Friday, April 06, 2007

10. Shah: The 'Regal' Lamp

As much as unthinking people have tried in vain to find out who Fakir Lalon Shah was, where he appeared from, or his faith, creed and 'religion', what cannot and should not pass any of us by, is our curiosity have all been focused about the 'man' and not what he stood for, or wanted to share as a complete, yet simple vision of faith for our understanding. Word for word, couplet for couplet Lalon, embedded gems in his compositions, for all of us to contemplate, meditate and find our individual answers. True work is in deciphering not just the 'song' that a lot of musicologist and pundits have tried a wide brush-over to 'urbanize' or remove their 'frugal rural rusticity', but more, implications of each and every individual word that were subtly crafted in his masterpieces, is where the quest is honed in.

Jage uthachay ei roop mohol / na jaani tar roop ti kyamon
This abode of beauty has arisen, wonder what its beauty is like

Shiraj Shai koi nai ray Lalon/ tar tulona
Shiraj Shai tells Lalon, there is no comparison

In the above couplet, one is left only to behold the beauty of the abode that the Maker has created for us, with the human body, or Man being at its epicenter, only part of a story understood, a half truth if we may. It is in the signature line, where Lalon closes the song is where some answers, perhaps only a portion of the truth and not the entire truth is revealed.

In the first part of this series of essays we have dwelt in length about the term 'Fakir' - yet until now we have deliberately refrained from explaining what the term 'Shah' or 'Shai-ji' in the Baul's colloquial Bengalee usage means. There is nothing deeply mystical or mysterious about it. 'Shah' translated from Arabic or Persian means 'regal' or those worthy of the respect of a King. Whether it is by his deeds or actions or in the lifestyle and attitude he wished others to inculcate, or the lives he touched in his times as much as they do to this day, Fakir Lalon Shah was truly a King amongst men, nay an Emperor. The word ‘Lalon’ on the other hand in Bengalee means 'caring', an Emperor, who’s Empire, was the Makers universe, his 'wealth', the unsurpassed sense of caring and compassion for fellow Man who he worshipped as God.

In closing this chapter, it is worthwhile to mention about 'somebody' that Lalon Shah consistently referred to as 'Shiraj Shai' in most of his compositions. There have been debates and controversies that Fakir Lalon Shah was a disciple of a Guru by the same name. Yet there appears to be no historical or scientific evidence among researchers to confirm the physical existence of any one man by the name of 'Shiraj Shai' from Harishpur, Harinakundu in Jessore where it is thought he lived. One analysis we humbly submit to our readers probably lies in reflecting on the meaning of the word ‘Shiraj’.

In Arabic and Persian among the many meanings attested to the word is 'lamp', therefore in all probability, 'Shiraj Shai' could very well have been, the 'Regal Lamp' - the Maker. The God of the agnostic Fakir Lalon Shah, had deliberately to be coined in order it to make it meaningful, and to rise about the pettiness of organized Gods of 'religions' whose disciples had in the course of Bengal's history, thanks to British Imperialism, deviated and begun quarreling, as to the 'superiority' of their individual Gods. In any event the Maker knows best, and the TRUTH as the Baul knows all too well, is best not arrived at or revealed. Let the Regal Lamp and Light in all of us 'burn' nonetheless.

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