Lalon music festival

Green day? Byonce?

Not quite. The festival is a commemoration of the the Bengali philosopher Fakir Lalon Shah. He was a very cool guy born around 1770, who opposed the division of society into Hindus and Muslims and associated castes. He was a humanist who penned possibly 10,000 poems and songs to express his philosophy, of which 2000 - 3000 can be found today. Musicians and bands come from all over the country to play these songs into the small hours of the morning.

The festival was great, big, over 100,000 Bangladeshis crammed into a small village. We were quite popular, with crowds following us everywhere, and so many invitations for tea at their respective family homes.

Now the music might be a little monotonous to the western ear, as we were missing the rich tapestry of Lalons words, but there was some small respite. The locals are quite fond of a smoke. Their method is to pack a large wooden cone full of the local tobacco and cup their hands together with the cone sticking out the side to form a primitive bong. Well after a couple of these I felt I was able to relate to the music a lot more! So at nights we'd all sit on the floor in a temple type place, around a guru dressed in all white (that looked remarkably like my uncle Freddy in his playing days), who was sitting in lotus position as the musicians played away around us. Now the reason I gathered that this guy was appointed as the Guru was his god like ability to continually smoke the local tobacco. Sitting cross-legged, slightly cross-eyed, the members of our gathering would continually hand him cones. He'd only stop to pat the head of a follower that would come to his feet seeking a blessing. About two hours in, he cemented his place as a guru in my eyes when he magically pulled out a packet of chocolate eclairs lollies and passed them out to his followers.

So the festival went for a few days and during the day our friends from the camp would take around the area, including to a museum dictated to Rabindranath Tagore. A Bengali who was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for literature, who drew heavy influence from Lalon.

In the whole time of the festival, Kate and I had found it impossible to spend a cent. Our hosts, from one of the poorest countries in the world, refused to let us pay for any thing. From expensive mosquito creams to bottles of water. We were so well looked after and so welcomed, and to be exposed to the more spiritual side of this ancient region, this was definitely one of the highlights of all my travels.