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The Sage and Society: Lalon Shah and 19 i th Century Social Movements in Bengal

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dc.contributor.author Hossain, P. M. Abu Ishahoque
dc.date.accessioned 2019-12-09T04:05:33Z
dc.date.available 2019-12-09T04:05:33Z
dc.date.issued 2018-12-09
dc.identifier.uri http://localhost:8080/xmlui/handle/123456789/1474
dc.description This dissertation submitted to the University of Dhaka for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. en_US
dc.description.abstract vi Lalon, also known as Lalon Shah, or Lalon Fakir (1774–1890) was a Bengali Baul saint, lyricist of mystic songs, and a social thinker. His thoughts and ideas immensely impacted on the life and living of the subaltern population of 19 th century Bengal. In social and cultural life of Bangladesh Lalon is considered as an icon of religious tolerance. Through his philosophical lyrics, Lalon raised his voice against all discriminations of caste, class and creed in society. Lalon Shah was born in 1774, just five years after the great famine that caused deaths of millions in rural Bengal and is known as ChhiyatturerMannantor in the history of modern India. Lalon‟s early life witnessed various significant events and revolutionary movements that had been taking place in the 19 th century Bengal. Lalon, witnessed all these rebellious movements and mass upsurges which were mainly organized by the poor, wretched population. These movements and their ideologies had impacted on the life and living of Lalon profoundly and helped him to construct his own Philosophy of Humanity. The proclamation of highness of humanity was the core essence of Lalon‟s philosophy. By embracing Baul faith a cult based religious belief that originated in 17 th century Bengal, Lalon succeeded in creating a common platform to protect the exploited, tortured, economically destitute people of rural Bengal against the bigotry of caste Hindus and class discrimination by the upper-class elites. Lalon‟s creative texts could be viewed as the manifestation of collective social consciousness of his time. There is a necessity for evaluating Lalon‟s songs and lyrics because of the historical and social importance of the same. Lalon through his songs and preaching, in the stream of social relations identified the problems of caste and class differences, the idea of sacred and profane and in an implicit way showed the path to solve these problems. Thus in the above context it can be said that it is indeed important to realize the non-communal, socially conscious humanistic views that Lalon preached through his philosophy and mystic songs. Sociologically speaking, it can provide direction to the basic propensity of life and living of the people of this land. Critical analysis on Lalon‟s contribution in19th century social movements in Bengal and its effect on contemporary social structure, social reaction concerning Lalon and his followers, could significantly enrich the existing literature on Lalon Shah. The studies so far have been carried out on Lalon Shah, are scattered between a numbers of approaches. In this context, this research explicitly attempted to focus on 19 th century social movements in Bengal and Lalon‟s role to provide a new dimension on the folk tradition of humanity of Bengal, spelled in the saying “...the ultimate truth is human being, nothing is more dignified than that of man”. The basic objective of the proposed study is to explore the impact of Lalon‟s ideas and philosophy that spread over 19 th century rural Bengal. In order to cover the objective; discussions on contemporary Bengal society, social system, social customs and prejudices on different social movements which gained momentum both in the urban and rural areas of 19 century Bengal and the influences of these movements in catalyzing changes in the society were made. A number of studies have so far been conducted on Lalon both at home and abroad. Most of these studies attempted to put a religious identity on Lalon and attempted to en-caste him as a Hindu or a Muslim. Further, some researches had also been carried out by portraying Lalon and his philosophy from the traditional concept about Baulism . Many researches attempted to explain the essence of his philosophy as a scripture of secret arduous practice of Baul community. This research is an attempt to cover the life and teachings of Lalon Shah, a 19 century sage of Bengal. It is an attempt to analyze his teaching that shook the mind set of rural mass of Bengal in general, as well as to a great extent even to the newly emerged Kolkata based educated gentry during that period. Even today, the appeal of Lalon‟s philosophy did not fade away rather gradually is gaining momentum among all sections of people. The reason is, his teachings holds humane appeal, particularly for the down trodden people of the society. It is not possible to measure quantitatively the impact of Lalon‟s teaching and preaching on the mental sphere of the subaltern population and also the educated gentry of 19 th century. Also it is not possible to quantify the reasons for which Lalon is still remembered with respect and why does a good number of present generation population is gradually leaning towards Lalon‟s ideals in Bangladesh. The reason is psycho social impacts of such