Bhojpuri Folksongs: Amalgamation of Love, Romance and Devotion

Ramdayal Rakesh

Defining Folksongs

There is similarity among the folksongs of the whole Indian subcontinent because we share more or less the same cultural heritage. This following saying signifies this fact.”

“From similarities in the folksongs different regions we perceive the unity in diversity in human nature and if folksongs of all the countries could be collected and compared it could be seen that there was one mind and heart underlying them common to all mankind.”

Bhojpuri is the largest and western most dialect of the “Bihari language” group as it is called by G.A. Grierson. There is no Bihari language as such, but Bhojpuri, along with Magadhi and Maithili, make a group. ” Bhojpuri is  spoken by more than twenty million people in about 43,000 sq. miles, a region that extends from the Himalayan foothills in Nepal-Tarai area in the north to Surguja(Madhya Pradesh) in the south, and from the border of Patna District in Bihar in the east to Mirjapur( Uttar Pradesh) in the West. Bhojpuri is named after a medieval city called Bhojpur in the present Bhojpur district of Bihar state. The city was established by the Parmar Rajputs of Malwa, who called themselves Ujjaini because they came from Ujjain. They named after their capital: Bhojpuri after their illustrious ancestor Bhoj. The language spoken around the place was called Bhojpuri.” (Chandramani Singh. Marriage Songs from Bhojpuri Region. p. 10.)

Bhojpuri is also spoken in the region of Madhes. It is spoken in the districts of Bara, Parsa, some parts of Autahat and some parts of Nawalparasi and Rupendehi.

Bhojpuri folksongs are very melodious. They are sung on various occasions. They throw light on the social pattern, religious faiths and social customs and manners. They are true mirrors of million people’s pain   and pleasure, ups and downs, prosperity and adversity, pangs of poverty and several aspects of social life. Bhojpuri songs also depict the Bhojpuri people’s aspirations. They also portray religious feelings of various gods and goddesses. They also throw light on countless festivals such as Diwali, Sama Chakwa, Chhatha, Hori, Barmasa and Chhaumasa.

Gopal Thakur has focused in his paper on Chhatha Songs in Bhojpuri; a Gesture of Inclusive society and Humane Importance. I quote here some of his lines: “Bhojpuri has rich oral traditions of performing arts, especially folksongs. Bhojpurias have developed songs of seasons, months, day and night, morning, and noon, afternoon, evening, late evening, midnight, pre-dawn and periodically. Similarly they sing special songs on the occasion of rituals and festivals.” He further focused on the most popular festival of faith Chhatha in the following lines:

“Chhatha is one of the holiest and long fasting Hindu festivals in Bhojpuri society. Though it looks solely spiritual, it has materialistic features of inclusive society beyond caste and creed or caste-based touchability and untouchability. Moreover, the Chhatha songs also gesture humane importance superseding any supernatural divine power. Goddess Chhatha is angry with devotees complaining her shelter is dirty and spiders are spreading nets full of dirt. The devotees pray to the goddess assuring full cleanliness sprinkling scent and offering hawan, burning scented sandal-wood. The very piece of Chhatha folksong represents humane importance even to build a better shelter place for gods and goddesses.

Sama-Chakwa is also a prominent festival of Bhojpur area. Young girls gather together under the starry sky during bright fortnight of Kartik and sing Sama Chakwa folksongs till late night hours.

Bhojpuri marriage songs are very sweet. They are sung by women folk on the occasion of wedding ceremony. They resound the whole atmosphere. They are sung in the morning and evening hours. They are also very soothing to the ears of the listeners. They are numerous in number. They are scattered in the all streets of villages. Now-a-days they are broadcasted through loudspeakers which create noise pollution. Many people do not like it but if they are sung by women folk then listener like it very much because of its originality and virginity. They are liked by all kinds of people. They are the best source of recreation in the rural atmosphere. They are sung with the help of big drums and entertain the listeners. I am giving here some samples of Bhojpuri folksongs which are still popular and prevalent in the Bhojpuri speaking area. First of all, morning song which is called Parati in Bhojpuri language and religious in tone and tunes:

Dawn has just broke, o mother Kali wake up
Dawn has just broke, o Brahm baba wake up
Dawn has just broke, o mother Sayar wake up
Dawn has just broke, o (all) forgotten (gods) wake up
(When you gods) stand under the turmeric plant, then the turmeric becomes a brilliant yellow
(When you gods) stand under the betel leaf plant the betel leaf becomes lush green
(When you gods) stand under the sandal wood smells fragrantly.

(Chandramani Singh. Marriage Songs from Bhojpuri Region. p. 25)

Bhopuri Folklore is full of fairs and festivals in which specific folksongs are considered as inseparable parts of these ceremonies. For instances, performance of specific folksongs take place during the festivals of Chhatha and festival of light and so on and so forth. In many Bhojpuri folk songs Radha and Krishna, Sita and Rama and Parvati and Shiva have been depicted read to show deeply rooted religious feelings   of the Bhojpuri speaking area. They are considered as ideal husbands and wives in Bhojpuri folklore and also in classical art and literature.

Shitala, the mother goddess of smallpox is worshipped as a form of Kali, well respected domestic deity in villages of this area and most of these villages have a shrine (Gahwar) for mother Shitala and her sisters, popularly famous as the seven sisters and also the seven mothers in the Hindu pantheon. Folksongs dedicated to her are also very famous and reflect the religious feelings of these people. Elderly women sing five songs in the morning and five in the evening to invite the gods and goddesses Ganesh, Shiva, Braham, Vishnu, Durga and several others through the recitation of these folksongs.

