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Problematic Aspects of the Sexual Rituals of the Bauls of Bengal

Problematic Aspects of the Sexual Rituals of the Bauls of Bengal

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Problematic Aspects of the Sexual Rituals of the Bauls of Bengal by Rahul Peter Das
Problematic Aspects of the Sexual Rituals of the Bauls of Bengal by Rahul Peter Das

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Problematic Aspects of the Sexual Rituals of the Bauls of BengalAuthor(s): Rahul Peter DasSource:
Journal of the American Oriental Society,
Vol. 112, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1992), pp. 388-432Published by: American Oriental SocietyStable URL:
Accessed: 24/10/2009 12:30
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PROBLEMATICASPECTSOF THE SEXUALRITUALSOFTHE BAULSOFBENGAL*
RAHUL PETERDAS
UNIVERSITYOF HAMBURG
Thisstudyexaminesseveralproblematicsyncretisticandbyoriginheterodoxbeliefsof theBen-galiBauls,intheprocessalsodrawingattentiontoparallelsnotonlyin SouthAsia,butin otherpartsof theOrient too.Particularattentionispaidto"tantric"andIslamicelementsin the beliefsandritespertainingtomicrocosmicand macrocosmiccorrespondencesandthesexualdualityofthecosmicprinciple,as alsototheesotericcodelanguagein thesongs pertainingto suchmatters.It isshown thatthe confidenceofmanyscholarsin thetransparencyoftheBauls'beliefsismisplaced,andthatthedeeperwe delveinto thematerial,the moredothedifficultiesmultiply.1.The recentsurgeofinterestin theBauls(Bengalibdul)1andthe resultantdiscussion(notalwaystrulyscholarly,2oftentingedwithBengalinationalism)3has*Thisstudyhas benefitedgreatlyfrom discussionswithseveralcolleaguesinGermanyandabroad(especiallyDr.CarolSalomon,Seattle,andProf. Dr.AngelikaHartmann,Wiirzburg),allof whomIherebythankmostheartily.IOn the transliterationusedseeR. P.Das,1984a: 662forNewIndo-Aryan(exceptwhenin theArabo-Persianscript,for which seeTranskriptionskommission1969).Old Indo-Aryan(= OIA)words(inthe usualtransliteration)aregivenin theirstem formwhichisindicated,whereimportant,with ahyphen,thusdifferentiatingthemfrom similarNewIndo-Aryanwords.Tantricandyogic physiologicalterms aregen-erallycitedintheirclassicalform,but withoutthehyphen.2Folkloricdillettantismis fashionablenow(cf.tooS.Cakrabarti1989:158;291).On "TheEvolutionof the BaulsasCulturalEmblem"and theirimageasunconventional,earthy,transcendent,fundamentally Bengaliandyet panhumanmysticbardswithaninstinctive feelforeternaltruths,seeCapwell1986:20ff.Thechief,thoughnotsole,drivingforce(forolderexamplessee,e.g.,theworks inA.Ah'mad1979,alsoR. Basu1984:73a)behindthisdevelopmentwasRabindranathThakur(RabindranathTagore),whoseliteraryoutputhasmuchofsuch"Baul"thought(seealso Mur'sid1981:137-41,Brahma1987a:53-57,RiyajulHak1976:46f.).Ithasinfluencedeventhe otherwisescholarlyDasGupta1976:157ff.Novelssuchas P.Bhattacarya1972(onthe famousBaulLalan)goonpropagatingsuchideas.Indeed,fewwritersof fictionhavetroubledtoacquaintthemselveswithBaulthought;anexcep-tionisKafl'kut.SamaresBasu) (seealsoMaharaj1989).3Tomany,Baulsare therepresentativesofBengalicultureandreligiousthought.Thismaylead tomysticeffusion,asin thepoemBanalirjanmatithi"Thedayofbirth oftheBengali":tomaderhai'guloantahinsrotasbini,surernirjharmadethisreligious group4wellknown.Imaythuscontentmyselfhere withstatingthebasiccharacteris-tics of theirbeliefandfor therestreferringtotheex-tantliteratureon thesubject.5Inshort,thesyncretisticBaulcreed,seeminglybothlyingoutsidethefoldofthereligionsoftheso-called"greattradition(s)"previ-ouslyortodaycurrentinBengal,aswell assomehowek'tard hateek baulermanojgambuj..."Your bonesareendlessstreams,themind-bornbastions/buds(?;cf.Persiangunbad;surelynot"domes"!)ofaBaulwith[hisinstrument]theek'tara,aspringofmelody,in[his]hand..."(NurulHudai1981:17).It isthusfittingthatBangladesh'snationalanthem(likeIndia'sbyRabindranathThakur)has a Baultune(cf.RiyajulHak 1976:75,R.P.Das,1984a:65;forGaganHar'kara'soriginalwordssee,e.g.,U.Bhat.tacrya1980:1049f.,AnoyarulKarim1971:288f.).
4
Ipurposelyavoidwordssuchas"sect,""denomination,"etc.,in thisconnection,as theclassificationof theBaulsandtheir beliefsis noteasy.5Seeesp.AnoyarulKarim1971,AnwarulKarim1980,Capwell1986,whoseextensivebibliographieslistmanyrele-vantworksit issuperfluousto mentionhere,and the biblio-graphicdiscussionandbibliographyinSarkar1990:17-26,241-45.Add:Lut'pharRah-man1980;S.M.Bandyopadhyay1976;P.Bandyopadhyay1988:150-94and1989;K.K.Dasgupta1960;Sariph1973and1983: 87-115(alsopp.116-66);Man'surUddin1981,2.2:11-46;0.Ah'mad 1974:101-5;Mahmuid1983:410-43;Ab'durRagid1984:115-30(seealsopp.131-36);R.Pal1976:135-54;Begam1976:40-89;Ab'dulKfdir1984:123-27and 1985:1-15,21-27,42-76,84-104;Datta/Bhaumik1966:(93)-(158),115-204;Siddiki1980:140-56;G. Sen1987:46-55;Maitra1988:108-22;T. Caudhuri1983:169-77;Mahapatra1972:9-74;R. C.Mitra 1981:85;B.Mukhopfdhyay1984and1986;A.Mukho-padhyay1988;Chaudhuri1982:18f.;Qureshi1977;A.Gupta388
 
