By: MAKSUDA MEGHNA
The roots of our emotions lie in our traditions. As Bengalis, we possess a natural sense of reason, yet we can express joy and sadness. Throughout history, various sects and castes have emerged among Bengalis, leading to a prolonged struggle for social, economic, and religious dominance. Some individuals have followed new religions, viewpoints, and theories, including Sufism, Chaitanyaism, Vaishnavism, or Baulism. The Baul community, particularly, has a mysterious philosophy and movement-speech ideas. Despite having deities from different faiths and belonging to distinct castes, they share a common mentality.
The name “Baul” has multiple theories surrounding its origin. It was first mentioned in the late 15th-century Sri Krishna Vijaya and the late 16th-century Chaitanyacharitamrita, where it was used to express frustration and lack of worldly knowledge. Some believe the term “Baul” comes from the Arabic word “Baur,” which means arbitrary, chaotic, or insane. Baul communities are in various parts of Bangladesh, including Kushtia, Rajshahi, Jessore, Sylhet, and Mymensingh. For Bengalis, Baul is considered a spiritual leader and a deity, specifically Fakir Lalon Shah.
Fakir Lalon Shah is a prominent spiritual saint in Bengal. The term “Bengali emotional name” refers to a name commonly used in Bengali culture and associated with strong emotions. The songs of a particular artist can stimulate our minds, evoke intense feelings, and inspire us to seek personal fulfilment, all while being under the vast sky.
Baulism is based on the principles of humanity, non-sectarianism, self-purification, self-knowledge acquisition, diligent effort, and worship. According to this belief system, it is essential to first gain knowledge and recognition of the soul. The Bauls believe that the Supreme Soul is an inherent soul aspect. To purify the soul and mind, one must embrace positive attributes. Understanding the soul involves comprehending the divine essence of God or Allah. The Bauls use the concept of spirit metaphorically, referring to it as a “man of mind,” a “bird of prey,” or a “man of mind,” among other terms. Lalonsai, a famous composition, expresses a strong desire to comprehend the soul’s essence.
As I have said before, since Hindu-Muslim unionism has developed, so on As previously mentioned, on one side of Baulgan, there are deities such as Radhakrishna, Vishnu-Lakshi, and Maya-Brahma Mu, which are associated with Hindu-Muslim unionism. The Baul doctrine aims to discover the essence of consciousness, which resides in the soul within the body. This philosophy has a unique perspective on religion.
Most people find it difficult to understand complicated Sanskrit words, but “Baul” is relatively well-known. Those who recognise “Baul” often associate it with a unique group that stands out due to their clothing, lifestyle, and music. Even though Bauls make up a small portion of the population, their culture is integral to Bengali culture. Their songs have a profoundly spiritual quality that reflects a longstanding tradition and a desire for unity with others and the natural world. Exploring the impact of “Baul” and their music on Bengali culture is a fascinating topic.
The “Lalon Fakirs” (1774-1818) were vital in the Baul tradition and greatly impacted its culture. With deep roots in Bengali culture, the Baul tradition was significantly shaped by their contributions.
The Baul tradition continues to flourish in Bengali society and beyond, even in modern times. People who appreciate Baul music and embrace the Baul lifestyle hold it in high esteem and with great reverence.
Notable gurus such as “Rabindranath Tagore” and “Kazi Nazrul Islam” have substantially contributed to the wealth of Baul music.
Baul music has a significant impact that cannot be overstated. It resonates with people from all backgrounds and has a lasting appeal.
There are various ongoing efforts to enhance Baul’s melodies. Researchers have delved into the historical roots, cultural relevance, and philosophical elements of Baul’s music. Scholars have scrutinised the lyrics, melodies, and musical structures of Baul’s songs to grasp their aesthetic worth and symbolic meaning. Many publications have documented the lives and teachings of renowned Baul singers and their impact on Bengali culture.
Baul’s music has been studied to promote unity and harmony among diverse communities through religious syncretism. Recordings, performances, festivals, and cultural initiatives have been used to preserve and encourage Baul melodies. The work on Baul songs includes disciplines such as musicology, anthropology, folklore, and religious studies, contributing to a better understanding and appreciation of this unique musical tradition.
There are some examples of Baul’s works:
1. “Baul Archive.”
2. “Baul, the folk Bengal Gaan” (according to historical records),
3. Adi Bengaler Baul Gaan Melody Nirman,
4. International folk song council Airbook
5. Banglaer Baul Guoro Bishash (Asian Studies Journal, etc.)
Kolkata has been hosting the “Baul Fakir Utsav” festival for the past few years, where Bauls from Bangladesh also participate. Similarly, the “Lalon Utsav” takes place annually at Lalon’s shrine in Kushtia, where Bauls, Lalon devotees, and international tourists come together to pursue the philosophy of Lalon. The Palli Baul Samaj Unnayan Sangstha is a Bangladeshi organisation dedicated to preserving the Baul philosophy and tradition. They frequently organise programs for listeners that combine folk songs. The Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy also organises national and international festivals, seminars, and events to preserve Baul’s melodies and traditions. Baul and Baul’s music have gained attention from some private television channels and several books on the subject. Much work is being done in our country and abroad to recognise the importance of Bauls and their traditions.
