Folklores- the heart of Bangladeshi culture and heritage (part Seven)

Folk belief and practices (Superstitions)

Folk beliefs and superstitions are part of Bangladesh’s folklore as well. These beliefs are  focused on immortality, hostile forces, everyday activities, rituals, animals, communities, evil eyes etc.

The belief in immortality of the soul comes from the ancient times.  It also gave rise to the belief in ghosts.  In rural Bangladesh there are different beliefs regarding evil spirits or ghosts like shakchunni, petni, mamdovut etc. It is popularly believed that those who have unnatural death or who dies unhappy turns into evil spirits or ghosts and cause different diseases.

Both in Hindu and Muslim community there are folk beliefs related to widowed or childless women. They are considered inauspicious in performing some religious rituals and are forbidden to attend a wedding. It is believed that their presence will bring bad luck for the newlywed couple or one of them might die soon or might cause them to be  fruitless (Childless). Though such beliefs have no scientific proof , rural people  follow these with great affection for year after year.

Mothers still put a big round black mark on their children’s forehead to save them from evil gaze

The belief in evil eyes is very strong in rural Bangladesh. Mothers still put a big round black mark on their children’s forehead to save them from evil gaze even in modern, literate society.  In rural villages a black string with shell  tied to the child’s waist is believed to be good and  is capable to break the evil gaze.

Though science and many scientific studies have disproved many of such beliefs and many of them are gradually losing their ground, yet they are still prevalent in the life of rural and illiterate population of Bangladesh.

So, folklore of Bangladesh basically accentuates the creative and imaginative nature of Bangladeshi rural people. Its appeal and richness, thematic diversity and mixture, simplicity and uniqueness, above all, the strength of its texture to transform traditional and moral values from one generation to another is amazing.   It also teaches us the importance of traditions and values.  So, we must be attentive and respectful in preserving our valuable folkloric assets, which is the root and heart of our culture and heritage for our future generation.

Folklores- the heart of Bangladeshi culture and heritage (Part Six)

Khonar Bachan (Khana’s Verses)

Khanar bachan or Khana’s verses are in local and Bengali languages in poetry form along with rhymes and they exist as oral form only. Khana, a Bengali woman, is the compiler of these verses. She was an expert astrologer too.  Her verses were the most basic guidelines for traditional agriculture in Bangladesh.  Though most of Khana’s verses are associated with agriculture yet, there are some verses which are related to some other aspects like social life, cooking, food, habit astrology etc. Khana’s contribution in agriculture is unforgettable and is widely accepted by the farmers. In fact, farmers in villages are still following some of khana’s verses in modern agricultural practices.   Khana’s verses are mostly highlighted some key factors of crop management like time of sowing, harvesting, seasonal adaptation, etc. In some of her verses astronomical influences on agriculture are present too. Some examples of Khana’s bhachan are as follows:

“Khana bole hal niye mathe jobe koribe gamon

Age dekho chashi bhai jeno hoy subhokhon

Shobhokhon dekhe soda koribe jatra

Pothe jeno na hoy oshubho barta”

Meaning:

Khana Says, The farmer should select an auspicious time before going to the filed with his plow.  On the way he shouldn’t listen to any bad news. This indicates the psychological condition of the farmer before going to work.

Another one:

“Mathe giye age koro dik nirupon

Purbo dik hote hal koroho chalon

Khan bole mor kotha shuno mohashoy

Phashal pholibe odhik nahi sonsoy”

Meaning:

After going to the field, first the farmers should select the spot to start plowing and it should be from east side. Khana says if someone follows this suggestion he definitely will have good harvest.

“Amabashya ar purnimate je ba dhore hal

Tar dhukhkho thake chirokal”

Meaning:

A farmer who holds the plow on the Amaboshya (new-moon-day) and on Purnima (full-moon-day) he will be unhappy throughout his life.

“Aaush dhaner chas

Lage tin mash”

Meaning:

It takes three months to cultivate Aasuh rice (One kind of rice in Bangladesh)

Thus, khana’s Bachan have a great impact on traditional agriculture of Bangladesh.

