Do not look for God anywhere, look for Him in the human body. Only then you will get Him, feel Him and you will be able to know yourself too. The Baul-Fakirs have been practicing this from and conveying the message of peace all over the world through this at a time, when the whole world is divided in different factions like economic religious, cultural, racial etc. Rabindranath Tagore realized the power of this music long ago. Many of his songs have been influenced by Baul songs. He has had long association with many Bauls. The Bauls- Fakirs think one can free oneself from earthly attachments through their belief. Murshid or Guru is the steersman who takes the devotee to God. Respecting, following the path and total belief in Murshid is the way of their life. The main purpose of Bauls is detachment from earthly bonds or ties. They want to dissolve into a greater ease with God. The urge to be with God, the pain of not getting Him, the sorrow of one’s inability, prayer for being with Guru etc. all these are conveyed through their music. They reject division of caste, creed, religion etc. and believe of knowing God with profound admiration by self sacrificing and belief. The artists of these songs are marginal people. They live in different districts of West Bengal relatively more in numbers at Birbhum, Nadia, Bardhaman, Bankura and Murshidabad.Biographies of Baul lyricists
There is no dress code for Baul fakirs in their life, but on stage they wear a dress of their choice which expresses their individuality. In places like Kushtia (in Bangladesh), they wear White dress. In Murshidabad and Nadia, the dress is mostly black or white. In Bardhaman & Birbhum, they wear Saffron colour dress. Many of them across districts also wear many-hued robes made by stitching different pieces of clothes of different colours together.
A variety of musical instruments used in performances, with regional and historical variations. This includes the Ektara, the Dotara, the Duggi-drum, the Dhol-drum, the Manjira/Khanjani cymbals, flute, the Khamak or the Gabgubi which was christened ‘Anondo-Lahari’ by Rabindranath Tagore. The usage of multiple instruments leads to soulfully rendered crescendos emanating from seats of Baul Fakiri musical performances.
Bauls receive money or gifts for performances. Associated traditional processes of this are: Madhukari, Sadhana, Sadhuseva and Mahotsav. Madhukari is an age old customwhere Bauls used to receive food, clothes as part of the barter system. Sadhana is the praxis of the disciplines of faith that the Baul must undertake. Sadhuseva and Mahotsav witnesses many Bauls coming together to sing their songs and discuss their philosophies, facilitated by one or many devotees.
Baul philosophy (of self-searching and winning over earthly desires) propagated through song and manifest as the following Tatwa-s (Theories) – Atmatattwa, Dehatattwa, Premtattwa, Bhaktitattwa, Paramtattwa, Sadhanatattwa, Nabitattwa, Gourtattwa.
The Baul Gurus operate out of their Akhras. The Akhras are an institution of traditional learning vis-à-vis the Baul-Fakiri doctrines. The Gurus initiate the would-be learners, and through this initiation process the latter become Shishyas to the former. Thus, in Baul, the transmission happens from the Master to the Pupil through the Guru-Sishya parampara.
Lyrics of songs composed by Mahajans carry an overt as well as underlying meanings. In Baul Fakiri, the songwriters are called Mahajan. In commonplace practice, the term Mahajan means usury. But in Baul-Fakiri traditions, the songwriters are called Mahajan, because, like usury who lend money as a resource, these lyricists lend the most valuable literary resource needed for the songs – the verses penned by them. These verses have multiple layers of meanings.
Different Baul songs written by different Mahajan-s and sung by different Bauls use different dialects. Baul traditions are spread over a vast region across the eastern subcontinent. It is spread across West Bengal in India and Bangladesh and can be found in the southern Gangetic plain, the Varendra and the Rarh regions and places like Nadia, Kusthia, Kumilla etc. Different songwriters hailed from different parts of this broad region – one which has various dialects of the Bengali language in use.
Melodies of songs used by Bauls are influenced by the melodies of diverse music genres popular in various regions. Baul practitioners can be seen across a vast geography of Bengal. There are multiple other traditions of folk music also prevalent across such geographies. Consequently, the influence of folk forms of music such as Jhumur, Bhatiyali and Kirtan can be seen distinctly in the Baul tradition of music. The melodies and tunes of the same song can also change from place to place – given that the Baul who is rendering a song is often bound to mould the song according to his own cultural learning.