July 12, 2024

Baul …not just music to the ears

Reading Time: 5 minutes

There are times when I would want to wander in search of knowledge knowing not where to search. But it is said that when the student is ready the master appears. And the master appears in different forms and with distinct teaching aids. Such was a day when after hearing about Baul through many masters and their words, I got a chance with one of my friends Nikhil, to meet and interact in length with a Baul Sadhaka.

I awestruck at the depth of information and knowledge hidden in the tradition of Baul and the sadhakas (Practitioners) of Baul. The word “Baul” has appeared in Bengali texts as old as the 15th century. The tradition with references dating back to the 15th Century has the elements of Tantra, Sufism, Vaishnavism and Buddhism. Baul is not just folk music but it came from lives of people. Filled with touching philosophy and hidden meanings. Folk music on the other hand is just the representation of emotions pertaining to celebration or the nature and its simplicity. Baul sadhakas as they are called, they picked the melodies from the folk but the content was from Vedanta or the reflection of the mind.

Baul Sadhakas were searching the spirit of life. Life, which has no boundaries, gives the baul songs its life. The life of the sadhakas is based on “Bhiksha” or seeking alms, which is their best way of communication. The communication is also spreading the “brohmonaam” the name of the supreme soul with the healing elements. Whatever they get for reaching out to people far and wide with message of hope and prayers is sought and received as the bhiksha or alms. Thus if you see baul songs with your inner eye you will see the content to be all about life and philosophy.
The Baul are a group of mystic minstrels from Bengal, typically identified by their khol, iktara and the way of dressing and hair. Bauls constitute both a rare combination of seemingly different religious sects and a musical tradition. Their group has had many sects, but their links have constantly traced to Vaishnavaites and Sufis. In 2005, the Baul tradition was included in the list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. Not much is known of the origin of the Baul tradition. Lallan Fakir is regarded as the most important Baul sadhaka.
The word Baul is believed, though debated, to have been derived from the Sanskrit word Vatula (“mad”, from vayu – “wind”) based on their lifestyle. Other meanings and sources say Baul means “enlightened, lashed by the wind to the point of losing one’s sanity, god’s madcap, detached from the world, and seeker of truth”, or from vyakula, which means “restless, agitated” and both of these 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 realize his union with the eternal beloved – the Maner Manush (the man of the heart). Baul can be considered a convergence of Sufi and Hindu mysticism yet never related to any religion but sadhana.

Baul sadhaka Parvathy Baul says being a sadhaka is an experience. An experience with the existing faculties. It is a unison of the world and the body. Baul sadhana is all about complete transformation and not mere trance.

There is a saying among the sadhakas:
“Apono sadhana kotha na kahi be jatho datha”
which means
Never speak about your inner experiences as if you speak it out it is no more with you
The sadhaka realizes his presence poetry and the music and Baul is about here and now. Baul sticks to the tradition of duality and its union. The two being one as mentioned in the “An al haq” in Islam or the “Me and my father are one” in Christianity and the convergence of duality in Hinduism – The Adwaitha Vedantha”.
The way a message is figuratively communicated can be understood from the lines of Lallan Fakir, the famous Baul Sadhaka
“apon moner bhaage khaye jabe”
which means
One who is chased by ones own mind tiger where will you escape

Today I would like to pick one baul song to elucidate the message in it and be a link in the tradition myself as a Baul sadhaka – a sadhana through my blog.

Beginning with salutations to the holy masters feet and the Tatvas (Elements or the source) of devotion, he song opens the amazement at what is seen by him (the sadhaka). He exclaims to the Lord (Guru or God Himself) that he is amazed by what he saw in the world. He refers to a tree which is upside down with its roots up in the skies and branches bearing fruits down in the karma bhumi – the earth.  The tree has three branches where in one branch depicts Brahma – The creator, another by Vishnu – The existence and sustenance and the other by Kaal (Maheshwara / Shiva) – The destroyer or annihilator. The link between the dev lok or guru pada and the karma bhumi is depicted by the tree and how it links both.

In the same tree there is a nest in the tree resided by a hans (Swan) which lays an egg only once in 4 yugas. Once during the month of sharad (Autumn month) from the nest that only egg falls down. The mother swan flies with a distressed heart to protect the most precious falling egg. But fate of the expected bird has already been decided. The egg cracks open which falling down and flies saving its own life.

The philosophy behind the story which denotes the world as an upside down one, and the blessings from the gods are absorbed by the roots and its fruits, the results, are in the karma bhoomi. How divine blessings become the nourishment for the karma bhoomi. The mother swan in our mind tries to protect what is considered most precious to us. But in reality the gods in heaven have already decided the fate and saving itself is every beings own fate. We are engulfed in a false belief about what is precious to us and we are the ones who save it. In a way teaching us to be responsibly detached.

The Bhiksha or alms of knowledge is all that I desire from those who read this article. Blown by the wind of knowledge I reach out to you myself – A Baul Sadhaka.

Would like to thank a few people, who helped me think and reach out to you …

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