Page 1


Bauls of

Santiniketan


Bauls of

Santiniketan A documentation on choice, cult & costume

BIJOY PRASAD SAHA APPAREL DESIGN,14


Digital Publication of student document for private circulation only Published by National Institute of Design, India Š 2016 by Bijoy Prasad Saha Masters of Design, Apparel Design National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar, India ALL RIGHTS RESERVED No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. For non-commercial purpose. Copyrights of all artworks, illustrations, images, used in this document belong to their respective owner/creator. Guide: Mr. Amit Sinha, NID Documented, Designed and Edited by Bijoy Prasad Saha

Cover Page Designed by: Basuki Dasgupta


PREFACE

This document attempts to string together the various aspects of Baul culture and their way of life. As a researcher, I realized the importance of tracing the journey of an age-old community while working on this project. Much of the history of Baul culture is discontinuous and elusive, hence I found myself interacting with those whose ancestors or distant relatives belonged to this community in order to beidge the gap. The document briefly discusses the geographic location of Satiniketan, and West Bengal before moving to a detailed description of the Baul cult. I found this project both enlightening and enjoyable, while I found myself embarking on a journey to rediscover the mystic Bauls of Bengal. The project required me to gain an understanding of the many Baul philosophies and principles, for which an ethnographic study was essential.


Acknowledgement

I would like to express my gratitude to Amit Sinha, for guiding me through the peoject. I would like to thank Krishna M. Patel for her critical reviews which helped me better this project manifold. This project would not have been possible without the help of Mr. Kishore Krishna Banerjee who allowed me to gather the required information from the National Library, Kolkata as well as his private collection of book. I am equally thankful to Dr. Raj Das Baul who helped me improve my understanding of the Baul community by providing useful insights. I would like to thank Kanyaka Banerjee and Kaninika Banerjee for helping me during the research phase of this project. My brother, Suvendu Saha was my constant partner during the entire journey. Finally, this project would not have gained completion without the support of Basudev Das Baul, Gopal Das Baul, Jaga Khyapa Baul and all the members of the Baul community of Santiniketan whom I interacted with during the course of my journey.


CONTENTS

ABOUT WEST BENGAL

15

SANTINIKETAN

47

THE BAULS AND THEIR CULTURE : BACKGROUND INFORMATION

79

ROLE OF RELIGION

95

SOCIAL ORGANIZATION

105

RITES OF PASSAGE

113

HABITAT

119

FOOD HABIT AND ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES

127

SOCIAL AND CULTURAL COMMUNICATON

135

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

149

CLOTHING OF BAULS

159

PRESENT SCENARIO OF BAULS AND THEIR PRACTICES

183

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSSION

189


01 ABOUT WEST BENGAL


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WEST BENGAL West Bengal is a state in eastern India and is the nation’s fourth-most populous state, with over 91 million inhabitants. Spread over 34,267 sq mi (88,750 km2), it is bordered by the countries of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, and the Indian states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim and Assam. The state capital is Kolkata (Calcutta), one of the largest cities in India. Together with the neighbouring nation of Bangladesh, it makes up the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth largest contributor to India’s net domestic product.,Noted for its political activism, the state was ruled by democratically elected communist governments for 34 years from 1977. It is noted for its cultural activities and the presence of cultural and educational institutions; the state capital Kolkata is known as the “cultural capital of India”. The state’s cultural heritage, besides varied folk traditions, ranges from stalwarts in literature including Nobel-laureate Rabindranath Tagore to scores of musicians, film makers and artists. West Bengal is also distinct from most other Indian states in its appreciation and practice of playing Association football besides cricket, the national favourite sport.


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HOW TO GET THERE ? By Air Kolkata as the capital of West Bengal has an international airport named Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose international airport that is connected by regular flights from Europe and the Orient. Domestic airlines connect the major cities in India to Kolkata.

BY RAIL Howrah on the west of Hooghly River and Sealdah to the east of the river are the two rail stations in Kolkata, both very crowded and frenetic with activity. All trains to India’s north-eastern region originate and end at Sealdah and trains to west, central and south India operate from Howrah. One needs to be careful against pickpockets at the stations. Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Nagpur, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad and other major Indian cities are connected with the towns and cities of West Bengal.

BY ROAD It is possible to get to West Bengal by road. The road connections are disrupted once in a while by floods but generally such a trip is an experience in itself. One can drive or take a bus from anywhere to Kolkata be it Delhi, Bombay or Guwahati. Gas stations dot the routes and there are numerous options for eating and resting along the way. Distances are however great and it is better if one opts for the rails or the skies.

Left Map of West Bengal


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Brief History of West bengal Etymology The origin of the name Bengal (known as Bangla and Bongo in Bengali language) is unknown. One theory suggests that the word derives from “Bang,” a Dravidian tribe that settled the region around 1000 BC.The word might have been derived from the ancient kingdom of Vanga (or Banga). Although some early Sanskrit literature mentions the name, the region’s early history is obscure. At the end of British Rule over the Indian subcontinent, the Bengal region was partitioned in 1947 along religious lines into east and west. The east came to be known as East Bengal and the west came to known as West Bengal, which continued as an Indian state. In 2011, the Government of West Bengal proposed a change in the official name of the state to Poschimbongo This is the native name of the state, literally meaning western Bengal in the native Bengali language.

HISTORY The history of Bengal includes modern-day Bangladesh and West Bengal in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, at the apex of the Bay of Bengal and dominated by the fertile Ganges delta. The advancement of civilization in Bengal dates back four millennia. The region was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Gangaridai. The Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers acts as a geographic marker of the region, but also connects it to the broader Indian subcontinent. Bengal, at times, has played an important role in the history of Indian Subcontinent.

The area’s early history featured a succession of Indian empires, internal squabbling, and a tussle between Hinduism and Buddhism for dominance. Ancient Bengal was the site of several major Janapadas (kingdoms), while the earliest cities date back to the Vedic period. A thalassocracy and an entrepôt of the historic Silk Road, Ancient Bengal established colonies on Indian Ocean islands and in Southeast Asia;influenced the cultures of Tibet and China;page needed] and had strong trade links with Persia, Arabia and the Mediterranean that focused on its lucrative cotton muslin textiles. It was also part of large empires such as the Maurya Empire (second century BC) and Gupta Empire (fourth century AD); and part of the regional Buddhist Pala Empire (eighth to 11th century) and Hindu Sena Empire (11th–12th century). This era saw the development of Bengali language, script, literature, music, art and architecture. The 13th century onward, the region was controlled by the Bengal Sultanate, Hindu kings, and Baro-Bhuyan landlords. 16th century Bengal was controlled mainly by Isa Khan, a Muslim Rajput chief, who led the Baro Bhuiyans (twelve landlords). Afterwards, the region came under the suzerainty of the Mughal Empire. Under the Mughals, Bengal Subah generated 50% of the empire’s GDP. The gradual decline of the Mughals led to quasi-independent state under the Nawabs of Bengal, subsequent Maratha expeditions in Bengal, and finally the conquest by the British East India Company. The British took control of the region from the late 18th century. The company consolidated their hold on the region following the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and Battle of Buxar in 1764 and


