Speakers at a dialogue titled ‘Baul Philosophy, Literature and Music’ at Cosmos Centre. Photo: Bayazid Akter/UNB
Dhaka, Jun 14 (UNB) – Cosmos Dialogue held in Dhaka recently made a strong plea for building a National Baul Research Institute in the country to enable study and research on Baul history and to publicise its inner message both within and beyond Bangladesh.
Cosmos Foundation arranged the dialogue recently titled ‘Baul Philosophy, Literature and Music’ at Cosmos Centre in the city where Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor attended as the chief guest.
Haider A Khan, John Evans Distinguished University Professor of Economics at the University of Denver, USA, chaired the dialogue while Cosmos Foundation Executive Director Nahar Khan delivered the welcome speech.
Eminent Lalon researcher Dr Anwarul Karim delivered a tour de force on the history and condition of the Bauls of Kushtia, close to his own home district of Pabna.
UNB Chairman Amanullah Khan, Cosmos Group Director Masud Jamil Khan, Bangla Academy Deputy Director Dr Tapan Kumar Bagchi, writer and researcher Sumon Kumar Das and musician Maqsoodul Haque proceeded to discuss on the Baul philosophy, literature and music respectively. Gallery Cosmos Director Tehmina Enayet, among others, was also present.
Amanullah Khan who floated the idea of establishing the Baul Research Institute emphasized the imperative need to separate the baul from the myth, dispel the controversies surrounding songs and philosophy of Baul and end its commercialization through appropriate research, analysis and affirmative action.
He also stressed its moral, ethical and unifying value in a society torn by communal strife, racism and mutual hatred.
“A Baul practices a way of life that still retains its relevance in today’s world as it seeks to strike a balance between the spiritual and material life of a human being that draws its strength from Sufism, Tanturi and other philosophies,” Khan said
Describing Kushtia as home of Bauls, Masud Khan laid emphasis on spreading its humanist message across Bangladesh and beyond.
Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor said although Bangladesh is progressing as an economy, it is facing the threat of communalism which needs to be addressed involving youths with the spirit of social harmony.
“The evil efforts of creating disputes among people and dividing them in the name of religion have now become more acute in recent times,” he said terming the problem a ‘big challenge’.
Prof Haider Khan said Baul philosophy, literature and music will undoubtedly continue to play their historically progressive role in this planetary struggle.
“Indeed, Baul art and philosophy are part of the current slogan for global justice: A better world is possible," he said.
Haider Khan also presented a paper at the dialogue, titled “The Bauls: Their Mystical Path and Social Contradictions”, where he cited the example of the Bangladeshi national anthem “Amar Shonar Bangla”, written by Tagore, but was originally set to the melody of a Baul song by Gagan Harkara.
Citing another example of Baul Samrat Shah Abdul Karim, a Baul exponent with whom he had memorable interactions, he said Karim was a very special person and his views were way ahead of his time.
Deputy Director at Bangla Academy Dr Tapan Kumar Bagchi complained that lack of awareness prompted many to call themselves Bauls and take credit for popular Baul songs which had been composed hundreds of years ago, but their origins remained undocumented.
“The question that persists was whether today’s Bauls are moving away from the actual Baul philosophy, or forming a neo-philosophy without staying true to the Baul roots,” he said.
Cosmos Foundation Executive Director Nahar Khan said although Baul music is uniquely indigenous to Bangladesh, UNESCO has embraced its universal message by enlisting it as part of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
She also said Baul music has the capacity to touch lives and hearts and that there is a great opportunity to learn from them.
Nahar thanked the cultural affairs minister Asaduzzaman Noor for his encouragement to organizations such as Cosmos Foundation to conserve and promote Bangladeshi arts and culture.
Researcher and critic Sumankumar Dash opined that Bauls are devoid of communalism, as is evident through their philosophy and reflected through their songs.
Maqsoodul (Mac) Haque, prominent musician turned researcher, said that listening to Baul music had motivated him towards Bangla music.
He pointed out key misconceptions about the lifestyle that Bauls tend to lead, leading to their ostracisation. Previously, Lalon songs were sung in schools during Pahela Kartik, Maqsood pointed out. But after backlash from religious fundamentalists, he said the schools had bowed down to pressure.
Trustee and Member Secretary of Liberation War Museum Mofidul Haque said Lalon songs have made quite a journey.
“The expressions in the songs are humane,” he added, “although those are subject to further criticism, the message remains the same.”