Friends, it’s time I upload some photographs I shot in Hazaar duwari (Murshidabad, Lalbagh). I would not write much about them, because my knowledge of history is particularly limited and these are anyway, easily available information on Wikipedia.
When you read through the Wikipedia article, you will realise this was the palace built by the Mir Jafars’ family and not Shiraj ou’Dulla. Shiraj’s palace was on the other side of the river, now raised to the ground. In the Hazar Duwari complex you will find – Nizamat Imambara, Clock, Madina mosque.
Loosely speaking, Imambara’s are places of worship for the Shia muslims. Nizamat Imambara is the biggest Imambara in the country, the foundation stone laid by the last Nawab of Bengal. That’s Shiraj Ou’Dullah.
The Madina mosque has the soil of the Haz – Holy to the Muslims, brought by Siraj Ou’Dulla’s mother after he became the nawab of Bengal. Phew, enough of history for now.
The clouds brought life to the landscape and with the sun playing hide-n-seek, I had some lovely time. I did not photograph all of it, I was there seated on the ground relax watching the cloud move. Ohkay, I am no more going to romanticism and literature.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Nizamat Imambara for you, freshly served with the clouds. To the right you see the clock and to the left – the Madina mosque.
The HazaarDuwari building, finished in 1837 has 100 real doors and 900 false doors. The false doors had a purpose. The lowest floor of the palace was a court. Anyone failing to pay taxes was tortured there. If he could manage to escape, he found it tough finding the right door through which he could escape. Inhumanly intelligent, isn’t it?
I am sure, most of my audience hated the subject of history in their childhood. Revision time !
The British East India company was formed in 1600, came to India as traders and settled in three principal areas ( Presidencies) that were named – Bombay (Mumbai), Madras (Chennai) and the most important – Calcutta (Kolkata). Ports were bettered for a better trade. Calcutta – USA business flourished even before the British started officially ruling India. They were building a fort, Fort William. This was not appreciated by the then Nawab of Bengal, who made this one of the few reasons to attack Calcutta fort. 1756 – The Nawab with all his might, won the battle. But the British were smarter people then. They made Mir Jafar (Nawab’s trusted) betray the Nawab of Bengal. 1757, June 23rd – The second battle of Plassey, the British and the Nawab locked horns and by treachery – the British won. Thus begun the British Raj in India and Calcutta became the capital of British India and the seat of proper English.
Slightly more than 230 years, this very day – I was born. ( Else how do you think I remember?)
But did you know – The Grand Post Office (GPO) of Calcutta is one of the building which stands today on the place which was the old Fort Williams?
Let’s get back.There are other structures, the graveyard and different other mosques, Jagat Seth’s home and the museum which you can look forward to.
The Kathgola palace and the Jain temple : The Katha Gola opalace was actually called – Jaath Golap (A variety of Rose). However with the decaying rose plants, people tucked the “P” of it and it’s now Kaath Gola Palace. Magnificent structure with lions everywhere. Very very impressive I must say. The present owners of the entire place is in Bhawanipur, Kolkata.
The reasons why I went to Murshidabad are two – One, there were clouds and I wanted to photograph these structures with a dramatic sky. The second is to search for Bauls. The search for the Bauls shall continue and any time soon, I might be there to find more about the Sufi-Bauls.
This blog post is extremely light hearted. I believe not many will even read through the entire article if it feels like a history book!
Till then, let me know what you want me to write about. Give me an honest comment. Thank you.
Part 2: A day with Baban Das Baul.
“Who was the first man on earth?”, asked Baban Das Baul. After a moment of silence, I said, “Manu?”. Ramasish rubbished the idea and said, “It is Adam and Eve.”.
Baban Das Baul was left wondering who Adam is. He however, asked “Who before Manu?”. “Brahma?” . “No, he is the father, the creator and the God.”.
I knew no Baul when I reached Murshidabad. Hours ago before I boarded the train, I gave Mrs. Ratnaboli Bose a phone call seeking information. Her website Daricha, that once used my photographs of Tusu, was the only website to give me information about Jalangi, a village Shreya had informed me – is the hub of Bauls in the region.
It was only a matter of moments, after having left home, I saw a man dark skinned, thin, with not much wrinkles on his face. His hair was long enough to cover his nape, curly, oiled and properly combed. “That kind of hair is perfect for a Baul”, I said to myself. Without any further thought, I approached him and inquired about the place and where I can get Bauls. He looked surprised.
On further discussion, he introduced himself as Baban Das Baul, one of the most renowned Bauls in the state. During the very short interaction on the first day, he thought of putting the records straight – There is no God, there are humans. Being a Baul is being real and not living in anticipation or creating imagery. Humanity is the top priority for the Bauls.