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by 1793 took complete control of the region. Kolkata (or Calcutta) served for many years as the capital of British controlled territories in India. The early and prolonged exposure to British administration resulted in the expansion of Western education, culminating in development of science, institutional education, and social reforms in the region, including what became known as the Bengali renaissance. A hotbed of the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided during India’s independence in 1947 along religious lines into two separate entities: West Bengal—a state of India—and East Bengal—a

part of the newly created Dominion of Pakistan that later became the independent nation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Previous page The Howrah Bridge Right top A painting of “The Battle of Palasy”


GEOGRAPHY West Bengal is on the eastern bottleneck of India, stretching from the Himalayas in the north, to the Bay of Bengal in the south. The state has a total area of 88,752 square kilometres (34,267 sq mi). The Darjeeling Himalayan hill region in the northern extreme of the state belongs to the eastern Himalaya. This region contains Sandakfu (3,636 m or 11,929 ft)—the highest peak of the state. The narrow Terai region separates this region from the North Bengal plains, which in turn transitions into the Ganges delta towards the south. The Rarh region intervenes between the Ganges delta in the east and the western plateau and high lands. A small coastal region is on the extreme south, while the Sundarbans mangrove forests form a geographical landmark at the Ganges delta. The Ganges is the main river, which divides in

West Bengal. One branch enters Bangladesh as the Padma or Podda, while the other flows through West Bengal as the Bhagirathi River and Hooghly River. The Farakka barrage over Ganges feeds the Hooghly branch of the river by a feeder canal, and its water flow management has been a source of lingering dispute between India and Bangladesh. The Teesta, Torsa, Jaldhaka and Mahananda rivers are in the northern hilly region. The western plateau region has rivers such as the Damodar, Ajay and Kangsabati. The Ganges delta and the Sundarbans area have numerous rivers and creeks. Pollution of the Ganges from indiscriminate waste dumped into the river is a major problem.Damodar, another tributary of the Ganges and once known as the “Sorrow of Bengal� (due to its frequent floods), has several dams under the Damodar Valley Project.


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CLIMATE

West Bengal’s climate varies from tropical savanna in the southern portions to humid subtropical in the north. The main seasons are summer, rainy season, a short autumn, and winter. While the summer in the delta region is noted for excessive humidity, the western highlands experience a dry summer like northern India, with the highest day temperature ranging from 38 °C (100 °F) to 45 °C (113 °F). At nights, a cool southerly breeze carries moisture from the Bay of Bengal. In early summer brief squalls and thunderstorms known as Kalbaisakhi, or Nor’westers, often occur. West Bengal receives the Bay of Bengal branch of the Indian ocean monsoon that moves in a northwest direction. Monsoons bring rain to the whole state from June to September. Heavy rainfall of above 250 cm is observed in the Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar

district. During the arrival of the monsoons, low pressure in the Bay of Bengal region often leads to the occurrence of storms in the coastal areas. Winter (December–January) is mild over the plains with average minimum temperatures of 15 °C (59 °F). A cold and dry northern wind blows in the winter, substantially lowering the humidity level. The Darjeeling Himalayan Hill region experiences a harsh winter, with occasional snowfall at places.

Far left A tea garden in Dooars with the background of the Himalayas. Right above A monsoon landscape of Bengal


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FLORA AND FAUNA As of 2013, recorded forest area in the state is 16,805 km2 (6,488 sq mi) which is 18.93% of the state’s geographical area, compared to the national average of 21.23%. Reserves, protected and unclassed forests constitute 59.4%, 31.8% and 8.9%, respectively, of the forest area, as of 2009. Part of the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, is located in southern West Bengal. From a phytogeographic viewpoint, the southern part of West Bengal can be divided into two regions: the Gangetic plain and the littoral mangrove forests of the Sundarbans. The alluvial soil of the Gangetic plain, compounded with favourable rainfall, make this region especially fertile. Much of the vegetation of the western part of the state shares floristic similarities with the plants of the Chota Nagpur plateau in the adjoining state of Jharkhand.The predominant commercial tree species is Shorea robusta, commonly known as the Sal tree. The coastal region of Purba Medinipur exhibits coastal vegetation; the predominant tree is the Casuarina. A notable tree from the Sundarbans is the ubiquitous sundari (Heritiera fomes), from which the forest gets its name. The distribution of vegetation in northern West Bengal is dictated by elevation and precipitation. For example, the foothills of the Himalayas, the Dooars, are densely wooded with Sal and other tropical evergreen trees.However, above an elevation of 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), the forest becomes predominantly subtropical. In Darjeeling, which is above 1,500 metres (4,900 ft), temperate-forest trees such as oaks, conifers, and rhododendrons predominate. West Bengal has 3.26% of its geographical area under protected areas comprising 15 wildlife sanctuaries and 5 national parks — Sundarbans National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Gorumara

National Park, Neora Valley National Park and Singalila National Park. Extant wildlife include Indian rhinoceros, Indian elephant, deer, leopard, gaur, tiger, and crocodiles, as well as many bird species. Migratory birds come to the state during the winter. The high-altitude forests of Singalila National Park shelter barking deer, red panda, chinkara, takin, serow, pangolin, minivet and kalij pheasants. The Sundarbans are noted for a reserve project conserving the endangered Bengal tiger, although the forest hosts many other endangered species, such as the Gangetic dolphin, river terrapin and estuarine crocodile. The mangrove forest also acts as a natural fish nursery, supporting coastal fishes along the Bay of Bengal.Recognising its special conservation value, Sundarban area has been declared as a Biosphere Reserve.

Far left above Royal Bengal Tiger of Sundarban Far left bottom Bloomed Palash Flowers Left bottom A kingfisher bird Following page An Elephant crossing the road at Jaldapara National Park


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DEMOGRAPHICS According to the provisional results of the 2011 national census, West Bengal is the fourth most populous state in India with a population of 91,347,736 (7.55% of India’s population). Bengalis, consisting of Bengali Hindus, Bengali Muslims, Bengali Christians and a few Bengali Buddhists comprise the majority of the population. The Marwari and Bihari nonBengali minorities are scattered throughout the state; various indigenous ethnic Buddhist communities such as the Sherpas, the Bhutias, the Lepchas, the Tamangs, the Yolmos and the ethnic Tibetans can be found in the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region. The Darjeeling district also has a large number of Nepali immigrant population, making Nepali a widely-spoken language in this region. West Bengal is home to indigenous tribal Adivasis such as Santhal, Munda, Oraon, Bhumij, Lodha, Kol and Toto tribe. There are a small number of ethnic minorities primarily in the state capital, including Chinese, Tamils, Maharashtrians, Odias, Assamese, Malayalis, Gujaratis, Anglo-Indians, Armenians, Jews, Punjabis, and Parsis. India’s sole Chinatown is in eastern Kolkata. The official language is Bengali and English. Nepali language also has an official status in the three subdivisions of Darjeeling district. As of 2001, in decreasing order of number of speakers, the languages of the state are: Bengali, Hindi, Santali, Urdu and Nepali. West Bengal is religiously diverse with region wise cultural and religious specificities. Although Hindus are the predominant community, the state has a large minority Muslim population. Christians, Buddhists and others form a minuscule part of the population. As of 2011, Hinduism is the largest religion followed by 70.53% of the total population, while Muslims comprise 27.01% of the total population, being the second-largest

