Pagla Kanai

Pagla Kanai (1809-1889) mystic folk poet and musician was born in a peasant family in Lebutala village in jhenaidah district. His real name was Kanai Sheikh but he is better known as Pagla Kanai.

Pagla Kanai lost his parents in early childhood and was brought up by his sister. He did not go to school. He worked for some time at the local indigo factory. He was married but gradually became attracted to an ascetic life.

He was a natural poet and could compose songs spontaneously. His itinerant group of singers included Kala Chand Bayati, Hakim Shah, Karim Biswas, Indu Biswas and Karamaddi. They would tour the areas of Jessore, Kushtia, Pabna, Rajshahi and Bogra singing in chorus, occasionally competitively.

Pagla Kanai used to compose basically mystical and spiritual songs. The main themes of his songs included the human body, the impermanence of the world, the mystery of life, etc. He composed songs about the Prophet muhammad (Sm) as well as hymns to krishna. In one song he observed: ek baper dui beta, taza mara keha nay/ sakaleri ek rakta ekghare ashray(Both are sons of the same father whether alive or dead/ Both have the same blood and the same place of rest). Dr Mazharul Islam included 240 of these songs in his book, Kavi Pagla Kanai (1959). [Ramdulal Roy]