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Development of Bengali patriotic songs

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Amdad Choudhury

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Nov 19, 1997, 3:00:00 AM11/19/97
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Source: The Independent
Author: Unknown

Development of Bengali patriotic songs

The concept of milan gaan is as old as the idea of
Bengali patriotic songs. The first great Bengali patriotic
song by Satyendranath Tagore was a milan gaan.
Jyotirindranath Tagore in several songs pleaded for
Hindu-Muslim unity. Many songs on communal harmony were
sung from the stage of the General Theatre.
The words, Hindu and Muslim, were not uniformly used in
all the songs on communal harmony. In some
songs they were used directly, and in some songs they
were not, although they suggested of the concept of
Hindu-Muslim unity. Gradually, a remarkable trend of
Bengali songs on communal harmony was formed,
the best of which was composed by Kazi Nazrul Islam
(1899-1976). In 1896, Rabindranath Tagore set a
lyric, Bande Mataram: Salutation to Motherland' by
Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya to music and sang it
in the 12th yearly Congress session. That was the
beginning of this composition as a patriotic song. Sarala
Devi Choudhurani (1872-1945) appeared as a composer at
the close of the nineteenth century. She
edited a collection of Bengali patriotic songs and called
it Shata gan: Hundred Songs. The collection was
published in 1900.The development of Bengali patriotic
songs has been phased into three stages. The first
stage came to an end with the close of the nineteenth
century. The second stage was spread out over some
early years of the twentieth century. Bengali patriotic
songs at this stage flourished at a tremendous pace at
the background of a movement opposing the partition of
Bengal (1905- 1911), known popularly as
swadeshi movement. This movement gave birth to a large
number of Bengali patriotic songs at an
incredible speed. The composition of songs and the
publications of compilations did not remain limited to
the cities, they were done in the remote areas of Bengal.
It was a kind of mass participation in the
composition of Bengali patriotic songs. Lord Curzon, then
Governor General of India, made a declaration
of partitioning Bengal in 1905 on the ground of
increasing administrative efficiency. The movement
launched to oppose this decision was known as the
swadeshi movement. It stood for the unity of Bengal.
This movement created an unprecedented fervour about
composing and singing patriotic songs. So long
the matter of patriotic songs was limited to the elitist
section of people in the cities. But now under the
impact of the swadeshi movement, the barriers were swept
away and people from all walks of life keenly
participated in this musical effort. The political impact
on culture began to be increasingly felt from this
time. The custom of singing patriotic songs in
processions was in vogue from this period. Even bringing out
processions was not perhaps known to Bengal before this
movement. Rabindranath Tagore was the
principal composer of the swadeshi phase of Bengali
patriotic songs. Dwijindralal Ray, Rajanikanta Sen,
Atul Prasad Sen, Mukunda Das, Kaliprasanna Kavya
Visharad, Amritalal Basu, Pramathanath Ray
Choudhury, Vijayachandra Majumdar. Ashwini Kumar Dutt,
Sarala Devi Choudhurani, Kamini Kumar
Bhattacharya and Manomohan Chakravarty were the major
composers of Bengali patriotic songs in the
swadeshi period. There were countless other composers
throughout Bengal who earnestly took part in the
swadeshi musical movement. Rabindranath Tagore composed
most of his popular patriotic songs at this
time. He composed about twenty five songs in quick
succession. Tagore's eminent patriotic song "My
Grolden Bengal., I Love You' was composed at this period.
This song has been given the status of the
National Anthem of Bangladesh. Prior to this movement,
Rabindranath mostly employed raga musical
styles in his patriotic songs. But during the swadeshi
movement his focus of attention fell on the folk music
of Bengal, particularly Baul style. Although Tagore's
patriotic songs were composed at the background of
a contemporary political movement, their appeal was not
exhausted as the movement was over. As
finished works of art and as songs of perpetual patriotic
appeal, these compositions are still sung with great
love. The concept of milan gan was largely focused in the
swadeshi songs and the spirit of communal
harmony was upheld in many songs composed during the
swadeshi movement. In fact the question of
communal harmony was taken as one of the objectives of
the swadeshi movement. This aspect of the
movement was exemplified by Rabindranath Tagore in some
of his songs, the most important one is The
soil of Bengal, the water of Bengal, the Bengal, the
fruits of Bengal be auspicious. O God' The question of
communal harmony was being increasingly considered as
important in the course of the development of
patriotic songs. During the swadeshi movement, it was
given some additional significance. It was being
increasingly felt that Bengali patriotic songs composed
so far neglected the Muslim cause. Such songs
were first sung from the Hindu mela platform. The name of
the exhibition itself was a Hindu one.
Moreover, all the references of history in songs to build
the patriotic spirit were quoted from the Hindu
sources.

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