community as also the largest minority group. Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism and other religions make up the remainder. Buddhism remains a prominent religion in the Himalayan region of the Darjeeling hills, and almost the entirety of West Bengal’s Buddhist population are from this region. The state contributes 7.8% of India’s population.Hindu population is 6,43,85,546 in West Bengal while Muslim population is 2,46,54,825 as per 2011 census. The state’s 2001–2011 decennial growth rate was 13.93%, lower than 1991–2001 growth rate of 17.8%, and also lower than the national rate of 17.64%. The gender ratio is 947 females per 1000 males. As of 2011, West Bengal has a population density of 1,029 inhabitants per square kilometre (2,670/sq mi) making it the second-most densely populated state in India, after Bihar. The literacy rate is 77.08%, higher than the national rate of 74.04%. Data of 1995–1999 showed the life expectancy in the state was 63.4 years, higher than the national value of 61.7 years. About 72% of people live in rural areas. The proportion of people living below the poverty line in 1999–2000 was 31.9%. Scheduled Castes and Tribes form 28.6% and 5.8% of the population respectively in rural areas, and 19.9% and 1.5% respectively in urban areas. A study conducted in three districts of West Bengal found that accessing private health services to treat illness had a catastrophic impact on households. This indicates the value of public provision of health services to mitigate against poverty and the impact of illness on poor households.


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Government and politics West Bengal is governed through a parliamentary system of representative democracy, a feature the state shares with other Indian states. Universal suffrage is granted to residents. There are two branches of government. The legislature, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, consists of elected members and special office bearers such as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, that are elected by the members. Assembly meetings are presided over by the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker in the Speaker’s absence. The judiciary is composed of the Calcutta High Court and a system of lower courts. Executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister, although the titular head of government is the Governor. The Governor is the head of state appointed by the President of India. The leader of the party or coalition with a majority in the Legislative Assembly is appointed as the Chief Minister by the Governor, and the Council of Ministers are appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister. The Council of Ministers reports to the Legislative Assembly. The Assembly is

unicameral with 295 Members of the Legislative Assembly, or MLAs, including one nominated from the Anglo-Indian community. Terms of office run for 5 years, unless the Assembly is dissolved prior to the completion of the term. Auxiliary authorities known as panchayats, for which local body elections are regularly held, govern local affairs. The state contributes 42 seats to the Lok Sabha and 16 seats to the Rajya Sabha of the Indian Parliament. The main players in the regional politics are the All India Trinamool Congress, the Indian National Congress, and the Left Front alliance (led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M)). Following the West Bengal State Assembly Election in 2011, the All India Trinamool Congress and Indian National Congress coalition under Mamata Banerjee of the All India Trinamool Congress was elected to power (getting 225 seats in the legislature). Prior to this, West Bengal was ruled by the Left Front for 34 years (1977–2011), making it the world’s longest-running democratically elected communist government.

Above A typical Michil in the street of Kolkata


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ECONOMY West Bengal, a state in eastern India, is primarily dependent on agriculture and medium sized industry, although services and heavy industries play an increasingly significant role in the economy of the state. A significant part of the state is economically backward, namely, large parts of six northern districts of Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Malda, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur; three western districts of Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum; and the Sundarbans area. Years after independence, West Bengal was still dependent on the central government for meeting its demands for food; food production remained stagnant and the Green Revolution bypassed the state. However, there has been a significant spurt in food production since the 1980s, and the state is now one of the few Indian states with a surplus in food production. It is one of the most important food producing states in India, producing nearly 20% of the rice and 33% of the potato yield, although accounting for only 15% of the population of India. The state’s total financial debt stood at 1,918 billion (US$29 billion) as of 2011.

Agriculture accounts for the largest share of the labour force. It contributed around 18.7% to the state’s gross domestic state product (GSDP) in 2009–10. A plurality of the state’s population are peasant farmers. Rice and potato are considered to be the principal food crops of West Bengal. West Bengal is the largest producer of rice in India with an annual output of around 15.4 million tonnes in FY 15, and the second-largest producer of potatoes in India with an average annual output of 11 million tonnes in FY 15. Rice, potato, jute, sugarcane and wheat are the top five crops of the state :14 Other major food crops include maize, pulses, oil seeds, wheat, barley, and vegetables. The state supplies nearly 90% of

the potato requirement and 66% of the jute requirements of India. Tea is another important cash crop.Darjeeling is globally recognised for tea plantation of the acclaimed Darjeeling Tea variety. West Bengal, the second largest teaproducing state in India, produced 329.3 million kg of tea in 2014-15, accounting for 27.8 per cent of the country’s total tea production. State industries are mostly localised in the Kolkata region, the mineral-rich western highlands, and Haldia port region.There are up to 10,000 registered factories in the state and the West Bengal state government has opened Shilpa Sathi, a single window agency in order to provide investors with all kinds of assistance in establishing and running industrial units. Calcutta is noted as one of the major centre for industries including the jute industry. There are numerous steel plants in the state apart from the alloy steel plant at Durgapur. The centre has established a number of industries in the areas of tea, sugar, chemicals and fertilisers. Natural resources like tea and jute in and nearby parts has made West Bengal a major centre for the jute and tea industries. The state’s share of total industrial output in India was 9.8% in 1980–81, declining to 5% by 1997–98. However, the service sector has grown at a rate higher than the national rate.

Left Farmers working in Paddy field


EDUCATION West Bengal schools are run by the state government or by private organisations, including religious institutions. Instruction is mainly in English or Bengali, though Urdu is also used, especially in Central Kolkata. The secondary schools are affiliated with the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), the National Institute of Open School (NIOS) or the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. Under the 10+2+3 plan, after completing secondary school, students typically enroll for two years in a junior college, also known as preuniversity, or in schools with a higher secondary facility affiliated with the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education or any central board. Students choose from one of three streams: liberal arts, commerce or science. Upon completing the required coursework, students may enroll in general or professional degree programs. West Bengal has 18 universities. Kolkata has played a pioneering role in the development of the modern education system in India. It is the gateway to the revolution of European education. Sir William Jones established the Asiatic Society in 1794 for promoting oriental studies. People like Ram Mohan Roy, David Hare, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Alexander Duff and William Carey played leading roles in the setting up of modern schools and colleges in the city. The University of Calcutta, the oldest public university in India, has 136 affiliated colleges. The Fort William College was established in 1810. The Hindu College was established in 1817. The Scottish Church College, which is the oldest Christian liberal arts college in South Asia, started its journey in 1830. In

1855 the Hindu College was renamed as the Presidency College. In 2010, it was granted university status by the state government and was renamed Presidency University. The Kazi Nazrul University was established in 2012. The University of Calcutta and Jadavpur University are prestigious technical universities. VisvaBharati University at Santiniketan is a central university and an institution of national importance. The state has several higher education institutes of national importance including Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (the first IIM), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, Indian Statistical Institute, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (the first IIT), Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur (the first IIEST), National Institute of Technology, Durgapur and West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences. After 2003 the state govt supported the creation of West Bengal University of Technology, West Bengal State University and Gour Banga University. Notable scholars who were born, worked or studied in the geographic area of the state include physicists Satyendra Nath Bose, Meghnad Saha, and Jagadish Chandra Bose; chemist Prafulla Chandra Roy statisticians Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis and Anil Kumar Gain; physician Upendranath Brahmachari educator Ashutosh Mukherjee; and Nobel laureates Rabindranath Tagore, C. V. Raman, and Amartya Sen.


