Baul

The Bauls are minstrels whose song and dance reflect the joy, love and longing for mystical union with the Divine. Their music is their means to dissolve into a greater ease with the Supreme Being. Living the life of an esoteric, denouncing the material world, they urge people to rise above the divides created by caste, creed and religion to find peace.

Baul Featured Artists

History of Baul

Do not look for God anywhere, look for Him in the human body. Only then you will get Him, feel Him and you will be able to know yourself too. This is Sahajia Sadhana. The Bauls, Fakirs and Sufis have been practicing this from time immemorial with their music. The Bauls and Fakirs are conveying the message of peace all over the world through this at a time when the whole world is divided in different factions like economic religious, cultural, racial etc. Rabindranath Tagore realized the power of this music long ago. Many of his songs have been influenced by Baul songs. He has had long association with many Bauls. Simple words, hearts touching tunes with instruments like Ektara, Dotara, Dhol, Khanjani, Flute, Dubki etc. have enchanted the audience, the world over. Even the mainstream music is saluting the Bauls, Fakirs and Sufis and giving them the space they richly deserve. The artists of these songs are marginal people. They live in different districts of West Bengal relatively more in numbers at Birbhum, Nadia, Bankura and Murshidabad

The Bauls- Fakirs think one can free oneself from earthly attachments through their belief. Murshid or Guru is the steersman who takes the devotee to God. Respecting, following the path and total belief in Murshid does not have any other alternative. This message is conveyed through Marfati songs. Although they spread the message without the conventional Islamic belief, they have not totally rejected the Shariyat. They believe if the Shariyat is the tree, Marfat is the fruit of that tree. The main purpose of Bauls is detachment from earthly bonds or ties. They want to dissolve into a greater ease with God. The urge to be with God, the pain of not getting Him, the sorrow of one’s inability, prayer for being with Guru etc. all these are conveyed through their music. They reject division of caste, creed, religion etc. and believe of knowing God with profound admiration by self sacrificing and belief.

Genre

The Baul philosophy with its distinct identity rests on different thoughts or genres. The Baul songs represent these ideas in a soulful way. The main thought of Baul is surrendering to the ultimate by freeing oneself of earthly attachments. A man tied with material things when denied becomes fatalistic and depressed. Baul philosophy says negative thoughts surface when one does not feel the presence of God inside or within one’s being. The Bauls want to attain God .through their songs. These songs therefore show the varied emotions, seeking the presence of the ultimate, the sadness of one’s inability to attain him, seeking shelter in the Guru, and giving oneself up soulfully towards the aspiration of the ultimate. The desire of men makes him blind towards attaining the truth. Keeping aside the various distinction of caste , religion and other thoughts of segregation, Baul philosophy states that Bhakti or devotion is the true path to wards the ultimate Goal of self realization and truth. The various genres or thoughts or classifications state this basic philosophy.

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Dehatattwa

The body is like a cage, thus spoke Lalan Fakir. The Bauls believe Moner Manush (The loved one) blooms like a flower within the body .Mankind should go in search of that flower. The songs of this doctrine emphasize the birth of human being and the human form. This genre has a direct correlation with the ‘Tantric’ school of thought The body epitomizes the ultimate truth. Metaphors of various kinds are used in the songs. The body is sometimes thought of as field for growing crops whereas sometimes it is thought of as boat or a ship which should be steered towards the right direction for attaining the ultimate truth. Some of the songs goes like this:

  • E Boro ajob kudrati
  • Apon ghorer khobor lena
  • Dil dariyay majhe dekhlam ajob kharkhana
  • Charti chondro bhaber bhubone

Atmattatwa

Sufism is replete with the thoughts of soul and the after soul. Mind, spirit, knowledge, emotion, feelings etc. reside within the body. Baul philosophy as in Atmattawa believes that knowing oneself is knowing the divine. The spirit or the soul guides the human body. So it is of prime importance to worship the soul along with the body. The songs of this genre eulogise the free spirit and its sings of its supremacy.

  • Khyapa tui na jene tor apon khobor pabi kothae
  • Mon gurur nam toroni kore chole jai bhobo pare
  • Ei manush dekh,sei manush ache
  • Aponare apni chena dae
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Gurutattwa

The Bauls and Fakirs believe one can not be a Baul if not initiated (Diksha) under Guru and follows the path directed by him. Gurus are placed in high esteem. Guru is one who has attained divine grace through austerity. He knows God. One can reach God through Guru. One should unconditionally surrender to Guru. They believe Guru will free him from earthly attachments.

  • Gurur nam loya tui bosona dhyane
  • Murshid amaye phelo na,choron dite bhulo na go
  • Manush guru kolpotoru bhojo mon
  • Aye re jabi opare
  • Guru sishya ek antta jodi howa jae

Paramtattwa

In Baul-Fakiri songs, the divine is referred to in various names, such as Moner Manush, Sahaj Manush, Adhar Manush, Sonar Manush, Bhaber Manush, Alekh Sai, Achin Pakhi etc. They believe that one should understand the Supreme Being or Moner Manush by heart and one should unify with Him through respect and prayers, just as a river meets and dissolves into a sea. However, in this philosophy, the Supreme Being is a spiritual soul, unlike a divine soul as described in other religions. The Bauls talk to Him through music.