issues are not quantifiable. As such I have basically applied qualitative method for conducting this research. One of the important techniques of qualitative method of doing research is “Historical Analytical technique”. Research based on Historical Analytical technique needs in-depth analysis of historical facts and figures. Doing research based on historical data one need to be able to understand the reality behind the historical events, need to understand the facts behind the facts. The very nature of this research demands that the method of the study should be historical analytical, a technique that is often used in qualitative research. The reason for choosing the „Historical Analytical‟ technique for conducting this research is, it is basically an analysis of 19 th century social movements in Bengal and the narrative of the life and living of one of the great sage of the time named „Lalon Shah.‟ The term “social movement” is being used to denote wide verities of Conception. There are number of competing frame works in the field and each conceptualizes movements differently. Encyclopedia Britannica defines Social Movement as “loosely organized but sustained campaign in support of social goal, typically either the implementation or the prevention of a change in society‟s structures or values.” Social movements may differ in size but they all are essentially collective efforts and they are more or less products of spontaneous union of people. Though the relationships of this union cannot be defined by rules and procedures, but people in union merely share a common outlook (Encyclopedia Britannica 2017). The mass upsurge during British rule in India or tacit protests against oppression, or attempts to reform the social behavior in Bengal during the same period are examples of social movements. I have used Frame analysis for theoretical analysis of my research issue. Frame analysis (also called framing analysis) is a multi-disciplinary social science research method applied to analyze social movement theory, policy studies and is generally attributed to the work of Erving Goffman. In social sciences, „framing‟ denote a set of concepts and theoretical perspectives on how individuals, groups, and societies, organize, perceive, and communicate about reality. ((Bateson1972,Tversky&Kahneman1981). One of such frames is „Collective Action Frame‟. Collective action frames perform this interpretive function. Collective action frames are actionoriented sets of beliefs and meanings that inspire and legitimate the activities and campaigns of a social movement organization (ibid: 199). In specific I applied Collective Framing model in analyzing my research findings. 19 century Bengal emerged as the epicenter of socio-cultural and religious reform movements in the history of modern India. Conquest of India by the British Imperial Power and subsequent changes due to British colonial rule initiated the modern era of Indian history. Ironically, British colonial administration in spite of playing a positive role in transforming medieval India to modern; it also had serious negative and harmful effects that viciously intimidated the people and society of India. British colonial policy in the language of Marx became the “unconscious tool of history” in bringing about structural changes of the society that have had both negative and positive effects. The changes were massive. The task was difficult for the society at large to systematically accommodate all the transformations that had been taking place in the social and political arena of the country. Most of these changes had negative consequences that specifically affected the subaltern sections of the society. As a consequence chaos and confusion swigged the entire country. In order to survive from all the tribulations of the time, different social movements surfaced in Bengal. Obviously most of these movements were organized and participated typically by the lower stratum population of the society, who were the most sufferers of the changes. Some of these movements were also commenced under the patronage of Kolkata based British backed newly emerged English educated Hindu elite class. Ironically movements initiated by the Hindu upper class remained confined within the class boundary of the elite population and did not create any positive effect on the social and economic life and living of the people in the lower stratum, the most oppressed section of the population. The rural based movements had two different dimensions; firstly, anti British activities in the form of religious reform movements that finally turned into armed revolts against the British rule, and the second type was fundamentally cult or folk religious movements organized under the patronage of the lowest stratum of population of the society. These cults based folk religious movements were basically tacit kind of defiance against all religious bigotry, class and caste differences and economic and social oppressions of the elites. The essence of their philosophy was to uphold the dignity of humanity. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.publisher University of Dhaka en_US
dc.title The Sage and Society: Lalon Shah and 19 i th Century Social Movements in Bengal en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US


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