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ARTS AND CULTURE The culture of West Bengal is an Indian Culture which has its roots in the Bengali literature, music, fine arts, drama and cinema. People of West Bengal share their cultural heritage with the neighbouring Bangladesh (erstwhile known as East Bengal). West Bengal and Bangladesh together form the historical and geographical region of Bengal, with common linguistic and ethnic backgrounds. Besides the common cultural characteristics, different geographic regions of West Bengal have subtle as well as more pronounced variations between each other, with Darjeeling Himalayan hill region showing particularly different cultural aspect. West Bengal’s capital Kolkata—as the former capital of India—was the birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought, and is referred to as the “cultural [or literary] capital of India”. The presence of paras, which are neighbourhoods that possess a strong sense of community, is characteristic of West Bengal. Typically, each para has its own community club and, on occasion, a playing field. Residents engage in addas, or leisurely chats, that often take the form of freestyle intellectual conversation. West Bengal has a long tradition of popular literature, music and drama largely based on Bengali folklore and Hindu epics and Puranas. Religion, specially Hinduism, the principal and predominant religion of the state , plays a vital role in the culture of West Bengal. Durga Puja, a five-day annual autumnal celebration of Hindu goddess Durga’s victory over Mahishasura, a Minotaur-like demon, is the biggest festival of the state. The Kali Puja, celebrating the guardian deity of Bengal, is also celebrated with great enthusiasm. Other important festivals include Vijayadashami, Kojagari Lakshmi Puja, Jagaddhatri Puja, Rathayatra, Holi, Janmashtami, Saraswati Puja, Poush Parbon, the

seasonal festivals introduced by Rabindranath Tagore, book fairs, film and drama festivals and traditional village fairs etc. However, the modern Bengali culture of the state is a result of the amalgamation between Western secular culture and Hindu culture.

Literature The Bengali language boasts a rich literary heritage, shared with neighbouring Bangladesh. West Bengal has a long tradition in folk literature, evidenced by the Charyapada, Mangalkavya, Shreekrishna Kirtana, Thakurmar Jhuli, and stories related to Gopal Bhar. In the nineteenth and twentieth century, Bengali literature was modernized in the works of authors such as Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Coupled with social reforms led by Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, and others, this constituted a major part of the Bengal Renaissance. The middle and latter parts of the 20th century witnessed the arrival of post-modernism, as well as literary movements such as those espoused by the Kallol movement, hungryalists and the little magazines. Jibanananda Das, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Manik Bandopadhyay, Ashapurna Devi, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Buddhadeb Guha, Mahashweta Devi, Samaresh Majumdar, Sanjeev Chattopadhyay and Sunil Gangopadhyay among others are well-known writers of the 20th century.


Theater and films Among other types of theater, West Bengal has a tradition of folk drama known as jatra. Kolkata is the home of the Bengali cinema industry, dubbed “Tollywood” for Tollygunj, where most of the state’s film studios are located. Its long tradition of art films includes globally acclaimed film directors such as Academy Award-winning director Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha, and contemporary directors such as Aparna Sen, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, and Rituparno Ghosh.

Music and dance The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bengali folk music, which has also been influenced by regional music traditions.Other folk music forms include Gombhira, Bhawaiya, kirtans, and Gajan festival music. Folk music in West Bengal is often accompanied by the ektara, a one-stringed instrument. West Bengal also has an heritage in North Indian classical music. The state is recognised for its appreciation of rabindrasangeet (songs written by Rabindranath Tagore) and Indian classical music. Popular music genres include adhunik songs. Since the early 1990s, new genres have emerged, including one comprising alternative folk–rock Bengali bands.

Right Traditional Attire of West Bengal

Another new style, jibonmukhi gaan (“songs about life”), is based on realism. Bengali dance forms draw from folk traditions, especially those of the tribal groups, as well as the broader Indian dance traditions. Chau dance of Purulia is a rare form of mask dance. Gaudiya Nritya is a classicalBengali school of Indian dance, originating in Gaur, West Bengal, the ancient capital of the Bengal region. Various forms of Indian classical dances are patronised, as are

dances set on the songs of Tagore and Nazrul.

ATTIRE Bengali women commonly wear the sari, often distinctly designed according to local cultural customs. In urban areas, many women and men wear western attire. Among men, western dressing has greater acceptance. Men also wear traditional costumes such as the panjabi with dhuti, often on cultural occasions, while women prefer to wear salwar kameez. West Bengal has a rich heritage of handloom weaving, and produces some of the finest varieties of cotton and silk sarees in the country. From an economic standpoint, handlooms come second only to agriculture in providing livelihood to the rural population of the state. Every district has weaving ‘clusters’, which are home to artisan communities, each specialising in specific varieties of handloom weaving. Famous handloom sarees woven in the state include tant, jamdani, garad, korial, baluchari, tussar and muslin.


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CUISINE Rice and fish are traditional favourite foods, leading to a saying in Bengali, machhe bhate bangali, that translates as “fish and rice make a Bengali�. Bengal’s vast repertoire of fish based dishes includes hilsa preparations, a favourite among Bengalis. Most of the people also consume egg, chicken, mutton, shrimps etc. Sweets occupy an important place in the diet of Bengalis and at their social ceremonies. It is an ancient custom among both Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims to distribute sweets during festivities. The confectionery industry has flourished because of its close association with social and religious ceremonies. Competition and changing tastes have helped to create many new sweets. Bengalis make distinctive sweetmeats from milk products, including Roshogolla, Chomchom, Kalojam and several kinds of sondesh. Pitha, a kind of sweet cake, bread or dimsum are specialties of winter season. Sweets like narkolnaru, til-naru, moa, payesh etc. are prepared during the festival of Lakshmi puja. Popular

street food includes Aloor Chop, Beguni, Kati roll, biryani and phuchka. Sarshe Ilish (Hilsha with Mustard Sauce) The variety of fruits and vegetables that Bengal has to offer is incredible. A host of gourds, roots and tubers, leafy greens, succulent stalks, lemons and limes, green and purple eggplants, red onions, plantain, broad beans, okra, banana tree stems and flowers, green jackfruit and red pumpkins are to be found in the markets or anaj bazaar as popularly called. Panta bhat (rice soaked overnight in water)with onion & green chili is a traditional dish consumed in rural areas. Common spices found in a Bengali kitchen are cumin, ajmoda (radhuni), bay leaf, mustard, ginger, green chillies, turmeric, etc. People of erstwhile East Bengal use a lot of ajmoda, coriander leaves, tamarind, coconut and mustard in their cooking; while those aboriginally from West Bengal use a lot of sugar, garam masala and red chilli powder. Vegetarian dishes are mostly without onion and garlic.

