Bhawaiya Song Culture


Bengla Culture:
Bhawaiya (Bengali: ভাওয়াইয়া, Assamese: ভাৱাইয়া ) is a musical form or a popular folk music in Northern Bangladesh, especially Rangpur District and in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, part of Darjeeling and North Dinajpur district of West Bengal and Dhubri and Goalpara of Assam in India. These area were covered by Kamtapur state and so for the song also Kamtapuri language is used. This folk song is sung traditionally both solo and by chorus.

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Origin of the name Bhawaiya

There are various viewpoints regarding the meaning of Bhawaiya. Low-lying land with shrub and other vegetable are called Bhawa. Buffalo keepers used to sing this song while ploughing. Hence the name Bhawaiya came to exist. According to some other researcher 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. So the derivative meaning of this word is emotionally charged. According to Abbas Uddin, famous singer and composer of Bhawaiya song, this song is like the random and pleasant wind blowing of North Bengal and it is named as Bhawaiya. According to a survey( conducted by the Folk cultural and tribal cultural centre, Government of West Bengal) among the performers of Bhawaiya song the name is derived from the word Bhao Bhav. It has a meaning of deep feeling or love or melancholy feeling.

The most dominant part of the performers are the Rajbanshi or Kamtapuri (residence of Kamtapur state) people from the North bengal and northern part of Bangladesh. But the Brahmin, Koch, Yogi, Khen, Muslim who are the resident of this area are also sing this folk song. Nowadays some of the well known bhawaiya songs are adopted in Bengali Cinema as well as in some modern folk bands.


Folk song is characterised by a typical tonal structure which reflects specific natural, environmental and work related factors, topographical condition, ethnic and phonetic characteristic of the region. The following tonal structure is generally used in Bhawaiya music:

S R M P D n… S R G M P n…. M P D n D n D P M… n n S R G G M G R S ….. etc. (S=Sharaja, R= Rishava, G= Gandhara, M= Madhyama, P=Panchama, D=Dhaivata, n= flattened Nishada). Flattened tone of S, R, G, D, P and sharpen tone of M are not used in this folk song. Use of only flattened n is also a fundamental characteristic of Bhawaiya song. Dn Dn – is one of the known tonal texture of this song. S and M are used comparatively more here. The melody of this folk song generally does not go beyond the middle octave. But in some recent song specially in catka the tune goes up to the upper octave. Bhawaiya song are sung in a higher pitch. Typical voice modulation is characteristic of this folk song. Lots of microtunes are used with the main tune and pitch for this voice modulation.


Bangladeshi film director Shahneoyaj Kakolii’s movie Uttarer Sur (Northern Symphony) is based on the life of Bhawaiya singer. It tells about the gradual demise of this folk song from the northern part of the Bangladesh due to poverty. This movie is screened in 18th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF).[2]

Further information: List of Bhawaiya singers

A popular Bhawaiya song is Garial Bhai:

ওকি গাড়িয়াল ভাই
ওকি গাড়িয়াল ভাই
কত রব আমি পন্থের দিকে চায়া রে।

কি কব দুস্কেরও জ্বালা গাড়িয়াল ভাই গাঁথিয়াচিকনও মালা রে।

যে দিন গাড়িয়াল উজান যায়,
নারীর মন মোর ঝুরিয়া রয় রে।

ওকি গাড়িয়াল ভাই
হাকাও গাড়ি তুই চিলমারীর বন্দরে রে।.[3]

Documentary on Bhawaiya.


Barma, Sukhbilas (2004). Bhāwāiyā : ethnomusicological study (1st ed.). New Delhi: Global Vision Pub. House. ISBN 81-8220-070-9.
“Bangladeshi filmmaker idolises Ritwik Ghatak”. News Track India. Nov 13, 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
Lyrics – Abbas Uddin, Voice – Abbas Uddin

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