Folklorist Muhammad Mansuruddin

05 February 2016
Folklorist Muhammad Mansuruddin

M Mizanur Rahman :
From the beginning of the eighteenth century gradual development of modern Bengali literature took place in the 19th century it developed by leaps and bounds. Both Hindu and Muslim litterateurs had gone through Persian and English literary works of world classics of great writers, poets, playwrights and novelists of different dimensions. Most of those famous literary works and their ideas influenced our litterateurs. Since, our literature along with comprehensive visions and ideals including folklores, folk ballads, folk poems and Bengali-Puthi (rural poetry of religious and historical importance) literature in the hands of Bengali litterateurs enriched.
None of the good readers and researchers of Bengali literature will fail to remember those famous writers, poets, playwrights and novelists like Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-73), Rangalal Bondopadhyay (1827-68), Bankim Chandra Chottopadhyay (1838-94), Biharilal Chakravarty (1835-94), Mir Mosharraf Hossain (1847-1912), Epic-Poet Kaikobad (1857-1951) Mozammel Hoque of Santipur, Nadia (1860-1933), and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). Tracing the history of Bengali literature of the past and the present one thing is clear that none of the literary figures of Bengal is exception of the folk motif and that comes out of our rural soil. This however relates to undivided Bengal (East and West Bengal). Rabindranath Tagore heralded collecting folk materials and writing extensively on folk literature in Bengal. Later many other researchers followed him. Professor Roy Bahadur Dinesh Chanra Sen (1861-1939) took initiative towards collection of folk-literature of the Eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh). Mymensing Geetika (1923), Purbo-Bongo Geetika (1926-1931) are the products of his great endeavour. His Bongo Bhasha and Sahitya was published in Kolkata in 1896. Following him another giant collector of folk materials was Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharad (1869-1953). He became the pioneer collector of Bengali Puthi-literature. He had his brilliant contribution to this regard.
Following the veterans of folk literature Professor Muhammad Mansuruddin (January 31, 1904- September 19, 1987) emerged as the Bengali folk scientist by dint of his arduous perseverance. He is also blessed by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
“I congratulate Muhammad Mansuruddin mohasoy for the collection of Baul songs and make books on them not because of its appreciation of excellence but for the identity expressing beauty and truth of the hearts of those neglected people for a long period is now exposed according to my expectation” -Tr by M M Rahman. (Haramoni 2nd Volume)
On the other side, towards introduction to fifth volume of Haramoni Muhammad Mansuruddin mentioned, “In 1322, Bangla Sal, Rabindranath published his collection of the songs of Lalon Fakir in the Prabasi and being inspired by this I started collection of village songs. Probably my collection of those folk-sangs was published in BS 1326 in the Prabasi. Thereafter my collection of Baul songs and other village songs were published in the Bharoti, Bharotborsho, Prabasi, monthly Mohammadi, Bichitra, Bongiyo Sahitya Parishad etc.
During my stay in Kushtia in 1985 I took up a job of translating Lalon Fakir at my leisure. The library secretary young researcher Prof. Abul Ahsan Choudhury ‘gave me some rare books on Lalon’ very kindly. I got the opportunity to read a few volumes of Haramoni collected and edited by Muhammad Mansuruddin along some other related books. I was very much delighted to have gone through many poems and songs therein that touched my heart just like miracles. I translated one of them into English within a few minutes. That’s written or sung by one of the Bauls who might be unlettered. The song of Baul Osman Gani is Ke Banaichhe Koler Jahaz - ‘Who made this mechanised ship?’
Who made this mechanised ship?
Who is the maker?
How neurotic senses so deep,
Where does the maker sleep?
Who made this mechanised ship?
Who is the maker?
So wonderful is the technicque !
So wonderful adjustment of all!
So wonderfully automatic;
Front-light, you may call!
Who made this mechanized ship?
Who is the maker?
Three hundred and sixty pair,
This ship is made of earth.
By the side two fans are there
And the engine runs within the hearth.
Who made this mechanised ship?
Who is the maker?
All out for the business
Leaving home go abroad.
Be lost within the fate or fraud
Life is but colored base.
Who made this mechanised ship?
Who is the maker?
Osman Gani believes,
This is but illusive water
where the ship’s sunk.
The Captain leaves
Out of a mysterious funk!
This song symbolises human being. Most incredibly the singer could perceive the symbol of human being as the mechanised ship but he left behind the question, who is the maker of this ship? How this unlettered singer posed to be a surrealist of the time? Lalon Fakir symbolised the human body as a house where a Porsi (neighbour or soul) is residing within it and so on. How these village-singers could use symbols at random in poetic form? Again that is transformed into song and the audience is appreciating as Tottbo-Kotha (spiritual knowledge). They (the people) also enjoy the songs profusely. How could Lalon or Osman observe the science of physiology? If they are unlettered or wanting required technique, it is not possible on anybody's part to discern objects of physiology. Folk-scientist like Muhammad Mansuruddin must have taken note of it as well as those objects of folk motif as collected and edited in his volumes of Haramoni (Lost gems) explicitly. I heard him delivering lecture in English on Lalon at a Lalon fair held at Seoria of Kushtia. I was moved hearing him clear about the maestro's contribution on spiritual affinity with soul-searching episode of intransigence.
