Lalon Shah was a Bengali saint, mystic poet, song composer, social reformer and secular thinker. His works and ideology have an immense influence on Bengali culture. Many of his poems and songs have simple messages, but the appeal is universal. Lalon Shah had no education, but his songs can educate the most educated of minds throughout the world. He has become an iconic figure for practicing religious tolerance and secularism. His philosophy has inspired many poets and social and religious thinkers, including Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Allen Ginsberg and many others. His disciples live in all over Bangladesh and in West Bengal.
Lalon Shah was born around 1774 and lived for 116 years until his death in 1890. It was believed that he was born of Hindu Kayastha parents in what today is known as Kushtia in Bangladesh. One day he contracted the virulent type of small pox and was abandoned at the banks of the Ganges river. A man from a local Muslim weaver community picked him up and saved his life. Lalon grew up much inspired by a local Baul musician.
Lalon Shah was against religious conflict and violence and always hold a common space for all religions. The mainstream of religious life in Bengal, Hindu or Muslim, has always had a parallel marginalised counterpart – that of the lower class – the outcast and excluded, who were rebelling against all fundamentalist strictures. The culture of silence takes forms through the Baul-Phokir faith and expression.
Lalon always remained silent about his past. He did not believe in classes or castes of the fragmented and hierarchical society. Lalon Shah is popularly known as The Man of Heart and has thousands of followers, not at least among the poor and excluded people in society. Lalon Shah is regarded as the “King of Bauls”.