Our work in Boral began in 1988 when we held the first baul mahotsava in February 1988. Seven major festivals were held here between 1988 to the year 2000.
This event brought together over three hundred artists of oral and sacred traditions of the eastern region of India. It is hosted by the baul singers and sages of Bengal who lift their voices in dithyrambic songs, invocations and mantras.
The baul singers and sages remind us of the power of alchemy of sound. They represent, to a non-initiated public, the magical origins of music, song, dance and theatre. The very first baul mahotsava took place inside my walled in the garden near Saral Dighi, ( Lake Innocense) where Satyajit Ray famously shot the first images of his film: Pather Panchali. Three days of artistic and cultural activities in the shade of jackfruit and mango trees during which the bauls and fakirs, artists and audience, mingle together.
Today, the trees have been cut down for development. However, our friends and acquaintances in the Boral neighbourhood still dream of our festival and are happy to participate in this event together. It’s their enthusiasm which made us decide to revive our mahotsav in Boral after a gap of seventeen years.
Our work has been partially sustained by the Government of India, the ICCR( Indian Council of Cultural Research) and by the EZCCR ( Eastern Zonal Centre of Cultural Research) The main source of sustenance, even today, are the local people, young men and zomen from the village of Boral and neighboring Nischindipur, who are still enthusiastically promoting our baul mahotsav in the environs, announcing the arrival of the crazy baul singers and fakirs in the newly urbanized suburbs of Kolkata.
Even today, they are ready to supply the dry goods and vegetables to feed the impoverished BPL artists who attend our festival. Neighbours supply us with fish on the last day of the matsya utsab. We will provide, through our event, food for the body and food for the soul.
In the old days, some of these young men hovered in a nexus of crime, drug addiction and thievery. I remember one of these young men coming to me too after a performance of a Chhau masked dancer who played the role of Ganesha.
Didi, he said to me, now we know that God really exists! We want to be good. Show us the way.
Times have changed. Many young men in the locality were integrated into the workforce of the Mongini’s factory which is situated a few hundred metres from our own land. They are ready now to produce the Boral Baul and Fakir Mahotsav out of their own pockets.
In France, we have provided since 1983, an infrastructure of support to performing artists and musicians from oral folk traditions through the Association LUNA in Paris.
Our principal aim in France has been to propose to traditional Indian artists such as the Baul and Fakir singers of Bengal, the Ghotipua dancers of Orissa, to the Chhau dancers of Purulia, the Manganyars of Rajasthan newer fields of interactions and exposures: a practical exploration of the contemporary world of performance in the west in all its aspects, technical and artistic, research to which is eventually linked the idea of apprenticeship and global citizenship behavior (GCB).
To a non-initiated public, we have proposed over the years an introduction to popular traditions of performing arts through concerts, performances, gatherings, simultaneous translations and storytelling and in the sharing of food. To professional artists, we have proposed demonstrations, documentary films, workshops and conferences. Thus we pursue a vocation of helping Indian artists from folk and oral traditions and the public in France to know each other better.