Baul - Intangible Heritage of Bengal Music and Philosophy
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Bauls are a group of wandering mystic minstrels of old united  Bengal( Now Both Bangladesh and Westbengal) . This unique community has a rich cultural heritage which developed over a long period of time. The term ‘Baul’ means ‘mad’.They are erratic in their behaviour. Some other theories suggest that Bauls are descendants of a branch of Sufism.

Bauls are also known as ‘Ayul’. According to a different theory ‘Ayul’ refers to a class of Muslim prophets. This word ‘Ayul’ has been derived from ‘Akul’ which means ‘extremely worried/eager/anxious’ – extremely worried to meet the beloved – the God. The Muslims who joined the Baul cult came to be known as Ayul. Sometimes their madness is compared to the madness of Sufi ‘Diwana’. The word ‘Diwana’ indicates a particular mode of behaviour. Like the Sufi, the Baul searches for the divine beloved that resides in a human body. According to them, the human body is the microcosm of the universe. They consider the human body as a temple where the Supreme Lord resides. The human body is composed of Pancha-bhuta (air, water, sky, earth and fire) and is the dwelling place of God. So in the Baul’s sadhana the human body is regarded as the ultimate reality. One can feel an extreme happiness with the help of ‘sadhana’ through their human body .


 Baul songs are the part of  their  ‘sadhana’ here in simpler term ‘sadhana ’ means ‘ their way of life’.  The lyrics of the songs are interwoven with mysticism. The songs are usually sung by a sole performer accompanied by a onestringed instrument, the ektara. This one-stringed instrument is the symbol of unity and peace. It is also signify the one Maker of Mankind, and the Baaya(meaning a left handed bass drum, strung to the waist, to keep time and rhythm).

Baul songs always carry a double meaning, the outward meaning guarding the inner sense, and this double entendre was known as ‘sandha vachana’ i.e. code language. The outward meaning of the songs has indeed a literary flavor, for the songs really follow a traditional pattern, but the outward sense was intended only to disguise the inner meaning which recorded the mystic practice, experience and emotion of the masters(‘Guru’) in their process of self-realization.’’


For one, the Baul does not belong to an institutionalized clergy, nor has any need for a home when the world as such is his home, with the sky his roof and his Soul the house ‘ghar’ where his Maker the Guru resides and sustains him. The Baul seeks the process  of detoxifying  the inner Soul, pointing out that we have permitted injustice to creep in and taint our psyche, our Soul, to the extent of accepting it as a natural attribute, and he poignantly explains all of it in few words of deep philosophies, in matter of fact terms in his songs – in singing the glory of Man and his Maker(‘Moner Manush’).The Baul rules for Nature rules and the Maker rules. A continuation like no other that affects the destiny of Man, the inappropriate ‘being’. Like this couplet--

Bini telay jalai baati / Dekhtay jemon mukto moti

Burning a lamp without oil, it looks like a pearl

Jolon moi tar choturbidhi / Modhyae taa na

Burning in circular abandon, yet not in the center


Gurur Bhab dhoray jay Boshay achhi/ Choron Dhoray

Catching the aura of the Maker, I sit holding his feet

Gurur Naam niya jay boshay aachi / Nirob hoye

With the name of the Maker in my lips, I sit in sealed silence

The Bengalee word Bhob is a colloquially shortened version of the word Bhubon or theUniverse, whereas Bhab implies an aura of achievable enlightenment, an attitude of perfunctory ease and calm associated in approaching the Spirit and Soul of Man.


Phuler bonae-ay acchay kaata / moner ghoray chabi ata

Flowers in the jungle have thorn / and the key is stuck to the ‘home’ in your mind

Bhangtay hobay ghorere chaabi / khujbi jodi taaray

Break the key of ‘home’ / if you go seeking him

That means  the state of mind that can reach the highest level of consciousness is one removed from mundane routines, to moving to a state of being in constant contact with the element, with nature in all its bliss. A popular Baul song is :

Khachar vitor ochin pakhi kemne ase jay

Tare dhorte parle mono bedi  Ditom paakhir poye kemne aashe jaaye

Literal Meaning of 1st two lines, "Look how does the Mysterious Bird inside the Cage comes in and goes out. If I could only hold it back, I would put chain around Bird's leg." ... Here the bird signifies human soul, the cage signifies human body. Coming and going signifies unending birth and death of mankind. A wonderful song both in meaning and tune. Another one  
Amar ghorer chabi porer hater tore re here ‘ghorer chabi’ house key means inner secrets of human mind that can be opened by another pure soul –a allegorical jumbles of romanticism.

On a final note 26thNovember, 2005, UNESCO is Paris, declared Baul Music as ‘’Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’’. In Modern world Baul philosophy reminds us  don’t alter natural process, natural elements .Man can achieve extreme happiness ,success with proper utilizing natural processes, elements ,energy whatever you called. 

  • Baul Philosophy—Purna Chandra Das, 2003
  • Quest: Multidisciplinary Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, Volume 2 Issue 2: Article No. 6
  • From Akhara to Fusion - the transformation of Baul music in Bangladesh—akademia
  • Bauliana : Worshipping the Great God in Man -2007 by maqsoodul Haque



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