Folklores- the heart of Bangladeshi culture and heritage (Part Five)

Lullabies, Proverbs and Riddles

Lullabies

For centuries Bengali mothers have been singing lullabies to make their kids sleep. The most famous lullabies of Bangladesh are:

“Aye Aye chand mama tip diye ja

Chander kopale chand tip diye ja”

Meaning

“O moon come O come make a bindi

On my son’s forehead to make him sleep”

and

“Ghum parani mashi pishi moder bari esho

Khat nai palonk nai khokar chokhe boso”

Meaning

O Aunty of sleep come and pay a visit t to our house

We don’t have bed, so sleep on my son’s eyes

Proverbs

Proverbs are the shortest composition of Bengali literature based on human experience, sensible thinking and wisdom. Most famous proverbs are:

Jor jar Mulluk Tar (He who is mighty rules the land

Chor palale buddhu bare (One becomes wise after the theft)

Aye bujhe bey koro (Cut your coat according to your cloth)

Nijer chorjay tel dao (Oil your own machine)

Slokas (Riddles)

According to the Banglapedia (National encyclopedia of Bangladesh),Riddles are the short compositions that pose problems to be solved”. Riddles can be prose or verse. Here are some riddles that are popular in our culture:

“Kothay ase kaje nai” (It exists in words, but no in deeds). The answer is horse’s egg. There is no existence of horse’s egg.

Panir niche sindol gach, kate lage baro mash (There is a tree in the water but it takes twelve month to cut). The answer is Shadow or reflection in the water. Meaning when someone stands at the bank of a pond his or her reflection seems as a tree underneath the water. But no one is able to cut the shadow in the water. Here twelve month used as metaphor.

Another popular and common riddle is:

sangsarete jonmo tar lokaloye bas

Maye chule putra more eki sorbonash

(Born out of sea water, it resides in human habitat; it dies when the mother touches her son) The answer of this riddle is salt. Because salt is found in the sea water but it melts as soon as it touches the water. Here sea, human habitat, son and mother are used as metaphor.

Folklores-The heart of bangladeshi culture and heritage (part three)

Folk Songs

Folk songs are the integral part of the folk culture and tradition of Bangladesh. Folk songs represent the emotional expression of simple, rustic masses of rural community. These songs fascinate the audience through their lucid melody. The poets and the lyricists from the local community usually compose these songs from their passion that reflects their great empathy of joys and sorrows, woe and bliss, enthusiasm and harmony for the nature and peace of the soul as there is an eternal relation between human beings and nature as like as relation between nature and folk songs. Folk songs are the expression of the totality of rural life. There are numerous folk-songs like Bhatiali, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhatiali Shari, Jari, Baul, Murshidi, Punthi Gan and many other such forms of folk songs.

Baul Songs

baoul01-06The traditional Boul songs were sung by the old and enlightened Bouls who had vision and true inspiration in their religious quest for the love of God. All Bauls believe that God is hidden in the heart of man, and neither priest nor prophet, nor the ritual of any organized religion, will help man to find him there.  So, the themes of the boul songs are mostly spiritual. And the Bouls were the spiritual gurus of that time who sung for joy, love and longing for divine peace. Boul songs discover a unique secular approach in defining the mystery of the Creation, the bondage of divine love between Man and the Almighty, a generous acceptance of the both faiths of Vaisavism of the Hindus and Sufism of the Muslims.

Baul songs are usually solo songs although often accompanists and members of the audience (normally, handfull of villagers gathering around the Bauls) to join in the refrain and repetition phrases of the verse. Instruments used by Bauls include the khamak, tabla, mridonga or khol, harmonium, ektara, khanjani, manndira or kartal, ghongoor, and ramchaki.

Fakir Lalon Shah (1774-1890) was the famous boul singer and composer of this region. Another famous Baoul of Bangladesh is Purna das Boul .

Jari Songs

Jari (Jari Gaan) is a kind of sad song. Its origin is the tragic events of Medina and Karbala and 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, in Bengali it is called Jari Gaan. Today Jari Gaans are found especially in Mymenshingh district of Bangladesh.

Sari Songs

Sari gaan or Sari songs are usually sung before or after the boat races, a popular amusement in East Bengal during the monsoon months. During the races young boys take part in the races with great enthusiasm. Large crowds gather along the banks of the river to celebrate the occasions. Boats are decorated with colorful decorations. Before the race began, and sometimes after it was completed, festivities continued all day long with sing-a-song-sing-along sarigaan.

Vatiyali Songs

Vatiyali songs are traditional boat song of eastern Bengal, sung in a specific mode, noted for its long-drawn notes. In riverine Bangladesh, boatmen spent a lot of time in their boats. While sailing downstream, they had plenty of leisure to sing comfortably. The drawn out and elevated notes are the characteristic of the bhatiyali. In course of time, this song gained popularity particularly in Mymensingh and Sylhet districts. A famous vatiyaly song of Bangladesh -

“Amay Vashile re

Amay dubaili re

Akul doriar bujhi kul nai re

Sabdhane chaliao majhi amar vanga tori re

Akul doriar bujhi kul nai re”

Meaning

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.