Far left above Rasgulla handi Left above Mustard Hisla Far Left bottom A plate of Sandesh Left bottom Pitha or Patisapta Right above A Traditional Bengali Thali


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FESTIVALS Durga Puja in September–October is the most popular and most widely celebrated festival in West Bengal. This five day long colourful Hindu festival witnesses intense celebration across the state. Pandals are erected in various cities, towns and villages throughout West Bengal. The whole city of Kolkata undergoes a transformation during Durga Puja, as it is decked up in lighting decorations and thousands of colourful pandals are set up where effigies of goddess Durga and her four children are worshipped and displayed. The idols of the goddess as brought in from Kumortuli, where idol-makers work round the year fashioning the clay-models of the goddess. Since independence in 1947, Durga Puja has slowly changed into more of a glamourous carnival than a religious festival, where people across diverse religious and ethnic spectrum partake in the festivity. On Vijay Adashami, the last day of the festival, the effigies are paraded through the streets with riotous pageantry before being dumped into the rivers. Rath Yatra is a Hindu festival which celebrates Jagannath, a form of Krishna. It is celebrated with much fanfare both in Kolkata as well as in rural Bengal. Images of Jagannath are set upon a chariot and pulled through the streets. Poila Baishakh, Dolyatra or Holi, Poush Parbon, Kali Puja, Saraswati Puja, Diwali, Lakshmi Puja, Janmashtami, Jagaddhtri Puja, Vishwakarma Puja, Bhai Phonta, Rakhi Bandhan, Kalpataru Day, Shivratri, Ganesh Chathurthi, Maghotsav, Kartik Puja, Akshay Tritiya, Raas Yatra, Guru Purnima, Annapurna Puja, Charak Puja, Gajan, Buddha Purnima, Christmas, Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ulAdha and Muharram are other major festivals of Bengal. Rabindra Jayanti, Kolkata Book Fair, Kolkata Film Festival and Nazrul Jayanti are important socio-cultural events.

Christmas, called Borodin (Great day) is perhaps the next major festival celebrated in Kolkata, after Durga Puja. Just like Durga Puja, Christmas in Kolkata is an occasion in which all communities and people across religions take part. The state tourism department organises the gala Christmas Festival every year in Park Street. The whole of Park Street is decked up in colourful lights, various food stalls are set up selling cakes, chocolates, Chinese cuisines, momo and various other items. Musical groups from Darjeeling and other states of North East India are invited by the state to perform choir recitals, carols and jazz numbers. Buddha Purnima, which marks the birth of Gautama Buddha, is one of the most important Hindu/ Buddhist festivals and is celebrated with much gusto in the Darjeeling hills. Besides Buddha Purnima, Dashain or Dusshera, Holi, Diwali, Losar, Namsoong or the Lepcha New Year and Losoong are the other major festivals of the Darjeeling Himalayan region. Poush mela is a popular festival of Shantiniketan in winter. Folk music, Baul songs, dance and theatre radiate across the town during this festival. Ganga Sagar mela coincides with the Makar Sankranti and hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims converge where river Ganges meets the sea to bathe en masse during this fervent festival.

Left A Durga puja Mandap


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PLACES TO VISIT The state of West Bengal has significant architectural and natural heritage. The capital of the state, Kolkata is also known as the “City of Palaces”. West Bengal is famous for its terracotta temples of Bishnupur.

Sundarbans National Park. Neora Valley National Park, which is one of the richest biological zones in the entire Northeast, situated in the Kalimpong subdivision under Darjeeling District, is in West Bengal.

Hazarduari Palace, a popular tourist attraction, is known to have the second largest chandelier in the world and also the largest staircase in India. This three-storey palace was built in 1837 by Duncan McLeod for Nawab Nazim Humaun Jah, the then Nawab of Bengal. The palace was built in the Indo-European style. It derives its name from the thousand doors in the palace (among which only 900 are real). In 1985, the palace was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for better preservation. The Hazarduari Palace Museum is regarded as the biggest site museum of ASI and has 20 displayed galleries containing 4742 antiquities, 1034 of which are displayed for the public. They include various weapons, oil paintings of Dutch, French and Italian artists, marble statues, rare books, old maps, land revenue records, and palanquins (mostly belonging to 18th and 19th centuries). Cooch Behar Palace built in 1887, was designed on the model of Buckingham Palace in London, during the reign of Maharaja Nripendra Narayan.

The Ganges Delta (also known as the Ganges– Brahmaputra Delta, the Sunderbans Delta, or the Bengalla Delta) is in the South Asia region of Bengal, consisting of West Bengal and its neighbouring country of Bangladesh. It is the world’s largest delta, and empties into the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the most fertile regions in the world, thus earning the nickname “The Green Delta”. It stretches from the Hooghly River on the west to the Meghna River on the east. It is approximately 350 km across at the Bay of Bengal. Kolkata and Haldia are the principal Indian seaports on the delta.

The Victoria Memorial, Howrah Bridge (Rabindra Setu) and the Second Hooghly Bridge (Vidyasagar Setu) are iconic of Kolkata. Aside from colonial and heritage buildings, there are also high rising monuments and skyscrapers in the city. There are also a couple of cemeteries established by the British when Kolkata was the capital of British India. These include the South Park Street Cemetery and Scottish Cemetery. The River Ganga flows through the state. World heritage sites in West Bengal include the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the

The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden or Calcutta Botanical Garden (previously known as Indian Botanic Garden) is the largest and oldest reserve of greeneries of its kind in South East Asia. It is also a premier institution for botanical and horticultural research in India. The garden is situated on the west bank of the River Hooghly in Shibpur, Howrah, nearly 8 km from center of city Kolkata. Located here is the Great Banyan Tree. It was the widest tree in the world in terms of the area of its canopy and is estimated to be about 200 to 250 years old. It became diseased after it was struck by lightning, so in 1925 the middle of the tree was excised to keep the remainder healthy. West Bengal also has some more geographical indications like Nakshi Kantha(handicraft), Darjeeling tea (agricultural), Santipore saree (handicraft), Shantiniketan leather goods (handicraft), Fazli mango (agricultural), Khirsapati or Himsagar mango (agricultural), Laxman Bhog mango (agricultural), Baluchari

Far left above The Victoria Memorial in Kolkata Left above Bishnupur Terracotta Temple Left bottom Deers in Sundarban Mangroves


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saree (handicraft), and Dhaniakhali saree (handicraft). West Bengal stretches to the Bay of Bengal in the south. The coastal strip of West Bengal, extending from the Gangetic Delta to the border of Orissa, has some beautiful coastal settlements, such as Digha, Shankarpur, Mandarmani, Bakkhali, Gangasagara, and Tajpur. Some of these have beaches which are hard enough for cars to drive on. Decades ago, even aeroplanes were able to land in the beach of Digha. There are many hill stations in North West Bengal, of which Darjeeling is world famous. Others are Kurseong, Kalimpong, Rimbick, Lava and Loleygaon, Mirik and Sandakfu. West Bengal has 3.26% of its geographical area under protected areas comprising 15 wildlife sanctuaries and 5 national parks Sundarbans

National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Gorumara National Park, Neora Valley National Park, Singalila National Park, and Jaldapara National Park. West Bengal also has wildlife sanctuaries and bird sanctuaries like Chintamani Kar Bird Sanctuary and Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary. The world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, is located in southern West Bengal, and is the largest reserves for the Royal Bengal tiger. The Sundarbans National Park is a National Park, Tiger Reserve, and a Biosphere Reserve located in the Sundarbans delta in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Left above Toy Train of Darjeeling At Batasia Loop Far Left bottom Mandarmani Beach Left bottom Elephant safari in Gorumara National Park Right above 2nd Hoogly Bridge during Sunset


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02 SANTINIKETAN


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SANTINIKETAN Santiniketan is situated at a distance of 164 km form Calcutta. Santiniketan was founded by Maharishi Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore, who also established an ashram here, later known as the Abode of Peace. In 1901, his son started an experimental place of learning with a classroom under the trees and a group of five pupils. This place later became to be known as Visva Bharati University in 1921 which attracts students from all over the world and aspires to be a spiritual meeting ground in a serene, culturally rich and artistic environment. Today, Santiniketan is a great centre for higher studies in arts and known for the famous Visva Bharati University. The whole place is steeped in the memory of the great poet, Rabindranath Tagore.


