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The chronicles of Bengali Folktale

Bengali folktale has to be one of the most enriched branches of Bengali folklore. It is
the tale that has been retold and passed over from generation to generation over
the years through word of mouth. A great many characters are seen to appear in
these tales: kings and queens, gods and goddesses, giants and ogres, ghosts and
spirits, monks and priests, merchants and sailors and so on. These folktales not only
symbolizes the cultural wealth of Bengal, but are also made rich by the influence of
Arab and Indian folktales.

In the treasure trove of Bengali folklore, there are some folktales which are meant to
be musical representations. These are known as 'Gitika' or 'Pala' (ballads). These
ballads were collected from 'Purbabanga Gitika' and 'Mymensingh Gitika'- books
edited by one Dineshchandra Shen. Four of these ballads are hereby presented in
brief: Kajolrekha, Aynabibi, Kanchanmala and Bhelua Shundori. Among them,
Kajolrekha and Kanchanmala are fairy tales while Bhelua Shundori is a form of
historical legend. Aynabibi on the other hand portrays an account of the rural life of
that time period. About four to five centuries ago, a series of tales originated in
Bengal to make known to people the divine powers of the Gods. The story of
Serpent-Goddess Mansha-which gave rise to a series of tales of serpent gods- was
popularly known to the locals as the tale of Behula and Lakhindar. The Arab
influence in the folktales of Bengal is strongly resonant in the tale of Rahim Badshah
and Rupban. The story later became immensely popular through its renditions in
films and stage performances.

These folktales of Bengal not only paint a vivid picture of the society of that time
but also give lessons in morality, humanity and mortality. In these folktales, human
compassion triumphs over the boundaries of religion, race and caste. In many of
these tales, the women protagonists are highlighted by their character and
perseverance rather than their beauty. In short, the indomitable passion for life has
reverberated in these tales of folklorists.

In the days of yore, the tales became lyrics to songs which the minstrels would
perform with dancing in front of a rural crowd. Grandmothers would tell these
stories to the grandchildren to their great delight. The folktales would hence pass
from one generation to another through word of mouth. Measures were taken once
to preserve these precious forms of folklore. Tales were collected, collated and
published in time. Kolkata University and Bangla Academy of Dhaka played
significant roles in this endeavor at different points of time. Even then, due to the
influence of television, radio, cinema, computers and other forms of tech-driven
entertainment medium in the world today, these folktales are once again in
jeopardy of being lost from the society.

This invaluable treasure of Bengali folklore should neither be lost, nor forgotten.
Prime Insurance therefore wishes to spark renewed interest in society with regards
to folktales. Abiding by the sincere wish, a few prominent Bengali folktales are
hereby presented in this calendar. It is hoped that we will once again feel
overwhelmed by our deep love and affection for the folklore.