On the second day, we met near the cemetery ground and sat near the river, it was serene. The children were playing by the ghat, a few of them trying to row a boat. The Temple right beside us, had frequent visitors. The lush green background and the rhythmic alliterating sound of the river was soothing music. A perfect set for our discussion.
“We sing of human feelings and not about God.”
“Tell me, how did the Bauls come to existence?”, he asked. I did what I do best. I kept quiet. “It was popularised by Sri Chaitanya Deb.” was all that I managed to say. “But someone introduced him to it. Do you know who it was?”. Later in the discussion he said, Chaitanya had four Gurus, of which one introduced him to Baul culture. The discussion continued to the 14 other gurus after Sri Chaitanya who preached the philosophy for more than 530 years.
“The knowledge is the Guru, the mind is the disciple. If the disciple decides to do, then it is good. Else of what good is all the knowledge?”.
I nodded my head in affirmative. Check this video out before we proceed any further. (Please ignore the glitches, it is for the first time I tried to shoot videos. I promise to learn this and present to you better videos next time.)
He sang for us few songs and took us around the town, to his home and finally to the burial ground where his Guru was buried. Beside the burial ground is a Kali temple. We sat there and talked more.
He emphasised on the role of a Guru and how his Guru changed his life and showed him direction. As a Baul, he has seen his world change. Now he performs in different occasions, events as prestigious as the CommonWealth games and in numerous countries like Russia for an example. It was the same him, who had to sing to beg on the streets to make ends meet. Life for him has come a full circle. He is now the president of his association and his music wins heart.
This time, the topic of discussion had shifted from Baul philosophy to region, events and regional politics. He is a survivor and a witness to the cruelty of the religious puritans in the late nineties. The Bauls and the Fakirs were targeted, humiliated and often beaten for not believing in either Hinduism or in Islam.
The talks inadvertently shifted to the left rule and the present state government. Baban Das Baul is very optimistic with this present government. He now has his identity card and his medical bills are taken care of by the government. The government is being proactive in showcasing the rural and the folk culture of Bengal. Young people are taking interest in Baul music, one being definitely me, and he hopes the career of the Baul is no more as threatened as was in the last regime.
“You can have the Islam fascism, Christian rulers or the Hindu dictatorship. But above all religions, is the religion of Humanity. The Baul philosophy will continue for centuries to come, in different forms, ideas, shapes and in different packaging.”
I’ll end this post with a song composed by Baban Das Baul.
Do let me know if you have liked this post. This is for the first time, I have embedded a video and a sound clip to my blog post. Your feedback is very necessary for me to do the part 3 of this series. Thank you, thank you so much for having read this.
Part 1: Bauls: Spirituality over religion.
I set myself out to Murshidabad, after the tiresome Friday in office, in search of the Bauls and the Fakirs. Before I write about my experience there, I want to brief my reader about my Bengal and the Baul culture.
Bengal never fails to amaze me. Its culture has been influenced by the Jains and the Buddhists in the early ages and the Hindus, the Muslims later in history. We have had the Europeans settling here, mainly the British and the French. This was the region that saw the birth of the British Raj in mid-1700. With slight age, religion never found much of a place in people’s heart and one of the main reasons for this attitude of Bengalis is the folk music and art. One of the most popular folk culture is the tradition of the Bauls.
The seeds of the Baul school of thought are traced back hundreds of years before Sri Chaitanya popularized it. Sri Chaitanya, primarily a Bhakti movement stalwart, spoke about Krishna and the Bauls. To the rest of Hinduism, Krishna is the God of Gods and one of the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. To the Bauls, Krishna is not God; He is a consciousness and another sense.
Denouncing God in the first place and putting the focus on Human sensibilities, the Bauls believe Human is God. There is God (Krishna, as they put it) in every one of us. They write songs, tune them and sing their compositions on the streets of Bengal to spread their message. Their messages never restricted itself to the narrowness of a particular religion; they sing of humanity.
“Baul Bortoman, Baul onumaan noye”. Baban Das Baul wanted to put the records straight in the very first conversation. Being Baul is being in real existence and not in mere imagination, perception or anticipation. “God is imaginary, have you seen God?” I kept quiet. “But I can see you, talk to you, believe in you, and care for you. To serve God, serve everyone around.” I kept quiet again. Such philosophy resonated in Sri Sri RamKrishna ParamHansa Dev, where He told, “Shiv gnaane, Jib sheva”. That would loosely translate to “Serve the people, assuming you are serving the Almighty”. The social reformation movement led by Raja Ram Mohan Roy established Brahmo Samaj in Bengal, denouncing traditional Hindu religion and talked about unity of Religions. Rabindranath Tagore embraced this new religion and was a Brahmo by choice. I feel somewhere all of these are connected and is rooted to the age old Baul folk music.
