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Bauddha Pālā Kīrtana


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Bengali Buddhist literary genre consisting of a kīrtana, a particular type of religious song, in the form of a pālā, literally meaning ballad, usually having as its theme a Jātaka.or life-story of the Buddha. A kīrtana is a song in praise of a god, invoking the name, the qualities, and the deeds of that particular god. It is also a love song that the follower of a god sings to express the pain experienced at being separated from the object of his devotion. The kīrtana was systematized as a regular part of worship (pūjā) in south India during the second part of the first millennium and it is closely related to the rise of bhakti, or devotional religion. In Bengal, the kīrtana is linked with the rise in the 16th century of the Vaishnava movement initiated by Caitanya. After Caitanya became a bhakta, a man devoted in heart and life to the service of Krishna, he engaged wholeheartedly in musical worship through the medium of the kīrtana. Caitanya's kīrtana was chorus singing to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals. Beginning in the evening, the kīrtana would increase in volume and emotional intensity as the hours passed: bodily movements and hand-clapping would become more and more intense, sometimes resulting in hysteria. One might think that Buddhism.based on the principle of mindfulness (smṛti) and the doctrine of the middle way (madhyamā-pratipad), could not possibly employ a highly emotional form of worship such as the kīrtana. However, the kīrtana as a form of devotional singing has gained so much popularity in Bengal as to become associated with all religions. While retaining its character as a song of love and devotion, and other characteristics such as the invocation of the name of the divinity the song is dedicated to, the kīrtana has lost its excesses in Buddhism. Very little is known of the history of the Buddhist pālā kīrtana. It is thought that the Bauddha pālā kīrtana is a very recent invention and that the first Bauddha pālā kīrtanas were composed in the 20th century, as a consequence of the flourishing of Buddhism following the revival of 1856. Supposedly, a relatively large collection of Buddhist pālā kīrtanas once existed in Chittagong, but this was lost during the Bangladeshi independence war of 1971. Bauddha pālā kīrtanas are a recent addition to the rich world of Buddhist performing arts in general, and to Buddhist theatre in particular. They contain alternating narrative and song, the latter divided between chorus and solo singing.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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