Sunday, June 7, 2009


"I do not obey any master or order. Man-made distinctions don’t affect me. Love knows no separation, but only the meeting of hearts forever. That is why, brother, I have become a crazy Baul."
This is an extract of a traditional poem, sung by Bauls from the Bengali region in India. Bauls are a community of wandering singers whose roots are reaching back as far as the Middle Ages. Although they refer to Hinduism, they do not accept caste divisions and believe in equality and freedom of faith. Bauls are a very heterogeneous group, with many different streams to the sect, but their membership mainly consists of Vaishnavite Hindus and Sufi Muslims. The joy of being alive appears to be the main motive of their mystical art and that is what makes them ‘God’s fools’ – the meaning of their name in English. Music is also very important for them; they make their own instruments and love to improvise.
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 and some of the most famous baul composers, such as Lalon Fakir, have been of Muslim faith. 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 look, it is he.
In my every sight, in the sparkle of light
Oh, I can never lose him --
Here, there and everywhere