Rain Songs

Agricultural is the principal occupation of the people of rural Bangladesh. In agriculture, rainfall is very 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. However, religious beliefs of the rural people are captured in these songs.

Pala Gaan

Pala gaan is a traditional Bengali folk theater popular among the rural masses across the border area. It evolved as a performance genre in the greater Mymensingh district of East Bengal. It is an essential component of all the major rural festivals during the dry seasons. 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 in 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.

Gazir Gaan (Gazi Songs)

Gazir Gan was popular in the districts of Faridpur, Noakhali, Chittagong and Sylhet region of Bangladesh. 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.
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 Muslims’. 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.

Bhaoaia Song

Bhaoaia is a popular folk music of North Bengal especialluy in Rangpur and Dinajpur District of Bangladesh. Bhaoaia is derived from the word Bhao or Bhav that means mood.

There is also murshitdi, marfoti, voktimulok, kavi gaan famous folk songs in Bangladesh.

Folklores- the heart of Bangladeshi culture and heritage (Part Two)

Gitikas or Ballads

Gitikas or ballads are oral form of narrative poetry that narrate a single event or a dramatic story through dialogues. Gitikas have a great influence in our literature. There are two types of Gitikas in Bengali literasture-ojne is Purba bangla gitika or Maimansingha Gitika and the other is Nath Gitika

Maimansingha Gitika is one of the most famous and rich treasures of Bangladesh.  This is a collection of folk ballads from Mymensingh region and around Bangladesh. Most of the ballads were taken from the various true stories that happened in parts of Mymensingh and were composed by the illiterate rural poets. Chandra Kumar De and Dinesh Chandra Sen collected most of those ballads and edited them. This collection was published from Calcutta University along with another publication named Purbabangla Gitika. The basic themes of most of these folk ballads are love and romance with social conflicts arising out of several aspects of love. In these ballads we can also find a clear picture of the 17th century society of purba/ west-Mymensingh. At that period there was a Matri-tantrik/ stree prodhan shomaj bebostha (Women regulated social system)). That’s why at every ballad we see women as the center character. The love and climax of rural lives were pretty skillfully depicted in these ballads by the country-poets. Some popular ballads from Maimansingha gitika are: Mahua, Malua, Chandravati, Komola, Dewan Bhabna, Dasyu Kenaram, Rupavati, Kanka O Leela, Kajalrekha, Dewan Madina, Isha Khan Dewan, Firoz Khan Dewan, Monohar Khan Dewan, Soorat Jamal O Adhua Sundari, Jiralni, Bhelua Sundari. MadanKumar O Madhumala, Gopini Kirtan, Vidyasundar  Ramayan.

Mohua is one of famous ballads written by Dwija Kanai in seventeen century. The hero and heroine of this ballad are Mahua and Nader Chand. This is an eternal love story. Mahua, a Brahmin girl, is the center character of the story. The story starts with 6 month old Mahua getting stolen by Humra Bede (Leader of a gypsy group), who brought her up in the gypsy community. Mahua’s stunning beauty was the main reason for him to steal her. Their only job was to show performances. One day they reached Nader Chand’s village where the destiny made him meet Mahua and fall in love at first sight. As soon as Humra came to know about their love affair he left that place immediately with Mahua. She tried to flee away from him to go back to Nader Chand. But the destiny took her to death slowly. On the way she was ill- treated by a merchant and a saint who would convince her that they could help her to get to her lover. She fought with every situation and got to her lover. But at the end they got trapped by Humra and the story ends with Mahua’s tragic death. She had to kill herself to save her chastity and above all her love. In this story the country-poet has beautifully depicted a strong woman who represents Bangladeshi women’s beauty (both inner and outer), strength and love.

sukor08-25Chandrabati’s tragic life touched many Bengali’s heart. She was the first Bengali women poet of sixteenth century in a Hindu Brahman family. Chandrabati was very beautiful and fell in love with another Brahman boy Joaychandra.  Soon they got married but their marital life didn’t last long as Joychandra left her for another women. Chandrabati was broken hearted and chosen celibate life. Her father told her to engage herself in praying and made a temple next to his own temple for her. Chandrabati engaged herself in reciting and writing odes and in praying. By that time Joychandra realized his mistakes and wanted to win Chandrabatis heart again. When Joychandra came to chandrabati she was praying in her temple closing the door. Joychandra begged her to come back to him. As she was in deep prayer she didn’t opened the door. Joaychandra wrote a love letter on the wall of the temple with red malati flowers (One kind of flower seen in Bangladesh) and committed suicide drowning on the river next to the temple. When Chandrabati finished her prayer and opened the door it was too late. Chandrabati couldn’t bear that separation of beloved ones. So, she also killed herself. Chandrabatis love and longing inspires Bengali women in their values of life.

