Bengal Baul's addressal

Bengal Baul's addressal

Divine notes

Bauls, the musically-oriented poet-singers who lead a nomadic life, bring to mind the spirit of Sufi songs.

However, there are some practitioners who live with families and still follow this traditional folk music of Bengal. On one train trip to Shantiniketan, I had heard a Baul sadhak in a saffron garb render soulful music, and the depth of his voice was otherworldly.

The basis of Baul music is spirituality; it has also been a foreground for theatre and folk presentations. It is a musical dance with the divine where the spirit within finds freedom and solace in communion with God, who they also refer to as moner-manush, and this is rendered through emotional music accompanied by instruments.

Parvathy Baul, a Baul sadhika and practitioner of Baul music, likes to be addressed so. She has kept at the music for 22 years and travels the world as part of her sadhana. For her or any other Baul sadhakas, it is  neither a performance or show, but a service (seva). Her life is simple, yet there is so much joy unalloyed, she feels, through Baul.

First impression

When Parvathy heard and saw Baul for the first time, she was inspired by its completeness. She says, “It is not entertainment. The songs should become the truth within. It is also linked to a unique dance style and movement. It connects a person with the antara yoga or the inner self. In Baul, nobody has imposed any discipline on me. It has come naturally, with love.”

She shares further on Baul, “Basic instruments in Baul are ek tara, dugi, Pay’er Nupur (like an anklet), anandalahari, dotara, used in Bangladesh, dubki (a framed drum) and bamboo flute. Baul touches the audience. Lyrics for Baul have already been written by mahagurus, which is a work of their spiritual wisdom, like a mahamantra that is associated with inner development. 

“Baul writings can be traditional, but new writings are going on, because you don’t stay in one place. The themes in Baul are related to various tatvas or elements, like deho tatva (body wisdom), guru tatva, prem tatva (love) and leela tatva, like that of Radha. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, like a Baul sadhaka, had the devotion and love Radha had for Krishna. It is a development from one state into another. Through a story, Baul renders teachings of true surrender to human beings. Radha’s story is prime in Baul, but there are stories about humans. Hence the saying in Baul: First become human, then the divine will reveal itself to you.”

Carrying it around

Parvathy has travelled to Europe, Latin America, North Africa, Australia and other regions. For, it is a service to carry the songs of her people, the Baul way, and its teachings.

According to her, Sanathan Das Baul, her guru who is 90 years old, and Shoshanko Ghosal are prominent Baul sadhaks. She adds, “There are no rules in Baul, here independence is different. Husband (man) and wife (woman) are considered as co-travellers, like sevak and sevika; it is another kind of companionship and is based on love and trust and is not worldly.

 In Baul, the essential man, or the moner manush, can be related to God — Allah, Ishwar, Kali, Shiv and other images of God, or the formlessness — the light. Moner manush is equivalent to a state of being where one can experience unconditional love for oneself, the divinity within, and for fellow beings; this state is achieved by constant meditation, by singing Baul songs.”

Baul is a tradition and brings to life the strength within. To hear it is like being taken to a divine land far away.