The old Manbhum district was actually inhabited by sixty-four tribes, mostly Mundas, who later merged in the present agricultural population. The musical forms now present in these people have resulted from acculturation. In the past, Bhumij predominated as chieftains who developed varied types of Jhumur. Some of the names of Jhumur composers are known as Dinabandhu, Narotiam, Ramkrishna, Bhabapita, and Lagonsai to name a few. In course of time, the thought and language were influenced by Gaudiya Vaisnavism.
Consequently, a large number of songs revolved around Radha-Krishna theme. So, tribal Sarhul Parab songs (festival of blossoming Sal flowers), Karam festival, etc., maintain ethnic peculiarities of the old system which may be separately treated under tribal music of the area. But as seen above, the tunes are associated with the musical forms of general type. Herein one can focus his attention on folk-songs which are of developed type. Since the dance element predominates over Adivasis, songs are mainly rhythmic. Karam indicates the best instance as to how the social agricultural Hindus assimilated music and dance of Mundari tradition.
On the whole, it represents Jhumur song in its form. Now, one can come to the regular class of Jhumur songs familiar in the western sector for a long time as a traditional Kirtan music influenced by Adivasi, and Jhumur on the one hand and regular Kirtan form on the other.
It was a few hundred years back when the ruling Malla kings of Radh area were converted into Vaishnavas. On their demand, the local Kirtanias composed Padavali, the language of which was mixed up with enormous local expressions. This music was also known as Jhumur. If examined, the nature of its composition cannot be proved to be folk music, since songs consciously composed were sufficiently clothed in the padavali style. Radha-Krishna's love of divine nature has been peculiarly blended with mundane love.
These songs have been classed into usual sections of Pala (narratives on Krishna) as popular in Pada Kirtan. There are other instances of themes like the Ramayana. The nature of tune combines with Kirtan on the one hand and Santali music with madal accompaniment on the other. Jhumur Padavali is virtually hybrid types of music blended in a peculiar way to meet the demands of the old social groups of people of the upper level. The music could not reach the standard of Kirtan in any way; it gradually extended to the rural social class as a hybrid type, often characterized by folk type. This influenced the text and language of other songs.
An interesting feature of songs of the western sector is the music of the professional women which has almost been extinct now. In the districts of Bankura, Purulia, Midnapur and in some parts of Burdwan district and Birbhum district, a class of professional women were found to entertain common men with folk-music. They had their stay in the rural bazaar, and used to perform dance and music with vocal accompaniment by a man in each case.
These Khemtis were found available as festival dancers. Dhamsa and sahnai or small-box harmoniums were played to this music for accompaniment. Occasionally, dhol was also employed for rhythmic support. Khemtis carried their profession to Chhota Nagpur plateau, northern Odhisa and so on. They used a mixed language in songs composed in Bengali, Oraon and Bhojpuri vocabularies. The Khemti women of Purulia lived a peculiar life staying outside the agricultural society, though they hailed from the same community. Contents of songs, therefore, include every type of incidents and things of domestic attraction, and also cover themes of unqualified relations of men and women in the guise of Radha-Krishna love. Songs of secular love were not unknown. The spirit of songs does not generally transgress the borders of general taste and temperament.
One of the most minor festivals of the border area is known as Bandna Parab, which is held in the month of November, i.e., on the day of Diwali. The central theme concerns invocation and worship of cow. This animal is considered as a deity during the three-day festival, the function being distributed as awakening, kissing or worshipping and dancing. After the worship and recitation of compositions for the first two days, the cow is colourfully decorated and tied to a post, and then dance is arranged all around with songs continuing till midnight. Instruments accompanying the music are dhol and madal. As the festival is influenced by Mundas and Bhumijs, the tune and the text are a mixed Santali product. The composition is recitative arranged in a questionnaire form. Here the agricultural society of a particular level contributes musical felicitation on a theme (cow) essential for agriculturists.
(Last Updated on : 02-05-2014)
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