Muhammad Mansuruddin is famous for his Haramoni in 15 Volumes but his other literary works are of great worth. They are Simy (1932) in 2 volumes, Dhaner Monjory (sheaves of paddy in 1933), Pohela July (1934), Ekti Rupkotha (1935), Agorbati (1937), Siropa (1938), Aurangojeeb(1940), Boishnab Kobita (1942), Mushkil Asan (1941), Kabyo Somput (1941), Lalon Fakirer Gan (1948), Bokami (1952), Hasi Ovidhan (1958), BangIa Sahitye Muslim Sadhona (1988 in three volumes), 27 March, Hindu-Muslim Birodh.
Muhammad Mansuruddin was out and out honest in his mission. He never feared to uphold the truth under any circumstances. That’s what one can discern easily from his literary works. His sense of humour tends his readers moved and as such he became popular.
Muhammad Mansuruddin was born of a respectable Muslim Family at the village Muraripur under Sujanagar Upozilla of Pabna district of Bangladesh on January 31, 1904. His father Muhammad Jaedar Ali and mother Jiarunnessa were very respectable personalities in the village. He was a very meritorious student. In 1921 he passed Entrance examination in the first division from the Pabna Khalishpur High school. He passed the ISc. Examination from the Pabna Edward College in 1923. But he was disappointed to have no good result. He decided to prosecute studies in Art’s Faculty from Rajshahi Government College and passed the BA examination. In 1925, he got married with Sarifunnessa, daughter of Moulovi Safiullah of village Moukuri under Rajbari Upozilla, Faridpur. After studying in the University of Calcutta between 1926 and 1928 he obtained MA degree. Here he was placed in the first class third. In those days he was the first Muslim student to be crowned with such brilliant result. He started his career as a Sub-Inspector of Schools at Ullapara in 1929. Later on he became the Assistant teacher in English at Dhaka Islamic Intermediate College between 1932 and 1935. However he joined Howrah Zilla School in 1935. Between 1938 and 1941 he worked in Chittagong College as lecturer in Bangla department. From 1941 to 1943 he worked as lecturer at Rajshahi Government College.
In 1944, he joined Hoogly Haji Muhammad Mohsin College in the same post. He again came back to Dhaka Intermediate College as lecturer and worked there between 1944 and 1948. Hereafter he joined Sylhet Murarichand College and worked between 1948 and 1952 as the Professor of BangIa being the head of the department. Later the government appointed him as the editor of Mahey Nau in the year 1952. This year he joined a musical conference held in London. In this conference he read an essay titled Bengali Folk Song. It was highly appreciated there. Since 1958 he worked in Dhaka College as the Professor and the head of the department.
In accordance with the government rules Muhammad Mansuruddin retired from the government service in January 1959. During this period he was the part-time teacher of the Dhaka University.
Muhammad Mansuruddin's life-long arduous endeavour towards the development of Bengali Folk-literature earned him a great fame and he was awarded with many prizes and accolades in lifetime. Towards his outstanding contribution to Bengali literature and culture he got Bangla Academy prize (1965), Shere Bangla National Award and Gold Medal (1980), Muktadhara Sahitya Puroskar (1982), Ekushe Padak (1983), Nasiruddin Gold Medal (1983), Swadhinota Padak (1984), and he was conferred with Rabindrabharoti D.lit degree (1987).
Many a saints, awlia-darbish, aul- bauls came here in the past and treated this fertile land of Bangladesh and left their signs and symbols, songs and rhymes of immense values that the erudite researchers carry on collecting them from the dust for the emancipation of human soul or to quench thirst of knowledge and earn wisdom. We remember Muhammad Mansuruddin as one of our outstanding genius who could unveil the windows of folk-traditions in literary episodes for which we rejoice for ages to come.     
Many a saints, esoteric ascetics, sufi-awlia, aul-baul with their divine thoughts treaded the plains of Bengal of which a very few have been collected so far by the researchers but many more are yet to be discovered. Muhammad Mansuruddin must have that tenacity to carry on discovering those inherent divinities but time has its own way to let others come forward to proceed on researching folk motifs lying dormant.
We remember Professor Mansuruddin for his great works as we must remember also those forerunners who gave birth to innumerable folk-poems, folk songs, folk ballads, proverbs, wits, knowledge of life and death.
Muhammad Mansuruddin died on September 19, 1987. He is living in our folk-mind for time’s limitlessness.

(M Mizanur Rahman is a poet, essayist, translator
and columnist)

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