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HOW TO REACH SANTINIKETAN ? BY AIR

BY CAR

DumDum Airport (Kolkata) is the nearest airport from Bolpur-Santiniketan apporoxmately 213 Kilometers by road.

Santiniketan is connected with Kolkata by an excellent road (Around 60% road is excellent 4lane freeway. But then around 70 kms starting from Panagarh is of narrow and bumpy roads with traffic jams round the clock). From Kolkata travel to Dankuni and take the Durgapur Expressway. It is now part of NH2. It will bypass Saktigarh and Bardhaman. At Panagarh (Darjeeling Mor) turn right. After the highway crosses the Ajay river take the road to the right at Ilambazar and proceed towards Bolpur. At the Santiniketan-Sriniketan junction (also called Surul Mor) take the road to the left. Santiniketan is 212 km from Kolkata by road. Good drivers can cover the distance in about 3 hours.

BY TRAIN Bolpur is the railway station for Santiniketan. It is two to three hours by train from Kolkata. Convenient connections are Gana Devta Express departing Howrah - Shantiniketan Express departing Howrah. Sahid Rampurhat Express departing Howrah - Malda Inter-city Express departing Howrah, Kanchenjunga Express departing Sealdah, Saraighat Express, Visvabharati Fast Passenger, Jamalpur Express, Darbhanga Passenger are other good trains.

BY BUS Santiniketan is well connected by buses from all around. From Kolkata, if you want to go by bus, then you have to take Kolkata-Asansol bus or Kolkata-Suri bus. For Asansol bound bus you have to get down near Panagarh and for Suri bound bus you have to get down near Ilambazar and for both cases you have to catch another bus for Santiniketan.

Previous Page Pathha Bhavana Ghatatala, Santiniketan Left A Map of West Bengal, pointing the geographial location of Santiniketan


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Brief History of SANTINIKETAN Santiniketan was earlier called Bhubandanga (named after Bhuban Dakat, a local dacoit), and was owned by the Tagore family. In 1862, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, while on a boat journey to Raipur, came across a landscape with red soil and meadows of lush green paddy fields. Rows of chhatim trees and date palms charmed him. He stopped to look, decided to plant more saplings and built a small house. He called his home Santiniketan (abode of peace). Santiniketan became a spiritual centre where people from all religions were invited to join for meditation and prayers. He founded an ‘Ashram’ here in 1863 and became the initiator of the Brahmo Samaj.

folk. Rural artisans bring their wares like batik printed materials, the most famous Santiniketan Leather bags, earthen wares, paintings, etc, to the fair while urban relatives set up stalls so that rural people could buy the new industrially produced goods that was revolutionizing life in the cities. While it has not discarded its traditional value systems the educational system founded by Tagore thus proves to have also kept pace and evolved with changing times.

Later on December 22nd 1901, Devendranath’s son, Rabindranath Tagore started a school at Santiniketan named Brahmachary Asrama modelled on the lines of the ancient gurukul system. After he received the Nobel Prize which enhanced not only the pride of India but also the Prestige of Santiniketan the school was expanded into a university. It was renamed Visva Bharati, it’s symbolic meaning being defined by Tagore as “where the world makes a home in a nest”. The aim of this educational institute was the quest for truth, blending the methods of learning of the East and West. Visva Bharati, now more than a hundred years old, is one of the most prestigious universities of India with degree courses in humanities, social science, science, fine arts, music, performing arts, education, agricultural science and rural reconstruction. At Tagore’s behest, the annual Paus utsav became an important cultural event where students and teachers of his school took an active part. Paus Mela, therefore, becomes a meeting ground for urban people and rural

Left Tagore Sitting with the teachers and students at Amrakunja, Santiniketan Right bottom Rabindranath Tagore with Mahatma Gandhi in santiniketan


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GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE Santiniketan is a small town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, India, approximately 160 km north of Kolkata. Santiniketan is at 23.68°N 87.68°E. It has an average elevation of 56 metres (187 feet). the amazing temperature that surrounds the place makes it worth visiting round the year. The summers last from April to June with the maximum temperature touching 39 degrees. Winters in Shantiniketan are comparatively colder with temperatures falling to as low as 12 degrees. As for monsoon, Santiniketan receives enough rainfall of about 125 cm after a long summer in the month of June and continues till September. Though you can explore the place at anytime during the year, monsoons serve as the best time to visit as one can view the resemblance of Shantiniketan as a lush green resort. The mesmerizing beauties along with the beautiful climate makes this spectacular place.

DEMOGRAPHY Santiniketan and its local area has a total population of 80,210 (as of the 2011 census), out of which 40,468 are male and 39,742 are female. Female sex ratio of Bolpur is 982. Literacy rate of Santiniketan and Bolpur is 86.77%.

Left A road of Santiniketan


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Flora and fauna of SANTINIKETAN The eastern area of Birbhum is a part of the rice plains of West Bengal, and the vegetation includes usual characteristics of rice fields in Bengal, such as species of Aponogeton, Utricularia, Drosera, Philcoxia, Scrophulariaceae and similar aquatic or palustrine genera. In the drier western region of the district, the characteristic shrubs and herbs include species of Wendlandia, Convolvulaceae, Stipa, Tragus, Spermacoce, Ziziphus, Capparis and similar plants that grows on laterite soil. Mango, palm, and bamboo are among common trees in Birbhum. Other common species of plants are jackfruit, arjun, sal, guava, kend and mahua. Other than feral dogs and domestic cattle, the most frequently encountered non-human mammal is the hanuman, a long tailed grey langur prevalent in the Gangetic plain. Some

wild boars and wolves may still be spotted in the small forests of Chinpai, Bandarsol and Charicha. Leopards and bears are not to be seen any more in the wild. Sometimes during the season when mahua trees bloom, wild Asiatic elephants from Jharkhand come in trampling crops and threatening life and property. Birds of Birbhum include a mix of hilly and plain-land dwelling species like partridge, pigeon, green pigeon, water fowls, doyel, Indian robin, drongo, hawk, cuckoo, koel, sunbird, Indian roller, parrot, babbler, and some migratory birds. Ballabhpur Wildlife Sanctuary near Santiniketan was declared a sanctuary in 1977. Economically important trees are planted here and blackbucks, spotted deer, jackals, foxes and a variety of water birds live in its 2 km2 (0.8 sq mi).