Nath Gitika

Nath Gitikas are another kind of oral poems of Bangladesh which focus on  prince  Gopi Chandra and Nath Guru. These poems are divided into two groups. One gtroup focus on the miracle of Nath Guru whearas others on religious conversion of Prince Gopi Chandra (Manik Chandra Rajar Gan, Govinda Chandrer Git, Maynamatir Gan, Gopi Chandrer Sannyas, Gopi Chander Panchali etc.)

Folklores- the heart of Bangladeshi culture and heritage ( Part One)

‘Folk’ means people and ‘lore’ means unwritten stories, riddles, superstitions, proverbs, and songs of a culture. So, it is clear that folklore is the creation of people’s artistic mind. According to the Free Online Dictionary folklore means the traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, transmitted orally. Folklore represents a society’s ethnicity, culture, tradition, and its way of thinking. Folklore embraces the simplicity, spontaneous action, laughter, comfort, lively spirit of the local people and is the reflection of past art and culture and a medium of ramification of those cultural heritages.

Folklore has a significant contribution in our literature, customs and legacy and it is the deep root of our culture and heritage. Bangladesh’s folklore gives an honest insight into the country’s social and ethnic background as well as peoples’ habits and beliefs. It portrays the past ideologies, customs and views on home or social affairs of these ethnic groups who have resided in this land, years ago. From the third century onwards, the Mouryas, the Guptas, the Palas, the Senas and the Muslims came one after another to rule the land. As a result, they grafted their ways of life and cultural traits on the indigenous population. Subsequently, Portuguese, French and English ships anchored in the harbors of Bengal. They left not only their merchandise but also their customs. Each race left its own mark and it was not only physical but also cultural, which collectively formed the basis of the culture. Folklores were created by the illiterate people, yet they have flourished intellectual beauty.

Bangladesh has a vast and diverse folkloric and cultural tradition. Bangladesh’s folklores consist of tales, songs, legends, proverbs, myths, riddles, superstitions and traditions that are passed on from generation to generation. The main idea of the current sequence of blogs is to give an insight about these rich folkloric history, tradition, and culture of Bangladesh.

Folktales

Folktales occupied a big place in the folkloric culture of Bangladesh. Theses folktales include of puthis, fairy tales, and fables.

Puthi is a compilation or a book of folktales and religious stories of rural ancient Bangladesh. It is a kind of manuscript written on sheets or wooden or bamboo pages. Puthis were written in Sanskrit and Bengali form by the Munshis .Elderly and educated persons in rural community used to read these puthis with melodious tone to the people to educate and entertain them. Puthis exhibits a great importance in our folklore.

I still can remember the fascinating, magical, supernatural stories of ‘Thakurmaa’r Jhuli’  (Tales my Grandmother Told Me): Rajkonna Konkabati (princess Kankabati), Kalabati Rajkonna (The Elusive Princess), Sonar Kanthi Rupar Kanthi (The gold-stick and Silver-stick), Panch Vooter kando (Activity of Five ghost), Sial Pundit (The cunning Fox) and a lot more. Thakurmar Jhuli is a collection of very famous folk tales and fairy tales favorite among children in Bangladesh. Byangoma Byangomi, Suo rani Duao Rani (Good and Evil Queen)Dalim Kumar, Sat Vai Champa, Lalkomol Nilkomol, Shuk Pakhi, Shukhu Dukhu are very legendary characters of those fairy tales . Some legendary and favorite fairy tales are Ghumanto Puri (The Sleepy mansion), Sat vai Champa (The Flower Brothers and their Sister), Kiranmala (The strange Children of the King), Lalkomol and Nilkomol (The magnificent Adventure of Two Brothers) etc. These super natural stories used to touch the heart of the kids and used to take them into the deep ocean of thinking. These stories are timeless and fascinating. Some stories had song too that used to offer the cultural insight into the life in Bangladesh.

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