Lalon Shah (1774-1890) Baul guru, and singer and composer of baul songs. According to tradition, he was born into a kayastha family in the village of Bhandara in Kushtia. As a young boy, Lalon caught smallpox and was abandoned in a critical condition. Siraj Sain, a Muslim fakir, picked up the child and nursed him back to health. Lalon was later inducted as a Baul fakir. He set up an akhda at Chheuriya, where he lived with his wife and a few disciples.
Lalon was a humanist who completely rejected all distinctions of caste and creed. He was also a fine poet and lyricist, whose songs are sung not only by his followers but also by non-Bauls. In 1963, a mausoleum and a research centre were built at the site of his akhda. Thousands of Bauls come to the akhda twice a year, Dol-Purnima, in the month of Falgun (February-March) and in October, on the occasion of his death anniversary. During these three-day song melas, Bauls pay rich tributes to their spiritual leader.
Lalon Shah left no written copies of his songs, which were transmitted orally and only later transcribed by his followers. kangal harinath majumdar (1833-1896) was his direct disciple. rabindranath tagore was also inspired by his songs and published some of them in the monthly prabasi of Kolkata. Lalon died at Chheuriya, at the age of 116 on 17 October 1890.
Rabindranath Tagore and the Bauls
The songs of the Bauls and their lifestyle influenced a large swath of Bengali culture, but nowhere did it leave its imprint more powerfully than in the work of Rabindranath Tagore, who talked of Bauls in a number of speeches in Europe in the 1940s and an essay based on these was compiled into his English book Religion of Man:
The Bauls are an ancient group of wandering minstrels from Bengal, who believe in simplicity in life and love. They are similar to the Buddhists in their belief in a fulfilment which is reached by love's emancipating us from the dominance of self.
Where shall I meet him, the Man of my Heart?
He is lost to me and I seek him wandering from land to land.
I am listless for that moonrise of beauty,
- which is to light my life,
- which I long to see in the fulness of vision
- in gladness of heart. [p.524]
The above is a translation of the famous Baul song by Gagan Harkara: Ami kothAy pAbo tAré, AmAr maner mAnush Jé ré. The following extract is a translation of another song:
My longing is to meet you in play of love, my Lover;
But this longing is not only mine, but also yours.
For your lips can have their smile, and your flute
- its music, only in your delight in my love;
- and therefore you importunate, even as I am.
The poet proudly says: 'Your flute could not have its music of beauty if your delight were not in my love. Your power is great -- and there I am not equal to you -- but it lies even in me to make you smile and if you and I never meet, then this play of love remains incomplete.'
The great distinguished people of the world do not know that these beggars -- deprived of education, honour and wealth -- can, in the pride of their souls, look down upon them as the unfortunate ones who are left on the shore for their worldly uses but whose life ever misses the touch of the Lover's arms.
This feeling that man is not a mere casual visitor at the palace-gate of the world, but the invited guest whose presence is needed to give the royal banquet its sole meaning, is not confined to any particular sect in India.
A large tradition in medieval devotional poetry from Rajasthan and other parts of India also bear the same message of unity in celestial and romantic love and that divine love can be fulfilled only through its human beloved.
Tagore's own compositions were powerfully influenced by Baul ideology. His music also bears the stamp of many Baul tunes. Other Bengali poets, such as Kazi Nazrul Islam, have also been influenced by Baul music and its message of non-sectarian devotion through love.
More Collected Article:
1. On Fakir Lalon Shah By Farhad Mazhar
2. Peace maker : Saint Lalon/ Lalon Fakir By Shahjahan Siraj