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“Bauls of Bangladesh”
Submitted to: MR. S. M. HUMAYUN KABIR Submitted by:
Khonker Taskin Anmol – 0630182
NCH – 101 Sec – 02
Knowing Bauls of Bengal
The smell of materialism is not too distant from it, yet here among the disciples of Lalon we see the issues of property, money, possessions not given the highest importance. Practically no one talks of making more money, no one even bothers about the value of the clothes that one wears. In the attire, there is an austere uniformity-here among the Bauls all that is important is the search for one’s inner self. The Bauls of Bengal are spiritual sect of traveling minstrels whose songs of joy, love, and longing for a mystical union with the divine have captivated audiences for the past century. They are saffron-clad folk singers who traditionally live in the huts of rural Bengal though they can be found traveling, dancing, and singing their way around the world. Their livelihood depends entirely on donations which have been given to them freely over the centuries. They are teachers and spiritual gurus and they are a peace loving people that embrace all and quarrel with none. In fact, Bengalis are known to be among the most friendly and intelligent people in Indian Subcontinent. The Bouls are the folk heroes of Bengal. The popular romantic imagination everywhere seeks expression through its chosen bard. The Americans have their Bob Dylans and Jim Morrisons, the English have their Beatles Led Zeppelins, and we have our Bauls. These wandering minstrels carry with them from village to city the soul of Bengal, perhaps of India, and every Bengali knows it even if today he is becoming uncertain what that soul really is. Baul is almost exclusively performed by Bauls (hermits) who are followers of Sufism in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, in the early days of Bauls who claimed to be Muslims and followers of the VAishnav tradition, with greater focus on love of the society and harmony with nature. Baul geeti had to go through a major struggle of survival as did the Bauls themselves. Bauls were subjected to harsh teasing and isolation. However, with time, Islamists were forced by the general population to accept the Bauls and their spiritual music as part of the society. Current day Bauls in Bangladesh are Sufis. Most live simple lives on an absolute minimum, earned mainly from performing their music. Baul songs always incorporate simple words expressing songs with deeper meanings involving Creation, society, lifestyle and human emotions. The songs are performed with very little musical support to the main carrier, the vocal. Bauls, bohemian by nature and belief, leave on grand expeditions, writing and performing music on their entire trip to earn living and disseminate notion of love and spirituality. The Word Baul The word Baul comes from the Sanskrit word batul, which means mad, but not in a pejorative sense. In fact, their madness stems from love of the `Infinite Self' they believe to be present in every human being. They are a kind of grassroots mystics. The origin of the word is Baul is debated. Some modern scholars, like Shashibhusan Das Gupta have suggested that it may be come from the Sanskrit word vatula, which means (divinely inspired) insane or from vyakula, which means impatiently eager and both this derivations are consistent
with the modern sense of the word, which denotes the inspired people with an ecstatic eagerness for a spiritual life, where a person can realise his union with the eternal beloved - the Maner Manush (the man of the heart). The Impact of Baul Geeti The impact of these singers/songwriters is not restricted to rural Bengal. Through their simple tunes, rudimentary instruments and allegorical lyrics, they have captured the imagination of the world and have made a major impact on the international cultural scene. The most famous living Baul, Purna Das, even found a place on the cover of Bob Dylan's 1968 album John Wesley Harding. Rabindranath Tagore and the Baul Effect The famous Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore was greatly influenced and inspired by Bauls. Here is a famous Rabindrasangeet (Tagore song), heavily influenced by Baul theme: Amar praner manush achhé prané Tai heri taye sakol khane Achhe shé nayōntaray, alōk-dharay, tai na haraye-Ogo tai dekhi taye jethay sethay Taka-i ami jé dik-pané The man of my heart dwells inside me. Everywhere I behold, it's Him! In my every sight, in the sparkle of light Oh I can never lose Him -Here, there and everywhere, Wherever I turn, right in front is He!
The Lyrics The lyrics often use an esoteric language called `sandhya bhasa' (words with hidden meaning). Besides, Bauls come from both the Hindu and Muslim communities; their object of worship is no conventional God or Allah, but `moner manush' (the man within) who can be reached by anyone through love and devotion. The Roots of Baulism and Its Philosophies
Scholars have traced the roots of the Baul tradition and its popularity to the Bhakti Movement of Kabir, Nanak, Meerabai, Gondol, and so on, which swept the cultural scene of India in the Middle Ages, drawing upon the monotheism and egalitarianism of Islam, the love songs of Sufi mystics and, of course, the Hindu Vaishnav tradition. Bauls defy all social conventions, religious dogmas and caste taboos; they do not recognise traditional deities or conventional rituals. For instance, Lalon Fakir, in one of his oft-quoted songs, talks about the futility of caste distinctions:
“Everyone asks what is your caste, Lalon? Says Lalan, what test to apply?”
“A Muslim man can be told apart from Hindus Because of circumcision. But what about the women folk? A Brahmin you can identify by his sacred thread But what about a Brahmin woman?”
