A Frenzied Beard Culture!

Mahabubar Rahman :
Homosapien — the ancestors of modern men once lived in dark caves and lived on flesh of animals in the wilderness. Living pattern of cavemen was no better than the living pattern of other animals in the wastelands. Humans used to live on raw meat of animals before the invention of fire. They used to protect their bodies from the vagaries of nature in different situation covering them by hides & skins of animals that they would hunt for containing their hunger and meeting other daily necessities of life. Their hairs on different parts of bodies would grow like other animals in the wastelands. Through long enduring evolutionary process, they appeared from the creeping darkness of caves to the world of light at a time when civilization was dawning. With the invention of cutting tools made of sharp edged stones, human learnt the knowhow of cutting or trimming long flowing hairs and beards to look more like human than animals. As the wheels of civilization moved further and further, men abandoned caves and wastelands filled in darkness and created a new world for themselves flooded with lights through gradual process.
By the wonders of nature’s biological splendor, men are distinctly differentiated from women in many physical features, amongst which growth of hairs on specific parts of face, that we call beard is most prominent. Beards are the collection of hairs that grow on chin, upper lips and cheeks. In humans, only adult males are able to grow beards.
‘Throughout the course of history, societal attitudes towards male beards have varied widely depending on factors such as prevailing cultural- religious traditions and the current era’s fashion trends. Some religions such as Islam and Sikhism have considered a full beard to be absolutely essential for all males able to grow one and mandate it as part of their dogma. However, in cultures where facial hair is uncommon or currently out of fashion, beards may be associated with poor hygiene or a ‘savage’, uncivilized or even dangerous demeanor’.
Biologists characterize beards as a secondary sexual characteristic because they are unique to one sex yet do not play a direct role in reproduction. Charles Darwin first suggested possible evolutionary explanation of beards in his work The Descent of Man, which hypothesized that the process of sexual selection may have led to beards. Modern biologists have reaffirmed the role of sexual selection in the evolution of beards, concluding that there is evidence that a majority of women find men with beards more attractive than men without beards.
I wonder, if the above contentions of biologists had prompted giant literary figures like Rabindranath Tagore, George Barnard Shaw, Leo Tolstoy, Karl Marx and many of their likes, to sporting long beards. George Barnard Shaw known as a famous critic in the literary world once said in good humour that he was great in all respects in comparison to Tagore except in one count that the beard of Tagore flowed longer than that of his.
Some scholars, however, assert that it is not yet established whether the sexual selection leading to beards is rooted in attractiveness or dominance. A beard can be explained as an indicator of a male’s over all condition the rate of facial beard hairiness, however, appears to influence male attractiveness.
In spite of the fact that controversies are still in place and remain unsettled whether beard is rooted in male’s attractiveness or dominance, a beard revolution has visibly taken place in Bangladesh. In the vicinity or surroundings, wherever we cast our vision, we can see young men are in move with sprawling vegetation of facial beard irrespective of whether they are very young, young or Middle-aged. In the bygone days, middle-aged and old men with facial beard having unflinching faith in religion and proclivity with rites of religion of Islam were widely respected for their docile demeanor in the society. Any young men except those pursuing their studies in Madrasahs were hardly seen sporting beards. Now a day, since last one decade, disproportionate to their age, it is hard to find any young boys or men in clean shaves without beard. A large segment of young men are now seen in rat-race of sporting beard irrespective of whether their sporting beard craze are proportionate to their age, size, color etc. Bearded fashionable young men do not give an indication either; if there sporting beard craze goes parallel to the spirit of religion. Rather it is evident from the fact that some bearded fanatics around the world have disgraced the true spirit of religion by resorting to killing and other vices in the name of religion which is strictly forbidden by religion itself. This connotation, of course, does not give a wholesale clean-chit of innocence to clean shaved men indulging in killing, violence, and other crimes across the world.
In the good old days, at the time of attaining puberty, when beards and mustaches would grow in the face of young boys; they felt ashamed and would distance them from their parents in order to hide their beards and mustaches rooted from the change in their body chemistry. With the wind of change, nowadays, teen aged boys take pride in displaying their beard to their clean-shaved father, presumably, to give a clear message that they have come of age. In the earlier days, bearded young men were not the good choices of young girls for marriage. The scenario is different nowadays. Young girls are seen hanging around in the streets, public places or university campuses; hand in hand, with young men sporting beards of different size, shape or fashions.Gone are those days when men with beard used to be looked at as unclean men. Clean shaved men were the choices of beautiful ladies. In the cine-world, clean shaved actors used to play the role of heroes in the romantic movies paired with beautiful heroines. In the Hollywoodclassic movies, the clean shaved face of Richard Burton, Charlton Heston, William Holden, Stephen Boyd, Sir Alec Guinness, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Burt Lancaster, Yule Bryner are still etched in the eyes of movie goers of bygone days. Equally, the clean shaved faces of legendary Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, DevAnand, Uttam Kumar, Saumitra Chatterjee, Amitab Bachchan, Razzak are riveted in the eyes as unparallel romantic heroes of golden era in the cine-world.
Even in the contemporary cine-world, clean-shaved Bollywood heartthrobs like Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Rowsan, Ranveer Kapoor, Prosenjeet Chaterjee, Jishu Sen Gupta, Ferdous, Shakib Khan and their likes have been dominating the filmdom with power and grace, where bearded men have no place other than playing role of villains. None of the above noted film heroes had to sport beard to look romantic, smart, handsome and pious. Therefore, it is not reasoned by any logic as to what causes to induce young men of these days in Bangladesh in hiding their handsome faces with forests of beards in their prime time of youth. The answer to this intriguing question, of course, lies with young men now all afloat in bliss in the surge of beard revolution!
[Mahabubar Rahman is a former Civil Servant]