Purbabanga-Gitika a collection of folk ballads of East Bengal. These ballads, composed orally and performed among the rural communities, are important resources of bangla literature. The ballads were collected from Mymensingh, Netrakona, Chittagong, Noakhali, Faridpur, Sylhet and Tripura. The main collectors of these ballads include chandra kumar de, dinesh chandra sen, ashutosh chaudhuri, jasimuddin, Nagendrachandra Dey, Rajanikanta Bhadra, Bihari Lal Roy and Bijay Narayan Acharya. Over 50 ballads are included in the collection, among them Dhopar Pat, Maisal Bandhu, Kavchan Mala, Kamala Ranir Gan, Madankumar O Madhumala, Nejam Dakater Pala, Dewan Isha Khan, Mavjur Ma, Kaphanchora, Bheluya, Hatikheda, Aynabibi, Kamal Sadagar, Chawdhurir Ladai, Gopini-Kirtan, Suja-Tanayar Bilap, Baratirther Gan, Nurunnechha O Kabarer Katha and Paribanur Hanhala. Most of these ballads were composed in the 15-16th century, with some being composed in the 17th and 18th centuries. The composers of these ballads were uneducated or half-educated farmers or boatmen. Their themes included love affairs, rivalry between different zamindars, and merchants and significant events effecting the life of the people. These were composed in the form of rhymes or panchali. Later, groups of singers used to set them to music and perform them in villages.
Chandrakumar De started publishing some of these folk ballads from 1913. These attracted the attention of Dineshchandra Sen of Calcutta University. With his help Dineshchandra collected quite a few of these ballads from the villagers. Calcutta University provided financial support for the collection which was published as Purbababga-Gitika in 1926. Dineshchandra translated these ballads into English. The collection, titled Eastern Bengal Ballads, was published in four volumes by Calcutta University in 1958. Kshitishchandra Mollik published seven volumes of Prachin Purbabanga Gitika between 1971 and 1975. Ashutosh Chowdhury also collected similar ballads in Chittagong. This collection, edited by Momen Chowdhury, was published in 1988 by the bangla academy.
These ballads reflect the simple life of the Bengalis. But not all the ballads are of equal literary value. Some ballads like Hatidhara, Zamindarder Birodh and Tirthasthan Niye Kalaha are straightforward narratives. However, some other ballads depict the natural beauty of East Bengal and are perceptive reflections of the joys and sorrows of villagers. Aynabibi depicts the sad domestic lives of both Hindus and Muslims. Kavchanmala, Kamal Sadagar, Madankumar and Madhumala are popular fairy tales. Chawdhurir Ladai is a true picture of its contemporary society. Bheluya describes the sorrow of a woman. Even today Muslim women sing this ballad at weddings. Kamal Sadagar, Jiralani and Mavjur Ma narrate the stories of fallen women. Samser Gazir Gan narrates historical local events. [Md Masud Parvez]