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  2. Karla Pollmann
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Where do I go hence? Like the lyrics of these songs which have taken shape from the waters of these rivers, the tunes too have blended into the lyrics from the lilting waters of the rivers. Though the bhatiyali remains one of the most popular folk melodies, with the river and the boatman as integral parts of its content and composition, the river and the boat are very common symbols with spiritual overtones used in folksongs all over Bengal.

The scope of this essay will not permit me to go into the complexities and the variety of the spiritual problems and themes used in folksongs with the symbolic use of the river. I will try to cite a few examples to illustrate only some ways in which the river features in some folksongs of Bengal. One of the most famous and extremely popular bhatiyali songs is from the collection of the renowned poet and the folk music exponent Jasimuddin Few Bengali poets have loved the villages of Bengal more and few have expressed in poems and songs the simple joys and sorrows of the villagers more poignantly and feelingly.

In in Calcutta, a group of committed scholars and folklorists had gathered together to form the Folk music and Folklore Research Institute at Khaled Choudhury's house, out of a growing "awareness of an impending crisis in folk music" compounded by "commercial distortion" and the consequential falsification of the folk genres. The commercial distortion has grown more and more macabre over the years, and one is pained to hear cosmetic bauls who sing pseudo melodies in a "heritage park" in Calcutta, forming just one of the trappings that make up India; or the lofty notes of a bhatiyali melody just serving a background score in a film - the rich earthy song of the soil decontextualised and deconstructed to serve the selfish ends of modern urban civilisation.

The neglect that has ravaged folk music has been most evident in the glitzy packaging of the folk to sell as exotica abroad. The folk traditions of Bengal have died a slow death, despite the laudable efforts of Gurusaday Dutt, Dinesh Chandra Singha and other scholars and revivalists. What we require today is a serious and committed research which can save whatever is left of the fast depleting forms of folk music in Bengal.

The rivers are ridden with the politics of water sharing. Where are the boatmen who can sing out into the blue heavens: "You've set me adrift If ever there was a true sorority in the world of ideas, it must have been in the field of quilt making. Women, all over the world, took up the responsibility of providing everybody with the warmth against the cold, harsh winter. True, over time, some men joined into foray, but their numbers were never very significant. Bengal kantha making is a little different from other quilting artistry.


The material is different, so is the stitching method. From a very long time, Bengal cotton and silk have been known in the world market for its finesse and quality. Bengal "muslin" was an item of export even at Perecles's time. When such beautiful creations were worn and old, Bengal women did not see any reason to throw them away. Beautiful sari borders the everyday dress of Bengali women were preserved , the soft dhotis men's clothes were placed layer upon layer and stitched encased in sari borders.

Thus started the first recycling art of the world. The stitching patterns of Bengal kanthas are simple, but it can be very intricate depending on the inclination of the kantha maker. Bengal kantha makers reflect their traditions in choosing their designs. The Hindu kantha makers would tend to choose from religious motifs, like gods and goddesses, the " alpanas" representing lotus flower, conch shells, various birds and beast like peacock, parrots, elephants, lion, tiger, whereas the Muslim women are usually restricted to geometrical designs and plants and flowers.

Within that restriction, they are able to create wonderful artifacts in "jainamaz kantha," "dastarkhan," or "gilaf embroidery. At present day, due to the high cost of hand crafted materials, kantha making for the baby's diaper is not cost effective at all. However, in the early seventies, there had been a revival in kantha art in both the Bengals.

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Sreelata Sirkar derived inspiration from Pratima Devi of Santiniketan and started designing kanthas for team work. Thus, she not only revived a dying art, but also made room for a great economic activity for West Bengal women. In Bangladesh, the search for a national identity led to a great kantha revival, where the Muslim women artists broke the earlier taboo of not representing human and animal figures in kantha. Now the Bangladeshi artists design fantastic tapestries, one like "Naksi kanthar math" after the narration of the poet Jasimuddin.

Now both the Bengals have perfected the art of kantha making with infusions of new materials, concept in design, and various stitcheries, and it can be safely said that these days, it is as popular as woven designs in saris, dresses and upholsteries. The earliest mention of Bengal Kantha is found in the book, "S ri Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita " by Krishnadas Kaviraj which was written some five hundred years back.

