Custom Search

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fortifying the Bengali identity, being a true global citizen

Call to disseminate Gurusaday Dutt’s ‘Bratachari’ movement

Karim Waheed - May 12, 2009

In 1934, Gurusaday Dutt started the 'Bratachari' movement. In his words, in "The Bratachari Synthesis" (first published in 1937), "the movement is to bring back to humanity, in all countries, the ideal and practice of the wholeness of life which, alike in the individual, the national and the international sphere has been so grievously shattered in the modern world in every country by the fragmentary outlook on, and treatment of, life in education, science, work, play and social functioning."

The aim of the movement -- in other words, Dutt's aspiration -- was to reinstate a well-rounded sense of being by upholding the inherent values of individual and regional diversities. As Dutt used to say, "Bishwa-manab hobi jodi, shashwata Bangali haw." (If you want to be an effective global citizen, be a true Bengali first.) 

On the occasion of Dutt's 127th birth anniversary, on May 10, Finance Minister AMA Muhith, noted cultural activist Dr. Sanjida Khatun and VC of Dhaka University Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique went over the life and philosophies of the visionary Bengali. The programme, organised by Bratachari Samiti, Bangladesh and assisted by BRAC Bank Ltd, was held on DU campus.

A small, uniformed group of children and teenagers in red and white marched to the venue; pulsating 'dhol' generated interest among the passers-by, some stuck around out of curiosity. 

The Finance Minister provided a brief account of the life and accomplishments -- highlighting the 'Bratachari' movment -- of Gurusaday Dutt. 

Gurusaday Dutt, a Barrister-at-Law, politician, folklorist, writer and social reformer, was born in Birasri village of Sylhet district, in eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh) in 1882. He stood first in the F.A. exams (prior to Graduate studies) from Presidency College, Calcutta, in 1901 and was awarded the Scindia Gold Medal. He went on a Scholarship from the Sylhet Union to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, UK and took the Indian Civil Service (ICS) exams, in which he stood first in the Second Part in 1904. In 1905, he returned to India and started working as an ICS officer.

The Bratachari (from 'brata,' vow) movement aims at creating a sense of global citizenship as well as national identity among people, irrespective of caste, religion, gender and age. Dutt believed in developing the mind and body, and urged people to work for national and individual progress through encouraging traditional and folk culture, especially dance and songs. The bratacharis, or followers of the movement, pledge to build their moral fibre and serve the country on the five principles of knowledge, labour, truth, unity and joy. 

As the Finance Minister put it, "the Bratachari movement did not catch on in Bangladesh but, fortunately, followers of this concept are still active."

Dr. Sanjida Khatun, chairperson of Bratachari Samiti, Bangladesh, said, "Scout activities are very popular and encouraged in our schools, but Bratachari lessons, which can instil a sense of patriotism in children and inspire them to be well-rounded individuals, is never considered as an extra-curricular activity."

Performance by young bratacharis at the programme started with "Agowan Bangla." Two rows were formed by younger performers; senior bratacharis led with a crescent-like formation. The performance was more like an articulate version of a P.T. session; the moves were certainly inspired by indigenous dances, like the 'Jhumur.' Lyrics were basically vows: serving the motherland and thus serving the world. 

An interesting aspect of this is that Dutt realised the need for nurturing the body, along with the mind, through physical labour at a time when the contemporary urban Bengali 'Babu' culture looked down upon it. Bratachari songs like "Kodal chalai," (working the shovel) emphasises that concept. 

As the young performers demonstrated -- with music and dance -- the philosophies of Gurusaday Dutt to a growing audience, it became evident to one just introduced to the Bratachari movement that this concept needs to reach the grassroots.


No comments: