Dr. Mizanur Rahman Shelley
From time immemorial, the Bengali seasons and festivals have blended in a mosaic of thrilling colours. Bangladesh in particular and Bengal in general happen to be featured by clearly marked seasons. As every Bengali child knows, six evenly spaced seasons are part and parcel of life in these territories.
The seasons travel their pre-designed paths: scorching summer, ‘Grishma’, the months of ‘Baishakh’ and ‘Jyaishtha’ (mid-April to mid-June), gets submerged in downpours of the rainy season, Barsha–‘Asharh’ and ‘Shravan’ (mid-June to mid-August). The rains give way to the early autumn, ‘Sharat’, of blue skies, ‘Bhadra’ and ‘Ashwin’ (mid-August to mid-October). Then comes the late autumn, ‘Hemanta’, ‘Kartik’ and ‘Agrahayan’ (mid-October to mid-December) when fleecy clouds, laze in the sky, bright in radiant sun. Then it is the turn of sun-warmed winter, ‘Sheet’, ‘Poush’ and ‘Magh’ (mid-December to mid-February). Finally it is time for the Bengali spring, ‘Basanta’, the months of ‘Falgun’ and ‘Chaitra’ (mid-February to mid-April): the season of colourful flowers and love.
Seasons and life create a multi-coloured melange which is integral to the Bengali psyche. That’s why the nation welcomes and bids farewell to each of the six seasons with appropriate festivals. Poets and lyricists join the people to sing in and sing out each season. Some of the most eloquent and touching poems and songs adoring the seasons of Bengal are found in the timeless creations of poet Rabindranath Thakur. Other prominent Bengali poets, such as, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Jibanananda Das, contributed their quota to the exquisite process of ringing in and ringing out the unique seasons of Bengal. Rabindranath was not profuse in writing about seasons. This may sound strange in view of the fact that his creative writings richly reflected the infinite variety of nature enveloping the entire existence of the people of Bengal. Rabindranath had a special nische in his mind for the rain-drenched days of Asharh and Shravan. His exquisite poem on ‘Asharh’, the first month of rains, strikes a responsive chord in every mind that knows the Bengali monsoon:
“Neel nabaghono Asharh gogone til thain aar nahire
Ogo aaj tora jasne ghorer bahire.”
(There is virtually no space in the new deep dark-blue of the Asharh skies,
Take heed all of you, don’t venture out of your homes).
Nevertheless, Rabindranath also wrote poems and songs extolling the season of rains.
Festivals marking other seasons find their place of pride in the writings of the great poet. Baishakh, heralding the beginning of the Bangla year and summer, was also the month in which the poet was born. The songs and poems he composed on Baishakh and the new Bangla year constitute a treasure-house in Bengali literature. An adorer of dynamism, Rabindranath found in the ‘absconding clouds’ of Baishakh, the dream of the mountains, which wanted to float like them. For him summer was the veritable beginning of it all. It stood for all that was new. He engraved in timeless letters an ode to his month of birth and wrote:
“Chiro notunere dilo dak
(The twenty-fifth of Baishakh sounds a clarion call
To that which is ever new).
He sought to usher in the first month of Bengali summer ‘Baishakh’ thus:
“Esho hey Baishakh, Esho Esho,
Taposh O nishasho Baye . . .”
(Come, oh Baishakh! come,
Breathing the fragrance of meditation. . . . .”
For Rabindranath the festivities of the Bangla New Year are charged with the significance of a dynamic renewal, forever and eternally a new beginning.
He also wrote in praise of Hemontika, the eternal feminine entity that one finds in the beauties of the late Bengali autumn.
Winter wears a cheerful and festive look in Rabindranath’s writings. He does not find the winter-wind mercilessly cold as they find it in the West. On the contrary, the wintry breeze in Bengal makes the branches of the ‘Amloki’ tree dance in delight.
“Shiter Haway laglo Nachon, laglo Nachon Amlokir Oy daley daley . . “. He finds himself one with the festivals of winter harvest and new-food, ‘Nobanno’.
“Poush toder dak diechhe aai re chole aai aai aai …”
(Poush, the first month of the winter, has heralded a call for all of you,
Come one and come all).
This call is for participating in a festival of plenitude:
“Dala je tor bhorechhe aaj paka Phashale…”
(Your container is full today with ripe harvest).
Finally, the Bengali spring found its rightful place in a riot of colours in Rabindranath’s writings. He writes cheerfully of the gifts that people make as Falgun walks-in with spring in its hands.
“Fagun hawai hawai
Amar apon hara pran,
Amar badhan chara pran …”
(I have contributed my selfless soul,
My soul bereft of all ties
To the Falgun breeze).
In other songs and poems also, the poet portrayed the joys and delights of the festival of spring, which he always found to be a season of everlasting hope.
The six seasons of Bengal throb with the pulsations of varied life in Rabindranath’s moving poems and songs. These are indivisible from existence. That’s why he wrote:
Jabar agay jani jeno
Amai dekechhilo keno
Aakash pane noyon mele
Shyamol Bashumoti …
” …Jeno amar ganer sheshey
Thamtey pari shame eshey…”
… Chhoyti ritur
Bhorte pari dala …”
(So that I may know
Before I leave
Why the green Earth
Looked up at the sky
And call me to her lap
….Before I depart
I pray that
I may end my song at its peak.
…Have the fortune of
Filling my container
With the fruits and flowers of six seasons).
The writer currently head of a development research centre is a litterateur.