There are two types of seasonal songs in Bhojpuri. One of them is sung in the month of Chait, these songs are called Ghatos. The other type is called Kajari which is sung during the rainy season. In Nepal‘s Bhojpuri area, the Kajari songs are generally sung by Hindu women of the higher castes. The main songs, more often than not, are on the themes of love and affection. I would like to quote here one such folksong which is still very popular:

“O my love is on his way to the honey city
He is flying to the honey city.
Asadh has come covering the four quarters with clouds,
The lightning flashes in the clouds,
The rains have filled the lakes and turned
The country into Brindavan,
How happily
We drink together the rainy water.
Sawan has come, and o my friend,
He is offended with me
For my enemy, my co-wife
Has aroused his love for her
Terrible are the nights of Bhadra, my friend,
No sleep comes to the eyes,
Come, my God, come if you desire me,
But do not trick with false promises.
He promised he could come
In the light of the spotless moon,
But on the moon’s light
Only tortures me like fire
Were I a  Jogi
I would go from forest to forest,
My body smeared with ashes, for my lord has gone to the honey city
Kartik comes and the girls, Will burn lights in their courts
But while he is away, my body burns
As if all the lamps were in it.
Aghan brings bad news from my bird,
For now I know my enemy’s love delays him,
While I sit pining for him.
Pus is very cold
There is no sleep for my two eyes
I sit with rosary round my neck,
And say, Ram Ram With all my strength
Magh brings the spring
But how can I put on my ornaments,
If he is not in the house.
Friend, my peace and joy is taken
By my enemy may she be burnt,
In Phagun they all play with coloured water
But on whose body should I throw my coloured water
Chait is full of Tesu flowers
And greedy for them come the bees.
But my body is burning like a forest tree.
O Baisakh, come and with your heat
Bring out my sweat and quench
The burning of my body
In jeth I send my message,
My Pihu, my Pihu
I am thirsty, I am thirsty.
Hem Barua: Folksongs of India page 6.
Here is another folksong in which the season of rains is celebrated, and the motif is love and separation:
Sawan is pleasing
These are the days to fall in love
Tanks are full:
These are the days to bathe together,
Red garments and hamel for the neck
These are the days to adorn:
My darling left for a distant land,
These are the days for him to return.

(Hem Barua. Folksongs of India. p. 6.)

How the fertility motif of the rains is used as a symbol in human experience is seen in the following song from Bihar’s Bhojpuri area and translated by W.G. Archer:

June is the month off parting, friend,
Leaping and reeling the God rains
And my sweet budding breasts are wet
All my friends sleep with their husbands
But my own husband is a cloud in another land

(Hem Barua: Folksongs of India. p. 3)

One example of Barahmasa folk song is given above which is very meaningful in the conjugal life of a man and woman. Sexual frustration, natural to the rainy season, is expressed in the following Chaumasa songs from Bihar:

“Happy is the woman’s lot
Whose husband is at home;
Wretched is my fate;
Whose husband has gone away
Absence with its flame
Tortures me each day,
And my lotus heart is on fire
His heart is hard
How my breasts tingle
And burst at the slips.

(Hem Barua. Folksongs of India, p. 7)

Speaking of the months of Sawan and Bhadra, associated with the rains, W. G. Archer points out that this is usually the period that is connected with sexual frustration, for the gloom, natural to this period, which turns loneliness to an active fear and intensifies the need of a wife for her husband. The common symbolism of rain and storm, as he says, evokes sexual longing. The rainy season is considered very sweet, soothing and suitable season for successful conjugal life of husband and wife. The swinging festival is solemnized in this season which is closely associated with Lord Krishna and Radha who were great lover and beloved of their times. They are considered ideal lover and beloved. They used to swing together in this season and enjoy a lot in the company of each other .A great scholar Fraze  has termed it as a sex symbol.. It rouses romantic feelings in them. Sexual feeling of this type has been depicted in the following folk song:

The great king is swinging in the cradle
The black gathering of clouds begins to thunder,
And it begins to rain and pour,
The cradle is studded with gems and the seat is made of sandal wood.
The ropes are silken and the eastern wind is blowing
The king of the mountains is swinging.

Kohbar is specially decorated room for the newly wedded couple to celebrate honeymoon. Bird motif is very prominent and prevalent in it. Parrot is a symbol of wisdom and affection in the Bhojpuri folklore. It is used as a love symbol. The swan is a symbol of honour. The maina is a gentle bird. It is colourful and sprightly. The quail is also the symbol of love and very darling to the people of Bhojpuri region. Peacock is also very pleasant to look at and its dance is very dazzling to look at.  It generally dances during the rainy season when the sky is almost full of clouds. Here is a folksong which describes about Kohbar;

Bride goes to paint the Kohbar, with brush and colours in her hands
She paints peacock on both sides and in the middle a pair of swans.
Groom sleeps with bride deirani in that Kohbar
(Groom asks bride, who has painted the Kohbar with four birds and a pair of swans
(Bride says) O lord, my brother’s wife painted this kohbar with four birds and a pair of swans
(Groom says) O bide, even if I have to give up the wedding gifts (I will do it, but) I will take your brother’s wife away with me in a palanquin.

(Chandramani Singh. Marriage Songs from Bhojpuri Region. p. 107)