Prior to the construction of motorable roads in various parts of India the 'Palki' or palanquin and bullock carts were the only available means of transport for local people. The life styles of ' kahar ' or Palanquin bearer had inspired renowned literary works like the Novel ' Hansuli Bank-er Uupakatha by Tarashankar Bandhipadhyay. Along with the 'Palki' the Bullock cart was then the prevelent means of transport. The driver of such carts called 'Garowan' had made Thier own mark of cultural significance through 'Garowani' songs in those days.
In present day the ' Garowani 'songs are heard of no more, but in those days the rough dirt tracks of West Bengal do bear witness to Garowani songs sung by traveling Bullock cart drivers.
Some Historians and cultural researchers have vouched that the 'Garowani' songs are as ancient as the more popular 'Bhadu' 'Tusu' 'Jhumur ' lines of folk music of Bengal.Not with standing, this particular style of songs consists of tales from the lives of cart men including Thier thought, passion, memories and daily struggle.
Deplorable road connectivity mostly during the British rule and partly through some years post-Independence was a marked feature of many areas of Bengal.The common people walked from village to village. The ,'Zamindars' used 'Palki' and the economic lower middle class of people used Bullock carts as means of transport. The community of 'Bagdi' , 'Bauri', 'Bhalla' , 'Rhuidas' setteled in the Tarai region of Bengal were professionally associated with driving of Bullock carts.
The trade of 'Garowani'was handed down for generations.Till this day villages of Ausgram, Mangalkot and adjucent areas in Burdwan district is home to descendents of this community of 'GAROWANs'.Kartik Dom of Ausgram, Jeetu Mete of Ullhaspur, Daya Bauri of Dhankodya, Charui Rhuidas of jamuria were known to have travelled extensively the Tarai region of Bengal on Thier Bullock carts as vouched for by descendents of respective families still residing there.This way the 'Garowani' songs were developed and popularised in the whole region.
Some Historians and cultural Scholars have arrived at the following conclusion regarding the inception of 'Garowani' songs. The middle class local residents often travelled on pilgrim or homes of relatives in distant places obliging the cart men to drive through the night. Whereas the Palanquin bearers were many in number and could test by taking turns in Thier task , the Garowan being single handed were unable to take rest on the journey.They often drove continuously through many nights and were prone to doze off on Thier job thereby risking an accident. So to keep themselves awake and alert the trend of singing while driving gained popularity among the 'Garowans'.This practice over the years gained popularity and such songs came to be known as Garowani songs.
The origin of the music and tonal characteristics of Garowani songs however remains debatable as cultural scholars have difference of opinion over the matter.some consider the "Garowani' songs to have originated from the 'Bhatiyali' songs popular in East Further analysis of the lyrics of these songs based them on the life and livelihood of the lower middle class population of Burdwan. Though the tunes bore similarity to the 'Bhatiyali', the expression in the lyrics were entirely different. These lyrics related to human emotions and longing for the rural life.Taking a look at this particular 'Garowani'song help explain things better.
Ele falgun chaitra maase
Kokil gaay Khushi-te
Writer and folk researcher. Gopalpur, Burdwan, W.B. India