Krishnokoli: My Dark Flower

Krishnokoli Ami Tareh Boli

Bangladeshi music often centres around the theme of love and beauty, which is not surprising. What is interesting however is the frequency with which poets have made positive references to the darkness of their beloved’s eyes, hair or skin. One song for example (Dagor dagor chokeh keno kajol dileh?) is asking why the beloved has put black eye liner on her large eyes which are blacker than the eye liner itself! Similarly, another song (Megh Kalo Adhar Kalo) refers to the clouds and night being dark, but not nearly as dark as the bride’s black hair.

Similarly, the colour of a woman and man’s skin has been referenced by many including Radha Ramon (Sham Kalia Shona Bondhureh), Nazrul Islam (Amar Kalo Meye Rag koreche) and Rabindranath Tagore (Krishnokoli Ami Tareh Boli). Some songs simply note the beauty of a beloved’s skin and the darkness being part of the overall attraction. However, other songs make reference to negative social attitudes and perceptions of dark complexion.

In the following song, Tagore writes about his Krishnokoli (dark flower). Here, he describes a dark, beautiful young woman in a village field, who momentarily loses her inhibition when she glances at him. He says ‘The villagers call her dark, Ah! let that be, her black deer-like eyes I have seen’. The deer like eyes may be referring to her darting, anxious bewilderment as she observes  a stranger’s awe of her. In addition, the poet dismisses the opinions of the villagers, who describe her as ‘dark’. Dark in this context refers to her lack of beauty.  After all, black has historically been associated with more negative connotations than white. For example, black has been associated with dirt, death, evil, sorrow and melancholy whilst white has been associated with cleanliness and purity (Dalal, 2002).

This song is one of my favourites. The unspoken connection between the young woman and the stranger, both intrigued, both lost in their own thoughts is an example of a Bangladeshi poet’s ability to capture the innocence of young love, untainted by social prejudice. It highlights internalised racism through the villagers’ description of her as black and thereby unattractive. Internalised racism occurs when an individual or community accept their own racial inferiority (against white) and judge themselves and others accordingly. 

More recently, there have been enormous shifts in attitudes to beauty, particularly in the last two or three decades. Bollywood for  example have seen a rise in producing some hugely successful actors and actresses with dark skin tone (e.g. Priyanka Chopra, Shah Rukh Khan). However, it is interesting to note that Bangladeshi poets challenged internalised racism a very long time before the term ‘black is beautiful’ became a popular expression in the Western world as well as in South Asia. Despite this, it is unclear how much internalised racism remains embedded unconsciously within our psyches and in communities where access to education and critical thinking may be lacking.

It is important to emphasise that poets such as Rabindranath Tagore and Nazrul Islam were not just poets, but social reformers and intellectuals who left us with not only beautiful songs but a great deal to consider in our understanding and appraisal of ourselves and each other.

Please do send your comments, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this. Meanwhile, enjoy the song!

 

Reference:

Dalal, F (2002) Race, Colour and the Process of Racialization. New Perspectives from Group Analysis, Psychoanalysis and Sociology: Brunner-Routledge

Author: Dr. Sidrah Muntaha

I am a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with a special interest in the role of music to promote emotional well being and recovery from severe mental health difficulties. I am currently employed as Head of Psychology for Cygnet Healthcare, London and have previously worked in NHS psychiatric hospitals to implement psychological interventions including innovative approaches such as CBT-music and other music & arts based therapeutic interventions. For details contact muntaha.sidrah@gmail.com. ©Copyright www.sidrahsite.wordpress.com

3 thoughts on “Krishnokoli: My Dark Flower”

  1. Black is beautifull and this stranger was so enchanched by the beauty of this person he has objectified her!
    He descibes her as the weather! But is still enthralled and clearly mesmerised!
    She on the other hand probably is rather bewildered and alarmed and looking thunderous at the sheer cheek of the man or woman clearly lost in her looks!
    Alas if everyone could see beyond the colour of skin!

    Like

  2. In relation to the comment about moving forward in terms of defining beauty standards, industries like Bollywood still perpetuate the whole notion of white skin being more beautiful and appealing. If you observe some of these Bollywood stars, you will notice how much skin whitening they have had in order to conform to the standardized notion of beautiful skin fiercely predominant in the south Asian sub continent. This attitude has sadly been shifting from one generation to the next. Using negative conotations to describe ones skin colour .i.e “moila” (dirty) is still prevalent to this day and is especially visible during the whole arranged marriage process. Families will not look twice at you or even consider you merely by the factor of the colour of your skin. People make loud noises about racism outside, however they fail to address the internalised racism that still exists today.

    I love how you use music and lyrics as a platform to highlight and address the psycho-social issues in our communities. Keep up the good work x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting piece. Bengali attitude that dark is ugly and inferior is in ingrained and needs to be challenged.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s