New Internationalist

Shahadat Parvez

October 2006

In Bangladesh, bauls are devotees of a spiritual idea of simplicity. From my boyhood I have had a kind of fascination for their songs. It grew more intense when I began working as a photographer. When I took this man’s picture, I was enthralled by his song.

It was 31 March 2005. The premises of the Institute of Fine Art at Dhaka University had no room to move about and there was a crowd of bauls who gathered to sing songs.

The singer was singing ‘Things will remain undone, if time goes wrong’, a masterpiece by spiritual writer Lalan, under clouds of twisting smoke of siddhi, a form of cannabis.

The followers of Lalan usually sing his songs based on the philosophy of dehatattva, an attempt to combine the body and the soul, searching for the creator among his creations. Avoiding the urban or even rural crowd, they live in barren places.

Uplighting and the rising smoke of dhup (incense) blowing through spaces between the branches of a bakul tree created the setting. In such an environment, the baul, in a red vest, sang unmindfully. And I pressed the shutter.

Shahadat Parvez is the deputy chief photojournalist at the Daily Prothom Alo in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

By arrangement with Drik Photo Library

This column was published in the October 2006 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 394

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