Today is the 129th anniversary of death of legendary mystic bard Fakir Lalon Shah, who had secured a unique position in the history of traditional music for his humanitarian songs, blending philosophies of different devotional traditions such as Sahajia of Buddhism, Sahajia of Vaishnavism, Sufism of Islam and others.
Lalon died on the first day of Bangla month of Kartik in 1297, which was October 17, 1890 according to the Gregorian calendar. But, his death anniversary is observed following the Bangla calendar.
Lalon devotees and enthusiasts from across the country will pay tribute to the bard at a three-day programme scheduled to begin today on the bank of the river Kaliganga at Chheuriya, Kushtia, where Lalon’s shrine is located.
The event, organised by the state-run Lalon Academy and cultural affairs ministry, will feature discussions and presentation of Lalon songs.
Lalon’s followers consider the songs, which raise some universal questions through simple diction, as doctrines that should be adhered.
Since Lalon was found stranded on the bank of Kaliganga, affected by smallpox, nobody knew anything about his past, and Lalon did not disclose anything — especially about his date of birth, identity of his parents or his religious background — either.
Some historians, however, claim that Lalon was born in 1774.
He was adopted by the weaver-couple, Malam Shah and his wife Matijan, at Chheuriya. They gave Lalon land to live and the he started to compose and perform his songs inspired by Shiraj Sain, a sufi of that village.
Subsequently, Lalon learned about nature, human body and traditional philosophies from different other gurus and expressed those in his songs in uncomplicated language – which, however, is rich with metaphors and double meanings.
In many of his verses on ‘dehatatta’, Lalon has implicitly given his followers guidelines on how to go beyond the ‘physical existence’ to the metaphysical. These verses may not reveal their inner meaning to the common ear but are the base of secret devotional rites, cantering on the belief that human body is the seat of all truths.
Lalon left no written copies of his songs, which were transmitted orally and only later transcribed by his followers. Also, most of his followers could not read or write either, so few of his songs are found in written form. Rabindranath Tagore published some of the songs in the monthly Prabasi magazine in Kolkata.
According to experts, Lalon composed about 2,000 songs. However, many rural bauls claim that the number would be over 10,000.
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