Satyen Sen and Bangladesh Udichi Shilpigoshthi | 2017-10-18 |

Satyen Sen and Bangladesh Udichi Shilpigoshthi

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” — Marcus Garvey

Anwar A. Khan     17th October, 2017 09:53:14 printer

Satyen Sen and Bangladesh Udichi Shilpigoshthi

Bangladesh has an age-old cultural heritage. Its culture has largely been influenced by its past. For centuries, Bangladesh has been synonymous with music and was home to Satyen Sen like many more cultural figures of or relating to the shared knowledge and values of a society. This outstanding cultural heritage has been preserved right to the present day. The country is proud of an outstanding literary tradition with a special focus on theatre, art, novel, poem and dramatic literature. It is a country of full of life and history, has cultivated itself through many eras and embodies the very definition of culture; and the tending of natural growth. Satyen Sen had the power of personal magnetism; a personal attractiveness or interestingness that enables to influence others.  He is a Bangladesh’s cultural personality - the complex of all the attributes - behavioural, temperamental, emotional and mental - that characterise a unique individual and Sen personifies all such attributes.

Bangladesh is also a country synonymous with culture and traditions. A rich history comes alive in its palaces, museums, and so many other things. Who doesn’t know them, the country’s great sons and daughters? They have left their mark all across the centuries in politics, art, culture, music, science and sport. Music is a tradition that Bangladesh upholds and continues with great enthusiasm. No other country can claim such an impressive history of major composers who either come from or made their mark in Bangladesh. For outstanding music experiences, immerse us in the magical atmosphere of Bangladesh’s great festivals featuring world class performances in spectacular settings. An excellent characteristic Bangladesh’s artist, being not only a singer but also a talented poet, novelist, Satyen Sen was also undoubtedly a significant figure of the Bangladesh’s culture, adored by many for his virtuoso in folk-lore songs, intelligence and musical talent.

Bangladesh has been host and home to some of the world’s most famous people. Apart from a historical figure, Satyen Sen was a novelist, journalist, historian and politician who was born on 28th March 1907 in Munshiganj. Bangladesh Udichi Shilpigoshti was founded by two of the greatest revolutionary artist-cultural-activists, Satyen Sen and Ronesh Dashgupta on 29th October 1968, but Sen was its first President. It is the country’s oldest and most prestigious cultural organization in Bangladesh. Under his able leadership, Udichi started disseminating ganosangeet in every corner of the country since its inception. He was influenced by Marxist ideology and his ideology is reflected through his literary work. At a time, he went to Kolkata and got involved in leftist movement. Later on he joined Jugantor (a political party). He was arrested for his association with Jugantor several times in 1949, 1954, 1958 and 1965.Apart from his political activities and literary works, Sen also worked as an assistant editor of the Daily Sangbad. He was also a historian of Bengali literature from Bangladesh. As a novelist, he is known mostly for his historical novels. He wrote twelve novels along with eight books on history and twenty books of other different categories. He started to write novels at a very late age. He was decorated with the Awards of “Bangla Academy Award” in 1970 and “Ekushey Padak” in 1986. In the cultural field of Bangladesh, Satyen Sen was like a teacher and Simone Weil’s words are appropriate to his case, “Culture is an instrument wielded by teachers to manufacture teachers, who, in their turn, will manufacture still more teachers.”

Udichi Shilpigoshthi uses folklore music as a tool to motivate people to stand against all kinds of inequality. It is one of the largest progressive voluntary organisations in the country, and plays a crucial role in democratic and cultural movements. It works towards the establishment of an equitable society through folk elements such as songs, dance, recitations, drama, film, fine arts and literary works. The organisation mixes exotic folk forms with witty lyrics, and is able to reach lots of people – and deliver its message – through this unique form. Sen’s created Udichi has resuscitated more than 10 folk forms and reformed them to spread development messages to 1.5 million people annually. Talking about folk movement from a peace building perspective, street theatre plays a crucial role. Udichi uses the medium of street theatre to reach out to people with the message of confronting extremism, protecting women from violence, and supporting unity against racial aggression. It continuously performs all over Bangladesh and spreads a message of sustainable peace. Satyen Sen’s philosophy was a folk-based future for peace in Bangladesh

Folk artistry tries to bring a shift in attitude, towards people understanding their rights and transfers a message of peace building. Keeping this in view, we need to adopt folk driven peace building approaches as a mainstream one as Sen has taught us. Peace building norms typically revolve around dialogue facilitation, workshops and write-ups. A drive to use folk in peace building could help involve more people, by using forms that people can relate to in their lives. Folk songs can be related to inequality; dramas can be staged on societal imbalances; dance can replicate what social stigma and violence can do to a victim. Peace building is all about bringing people together, and folk forms arguably do this better than others in Bangladesh. A folk-powered shift in peace building norms in Bangladesh could do wonders, make people more aware of their respective rights, and teach them about the strategies and advantages of sustaining peace across the communities – across all of Bangladesh. Satyen Sen brought into existence the folk culture in Bangladesh and around the world. The motif behind was: Folk culture can be a powerful tool to popularise social change and conflict transformation. It reflects general feelings and can serve as a strong way to communicate. So, folk culture is a potential resource to use against violence, and to build an infrastructure where people can use traditional practices to support peace.

