Folk Songs of West Bengal

The Folk Songs of the rural Bengal represent the rich cultural and historical legacy of the ancient times. The melodious yet simple compositions of the various kinds of Folk Songs of the rural Bengal cast a magical spell on the audience. The Folk Songs of Bengal have acquired a global character because of their enchanting melody and simple philosophy of life. The splendid compositions of the Folk Songs have captured the imagination of the poet and have helped to spread happiness around the world.

The enriched Folk Songs of the rural West Bengal can be distinctly categorized into four categories of Baul, Kirtan, Bhatiali and Sari songs. All the four different streams of folk music are famous for their unique styles and compositions. The Folk Songs reflect the inherent natural talent of the rural artists who composed the splendid music to refresh their mind and explore their hidden potentialities.

Baul singers

The Baul singers Representing the rich folk traditions of the rural Bengal, the Baul forms a group of singers who move from place to place to express their inner most feelings through their songs. The traditional folk singers of West Bengal, the Bauls bears relics of the rich historical and cultural legacy of the region.

Derived from the Sanskrit word Batul, the Baul singers reflect on the mystical nature of life. The Baul group of singers do not believe in any kind of social divisions of religion or caste. Instead according to this mystical poets, man is part of the Supreme Being. The egalitarian society of the Bauls displays their unique yet enriched thought process.

This unique folk tradition of Bengal rose into prominence during the Bhakti Movement. The Bhakti Movement brought about a revolutionary change in the social and cultural scenario of India, in the middle ages. Keeping in tune with the main theme of the Bhakti Movement that erased all kinds of social divisions among people, the Baul Singers found their own identity. They made the Bhakti Movement popular through their simple compositions. The Baul Singers expressed their devotion and dedication to the Supreme Being in the form of beautiful compositions.

The great Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore realized the philosophy of the Baul tradition and made it famous through his various musical compositions and literary creativities. Clad in simple clothes, the Baul singers wander in search of truth. They spread the message of equality and love through their musical compositions.

The Baul Singers have carved an important place for themselves in the international arena as well. The Baul Singers have popularized and influenced the western world with their vision and philosophy of equality, devotion and love for the fellow being.


Based on the Dhrupad style of classical music, the Kirtan is a devotional song that is sung in praise of the Supreme Being. One way of appeasing God, this famous form of folk songs was introduced in the life of common man by the mystical saint of the ancient times, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Accompanied by several musical instruments like Tampura and Khol, the Kirtans reflect the rich historical and cultural legacy of the bygone golden era. The simple yet enriched language of the Kirtans bind all human beings in a single thread of unity, harmony and devotion towards the Lord.

Led by the main singer, the Kirtans are sung in chorus by many men and women who spread the message of love and dedication through their songs. The Kirtan can be classified into four distinct categories which are known for their unique style of singing and compositions.
The four categories of Kirtan are:

  • Manoharshahi
  • Garanhati
  • Mandarini
  • Reneti

    The Kirtan represent the intense religious fervor of the people of Bengal. One of the main streams of folk songs of the rural Bengal, the Kirtan are primarily sung in praise of Lord Krishna. The melodious Kirtan casts a magical spell on the listeners. The enchanting melody of the folk songs captures the imagination of the poet. One feels blessed with divine peace and eternal happiness by singing the musical compositions of the Kirtan.

    Representing the rich folk tradition of Bengal, the Kirtan are the best way to refresh oneself from the strains and stress of daily mundane life.


    One of the prominent folk songs of rural Bengal, the Bhatiali are sung with a touch of sadness in the memory of one's beloved. The Bhatiali songs represent the rich cultural legacies of the bygone golden era. The soft yet beautiful musical compositions of the Bhatiali folk songs portrays the inherent talents of the rural composers of West Bengal.

    Originally sung by the boatmen who used to miss their beloveds on their journey to the infinite blue sea, the splendid musical compositions of the Bhatiali songs have caught the imagination of the poets and audience of the modern era as well. The Bhatiali songs expresses the pure and deep love of a beloved through its simple language and melodious compositions.

    The Bhatiala songs portrays the devotion and dedication of the beloved. One can feel the intense pain of missing a near and dear one by listening to the musical compositions of the Bhatiali folk songs. During the ancient times, when there were not many ways of communicating one's love, the Bhatiali songs provided one with a means to expressing his or her love to the beloved.

    The soft musical compositions of the Bhatiali songs touches one' heart and fills it with deep and intense emotions. However due to lack of exposure the beautiful musical compositions of the Bhatiali songs were lost to the present generation.

    During the recent years the Bhatiali songs again rose into prominence because of the concerted efforts of the various musical groups and companies. The soft yet lively compositions of the Bhatiali songs spells magic on the audience and revives the past cultural glory of West Bengal.


    One of the prominent folk songs of the rural Bengal, the Sari is sung by the boatmen when they go for sea voyages. The Sari folk songs reflects the rich artistic talents of the boatmen who write and compose melodious songs to keep them occupied and happy on their long sea voyages.

    In the olden days the boatmen of the rural Bengal used to venture into long sea voyages in search of fish. During such ventures the boatmen used to write and compose songs to express their inner most feelings and emotions.Sari is usually sung together in a group by the boatmen. The beautiful rhythmic composition and the beats of the Sari songs gave the boatmen the required energy and vigor to draw the oars of the boat.

    The Sari folk songs relieved the boatmen from the strain and stress of being away from home for a number of days. The splendid musical compositions of the Sari folk songs of the rural Bengal filled the otherwise dull and boring life of the boatmen with joy and mirth. One can experience the mixed emotions of joy and sorrow in the musical compositions of the Sari folk songs of the boatmen.

    Even today one can hear the Sari songs from the boatmen of the rural Bengal who have kept alive the age old tradition of the bygone days through the folk songs of the region. The beautiful yet simple compositions of the Sari folk songs of the rural Bengal has caught the imagination of the modern day musicians and singers.

    In this modern era, the Sari songs have once again gained popularity because of the soft and melancholic composition that touches the heart of every single listener.

    Last Updated on 21 March 2013



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