Harkara, Gagan

Harkara, Gagan Baul poet and singer. His real name is Gagan Chandra Das. Gagan Chandra Das was a resident of the village of Arpara in Shilaidaha. He worked as a harkara (postman) at Shilaidaha post office, and this is how he came to be known as Gagan Harkara among the people.

Gagan Harkara was a follower of Baul culture. He was a lyric writer and a sweet-voiced singer. He composed the famous lyric: “Ami kothai pabo tare, amar moner manush jere. / Haraye shei manush, tar uddeshe desh bideshe berai ghure” (Where can I find the person of my heart! Losing that person I have been wandering at home and abroad). Gagan sang this lyric to Rabindranath Tagore at Kuthibari and the latter was impressed by it.

Gagan used to visit Rabindranath quite frequently to deliver letters, and used to have had discussions about Baul. Rabindranath used to listen to Gagan's songs on the roof of a boat, and this had a far-reaching impact on his mind. In many of his writings and lectures delivered at home and abroad, he made mention of liberal religion and of the songs of Lalon-Gagan. Especially, in his essay “Manav Dharma” (Religious of Man, 1930), he elaborated on the humanistic philosophy of Baul. Referring to Gagan's song quoted above, in his lecture titled “An Indian Folk Religion” delivered in France, Rabindranath commented: “The first Baul song, which I chanced to hear with any attention, profoundly stirred my mind.” Later on, he spoke highly about the song in his Introduction to Mansuruddin's edited work Haramani (1936). It is believed that Harkara's abovementioned song had an impact on Rabindranath's hymn “Amar sonar Bangla, Ami tomai bhalobasi” (My Bengal of gold, I love you) which he composed during the time of the Swadeshi Andolan (an all-India Nationalist Movement to boycott foreign-made, Western goods).

Another remarkable song by Gagan Harkara is “(O mon) osar mayay bhule rabey / Kotokal emoni bhabe.” (O self, how long will you remain forgetful. All these are magic.). These two songs tell us about the mind and inner feeling of Gagan. Scholars believe that the free and ascetic Baul that we find in Rabindranath's Dhakghar (Post office) and other dramas was influenced by Gagan. [Wakil Ahmad]