  • Ami ekdin o dekhilam na tare
  • Ami kothae pabo tare
  • Chand ache chand ghera
  • Khelche manush neere kheere
  • Kon sukhe koren khela ei bhobe

Prem and Bhaktitattwa

Prem or love is an important content of Baul songs. These have both physical as well as spiritual love. The devotee makes physical love with his partner as directed by Guru. This physical relationship has special method and rule. The Bauls call this the confluence of man and nature. There are people who are against this and have protested calling it indecent. The Bauls in their song say they graduate to platonic love from this physical relationship. Bauls call this Jante Mara. There are many songs that mention this. This is also mentioned in other words like Apta Prem, Sahaj Prem, Shuddha Prem, Adhyatma Prem.

  • Are na bujhe mojo na pirite
  • Jente moja prem sadhon ki parbi tora
  • Prem na jane premer hater bulbula
  • Tare keo chine keo chine na
  • kalalr kotha keno bolo aj amaye

Sadhantattwa

Baul is a worshipping sect. This worshipping is known as Bhajan-Sadhan. The methods and rules of Bhajan-Sadhan are mentioned in some Baul songs directly. The complexity, uncertainty and mystery of Bhajan-Sadhan have been mentioned time and again in these songs. The inner meanings of these songs are almost impossible to understand if one is not conversant with the path of Bhajan-Sadhan.

  • Nishithe Jaiyo na phulobone,bhomra
  • Bhojo Murshider Kodom ei Bela
  • Ki ashaye Fokir holi re mon
  • Dom lagao sei Domer Ghore
  • Kar barite koro go bosot

Nabitattwa, Gourtattwa, and Srishtitattwa

The Bauls-Fakirs speak about universe and creation of humans through their songs. If heard carefully one can understand the impact and influence of Sufi, Vaishnav and Nath doctrines.

  • Ajan khabar na janile kisher fakiri
  • Tomar moton doyal bondhu ar pabo na
  • Dekhbe amar rosul jar kandari ei bhobe
  • Nobi ange jagot poida hoy
  • Nabi na chine ki allah pabe
  • Tora keo jasne oi pagoler kache
  • Ar ki gaur ashibe phire
  • Danra kanai ekbar dekhi
  • Chand bole chnad kande keno
  • Gaur Prem ashaye
  • Sainer leela dekhe lage chomotkar
  • Jante hoi adam safir addya kotha
  • Sodai se nironjon Neere bhase
  • Sai ke bojhe tomar opar leela
  • Apon churate adom podhole doyamoy

In Nadia, we see many variations of Baul Fakiri music and also see Bangla Qawwali, which was lost about 130 years back and then revived by the Gorbhanga Fakirs with a few researchers. Bangla Qawwali is getting very popular now, including amongst the young generation. We can also see that Sufism in Bengal evolved from Chaitanyadev’s Bhaktibad Movement and Baul Fakirs are Sufis of the East and their Sufi Qawwali numbers are helping them getting high level of recognition to global audience.

Status

Baul-Fakiri music is a flourishing art form today although the scenario was bleak till 2004. Interventions by the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre (EZCC) of the Government of India between 2004 and 2008 greatly helped revive and rejuvenate the music with 272 artists of Nadia playing the lead role. Basic skill-building and advanced training, market promotion and linkages, and exchange and collaboration were undertaken to strengthen the artists and the art form. By 2010, Baul-Fakiri music was resurrected with a discernible rise in the artists’ income. During 2010 and 2011, further initiatives were undertaken with the support of the European Union (EU) to take Baul-Fakiri music to national and international platforms. These efforts paid off and the music form gained great popularity across India and abroad.

Bauls and Fakirs are now invited to perform at events in cities across the country and beyond all through the year. These include fairs, festivals and religious functions, as well as private occasions like weddings. New audiences in urban areas have added to the demand for this music. The leading artists are singing in films as well and touring the world with their bands and cutting albums.

Since 2011, Bauls and Fakirs have performed at the World Peace Music Festival ‘Sur Jahan’ (previously known as ‘Sufi Sutra’) with international teams. This has brought them more fame and recognition. They are a strong voice today in a world tormented by conflict and war.

Over the years, Akhras or the places where the artists come together to sing, have increased in number phenomenally. The Akhras are now seats of practice where junior singers and musicians from local areas come to learn from the Gurus. There is a living museum in Gorbhanga where skill transmission takes place on a regular basis. Singers from one Akhra often travel to other Akhras in other districts too and stay there for days to learn more about the music. However, there is no monetary transaction involved in these skill transmissions.

Presentation

Simple words, heart-touching tunes and instruments like Ektara, Dotara, Dhol, Khanjani, Flute, Dubki etc. have enchanted the audience the world over. Even mainstream music salutes Bauls, Fakirs and Sufis and gives them the space they deserve. Artists of these songs come from marginalized sections of the society. They live in various districts of West Bengal but predominantly in Birbhum, Nadia, Bankura and Murshidabad.