August 14, 2011

Initiation songs of the Bauls of Bengal

another obsession of this blog is of course Bauls......

“I obey no master; not any order; nor any customs.
 Human distinctions have no hold on me.
 I exult in the pleasure of loving, because in love there is no separation but union only.
 And so I celebrate each and everyone in song and in dance."

Bengal is a land of rivers. The Ganges, Bramhaputra and other rivers, with their
tributaries, flow down from the Himalayas through the flat plains into the Bay of Bengal. More
often than not, the rice fields are under water and the mud houses washed away The only
means of travelling is by boat .Epidemics strike the poor and the sick. "Life is transient" sings
the Baul. In the hot summer, the land is parched and only the main rivers contain any
significant amount of water The peasant knows the moodiness of the rivers only too well.
They are bom beside them, live by them and, in death, their ashes flow down them. "It’s impossible to ignore the waves which lift the water of the river, how can I row my boat alone ?"
sings the baul.
Bengal is also a land of music. One hears the muezzim from the minaret at sunset and the boatman singing the river songs as he ferries the harvests to the other side Peasants hum as they plough the fields and rickshaw boys whistle film tunes. Children sing as they play games and women sing to the rhythm of threshing.
The Bauls call themselves mad because they crave for divine intoxication, lost to the
ways of the world, turning, moving, whirling in the breath of life. They are ecstatic, weeping
for joy crying in bliss, rolling about in mirth, singing the songs of the heart "I have lost my
mind, I don’t know in what it is lost or why it’s in such bliss" sings the Baul. These madmen
are not self-obsessed lunatics, grovelling in self·pity and unreal fantasies, out of touch with
the world and alienated into self-destruction. They are ordinary people with a unique tradition, who seek to live in and enjoy the world, to love and cherish it, for it is within this world that heaven exists. They are sensualists who desire to taste the essence of being, shunning the garb, the husk, the outer sheath of personality respectability and order:
 “O heart of a Baul,where will you go living behind this worldly existence ?"

Mystic singers, wandering monks, the Bauls carry through their songs a knowledge which is essentially philosophical, synthesizing the buddhist, vaishnava and sufi traditions.
They can be compared to the "troubadores” of the medieval era or to the "asiks" of Anatolia
Garbed in multicoloured robes and carrying the simplest of instruments, they go from village to village singing about the way of love. They sing at sacred shrines and temples, at fairs and festivals, in the courtyards of palatial mansions, under the trees amongst the mud huts, and today in buses and trains.
To the poor, the Bauls carry the richness of the spirit, to the blind the inner vision of divine light .
To the sick and the old, they give the healing balm of faith. The rich and the arrogant receive their scorn.
The essence of the Baul movement is religious contestation. lt is a discipline called
"ULTASADHANA’, which goes against prevailing currents. The word "baul" means someone
who is possessed by the wind, hence their roving nature. Like the troubadores who do not
search for light but already possess it, the Bauls are "illuminated”, or “the madmen of God".
They are largely illiterate and mostly come from the lower strata of Hindu and Muslim society
 with whom they share the same rustic language, the same
physical, psychological and spiritual mileu. They communicate their social, aesthetic and
spiritual beliefs through their songs.

"You will not come back again and again.
 You will not be born as a human being again.
Be vigilant, o my spirit, the day ends and darkness descends.
Man is God come to this earth,
so don’t stain the lineage of humans.....



  1. Everyone wonders, "What's Lalon faith?"
    Lalon says, "I've never ' seen' the face
    of Faith with these eyes of mine!"
    Circumcision marks a Muslim man,
    what then marks a Muslim woman?
    A Brahmin I recognize by the Holy thread;
    how do I recognize a Brahmin-woman?
    Everyone wonders, "What's Lalon faith?"
    Some wear a garland and some the tasbi,
    that's what marks the Faiths apart. But what marks them apart when
    one is born or at the time of death?
    Everyone wonders, "What's Lalon faith?"
    The whole world talks about Faith,
    everyone displaying their pride!
    Lalon says, "My Faith has capsized
    in this Market of Desire...."
    Everyone wonders, "What's Lalon faith?"

    Lalon Shah

    Reminds me to step away from the computer, thank you. No light in these wires, just reminders. And some distant friends with unknowen faces, only close hearts, but that is more than enough.

  2. Nice post and comment by kokolo! Good advice...