This cultural organisation was born in the wake of the mass uprising against the Pakistani rulers’ autocracy. It is a non-communal and progressive cultural organisation which believes in using music for political purposes. The activities of Udichi have spread throughout the country, turning it into a powerful cultural and political organisation. After 1972, Udichi branched out into music, drama, dance, fine arts and literature. At present, it has a central council comprising a large number of members, a district council of many members and a branch council of substantial members. There are seventy-one district councils under the Dhaka Centre, and 212 branch councils under the district councils. The district councils have an impressive list of different departments: twenty recitation departments, twenty-three drama departments, sixteen dance departments, fourteen music schools, seven fine arts departments, and one literary department. They have seven libraries as well as a children’s school. At present, the organisation has more than 4,000 members. It also has four foreign branches in the USA, England, Australia and Canada and elsewhere.

Udichi has staged over twenty plays, with the majority being street plays. Its “Itihas Katha Kao” has been performed more than one thousand times. Many Bangladesh’s scholars in various disciplines, those residents on the continent and elsewhere, have continued to identify, describe and make use of what they consider to be widespread Bangladesh’s psychological characteristics and patterns of cultural adaptation. These include core Bengali cultural values and themes, and what the scholars believe are common people responses to the requirements of social life and external cultural influences. It is from this combined sense of personhood and communal membership that the family and community expect individuals to take personally enhancing and socially responsible decisions and actions. Although Sen accepts that the dominant entity of Bangladesh’s social order is the community, he believes, it would bemore correct to describe that order as amphibious, for it manifests features of both communality and individuality. Bangladesh’s social thought seeks to avoid the excesses of the two exaggerated systems, while allowing for a meaningful, albeit uneasy, interaction between the individual and the society. “I am because we are. I can only be a person through others.” It is useful for Bengalis pursuing organisational or national transformation through this way.

To the particularistic core of the social sciences should be added an inter-disciplinary approach where the focus is on Bengalis’ core cultural values, cultural themes and, most importantly, widespread patterns and processes of cultural adaptation. The focus should not be on stereotypes, typical personalities, modernity coefficients, etc., but rather on adaptive cultural processes and trends. The descriptions and insights derived should be firmly grounded in the substantive data of history, particularistic ethnographies and applied anthropology case studies. Reinventing ethnology along these lines will not be easy. Numerous core values, cultural themes and patterns of cultural adaptation unique to Bangladesh have been presented through the cultural activities of Udichi. The Bangladesh’s scholars’ prescriptions for country‘s future focus on economic independence through educational processes that combine Western techno-economic theory and practice with the best of Bangladesh’s socio-cultural traditions.

Anthropology should not allow itself to be influenced by or become the exclusive domain of contemporary Western culture, political correctness, or social and political activism. Anthropology, and ethnology in particular, should freely pursue a full range of understandings of culture, specific cultures and their similarities and differences, the processes of regional and global cultural adaptation, and how such knowledge can improve human living conditions. Particularistic studies of cultures, groups and socio-cultural topics, alone, are not enough. To this must be added the study of core cultural values and themes, patterns of regional cultural adaptation and global acculturation. The imprecise usage of cultural and psychological terminology and concepts by scholars outside the social sciences and the social science community’s refusal to attend to large group psychological processes and the broader patterns of human cultural adaptation are significant matters. They tend to draw attention away from our common humanity and destiny, and impede understanding of on-going global cultural processes of utmost importance. However, all of us have a personal responsibility to ensure, by all means possible, that such broad cultural and psychological understandings are not used to legitimise injustices or promote malevolent struggles for political power and dominance.

The concept of Bengali personality generally refers to manifestations of cultural uniqueness among Bengalis as reflected in their behaviour, social norms, customs, values, beliefs, religious zeal, attitudes, explanations of the cosmos and the supernatural, social and political systems historically or in contemporary times. Every major social theorist like Satyen Sen slowly built on certain information developed before that social theorist. This is true of most of the history of social theories today; for example Marxism, Capitalism and Communism.  So, do not expect a complete and articulated theory of Bengali Personality now before you can contribute anything whether negative or positive. Personality and culture are related. Language is of central importance to the study of personality and culture. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the entire planet earth looked very different to what modern people experiences today. Continents were not yet divided, and the vegetation and animals were different. Significantly, the climate was also vastly different to what it is today. Climate plays an integral role in determining the plants and animal that live in a certain areas, as well as how habitable a place is for human beings.