Setting aside academic and intellectual discussions, I want to focus on the social acceptance of the Bauls. These ancient Bengali people prioritise love and simplicity, preserving their cultural traditions for future generations. They have no ulterior motives or desire for material possessions. Their music embodies the essence of Bengali culture, emphasising love and affection. Many Bauls lack basic necessities such as sandals, a home, regular meals, educational support, and personal hygiene. They do not have elaborate stage setups or expensive attire. Despite this, some Bauls commercialise their music, selling it as a “fusion” to the wealthy in and outside the country without any desire for monetary gain.
In rural villages, the Bauls face constant conflict and struggle due to scarcity and hardship, yet their words hold the essence of the ultimate truth. It begs the question, why aren’t we doing more to support these rural Bauls who are the backbone of our nation and the foundation of our Bengali culture? We must ask ourselves, have our efforts truly reached them? While we often discuss the flaws in our Bengali culture, we neglect the people who carry it forward – the Bauls. Why do we not prioritise their care and recognition? Why must a baul musician plead for help while carrying their musical instrument? Why do locals offer assistance on trains rather than having specific funding for the Bauls? These questions demand answers and action.
The Bauls have upheld our Bengali heritage through their enchanting music for generations. Unfortunately, it seems that we have not given them much in return. While we value our nation’s culture and history, our attention often focuses on urban areas.
It is, unfortunately, true that our neglect is causing the disappearance of rural traditions like “Putul Nach” (puppet dance), “Puti Path” (fairy tales), and “Jatrapala” (folk theatre). The authentic Baul music, with its genuine cries, is being drowned out by the ignorant attitudes of some.
The vibrations that cannot sustain the lives of the blind and destitute wanderers, who are the rare fragrance of the earth and magical musicians, cannot provide for them. As a nation, we can spread the spirituality of life through music and modernise the Baul culture without incorporating the faults of the Baul artists. We can combine it with electronic instruments, known as “Fusion,” and present it as an innovative sound to future generations.
We have significantly advanced, but we still wish to see new growth in mango trees, such as jackfruit. The youth are helping us forge a new path. Unfortunately, we may not hear the laments of the rural baul culture’s Boter Bonsai, a unique banyan bonsai that cannot be changed. This fusion bonsai may seem like a symbol of wealth, but it is a deceptive illusion seen through the windows of air-conditioned rooms, where the field’s horizon merges with the green canvas.
It is important to value and honour the genuine music of the Baul tradition. Our cultural roots are protected by a mighty banyan tree that is not neglected but rather threatened by the focus on financial gain. Although some Baul artists may benefit from this approach, every rural area in Bangladesh must take responsibility for supporting these musicians. Currently, there seems to be a lack of accountability for their well-being.
While I am not against technological advancements globally, it is important to acknowledge that a nation’s unique culture can be lost if it is not preserved. Our goal is to maintain our heritage for future generations and ourselves rather than showcasing it to the world.
It is important to recognise and preserve the diverse cultures of Bangladesh, including the Baul culture, which has been a longstanding tradition in Bengal. Providing appropriate care for those who embrace this cultural heritage is necessary. As a nation, we have come together in celebration and hardship. Showing reverence towards the Baul community goes beyond simply appreciating their culture; it means demonstrating support and assistance in times of need. To ensure that this tradition is carried on for future generations, it is important to engage the younger generation in technology and educate them about the cultural practices of the Bauls in Bengali culture.
The elements listed – selflessness, the pursuit of truth, exploring music, physical and mental discipline, and breathing in harmony – are not the actual transformation process. Instead, celebrating the happiness that comes with giving birth is genuine. The Bauls, a group that warrants further discussion and nuance, offer a model for cultural norms to strive for, as their simple way of life inspires humanity.
Learning the phrases “Samoy gale shadhon hobe na” and “Manush bojhle sonar manush pabi” makes one’s cognitive faculties less susceptible to erosion.
If we distance ourselves more from our culture, we will feel increasingly uncomfortable, even if we try to minimise the impact of technology. This will affect my family, future generations, and the entire nation. It’s important to prioritise personal growth while engaging in discussions about the nature of existence that are simple, adaptable, and beneficial to humanity. Our unique identity and cultural traditions must be preserved and not sacrificed for superficial pursuits. We should resist the temptation of a decadent society and instead prioritise the preservation of our cultural heritage, especially in the context of Bengal.
The phrase “Sotto bol suphata chol o ry amer mon” can be interpreted as an appeal to speak honestly and follow a virtuous path addressed to the speaker’s heart.
If I can sow the seeds of these Baul songs within the hearts of my future generations, then it will illuminate the vast reservoir of life’s simplicity forever.
The recognition of the Bauls can be a strong protection against the destruction of culture.