Far Left above Bloomed Palash flowers during spring at Santiniketan Left above Golden Shower Tree flowers Far Left bottom Butterfly Left bottom The Streaker Spiderhunter is a small bird, comonly seen at Santiniketan Right above Deers at Ballavpur wildlife sanctuary


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ECONOMIC RESOURCES

Birbhum is primarily an agricultural district with around 75% of the people dependent on agriculture. While 159.3 km2 (61.5 sq mi) of land is occupied by forests, 3,329.05 km2 (1,285.35 sq mi) of land is used for agricultural purposes. 91.02% of the population live in villages. Out of total 4,50,313 farmers(holding 3,20,610 hectares of land), 3,59,404 are marginal farmers (holding 1,41,813 hectares altogether), 63,374 are small farmers(holding 95,144 hectares altogether), 26,236 are semi medium farmers(holding 76,998 hectares altogether), 1,290 are medium farmers(holding 6,215 hectare altogether), and 9 are large farmers (holding 440 hectares of land). The average size of land holding per farmer is 0.71 hectares. 6,07,172 people work as agricultural labourers in Birbhum. Major crops produced in the district include rice, legumes, wheat, corn (maize), potatoes and sugar cane.

is the major centre for export and import of cottage industries. Huge numbers of businesses run in this town and it’s economy stands tall due to sales of agricultural based products. In 2006 the Ministry of Panchayati Raj named Birbhum one of the country’s 250 most backward districts (out of a total of 640). It is one of the eleven districts in West Bengal currently receiving funds from the Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme (BRGF).

Santiniketan is a major centre of cottage industries. Perhaps the most notable cottage industry is a non-profit rural organization named Amar Kutir. Other main industries in Birbhum are agriculture-based industries, textiles, forestry, arts and crafts. Sriniketan is noted for its dairy industry and as a forestry centre. Some of the notable forms of cottage industries of Birbhum include textile especially cotton and locally harvested tussar silk, jute works, batik, kantha stitch, macramĂŠ (weaving by knotting threads), leather, pottery and terracotta, solapith, woodcarving, bamboo and cane craft, metal works and tribal crafts. There are 8,883 small and medium scale industries. Principal industries of the district include cotton and silk harvesting and weaving, rice and oilseed milling, lac harvesting, and metalware and pottery manufacture. Sainthia is known as business capital of Birbhum and an economically important town. Sainthia

Left A typical Village near Santiniketan


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SANTINIKETAN: THE INSTITUTION

Santiniketan, popularly known today as a university town, a hundred miles to the north of Kolkata, was originally an ashram built by Debendranath Tagore, where anyone, irrespective of caste and creed, could come and spend time meditating on the one Supreme God. Debendranath, who was father of the Poet, Rabindranath, was also known as Maharshi (which means one who is both saint and sage) was a leading figure of the Indian Renaissance. In a trust deed prepared in 1888, he declared: ‘Apart from worshipping the Formless, no community may worship any idol depicting god, man, or animals; neither may anyone arrange sacrificial fires or rituals in Santiniketan.... No insult to any religion or religious deity will be allowed here. The sermons given here will be such that will be appropriate to the worship of the Creator and Father and will help in ethics, benevolence and brotherhood...’ It was in this area that the Maharshi had a spiritual realization while meditating under a glade of Chhatim trees (Alstonia scholaris), which were the only vegetation in this arid land of Birbhum. These trees still stand with a plaque that says, He is the repose of my life, the joy of my heart, the peace of my soul. Chhatimtala as it is called is the spot that symbolizes the starting point of Santiniketan, which was to become his son Rabindranath’s home and base for activity. It is considered to be a hallowed spot and prayer services are held here on very special days. Rabindranath, too, like his father before him would sit in meditation here, under the chhatim trees during sunset.

VISVA-BHARATI In 1922, Visva Bharati was inaugurated as a Centre for Culture with exploration into the arts, language, humanities, music and these are reflected in diverse institutes that continue in their educational programmes, which are based on the founding principles of excellence in culture and culture studies. As originally intended, these serve as institutes for Hindi studies, Hindi Bhavan, Sino Asian studies, Cheena Bhavan, centre for humanities, Vidya Bhavan, institute of fine arts Kala Bhavan, and music, Sangit Bhavan. The structures in these institutes constitute a myriad of architectural expressions which are as diverse as the Kalo Bari, a mud structure with coal tar finish and sculpture panels, Mastermoshai studio, a single storied structure built for the first principal of Kala Bhavan, Nandalal Bose, murals and paintings on Cheena and Hindi Bhavan, created by the illustrious artists like Benodebehari Mukhopadhyay, Nandalal Bose, Surendranath Kar, Somnath Hore with active involvement of students. The high officials of the university include the paridarshaka (visitor), acharya (chancellor), and the upacharya (vice chancellor). The paridarshaka of this university is the president of India, while the acharya is the prime minister. The university is run by its Karma Samity (Executive Council) which is chaired by the acharya. The institutes and departments are located in both Santiniketan and Sriniketan.

Left Classes under the tree, Patha Bhavana Santiniketan


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SCHOOLS AND DEPARTMENTS

Patha Bhavana: It is not only the oldest school of the university but also the oldest institution on which the university was subsequently built. It is the university school of Santiniketan. Initially called Ashram Vidyalaya it was later called Santiniketan Vidyalaya. It was started by Tagore in 1901. The distinctive features of this co-educational school include its openair classrooms and emphasis upon oriental learning. The school, being the nucleus of the university and the town is within the Santiniketan Ashram. The first four students of the school included Tagore’s son Rathindranath Tagore, the first upacharya of the university and Sudhi Ranjan Das, a chief justice of India. The future Nobel Laureate in economics, Amartya Sen, graduated from this school. So did one of the first Indian Rhodes scholars, Asim Datta. Supriyo Tagore, a great grandson of Satyendranath Tagore, the eldest brother of the poet, was one of its longest serving and most well known Principals. The eminent historians, Tapan Raychaudhuri and Ashin Dasgupta have periodically taken classes here.

famous for the spread of Bengal School of Art. Abanindranath Tagore, one of India’s most eminent artists was one of its founders and chief patrons. Luminaries such as Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Binode Bihari Mukherjee, Ramkinkar Baij, Dinkar Kaushik, K.G. Subramanyan, A. Ramachandran and R. Siva Kumar have either taught or been students here while Beohar Rammanohar Sinha did both, studying 1946-51 and then teaching 1953-56 and 1959-62.

The Cheena Bhavana (Institute of Chinese Language and Culture) was founded in April 1937 with the great vision of Tagore. Tagore invited Prof. Tan Yunshan to serve as the first chairperson of Cheena Bhavana. International scholars such as Jan Yun-hua worked at the Cheena Bhavana on topics ranging from Sino-Indian studies, Buddhism and Chinese philosophy. Chiang Kai-shek and Zhou Enlai donated a large number of Chinese books to the institute, making it one of the most important libraries for classical Chinese studies in India.

The Vidya-Bhavana (Institute of Humanities & Social Sciences) includes the humanities and social science departments, such as the Department of History and the Department of Economics.

