In the modern age where women are still deprived, Parvathy Baul along with her performances touching the lives of women across the globe to follow their own path.
In the world today, where the women are being continuously harassed; teased and neglected there is one woman from Bengal who is inspiring millions with her devotional music and performances.
Baul music has always been an integral part of the Indian culture. From the poem of Sarojini Naidu “The Wandering Singers” to the soulful songs of Kaviguru Rabindranath Tagore; we have seen these incredible folk singers wandering around the lads with their ektara in their hands and serenading the world as well as the almighty with their devotional songs.
The baul tradition has been named as an intangible heritage of humanity by the UNESCO and that is something that we should be proud about.
Although the bauls are mostly males but in this era when the gender equality and women rights are some of the hottest topics in the face of the earth, one woman from Bengal, Parvathy Baul is leaving her mark in the world with her soulful and spiritual performances.
The Beginning of Soulful Music
Parvathy Baul has a vast repository of sung poems which are a characteristic of the bauls, the mystical wandering singers of Bengal. She sings and dances to her tunes with the ektara and duggi in her hand to mesmerise the world with her music.
She is not just mesmerising the world with her spiritual songs but she is setting an example for women around the world that they can also achieve whatever they want in their life without having to be dominated by the male society.
Parvathy was born in a family of Brahmin astrologers and farmers in the year 1976 in the state of Assam. But the tumultuous condition of the state at that time forced her family to move to the district of Kochbihar in West Bengal.
Parvathy in various accounts has recalled how she was influenced by the Bihu dance and other folk songs of the region. This was the beginning of her musical journey and soon at the age of seven she was sent to the masters like Jagdish Sharma, Subrata Roy for taking her singing lessons and to Srilekha Mukherjee to become a maestro in Kathak dancing.
But Parvathy was born to defy all the rules and she immediately started despising the kind of slavery that the teachers used to impose on their students. Music and dancing are forms of art that cannot be taught to anyone thus the teachers needs to connect with the souls of their students in order to provide them with the rudiments. Since her teachers were reluctant to do so, she became resistant to this traditional system.
During her times at Shantiniketan, she was drawn to the baul tradition and without knowing totally she embraced it. Though her parents were not supportive of her decision to follow the path of bauls, she never lacked in her determination to prove herself in this field.
It was Bhipad Taran Das Baul and Phulmala Dashi who gave her the first lessons in the ways of being a baul, their music and traditions. She also used to go to madhukori or sacred begging in the trains so that she can take her lessons from her masters.
By this time Parvathy had understood that following the path of the bauls is the only way to get rid of the narrowness of the society. Thus, she asked the aged maestro Sanatan Das Baul to teach her their ways and music.
Though the guru did not respond at the very beginning but after a long wait, he accepted Parvathy as his disciple.
The methods of Sanatan Das Baul were very simple; he used to sing a verse to his disciple and used to ask her to repeat it in her own way. Within few days the master grew very fond of his disciple and told her that she had become ready to begin formally.
After the initiation ceremony, the then eighty-year-old master started teaching her in the same way he had learnt from his own master.
After finishing her coaching with her master, Parvathy was allowed to sing on her own and she started her journey as a full-fledged baul singer.
But there were still things to be learnt and this led her to her next teacher the 97-year-old, Shashanko Goshai Baul.
Although he was little hesitant to take a woman as a disciple at the beginning but after seeing her devotion and dedication, he took her under his wing and for the rest 3years of his life he taught Parvathy everything he could.
Among some magical circumstances, Parvathy met Ravi Gopalan Nair, a theatre specialist in Kerala and they soon fell in love to ultimately get married.
After getting married Parvathy settled in the state of Kerala and with her husband she started Ekathara Kalari, a gurukul for the dedicated students who want to follow the path Parvathy Baul followed. She also arranges Baul Gyan Darpan retreats along with other baul masters for her students.
She performs in the remote villages of Kerala where she is showered with loves of the people and she also graces the stages of various ceremonies in Europe, Australia and all across the world.
There was a time in the life of Parvathy Baul when she was highly confused about what she needs to do and this was the time when she received an invitation to perform in the Transit, a women’s festival created by the famed actress and writer Julia Varley of Denmark.
This gave her the idea to start a festival for empowering the women of India through the rhythms of her music and thus she started the Tantidhatri Festival.
Tantidhatri festival is a celebration of the skills and talents of the women performers across the world and it is aimed at providing the female theatre artists or performers with a stage where they can let their skills to shine.
About Tantidhatri Festival – Interview with Parvathy Baul
The festival also encourages the involvement of women in various socio-cultural issues and to inspire them to follow the creative path without being harassed by the traditional mentality of the people.
The baul tradition is a world heritage and Parvathy Baul has increased its glory with her dedication and soulful performances. She is an example for women across the world that they should follow their heart rather being subjected to the rules of the male dominated society.
She is still performing with the ektara and duggi in her hands and with the every step she takes, she inspires a new life to follow its own path.
‘Kichhu Din Mone Mone’ recorded by Kabir Project team
Image Credits : Ekathara Kalari