the night/and thirsty he comes, men and women both participate. Sometimes erotic language is used.

 

2. Chau = The people of Purulia district perform this kind of dance wearing different masks upon faces. Generally mythical subjects of Ramayana & Mahabharata are chosen.

 

3. Gamveera = A kind of dance-festival centering on Lord Shiva popular in Malda district. During the whole month of chaitra (March-April) this is performed. Sometimes it is called ‘Gajana’

 

Folk Art:

 

1. Pot Chitra = Different mythical figures are drawn on pot or earthen bowl using only herbal colours. Kalighat Pot is very much famous.

 

2. Terracotta = Different artistic forms are made of soil and dried, burning them in fire at last. From simple doll to temple decoration this particular art is followed. Artists of Bankura district are famous for their professional involvement.

 

Folk Literature:

 

1. Manasa Mangal = Vijoygupta composed this first. A mythical tale of Manasa (goddess of

snakes) and Chand Saudaguar, the merchant. The merchant first denied to worship Manasa. But later through a series of events and education of Behula & Dakhindar, he changed his mind. Thus Manasa established herself as a goddess on the earth.

 

2. Dharma Mangal = Manik Gangopadhyay first composed this, in 16th century. A gallant tale of Lausen who waged a war against Iehai Ghose and killed him and eventually regained Gour empire established by the great Dharmapal. Through various supernatural incidents the victory of Dharma Thakur (Tribal God) is established.

 

3. Ballads = Mymensing Ballads are narrative tales based on romance and historical events. They are dramatic in character and sung in most cases. Two Muslim poets Doulat Kaji and Syed Alaol composed two famous ballads - Sati Moynamati & Queen Padmabati. Despite being Muslim - contributions, they were secular and accepted by the Hindus.

 

4. Vratakathas = These embody all types of human aspirations, sentiments and desires with various types of worships and divine prayers. Girls who have not yet married, who have just married and married women and even widows undertake fasts and various kinds of worships and either themselves recite these or hear them from some elderly ladies of the village. There are Satyanarayana Vratakatha, Shivaratri Vratakatha etc.

 

Folk Theatre or Yatra = The play performed in an open stage in the village. Better to say it is a kind of opera, based on different tales of the epics, historical characters like Sahjahan, Ashoka, Chandragupta etc.

 

 

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