Lalon Shah (1774-1890) was a prominent Bengali philosopher and mystic. As a composer and singer of Baul songs, his music is rich in mystic thought and full of artistic skill. Composed in simple language, his songs are significant and impressive and represent the ideals of human life. His works influenced many poets, social and religious thinkers including Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Allen Ginsberg. He was both praised and criticized in his lifetime, as well as after his death. His disciples mostly live in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India. Lalon died on October 17, 1890, at the age of 116. According to the Bengali calendar, his death fell on the 1st Kartik of Bangla month. Launched by Lalon, the festival known as ‘Dol Purnima’ became a tradition following his passing. It features Lalon Mela, discussions and music. His philosophical expression was through songs and musical compositions using folk instruments such as the Ektara (a one-string musical instrument) and the Duggi (drum).
Lalon has been portrayed in Bengali literature, film, television dramas, and the theatre. In 2004, Lalon was placed at number 12 in the BBC’s poll of the Greatest Bengali of All Time. Thousands of people, regardless of origin, travel great distances to attend this festival.