Bhawaiya is a musical form or a popular folk music that originated in Northern Bengal, especially the Rangpur Division in Bangladesh, Cooch Behar district of West Bengal, India, and the undivided Goalpara district of Assam, India.[4][5][6][7][8] It has recurrent themes of the "working class", mahouts, mahishals (buffalo herders), and gariyals (cart drivers). Lyrics express pangs of separation and loneliness of their womenfolk,[9] with elongated tones accentuating pain, longing and "deep emotion".[10] Bhawaiya is generally believed to have originated in the 16th century under Biswa Singha,[11] and has evolved into stage performances since the 1950s.[12] The lyrics of Bhawaiya songs are non-denominational.[13] Bhawaiya is really popular during the Bengali occasion of Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha.[14]


There are various explanations of the meaning of Bhawaiya. Low-lying land with shrubs and other vegetables are called bhawa. According to some researchers, Bhawaiya is derived from the word Bawaiya, which is subsequently derived from the word bao (breeze). The derivative of the word Bhawaiya is Bhav > Bhao + Iya = Bhawaiya; the meaning of this word is emotionally charged. According to Abbasuddin Ahmed, this music is like the random and pleasant wind blowing from North Bengal called Bhawaiya. According to a survey taken of performers of Bhawaiya (conducted by the Folk Cultural and Tribal Cultural Centre, Government of West Bengal), the name is derived from the word Bhao, which was transformed into Bhav. These songs carry a deep emotion of biraha or separation and loneliness.[15]


Bangladeshi film director Shahnewaz Kakoli's movie Uttarer Sur (Northern Symphony) is based on the life of a Bhawaiya singer and tells the story about the gradual demise of this music in the northern part of Bangladesh due to poverty. The movie was screened in the 18th Kolkata International Film Festival.[16]


Further information: List of Bhawaiya singers


  1. ^ "639 Identifier Documentation: aho – ISO 639-3". SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics). SIL International. Retrieved 2019-06-29. Ahom [aho]
  2. ^ "Population by Religious Communities". Census India – 2001. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved 2019-07-01. Census Data Finder/C Series/Population by Religious Communities
  3. ^ "Population by religion community – 2011". Census of India, 2011. The Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on 25 August 2015. 2011census/C-01/DDW00C-01 MDDS.XLS
  4. ^ a b "Bhawaiya". Banglapedia. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  5. ^ Rahman, Urmi. (2014). Bangladesh - culture smart! : the essential guide to customs & culture. Kuperard. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-85733-696-2. OCLC 883354783.
  6. ^ Ahmed, A. F. Salahuddin; Chowdhury, Bazlul Mobin (2004). Bangladesh, national culture, and heritage : an introductory reader. University of Michigan. p. 407. ISBN 984-8509-00-3. OCLC 56598621.
  7. ^ Khan, Mobarak Hossain (1988). Music and its study. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers. p. 69. ISBN 81-207-0764-8. OCLC 18947640.
  8. ^ "The Goalpariya folk music genre (which combines both song and dance), originating in the Goalpara region of Assam, contains several characteristic yet diverse themes, principally spirituality, longing, desire, and separation. Based on these themes, the songs and dances are categorized into different groups. Two important categories of Goalpariya lokageet (the Assamese term for folk music) are bhawaiya and chatka." (Sarma & Monteiro 2019:331)
  9. ^ "(T)he popular image that the term bhawaiya still conjures up is a form of plaintive ballads that speak of love and loss and endless longing within a woman's heart." (Dutta 2019a)
  10. ^ (Sarma & Monteiro 2019:332)
  11. ^ "There is an approximate consensus that the origins of the form may be dated back to at least the sixteenth century, during the reign of Raja Bishwa Sinha, who established the kingdom of Koch Bihar."(Dutta 2019a)
  12. ^ "The initial set of changes started to unfold in the 1950s when the folk genre was transferred from its natural setting to the 'stage'. Although initially the performances were confined to Goalpara, gradually they began to be staged across Assam. With the technological revolution and the opening up of the economy in the 1990s, Goalpariya lokageet began entering the realm of the Internet, giving global audiences access. (Sarma & Monteiro 2019:334)
  13. ^ "(B)hawaiya developed as an integral cultural expression of the Rajbanshis, and these songs are composed in Rajbanshi (or Kamrupi or Kamtapuri), the most widely spoken Bengali dialect across this belt. Despite the influence of Brahminical Hinduism, Islam and Vaishnavism over the preceding centuries, the popular culture of these communities has retained matriarchal influences, evident from the many extant folk rituals and practices." (Dutta 2019a)
  14. ^ Alom, Zahangir (5 June 2018). "Eid albums from Bengal". The Daily Star.
  15. ^ "[W]hen mahouts went away (often to Bhutan, which was close to Goalpara and is sometimes mentioned in the songs) to catch the elephants, they were unable to return home for six months to a year. Their wives, who stayed at home, would express the pangs of separation and loneliness through these lokageet. Hence, the element of biraha, 'deep emotion', comes out very strongly through such songs." (Sarma & Monteiro 2019)
  16. ^ "Bangladeshi filmmaker idolises Ritwik Ghatak". News Track India. Nov 13, 2012. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2012.