The words strike at the root of religious bigotry and fundamentalism, caste prejudices and gender biases, and uphold the unity of humankind. This is a common trait of all sects of Bauls, differently known as Bairiagi, Sahajiya, Darbesh, Sain, and so on. All of them believe in the `God within' and to approach Him they need a guide, called a guru. A Musical Community Bauls live like a community, and their main occupation is the propagation of Baul music. But they are the most non-communal of all communities: They have no religion, for they only believe in the religion of music, brotherhood and peace. Predominantly a Hindu movement, the Baul philosophy weaves together different Islamic and Buddhist strains as well. The Baulanis
Women have a significant role in the religious and metaphysical sadhana (seeking) of Bauls. They are inseparable companions of the men, and Bauls insist on love and respect for their women. "He who does not know the feeling of tender love, must be avoided always," goes one song, and another says: "A woman is not a treasure to be trifled with." BUT gender bias dies hard. Baul women (Baulanis, as they are called), though constant companions of the men, have almost always remained in the background - dancing, providing the rhythm and lending their voices to the chorus. In other words, always playing second fiddle to the men. It is only recently that they have come to the forefront. It is in this context that a recent musical soiree, Baulanir Gaan (songs by female Bauls), organised in Kolkata by the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre in collaboration with Muktashilpa, a cultural organisation, assumes significance. Solo performers such as Sandhya Dasi, Subhadra Sharma, Uma Dasi, Krishna Dasi and Sumitra Dasi kept the audience enthralled through the evening. Their male companions were present, but not on stage. Hailing from different districts of West Bengal, such as Birbhum, Nadia and Bankura, some of them initially started performing with their fathers, husbands or male companions, and later branched out on their own. Some of them have even travelled abroad. In many cases, they are the sole breadwinners for their families. But the two magazines, Hriday and Raktamangsha, which have taken up the laudable task of bringing their songs to the limelight, lamented that despite their professional excellence, Baulanis were still accorded the second place. The Celebration of Baul Music and the Baul Religion Baul music celebrates celestial love, but does this in very earthy terms, as in declarations of love by the Baul for his boshTomi or lifemate. With such a liberal interpretation of love, it is only natural that Baul devotional music transcends religion. The famous Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore was greatly influenced and inspired by Bauls. Their religion is based on an expression of the body, which they call dehosadhona and an expression of the mind, which they call mana-sadhona. Some of their rituals are kept mostly hidden from the mainstream, as they are thought to be repulsive by many, and hedonistic by others. They concentrate much of their mystic energies on the chaar-chand (bengali for four-moons), i.e. the four body fluids, on the nine-doors or naba-dwar, i.e. the openings of the body, prakriti which implies both the woman and the nature, and a control of breathing, known as domo-sadhona.
Types of Bauls
There are two classes of Bauls: ascetic Bauls who reject family life and Bauls who live with their families. Ascetic Bauls renounce family life and society and survive on alms. They have no fixed dwelling place, but move from one Akhda to another. Men wear white lungis and long, white tunics; women wear white saris. They carry a jhola or shoulder bag for alms. They do not beget or rear children. They are treated as jyante mara or outcastes. Women, dedicated to the service of ascetics, are known as sevadasis (seva, service+dasi, maidservant). A male Baul can have one or more sevadasis, who are associated with him in the act of devotion. Until 1976 the district of Kushtia had 252 ascetic Bauls. In 1982-83 the number rose to 905; in 2000, they numbered about 5,000. Those who choose family life live with their wives, children and relations in a secluded part of a village. They do not mix freely with other members of the community. Unlike ascetic Bauls, their rituals are less strict. In order to become Bauls, they recite some mystic verses and observe certain rituals. The Presentation of Baul Songs and Their Tunes Baul songs may be sung at Baul akhdas or in the open air. At akhdas, songs are sung in the style of hamd, Ghazal or nat, in a mellow voice and to a soft beat. Baul songs at open-air functions are sung at a high pitch, to the accompaniment of instruments. The singers dance as they sing. Baul songs sung in the akhda are not accompanied by dancing. Bauls may present songs singly or in groups. There is usually one main presenter; others join him for a chorus or dhuya. Baul songs generally have two tunes, one for the first part of the song and another for the second. Towards the end, part of the second stave is rendered again at a quick tempo. The first and middle staves are very important. The first stave is often called dhuya, mukh or mahada. In songs with a fast tempo, the first stave is repeated after every second stave. Some songs have ascending and descending rhythms, while others are accompanied by dancing, believed to have originated from the rural Panchali.
The Baul Instruments Khamak - A rhythmic instrument with one or two strings attached to the head of a small drum. The strings are plucked with a plectrum and they are alternatively tightened or slackened to generate an amazing array of rhythmic and tonal variations. Tabla - A pair traditional Indian drums called 'baya' (the left hand drum) and the 'daina' (the right hand drum). The left drum has a clay based shell whilst the right drum has a wooden shell. Heads of both drums are covered in animal hide, the centre of which is applied with a layer of (dry) pulp mix. Tonal variation are achieved by adjusting tension of the skin head .
Mridanga or Khol - A barrel-shaped clay drum with two heads - sort of a combination of the baya and daina of tabla as described above. Harmonium - A small keyboard instrument with hand-worked bellows - not unlike accordian. Ektara - A plucked single string drone - fingers and thumb are used. Khanjani - A tabourine without jangles. Mandira or Kartal - Small bell-shaped cymbals. Ghoongoor - A garland of bells tied around the ankle - played with rhythmic movements of feet. · Ramchaki - A pair of wooden clappers with jangles. DUGI- a little drum. KOROTAL- Indian cymbals. DOTARA- a long necked instrument with four strings. . The Eternal Message of Baulism 'Why do you run after the mirages? Look within yourself to get your peace. Peace and tranquility do not come from outside. You can't discover them by owning the world.'
References: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. www.wikipedia.org www.bangla-net.com www.sciencedirect.com www.visitbangladesh.com www.india.org www.loving-bengal.net
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