Lalon Shah: A Teacher for Mankind

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There are number of online based Bengali community web sites are out there. Every now and then, whenever I can manage some of my free time, I try to visit some of those sites and get to know some Bengali people spreaded all over the World. Last night I was visiting one such site and logged into their chat room. Someone from the chat room started playing a song of Lalon Shah sung by Farida Parveen. Amazing thing happened, all of a sudden the chaotic chat room became a quite place as everyone was listening that amazing track.
Lalon Shah Portrait by Nandalal BasuLalon Shah widely known as Lalon Fakir or simply Lalon, was a popular Bengali Poet, Songwriter, Baul Saint and Social Reformer. He is also one of the most prominent and widely revered figure in the Indian Subcontinent, specially among the Bengali people (both in India and Bangladesh). Born in 1774, Lalon was raised in a society that was highly divided between Religious sects and groups. However, Lalon never claimed his affiliation with any specific religious group. Rather he questions what “Jat” or sect is? We can also trace his questionable views from his song, as he wrote:

Everyone asks, “What Jāt does Lalon belong to in this world?”
Lalon answers, “What does Jāt look like?”
I’ve never laid eyes upon it.
Some use Malas (Hindu rosaries),
others Tasbis (Muslim rosaries), and so people say
they belong to different Jāts.
But do you bear the sign of your Jāt
when you come (to this world) or when you leave (this world)?

He was equally praised and denounced by many during his lifetime. Even today, some ultra-orthodox views can easily find materials in Lalon’s work that rejects the idea of Jaat or class system among human kind. Perhaps that is why Lalon is still being remembered and equally respected by many as a symbol love and compassion towards fellow human being.

Lalon strongly opposed religious conflict as it often ignited the violence causing unnecessary bloodshed and division within the communities. No wonder why Lalon’s disciple comes from the Hindu, Muslim or even from other religious background. Lalon’s philosophical views influenced many great minds like Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam & Allen Ginsberg. In fact it was Tagore who was deeply touched by Lalon’s philosophical views and brought Lalon’s work in front of the modern society.

I never had a chance to study Lalon’s life and his works at a serious level but I grew up listening his songs as it is quite popular in my native Bangladesh. Perhaps it was my father who always insisted me to listen to his song, even though I didn’t understand most of the theme of his song at a very young age. Now, when I am all grown up and trying to grasp Lalon’s works (I don’t even dare to understand everything), I can’t but appreciate my fathers effort to make us listening Lalon’s song. I am pretty confident that my father was also a huge fan of Lalon and his works. Thank you Baba, you taught us well.

Lalon is not here with us anymore but his works and teachings are there for us. The idea of unity among mankind despite of our all the differences is something that we can still learn from. May Lalon and his teachings lives forever and bring peace and harmony in this World.

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