In fact, even the theory of the evolution of man was dependent largely on the climatic influences on our ancient ancestors. It is hypothesised that the ancient versions of people were forced to walk upright, lose body hair and develop their coordination for survival in a changing environment. New skills also needed to be learned as farming techniques and living habits have to be adapted. Ancient Bangladesh experienced major vacillations between, although these fluctuations occurred over thousands and thousands of years. As humans continued to develop and evolve through these phases, they needed to make major adaptations, not only to their ways of life, but also to their personal body structure. Many years ago, the whole of Bangladesh was lush and fertile, with a tropical climate. Then, the most intense mega-drought ever to occur hit the country. This is believed to have led to the migration of most of our human ancestors into other areas that were more habitable and fertile.

Humankind as we know it is widely believed to have come from these few remaining on the continent which evolved significantly and in response to the climatic changes. Bangladesh has, since prehistoric times, proven to be a place of fascination, life and evolution. Changes in the climate were often dramatic, and these were, to a great extent, responsible for determining the ancient civilisations that inhabited the vast sub-continent in which we are living in. It is no wonder that many researchers and scientists maintain that Bangladesh is the Cradle of Mankind, and research continues to yield fascinating evidence of this theory. Sen was a prominent figurehead in the campaign against inequality and injustices in any forms of human living. He had become a leading global humanitarian and ambassador of goodwill. Resilient, gritty, and hardworking are some of the words that describe the people of Bangladesh. For a country that has been plagued by political turmoil and unrest for the major part of the 20th century, her inhabitants have always managed to bounce back with even higher determination than before. Centuries ago the country’s vast resources attracted the Europeans to settle and do business here thereby influencing not just the cultural heritage, but also the social make up.

Satyen Sen is the person who took Bangladesh’s traditional music sounds to the world stage and performed in many countries around the globe, achieving magnum success. He was strongly against the foreign supremacy which was very much apparent in this country during 50s, 60s and 70s and spoke in favour of the people’s movements all through his life, until things got a lot better in the 90s. Finding her musical voice while going through a very rough time wasn’t easy but he showed traits of a true artist. He grew out of his very difficult times and his no excuses attitude placed him among the best cultural figure to come out of Bangladesh.

For many centuries now, the world has seen the rise and fall of some great musicians. The songs of a few such talented ones, especially from the 20th century, have been unforgettable. Satyen Sen is one of the few folk-lore musicians who have made a lasting impression on the minds of music lovers and critics alike. Through his musical gigs, he encouraged the youth of his country to vote and often showed his liking towards the leftist politicians. He has successfully managed to win the hearts of the people, who have accepted him to be a hero. He grew up with thoughts of becoming a musician and the country music was just one of the many genres he was interested in radical movements slowly transformed him into a social rebel. He has just embarked on his road to success as an artist and surely has a promising career ahead of him.

Alexander the great is commonly remembered as a conqueror but his real motives of war were to liberate the countries and exchange cultural experience with them. Loosely defined, culture refers to the shared values, beliefs and norms of a specific group of people. Culture, therefore, influences the manner we learn, live and behave. Because of this, many theorists believe that culture is an important shaper of our personality. One of the general assumptions asserting the effect of culture to personality is that people who are born and bred in the same culture and shared common personality traits. The Bengali nation has produced its fine share of well-known and talented people. They are leaders in their own fields, ranging from the arts to entertainment to sports. They have inspired many young Bengalis to achieve the status and success they have already gained. The name and face of Satyen Sen may not be familiar to the new generation, but he has indeed made it big in the world of international folk-lore songs.

Take up any country in the world and you would find that their politicians and leaders are, in every sense of the word, the beacon for the populace. And why not, for they are elected individuals who are best deemed responsible for the office that they are holding. Spearheading the country-Bangladesh from the front, leaders define the country’s cultural, economic and social progress through their policies, strategies and plans. They take up a challenging role and vow to streamline the country’s advancement in every sector, be it art, culture, science, military, social or health. Each of them have been important national figures and helped carry forward Bangladesh’s advancement. With luck, you will find out more about this fascinating country’s culture by reading about its people like Satyen Sen and Ronesh Dasgupta!

Of all the types of oral transmission, those in the form of music appear to be most pervasive in Bangladesh’s society. Songs and melodies from times of old are sung and re-sung on a regular basis during festivities such as weddings, celebrations of motherhood and childbirth, rites of passage and at cultural or religious celebrations. They are also utilised in the occasional ceremonial functions. The Bangladesh’s oral tradition includes a large collection of folksongs. Many of these songs are in the form of stories weaved into poetry or simple rhyme. These folksongs continue to be sung and a sizable number of them are included in the albums of modern-day singers, often with improvisations in terms of melody and more complex musical arrangements to suit a larger accompaniment of musicians as well as singers. Udichi is unmatched to any account in this respect.