There the poet says, Sachi, the mother of Chaitanya , sent a homemade kantha to her son at Puri through some pilgrims. The same kantha still can be viewed in Gambhira, at Puri, displayed in a glass case.

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The second earliest reference is in Zaman's book about the famous artist Abanindranath Tagore, who seemed to have encountered a woman in a village in a district of Srihatta of Bangladesh, who recorded her life story in her kantha spanning a period starting from her marriage to old age. However, the present revival of kantha art has drawn the ire of some pundits who think that kantha art can be meaningful only when plied at the privacy of a home, by a single person. If the art is brought out into a factory and embroidered as team work, the soul of kantha gets lost!

Anyway, such criticism has not been able to minimize the present spirit of teamwork effort which has uplifted homely kantha into a beautiful artifact besides engendering much sought economic well being. The only argument that can be made here, may be, that a real kantha is able to narrate a story, and is much more compact in design and it is made out of used materials. On the other hand, such kanthas may pass as art works, but its market value is difficult to determine.

Kanthas which are made for the commercial purposes, out of new materials and by the trained artists have very well defined price range depending on the material used, the execution of the design and the total labor hour devoted in making it.

One who wants to practice the art of kantha making in the U. There is a dearth of used materials like sari borders, used dhotis, cotton and silk saris. Kantha makers can use all new materials to create beautiful tapestries, but it would not be the same.

The time consuming work of pointillism is another obstacle the kantha maker has tackle in this fast paced life of America, where outside help for daily household work is very expensive and hence almost nonexistent. In spite of all these obstacles, kantha making is very rewarding. The concentration and contemplation that is required in building the harmony in color, design and execution is akin to the spiritual exercises.

The kantha maker has to put all her energies into a single basket of mind and execute the design. At the end the kantha means more to the maker than to the viewer. Hence it is a lonely art and is totally bound by the whims of the artist. The second difficulty is the absence of a guild of Bengal kantha makers in the U. The present author hopes that there would be a time when the Bengal kantha makers would join the American quilt makers in formulating new designs and create new specimen of static beauty which would be joy for ever.

Don't you like this song of the village maidens from a Bengali poem by Jasimuddin? It is a rather beautiful poem about the love of a peasant boy and a village girl and it makes the simple village folk come to life before us.

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And, as this song tells us, one of their main anxieties is to get rain. Sometimes village folk meet and hold prayers for rain to come. This utter dependence on the rainfall is some thing peculiar to India. It dominates the life of our people in a way that people in most countries find difficult to understand. But all peasants know how important rain is.

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Soft Rain, gently fall, In the house the plough neglected lies, In the burning sun the farmer dies, O Rain with laughing-face, come! That is why at the end of the last chapter we said that manuring the land would lead to a crop three times as big as it yielded otherwise, if there was a good monsoon.

We have seen what a great part the monsoon plays in providing our land with water, without which little would grow on it. That part is played in two ways: first, by the rain which falls through- out the country, and secondly, by adding to the how of the rivers that come down from the mountains and flow through the plains. On the third day of the Tonatuni Festival, Tonatuni staged a dance drama Kabor adapted from the popular poem Kabor by Pallikobi Jasimuddin.

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The dance drama starts with the effect of the dawn when the last lines of the Fazr Azan is heard. A very old grandfather comes on stage in feeble steps and starts telling his story to his grandson. The unhappy grandfather tells him about the five deaths in his family. He also recollects the memories of his getting married, the little bride's doll playing, the fair they attended, the bride's bathing with her friends and other insignificant yet happy moments of his life.

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  4. Directed by dancer Dipa Khondokar with light directions by famous light director of Kolkata Tapash Sen, the total performance was excellent. Tonatuni Festival exhibits valuables of two legends of the subcontinent-- Satyajit Ray and poet Jasimuddin. With the ongoing cultural festival organised by Tonatuni, the National Museum has become an eventful rendezvous for visitors interested in Stayajit Ray and Jasimuddin. An unprecedented exhibit of valuables, photographs and other interesting items of the two personalities has attracted hundreds of visitors. Simultaneously, films of Satyajit Ray are being screened at the museum's auditorium.