DAS:
SexualRitualsofthe BaulsofBengallinked tothese,6placesthehumanbody,themicro-cosmic form of themacrocosm,in the centerofreli-giousconsiderations.7Ultimatesalvation,leadingto1983;InamulHoque1983:94-96;A. Basu 1968:378-95(seealsopp.372-77);SajedulHak/Hai 1979:30;Nasir1977;Chowdhury/Chowdhury/Hossain1985;Ashraf1960:31, 6620;Caudhuri/SamiyulIs'lam1981;AbuTalib1985:133-58;B.Cakrabarti 1980:10-18;A. A. Caudhuri1974;As'gar1985a,b andc;Mukherjee1985;Khondakar 1961(writtenbythe famous BaulPanifijah);Dimock1987;Paul1972and1973;RiyajulHak 1976 and1985;Caudhuri/RiyajulHak1982 and1985;D.Simha 1986:74-97;Schimmel 1980:50,148;Manirujjaman1982:84-90,104-6,115-19;Brahma1982:88-124,174-213(seealsopp.125-39,167-72)and1986;D.Bandyopadhyay1987:89ff.;Anisujjaman1983:181-90;G.Bhattacfrya1989:378-87;Sultana1987. Theseworks(mostwithfurtherreferences,thoughnotalwaysaseparatebibliography)are ofquitevaryingquality,and natu-rallynot all theliterature on thesubject,thoughcoveringitquitewell.See also R.P. Das 1984a:57(theessayon Lalanmentioned l.c. hasappearedas R. P. Das1981,but with mis-prints:onp.183 readqat'in 1.24,qatacin1. 26and
qit'a
in1.28;also note thatphdatandphat'nd,etc.,onpp.183f.mayinthis caseactuallycome fromArabicfitna"dissension,dis-cord")andtheother worksmentionedbelow,especiallythosefrom whichsongsarequoted.6Cf. S. Cakrabarti1989: 163.ThoughmanyBauls considerthemselves areligiouscommunitydistinct fromothers(thisoftengoeshandinhand withthenegationofthe authori-tativeness ofscripture),thefeelingoften seemsnotverypronounced;manyconsiderthemselvespartofthegreatersurroundingcommunity(thoughoftenitisunclear whetheronlytheresearcherconcernedthinksso),but withcertainspe-cialcharacteristics andtraitssettingthemapart,like the non-acceptanceofmanyof itssocialandreligiousconventions,whichusuallyincludes theidea thatitisfutiletoworshipattemplesormosques, goonHagg(Beng.haj)orthe like.Re-garding.Hagg,note,e.g.,what Ek'lemsaysinthesongMandmdr mathurire,mandamr madindre(Recordings1: sideB,no.6.):bhdbiyaek'lembale,makkdyydoyamiche"Havingthought[aboutit],Ek'lemsays:It'swrong/uselesstogotoMecca."OnEk'lem,mostprobablyEk'limurRaja/Reja,thesonofHasanRaja(onwhomseen.33),seeManirujjaman1982:87,also All1979:22,P.Gupta1985:15,Y.Bhatta-carya1984: 447.7That themacrocosm ispresentwithin themicrocosmis acommonplacenotonlyinIndia,but inmanyotherpartsof theworld;closelyallied is theconceptof theparallelismofmac-rocosmandmicrocosm. Onsuchconceptsindifferent areasandcultures, see,e.g.,Diwald1975:130-32(alsoGulik1961:16f.,A.Roy1983:167f.;foranoteofcautionhoweveralsoRosel1928:51ff.).InIndia,wefindevenmedicalworksthestate