Pitha, Kabita-bikel and the Dhrupad music of the night

Pitha, Kabita-bikel and the Dhrupad music of the night

How poetry was inspired and born in a timeless legend: Thousands of years ago in a deep primordial jungle a man, a newly reformed bandit-turned-sage, observed a hunter who was about to kill a frolicking bird. As he watched the spectacle of the innocent bird about to recieve a fatal arrow something magical happened to the observer or one can say through him something magical happened to the human race. The observing man was Valmiki, who only recently had turned from a fierce bandit to a sage. On that propitious moment when he saw the hunter about to kill the bird, magically he was transformed from a tongue-tied shy man to a poet and out came of his mouth a whole stanza of poetry


This is now known as the “adi-shloka” or the first poetry of the human race. Since then hundreds of poets have serached for such a magical inspiration. Madusudan Datta, while beginning his epic book “Meghnad Badh Kabyo” wrote “Jemoti boshiley ashiya mato valmkir roshonai….. temoti e dasheri ashi doya koro shoti”. (Just like you had come suddenly on the tongue of Valmiki… like that have mercy on me). In ancient mythology it is a Goddess, sometimes called Varati, sometimes Kalpana who comes and magically converts a common-place man or woman instantly into a poet.

And now to a certain night: A few nights ago in Canberra a group of such inspired (or inspiration-seeking) people came together for poetry and Kalpana, I am sure was not too far away. The whole spectacle took place in the premises of Bangladesh High Commission, organised by a web-site, www.priyoAustralia.com.au indicating how far we have come from the time of Valmiki and the first poetry.
The afternoon started with participation by children which was very heart-warming. They sang, recited poetry and answered questions on poetry and literature. Their participation set the stage for the activities that followed.

The evening continued with local poets of Canberra reciting their own poems, or the poems of other noted poets. I was impressed by the touching story of Srimoti, the budhist woman, seeking to worship in a hostile environment, or the modern flair of ever-popular Helal Hafiz. Fazal Hasan a local talent was impressive as usual with his witty couplets. Dipesh Chakravarti from far-away Chicago just happened to be there to join his voice. Local reciters, Jainal Abedin, Zillur Rahman and Mr. Iqbal entertained everyone with their recitations. This writer was happy to join with his own few couplets.

After that came a true poetic spectacle delivered by a group from Sydney called “Kabita Bikel”. I think any poet would be proud to see such a performance. I sat close to them transfixed as they alternated from poetry to songs and back again, covering the whole poetic spectra of Bangla literature. Men and women with supple melifluous voice alternating, mingling lyricism with music and drama, the whole thing presided by Mahmuda Runu a well-known poet from Sydney. Their performance proved that poetry is capable of transforming a common-place room into true celebration of words, and showed to us all what a true gift we have all are endowed with, the precious heritage called Bangla literature.

And how poetry became songs; the Tagore magic: And no one embodies this heritage as well as Rabindranath whose 150th birth anniversary this year allowed us to see his genius in new lights. Following Rishi Valmiki and Madusudan Rabindranath too sought the inspiration of Varati when he wrote seeking her intervention “Prokasho Jononi Noyon shommukhey Proshonno Mukhochhobi, Bimol manosho shoroshovashini, shukloboshona shuvrohashini, binagonjito monjuvashini, komol kunjashona”.

And the musical troupe “Dhrupad” launched its hour long musical performance with such an inspiration. Dhrupad followed a novel idea of depicting Tagore songs that were used in different movies and show-casing those cases with the help of slide projection, bringing in an aura of multimedia. Since songs really cannot be described well in words I invite people who were not present in the program to listen to them. Most of these songs are now available at www.youtube.com/user/DhrupadCanberra for listening and viewing.

The whole program, held in the specious premises of Bangladesh High Commission had a homely atmosphere of mellow ease and familiarity; the presence of fire-place and book-cases brought in a vibrant domestic but artistic appeal. The High Commissioner himself was present along with his family indicating his good will and love for poetry and music. Sumptuous food in the form of Pithas were made available courtesy of Alice Nahar. And the program was very ably presented and interpreted by Farhad Reza, Tulip Chaudhury and Kowsar Khan.

I recall two poetry reading session in Canberra way back in late 1980’s. Since those remote times the heritage has been resuscitated by Shahadat Manik, a poet, adding to it the culinary promise of Pitha. It has now become a tradition of Canberra and hope will stay this way.

Epilogue: Human race has travelled a long way since the time of the great epic poet Valmiki and his divine inspiration. But the magic gift of poetry has survived the test of time, enduring and surviving the fall of empires, abandonment of homelands, lost love, infinite sadness, and relentless human misery. Again and again in our grief we have sought and found our lost souls and have become alive again and again with the inspiration of “Kalpana”, the poetic restorer of human spirit.

As we stepped out into the chilly Canberra night, after the Priyo_Australia program, we found the usual Canberra fog like a thick blanket enveloping us. Or one could imagine, as Kalpana would have asked us to do, that we were surrounded by the enduring poetic magic of imagination.

[Participants: Poetry reading from Canberra:
Abed Chaudhury, Afzal Hossain, Iqbal Ahmed, Jainal Abedin, Mr & Mrs Akash, Shegufta Rahman Tulee, Sulekha Barua, Ziaul Hoque Bablu, Zillur Rahman, Fatematuz Zuhra Sumi, Abdullah al mahbub Sumon, Lily Gomez and Mizan

Poetry reading by Kids
Shaheer Manik Rohan, Rafiqa Manik Mona, Aurpan, Zumana, Zaima, Zahi and Maliha

Mona & Mahin

“Kobita Bikel”: Mahmuda Runu, Saifur Rahman Apu, Safrina Pritty, Rajan Nondy, Sabira Rima, Mamta Chowdhury, Afsana Ruchi, Shuravi Chanda, Shakil Arman, Sanchay Kabir, Santonu Kar

Dhrupad: Robin, Avijit, Shampa, Priyanka, Paromita, Vashkar, Shaurav, Rinki, Arupa, Sami, Punna, Mintu, Tulip, Kowsar

The whole evening program was conducted by Farhadur Reza Probal.]

Event photos at https://priyoaustralia.com.au/photos/main.php?g2_itemId=12217

Event photos at https://priyoaustralia.com.au/photos/main.php?g2_itemId=12217

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