Astak Gan a kind of folk song, particularly popular in Maldaha and Murshidabad districts. On the occasion of Chaitra Sangkranti, different types of songs, known as gajan, are sung in honour of Shiva. Astak is a branch of the variety of Gajan songs sung in honour of Shiva, but it also deals with the amorous sport of radha and krishna. Its tunes and manner of singing are also different from Gajan songs. It is not clear how it is related to asta or eight. Like the kheyal, it has two parts: sthayi and antara, which is written in the form of broken tripadi. Humour predominates in the songs, which focus on Shiva, while human life is reflected in the songs about the conjugal life of Shiva and Parvati.
Basically, an astak group comprises ten to twelve artistes, who divide themselves into two groups for the performance, which also includes dancing. Accompanying instruments such as dhol, harmonium, mandira, khol, etc are commonly used.
Usually, the audience for Astak songs consists of lower caste Hindus, especially Namahshudras, Gharami or thatchers, fishermen, etc. Once these songs were immensely popular in the villages of khulna and jessore, but for a variety of reasons, they are on the verge of extinction. [Wakil Ahmed]