সাঁই, শাহ (from Persian سای)
Lalon's only portrait, sketched during his lifetime by Jyotirindranath Tagore.
Bengal Presidency (present-day Bangladesh)
|Died||17 October 1890
Cheuriya, Kushtia, Bengal Presidency (present-day Bangladesh)
|Resting place||Cheuriya, Kushtia, Bengaldesh|
|Known for||Baul music|
Lalon (Bengali: লালন), also known as Lalon Sain, Lalon Shah, Lalon Fakir or Mahatma Lalon (c. 1774–1890), was a Bengali Baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker. In Bengali culture he has become an icon of religious tolerance whose songs inspired and influenced many poets and social and religious thinkers including Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Allen Ginsberg - though, as he "rejected all distinctions of caste and creed", he was both praised and criticized in his lifetime and after his death. His disciples mostly live in Bangladesh and West Bengal. He founded the institute known as Lalon Akhdah in Cheuriya, about 2 km. from Kushtia railway station. He is also regarded as the founder of the Baul music.
There are few reliable sources for the details of Lalon's early life as he was reticent in revealing his past, though there has been considerable speculation about his physical appearance, religious background etc. One account relates that Lalon, during a pilgrimage to Murshidabad with others of his native village, he contracted smallpox and was abandoned by his companions on the banks of the Ganges, from where Malam Shah and his wife Matijan, members of the weaver community in a Muslim-populated village, Cheouria, took him to their home to convalesce.
They gave Lalon land to live where he founded a musical group and remained to compose and perform his songs, inspired by Shiraj Sain, a musician of that village.
Lalon was against religious conflict and many of his songs mock identity politics that divide communities and generate violence. He even rejected nationalism at the apex of the anti-colonial nationalist movements in the Indian subcontinent. He did not believe in classes or castes, the fragmented, hierarchical society, and took a stand against racism. [see Jāti]
He believed in the power of music to alter the intellectual and emotional state in order to be able to understand and appreciate life itself. The texts of his songs engage in philosophical discourses of Bengal, continuing Tantric traditions of the Indian subcontinent, particularly Nepal, Bengal and the Gangetic plains. He appropriated various philosophical positions emanating from Hindu, Jainist, Buddhist and Islamic traditions, developing them into a coherent discourse without falling into eclecticism or syncretism. He explicitly identified himself with the Nadiya school, with Advaita Acharya, Nityananda and Chaitanya. He was greatly influenced by the social movement initiated by Chaitanya against differences of caste, creed and religion. His songs reject any absolute standard of right and wrong and show the triviality of any attempt to divide people whether materially or spiritually.
Lalon composed numerous songs and poems, which describe his philosophy. It is said that he had composed about 10,000 songs of which 2,000-3,000 can be tracked down today while others are lost in time and hearts of his numerous followers. Most of his followers could not read or write either, so few of his songs are found in written form.
Among his most popular songs are Shob Loke Koy Lalon Ki Jat Shongshare, Khachar Bhitor Ochin Pakhi, Jat Gelo Jat Gelo Bole, Dekhna Mon Jhokmariay Duniyadari, Pare Loye Jao Amai, Milon Hobe Koto Dine, Ar Amare Marishne Ma, Tin Pagoler Holo Mela, etc.
The songs of Lalon aim at an indescribable reality beyond realism. He was observant of social conditions and his songs spoke of day-to-day problems in simple yet moving language. His philosophy was expressed orally, as well as through songs and musical compositions using folk instruments that could be made from materials available at home; the ektara (one-string musical instrument) and the duggi (drum).
Legacy and depictions in popular culture
In 1963, a mausoleum and research centre were built at the site of his shrine. Thousands of people come to the shrine (known in Bengali as an Akhra) twice a year, at 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 Muslim fakirs and Bauls pay tribute. Among the modern singers of Baul music Farida Parveen, Anusheh Anadil and Arup Rahee are internationally known for singing Lalon songs.
Film and literature
Lalon has been portrayed in literature, film, television drama, and in the theatre. Prosenjit portrayed Lalan Shah in the Moner Manush, a 2010 Bengali film based on the life and philosophy of Lalon Shah. The film was an adaptation of Sunil Gangopadhyay's biographical novel of the same name. This film directed by Goutam Ghose won the Best Film prize at the 41st International Film Festival of India held at Goa from 22 Nov to 02 Dec 2010. In 2004 Tanvir Mokammel directed the film Lalon in which Raisul Islam Asad portrayed Lalon Shah.
-  Anwarul Karim, Banglapedia
- Choudhury 1992,p. 59.
- Hossain 2009,p. 148.
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- Urban 2001, p. 18.
- Tagore, Stewart & Twichell 2003, p. 94.
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- Choudhury 1992,p. 3.
- Film of the life of Lalon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-nrTY0FWB4
- Lopez, Donald (1995). Religions in India in Practice - "Baul Songs". Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 187–208. ISBN 0-691-04324-8.
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