(Last Updated on : 15-06-2012)
Fakir Lalon Shah, who was a Bengali baul saint, was born in the year 1774. He was also a mystic poet, song composer, secular thinker and social reformer. His work and ideology have great influence on culture of West Bengal
. He has become an iconic figure for preaching religious secularism and tolerance. His philosophy, which is often articulated in songs, has influenced and inspired many poets and social and religious thinkers including the likes of Kazi Nazrul Islam
, Rabindranath Tagore
, and Allen Ginsberg etc.
His followers and disciples, mostly live across Bangladesh and West Bengal
in India. As he preached about the concept of religious lenience and discarded all difference of caste and dogma, he was both praised and criticized during his lifetime as well as after he died. His legacy endures also in the akhdah, known as Lalon akhdah he founded in Chheuriya, Kushtia. Few records of Lalon's personal life survive as he did not wanted, and there has been extensive assumption about such matters as his physical manifestation, religious ideas.
Early Life of Lalon Shah
There are a small number of reliable sources accessible on the information of Lalon's early life. He was also restrained and quite in revealing his past. As per legends, it is claimed that Lalon was born of the parents of Hindu Kayastha and during a pilgrimage to Murshidabad district
with other Baul
s of his native village; he contracted a virulent type of small pox and was abandoned by his companions in a precarious condition on the banks of the Ganga
Then Malam Shah, a man from the community of Muslim weavers, and his wife Matijan took him to their home and nursed him back to life. They, in a Muslim populated land, gave Lalon a land to live, where he founded his Akhra (musical group). Though proper source cannot be known, but there are some Islamist followers who believe Lalon converted himself to a Muslim and married a Muslim woman and set up his Akhra in Cheuriya to compose and practice his songs. He was inspired by Shiraj Shai, a Baul musician of that village.
Lalon Fakir was against the religious violence and conflict and always holds a common space for all religions. Most of his songs try to make mockery of those who degraded themselves to identify politics that divide a particular community, thereby creating conditions that generate communal violence and conflict. It is also essential that his intension is retained in any attempt to also reconstruct a historiography of this great saint who even refused to be nationalist during the apex of the anti-colonial nationalist movements in the Indian subcontinent. With regard to identity the following song is fairly well known among his many other similar articulations.
Philosophy of Lalon Shah
Lalon always remained silent about his past. He left no trace of his origin. He did not believe in classes or castes of the fragmented and hierarchical society. He had the strongest stand against racism. Lalon does not fit into the construction of the so called 'bauls' or 'fakirs' as a mystical or spiritual type who denies all worldly affairs in desperate search for a mystical ecstasy of the soul. Such construction is very elite, middle class, and premised on the divide between "modern" and "spiritual" world. It also conveniently ignores the political and social aspects of Bengal's spiritual movements and depoliticizes the transformative role of "bhakti
" or "sufi" traditions. Depicting Lalon as "baul shomrat" (the Emperor of the Bauls
) as projected by elite marginalizes Lalon as a person belonging to a peripheral movement, an outcast, as if he is not a living presence and increasingly occupying the central cultural, intellectual and political space in both side of the border between Bangladesh and India (West Bengal
He never was a celebrator of the state of nothingness sometime associated the generic folk cultural movements known as "baul". His position should not be construed, as a willing suspension of disbelief, or a reckless abandonment of responsibility or that of becoming inordinately fatalistic. It is a living quest to go back to the dynamics of where it all began: to our infancy as much as the first moments of creation. Lalon philosophy has done nothing but providing spiritual guidance; helping the purity of life to surface, making humanity prevail.
Works of Lalon Shah
Lalon composed many poems and songs that clearly describe his philosophy. Among his most well-liked songs are Sob Loke Koy Lalon Ki Jat Songsare, Khachar Bhitor Auchin Pakhi, Jat Gelo Jat Gelo Bole, Dekhna Mon Jhokmariay Duniyadari, Paare Loye Jao Amay, Milon Hobe Koto Dine, Aar Amare Marishne Maa, Tin Pagoler Holo Mela, etc.
The songs of Lalon give subliminal exposures to the reality or truth that lies well beyond material realism. They give a feel of the indescribable. To an engrossed listener, his songs briefly open and close a narrow passage to peep through to the other world beyond the opaque glass ceiling of this world. Lalon sublimates the findings of the principal schools of his time the Nadiya School initiated by Teen pagol, implying Advaita Acharya, Nityananda and Chaitanya
Another chief power of Lalon is Islam. He approached and appropriated Islam from his Nadiya perspective providing charming interpretation of prophets and prophet-hood. These are done without forgetting his premises such as Jain, Buddhists and Samkhya philosophy. It was both a critique and appropriation. This phase of his discourse is generally known as Nobitattya (the philosophy of wisdom).
Lalon always kept silent about his origin so that he does not get typecast into any particular religious group. He was observant of the social conditions around, and this reflects through his songs, which spoke of day to day problems, in his simple yet deeply moving language. Lalon's songs tersely refute any absolute standard of 'right and wrong', which claims to pass the test of time. His songs show the triviality of any attempt to divide people both materially and spiritually.
Legacy of Lalon Shah
Lalon's ideas and philosophies were based in oral and are expressed in musical and songs compositions using instruments that could be made by any rural households from materials available at home: an ektara (one-string musical instrument) and a dugi (hand drum). The texts of the songs was explicitly written to connect in the philosophical discourses of Bengal continuing since Tantric traditions of the Indian subcontinent, particularly Nepal, Bengal and the Gangetic plains. In Lalon critically re-appropriated the various philosophical positions emanating from the legacies of Hindu, Jainist, Buddhist and Islamic traditions, developing them into a coherent discourse without falling into the mixes of being syncretic. Nevertheless he explicitly claimed his belonging to the great "bhab" (discourse) of Nadiya-led by "ti pagol" (three passionate spiritual persons); they are Chaitanya, Nityananda and Adaitacharya.
In 1963, a mausoleum and a research centre were built at the site of his shrine, the place of knowledge-practices. Thousands of people come to the shrine known in Bengali as Akhra twice a year, Dol Purnima
, in the month of Falgun (February to March) and in October, on the occasion of the anniversary of his death. During these three-day song melas, people, particularly fakirs (Muslim devotees) and bauls (section of Hindu believers) pay tribute to Lalon.
Among the modern singers of Baul music Farida Parveen and Arup Rahee are known internationally for their songs of Lalon.