Lohagore Utsav 2/3/4 March, 2018
In order to achieve our aim in taking creating an ashram to promote the baul way of life, Paban Das Baul and I first acquired seven bighas of land (approximately 2 acres) adjacent to the village of Lohagore village, in the Binuria subdivision in Bolpur block; district Birbhum in West Bengal in 2003.
We chose this land because it is at the epicenter of the world of the baul singers of Bengal who live among an agricultural village population. This is an hour’s from Durgapur city where his family lives, without being too ‘distant’ from my own urban and global family, in Kolkata and in Paris.
Lohagore village is 3 km from the Viswabharati University in Shantiniketan created by Rabindranath Tagore, which draws students of arts and music from all over the world today.
We have built a caretaker’s cottage, a deep tubewell, and toilets on the site. The good news is that 2012, we have been granted an electric line officially and have placed a mini-submersible filter and water pump. We are also able to provide basic facilities for visitors to our festival.
The population of Lohagore, predominantly Muslim and Santhal and SC/ST, are mainly small farmers, skilled carpenters, woodworkers and its women-folk skilled in weaving mats and making kanthas. This population is divided into both APL and BPL families. Those adjacent to our site are BPL families.
We realized that in order to hold an annual baul fakir festival here and then to develop this into a national festival of the kind we have already organize in Boral, we would have to consider the socio-economic background of our neighbors in order to proactively draw the village community into our festival adventure.
It took us three years to demarcate the land, due to land issues and in August 2006, we finally fenced in the seven odd bighas of our site. We planted trees there, mango, jackfruit, chiku, lychees, guavas and coconut and date palms and sal and mahogany.
On the 19th and 20th January 2011, we held our first baul fakir mahotsav, (see Lohagore Baul Fakir Mahotsav booklet available with us). Lohagore villagers participated with great enthusiasm in our event due to the large presence of the fakirs who have relations and family in the village. Drums were throbbing in the forest areas in the Tushu Parab during our festival even as bombs were exploding in nearby Binuria and Ballabhpur (pre-election clashes between political parties along with the beating of drums at our festival!
In spite of the then political undertones in the area, our festival remained a haven of peace and tranquility and all participated regardless of political affiliation.
Many Santhals from the forest settlements adjacent to our site, joined in our festivities spontaneously and participated in the preparation of shelters and in creating infra-structural support and came to dance at our festival, creating a synergy which now makes it possible for us to imagine that great support will come from this village itself.
We are now ready to take forwards a community-oriented project which will be mutually beneficial to the Lohagore village and JOGMAYA ashram. We intend to so with a genuineness and transparency in what we plan and implement directed at economic upliftment of the quality of life and quality of living of all those who come into the ambiance of our ashram/akhra.
In 2014, the Kalinga Institute of Rural Technology provided us with a techno-commercial feasibility study report in Lohagore village for the way forward and could eventually associate with Jogmaya/ Sahajiya across the years.
We would like the Viswabharati and it’s student community that gets annually engaged in Village Study Scheme and Management Training in the rural areas. We could look forward to a strengthening of this bond where our mutual exclusivity in terms of mission and vision can be synthesized into common objectives of double benefitting both entities in Boral and in Lohagore without many fiduciary bottlenecks to either party.