ofbeing"dead whileliving,"8 requiresnotonly knowledgeofthe externalmacrocosm andcorre-spondingdeeds,or thelike,butalso-andthis is farmoreimportant-knowledgeofthemicrocosm,thebodyand itssecrets(includingthose of itsmacrocos-micsignificanceandconnections),andpracticeswhichgivethebodyitsgreatest power leadingtoacompletemicrocosmic,andthus alsomacrocosmic,harmony.Thesepracticesaffectbothbodyandmind,andthey,aswellas thesecretdoctrinesconnected withthem,can asaruleonlybe learnedfrom apreceptor (mostcommonly guru,mursid/murs7dorgosdi/gosai),whoplaysacrucial role inBaul belief. TomanyIndianre-ligiousgroupsthepreceptoris notonlyoftenadeity,but alsomaybeamalgamatedwiththesupremedivineprinciple,9 thoughtheremaybe subtledifferences inadheringtosuchviews,e.g.,theCarakasamhita(Acharya1941)inSarirasthana .13 andseveral times inSarirasthana.Suchnotions areof coursemucholder,aparticularlyillumi-natingexamplebeingAitareyaranyaka3.1.2.8Suchnomenclatureforonewho hastranscendedearthlytieshasahighantiquityinIndia,andis toowell knowntoneedfurtherelaboration.ThecommonestBaulexpressionseemstobejydnte/jydntamard(alsomara).Regardingthediscussion inn.42,itisevidentthat onewho hastranscendedallearthlytiesmayalso betakento benot boundbyanything(includingsocialmores,whichmayevenbebreachedbeforetheattainmentofsuch afinalstate,tohelpthemindandbodyinovercomingallthingsearthly).9Ontheimportanceofthepreceptor(andhisdivinity)see,e.g.,Gupta/Hoens/Goudriaan1979:74ff.;McMullen1982;Gold1987;Tripathi1987:42-45;Brahma1982:181-213,361-66;Tivari1975;G.Bhattacarya1989:383;Steinmann1986;S. B.Dasgupta1974:158f.;Nicholas1969:40f.;Wayman1973:49f.;Sarkar1990:33f.,141f.;Dimock1966b:22137;J.Simha1969,1:94-96;A.Roy1983:159-63,207-48;Yakariya1974:ek'gatadasf.;S.Cakrabarti1989:102,148ff.,199f.;U.Bhattacarya1980,303ff.;R.Cakrabarti1990:222ff.Similardeificatorytendenciesabound inSouthAsianpopularIslam,amalgamatingwith thecultsaroundgravesofsaints. Cf.tooSam'chujjuha1932:[1]:ihudi na-chardganallah'kechdariy-nijanijamaulabi odar'beg'di-gakedllah'r matanbdndiyachila.tadripbarttamdnkaleanekei-nijanijamaulabiopirchaheb'digakemdbudbanai-ydche"HavingleftAllah,Jews andChristianshadmadetheirownpriests/religiousscholarsandascetics liketoGod. Like-wise,at thepresenttimequiteafew[Muslims]have madetheirownvenerablereligiousscholarsandspiritualleaders/saints(pir)intodeities."Similar"orthodox"diatribes arele-gioninSouthAsia. Aworkagainsttheveneration ofPirs(seeA.Ah'mad1985:647)callsthesethe33-croregodsof theMuslims(areference tothe33-croreHindugods)(seealso389

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