The Fakirs or the Sufi-Bauls are the Muslims who believe in the concept of the Bauls that Humanity is of greater importance than religion. The confluence of cultures, resulted in an accepting society, united by the wandering minstrels, mystic, singing songs of love and of humanity. It is this strong sense of spirituality and humanity over religion that has united Bengalis by sentiment.
I went in search of these Bauls, whose folk songs have survived and witnessed the good and the numerous bad of the ages and still continue to spread words of love.
I’ll end this post with a audio clip. Do let me know your feedback about this blog post. I am trying something new with this, your feedback is the most important. Leave for me a comment. If you like this, please share this as well.
“Do you lack the adrenaline rush or something? Why don’t you watch football?” asked Arjyak at the end of the bloggers meet.
I came back home and asked my dad, “You do not play football, why do you stay awake and scream all night?” My father said, “Which Bengali did not play football when they were young, tell me. He is not a Bengali at all. Shob khelar shera bangalir tumi football!” The last line might loosely translate to “the best of best of all the games for a Bengali is football.” I murmured to myself, “Dad, me!”.
Photograph: Anirban Saha
Next morning i set to discover this city’s cultural ethos, of which football is a very important part. Here the kids grow up watching their elders discuss about Maradona, Ronaldo and Messi. Messy affair it seems, more so – they know very well, India is not a part in the world cup.
“So would you want, your son to become a football player?” The answer was not encouraging. “Amra goal ta kemon dilam bol?” A wide smile, an earthen cup of tea and a wide chest did not help me understand which “Amra” he referred to. I kept scratching the camera grip.
An old man in the adda told me, that it is more about the sentiments of the people around. Yes sir, definitely. Because the home team of Mohun bagan was the first Indian team to win against a European team in 1911. Or is it because Mohun Bagan is slightly a decade older than FIFA itself?
“How can you forget the East Bengal Mohun Bagan football matches?” Yes, are you speaking of the high on energy match where people watch football less and hurl more abuses they had innovated and stocked, since the last match? Oh, are you proud because the salt lake stadium is the second largest football stadium as per capacity? The response was grim and i thought it best to bid farewell to the adda.
Photographs: Anirban Saha
I really do not understand the frenzy. I really do not understand the sentiments. The love for the game is understandable; it increases the adrenaline rush even if you are watching it through the view finder. But to color the interiors of your home with yellow and maroon, your building with blue and white even before the Bengal government waivered the taxes, to cover all the lanes in the locality with Brazil national flags, to paint the walls and the barricades with emblems, symbols and yes, scream all night right outside my room not letting me work. I do not understand.
Photograph: Anirban Saha.
Photographs: Akash Bhattacharya & Zishan Asad
Add to it, the social media. With one goal Messi scores, my news feed is flooded with updates. Messier when someone bites the other on field – updates, memes, expletives, jokes and what not?
“Don’t you find the football players cute?” Well, i did not find it necessary to answer that question. But is that why you watch football? Which team do you support? The ones which your boyfriends do, right?
Photograph: Anirban Saha. TCS Football Tournament and captains fighting over a foul.
“It is about the excitement of the game when you play it. You will not understand.” Perhaps I will not.
But who cares? The rest of Kolkata are mad about football. An old couple from Kolkata was all over the news for making it to the 9th consecutive football world cup. The husband is 81 and the wife in her 70’s, they save all the money they can, in 4 years, only to spend it in the football world cup. Almost every friend I have, plays football, discusses football and fights over their football teams. Perhaps, it is time I give in and appreciate their sentiments and be a part of the frenzy, even without proper reason.
Photographs: Soumya Shankar Ghoshal.
I dare not say that it is without a proper reason. It is “love for Phootball”. It is this love for football that makes them write poems and even songs. Wait, i will paste for you one from Satyadip Basu’s wall post.
“Teen minute’e goal kheye chaar minute’e shodh.. Prothom-ardher shesh logne bhanglo protirodh.
Dwitiyardher shuru tei somota phiriye, rokhhoner doshe abar porlo pichiye,
Bhagyo ektu shohaye hole jitto nigeria, herey giyeo bhalo khele jitlo amar hiya.
Football to amra jani egaro joner khela, mesi chara dosh jon sudhui bhir korche mela.
Eka messi’r kadhe chore bishwo cup joy,
Emon asha kora bodh hoye ghoro toro onnyay.”
Are you one of them who remains awake all night to watch the football match? What is football to you?