Apart from the stories and songs, Bengali folklore also includes traditions, rituals and taboos related to the physical as well as the more metaphysical realms of the Bengali world view. Such knowledge are usually presented in the forms of symbols and signs inscribed or built into temple walls, palaces, houses and often appear on stone inscriptions as well as grave markers. Natural symbolism is also important such as flowers, trees, animals, the sea as well as celestial objects such as the moon and stars. Bengalis also have knowledge of a series of constellations that are markedly different from other systems upon which it is based. Object symbolism such as wood carvings of animals, ancestral images, mythical beings and masks are also common in Bangladesh’s society. Symbolic forms of folklore are usually the domains of the spirits.

Sen was an amazing folk-lore singer and a social welfare oriented novelist. He has had a huge influence in them. He put his power in Bangladesh. Bob Anderson reminds us, “Great leaders create great cultures regardless of the dominant culture in the organization” and Satyen Sen has created great Bengali culture. He wrote about 40 books. His writings reflect his leftist politics for the welfare of the mass people of Bangladesh. Udichi Shilpigosthi, a social association was roused and driven by dynamic considerations under his leadership. The significance of “Udichi” is the North Star, which proclaims the first light. It was shaped about 50 years ago with a perspective to directing the social and social life like the North Star by chiefly SatyenSen. Udichi Shilpigosthi assumed an amazing part in cultivating the development for war of freedom of Bangladesh. A few plays like ‘Alo Aschhey’, ‘Shapath Nilam’ staged by Udichi have made an exceptionally powerful effect to advance the soul of freedom the vast majority of the dynamic scholarly of the nation partook in people in general mindfulness crusade of Udichi.

This organisation uses folklore music as a tool to motivate people to stand against all kinds of inequality. It is one of the largest progressive voluntary organisations in the country, and plays a crucial role in democratic and cultural movements. Every year the programme is held marking the birth anniversary of Satyen Sen, a litterateur, journalist and socio-cultural activist, and the founder of Udichi in Bangladesh. Throughout the history of mankind, music has played a vital role in promoting peace, love, courage and unity. Artists have shown courage to come forward and combat barbarianism and cruelty by spreading peace and harmony. In the history of Bengal, great poets and composers like Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Atulprasad Sen, DL Roy, Rajanikanta Sen, and also contemporary composers like Salil Chowdhury, played an important role in the fight for humanity and peace. The Udichi programmes start with children’s art competition entitled ‘Peace’ followed by a colourful presentation by the children called Amra Sobai Raja - We all are the King. It is composed of music, poetry and dance, expressing the joy of freedom of mind and soul. It would be a sublime expression of love through the eyes of children. Hridoyer Gaan - Songs from the Heart - is the final attraction of the event performed by the adults of Udichi. It combines music, poetry and dance, using the compositions of great Bengali poets and composers to create a festive of harmony celebrating humanity.

Perhaps there would be sunshine tomorrow. No day like any other day. The cultural richness of Bangladesh will certainly fill our time and make us stay truly unforgettable. Most of Satyen Sen’s books deal with historical characters and events in which he had much eagerness and study. His historical novels have placed him in the row of significant writers of the country. It is worthy to mention that Satyen Sen is the first novelist who dared to recapitulate Biblical stories in Bangla language and has been able to do it successfully. He has not merely sketched the historical events in his novel; rather he has given an especial essence to his story. The people of the novel appear before us as living human beings. Moreover, it tells about the oppressions by the colonial rulers across the world. His “Vidrohi Kaivarto” is an embodiment of the rebellious people under the rule of Pakistan.

If we look deep into the novels of Satyen Sen, we will meet a rebellious and struggling humanitarian in them. He could write novels based on little information and wide imagination and through all these novels he has demonstrated the eternal human spirit which always hangers after liberation. In this way, he has presented the modern mind of his own time. His historical novels prove his deep learning regarding the histories of man as well as Indian civilisation. In the perspective of the whole Bangla literature the historical novels of Satyen Sen deserve to be evaluated time and again. In respect of this genre in Bangladesh novels, Satyen Sen is a pioneer whose profound knowledge and lofty imagination helped to establish him as a successful historical novelist in the history of Bangla literature. The name of Satyen Sen and Udich Shilpigoshti are synonymous in the cultural history of Bangladesh. Henry Ward Beecher’s words are relevant here, “That is true culture which helps us to work for the social betterment of all.” Sen’s life came to an end on 5th December 1981 at the age of 74.


The writer is a columnist of daily sun