The Kala Bhavana (Institute of Fine Arts) is arguably one of the most well-known of the departments, it boasts an extremely wellknown faculty and student body. It is most

Sangeet Bhavana (Institute of Dance, Drama & Music): The eminent Rabindrasangeet singer, Kanika Bandyopadhyay was a principal of Sangeet Bhavana. Next Principal was another eminent singer, Nilima Sen. The Siksha Bhavana (Institute of Science) includes the Department of Biotechnology (DBT Funded, Govt of India), Zoology(CAS) Centre for Environmental Studies, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, and Botany .

Left above Patha Bhavana, Santiniketan Left bottom Kalo Bari, Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan


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MUSEUM: RABINDRA BHAVANA Founded in July 1942, just a year after the Poet’s death, Rabindra-Bhavana is an important component of Visva-Bharati. It is, in fact, the focal point of the University. This Bhavana includes among its treasures a very major part of Tagore’s manuscripts, correspondences, paintings and sketches. The poet’s personal library is here and various objects used by him, his voice-recordings and thousands of photograph taken of him at different times and places and the many gifts, honours and addresses which he received from different parts of the world have enriched the Bhavana’s archival holdings. The museum housed in the Bhavana, comprising of a permanent display section and the five homes lived in by Tagore, collectively referred to as the Uttarayan Complex, attracts thousands

of visitors. The architecture of the houses, the interior decoration, the pieces of furniture strewn about the rooms bring to life the persona of Tagore. This unit of Rabindra-Bhavana has 1580 original paintings of Rabindranath and by others. The photograph collection, the curio collection and statues. The collection of addresses and certificates also form important sections of this unit. A detailed and descriptive list of the paintings and their items in the museum unit has been serially published in the Catalogue-in-progress. An important aspect of Bhavana activities is to mount exhibitions in ‘Vichitra’. Drawing upon its own rich collection of photographs and other memorabilia, exhibitions depicting different themes from the poet’s life, are held regularly throughout the year.

Left Uttarayan Building, Right above Shyamoli Bari Following page Chatim Tala, (It was under a couple of Chhatim trees that Debendranath came to rest on his way to Raipur during the middle of the 19th century. He had his realisation of God at this spot. This site is revered by all in Santiniketan.)


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SRINIKETAN Visva Bharoti has two main parts. Srineketan and Santineketan both are consistently called Visva Bharati. The towns and the university are situated not too far away from the river Kopai which flows to the south. Gurudev Rabindranath wished that his sons take the responsibility of sriniketan and they also take the ressposibility of the school of santineketan. In second half of his work, devolpoment of Srineketan was started. With the help of two foreigners Elmherst and Dorothi Straight Agro-Economical Research Culture of Surul house was started. On 1922, 6th February “Surul Ferm” was established. Now it is known as “Department of Agriculture - Santineketan. On 1921, 22nd Decembar Visva Bharoti Society was established. Accordind to the rule of the society, Santineketan and Srineketan samity was also constructed and known as “Santineketan Karmasamity” and “Surul Samity”. Elmherst was the director of the Surul samity. On 1923, 26th decembar Visva Bharati first used the name “Srineketan”.

son Rathindranath Tagore was the working secretory and Devendramohan Basu was the finance secretory. Except them Charuchandra Dutta, Gourogopal Ghosh, Dhiranando Roy, Dr. Jitendranath Chakraborty, Nepalchandra Roy, Dhirenmohan Sen, Premchand Lal, Hasim Amir Ali, Dr. HG Timbers, Bishwanath Chattyapadhya etc were tookresponsibility of Srineketan Samity. Sriniketan is the earliest experiment in rural reconstruction in India that Tagore began and was later followed by Mahatma Gandhi in his ashrams at Wardha and Sewagram. Leonard Elmhirst came from England to be part of Sriniketan and his experiences in Santiniketan inspired him to establish at Darlington Hall in Devonshire. If Tagore had done nothing else, what he did at Santiniketan and Sriniketan would be sufficient to rank him as one of India’s greatest nation - builders.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore tried to show the whole world through his Srineketan, that he had achieved one out of his two aims in life. How or when was it fulfilled he didn’t know. In the beginning period there was crisis for everything. But the darkness removed gradually. Elmherst helped Rabindranath Tagore to fullfill his dream work. Rabindranath Tagore said “He made his place an indepent working field... Alone I could not take the responsibility of India. Only I could devolope one or two villeges from darkness, superstition and built an ideal place. In the beginning the Sriniketan project work, it didn’t start with well-planned way. On that time all the works were done by “Srineketan Samity”. It consist of 16 members. Rabindranath was the chief secretory of this samity and his

Left above Amar kutir, Sriniketan


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FESTIVALS OF SANTINIKETAN

Social and cultural events take place throughout the year. These include Basanta Utsav, Barsha Mangal, Sharodutsav, Nandan Mela, Poush Mela, Magh Mela, Rabindra Jayanti to name a few.

the anniversary of the Brahmo Samaj and the Founding of Shriniketan.

Rabindra Jayanti

Nature is the nearest friend of Human being, a part of life. A tree planting ceremony is preceded by Halokarshan (ploughing). It not only the festival but also has a greet meaning to save nature.

It is the birthday ceremony of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. 25th Baisakh according to Bengali calendar, is the birthday of Tagore’s. After a Bengali new year(In the month of April) celebration,it is celebrated with cultural programmes by not only the students and teachers of Visva-Bharoti but also by Bangalies.

Barsamangal July-August is the season of moonson. Cultural shows are held during the Barsamangal. Poets are attracted by the beauty of moonson and wrote many poems, songs.

Sharodotsava Octobar-November is the month of festivals for all Indians.People of Bengal are eagerly waiting for the time. Durga puja, Lakmi puja,Kali puja are the main festivals for all Bangali’s. It is an autumnal festival, elebrated by the students of Visva-Bharati. songs and dances are performed before the University closes for the Puja vacation.

Maghotsava 6th day of Magh in 1331 according to Bengali calendar was the day when Maharshi Devendranath was left. Maghotsava is dedicated to Maharshi’s death anniversary. It also marks

Briksharopan and Halkarshan

Basanta Utsav It is a colorful festivals for all Indians and known as Holi. It occurs at the end of winter when spring comes with its beauty. Falgun and Chaitra according to the Bengali calendar is the season of Dol utsav. During this season nature shows its own beauty with colorful flowers of Palash, Shimul etc. Rabindranath Tagore started Dol utsav in his institution with colorful cultural programmes. It coinside with Holi. The students of VisvaBharoti celebrate Basanta utsav in very special way. They make the festival more colorful and attractive to all came from outside the district and also from abroad by their magnificent live performance.

Left Basanta Utsav celebration in Santiniketan Following Page Poush Mela (Fair) of Santiniketan


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PousH Mela Maharshi Debendranath Tagore with twenty followers accepted the Brahmo creed from Ram Chandra Vidyabagish on 21 December 1843 (7 Poush 1250 according to the Bengali calendar). Poush Utsav is started on 7 Poush (around 23 December). At dawn, Santiniketan wakes up to the soft music of shehnai. The first to enter the scenario is the Vaitalik group, who go round the ashrama (hermitage) singing songs. It is followed by a prayer-meeting at Chhatimtala. Then the entire congregation moves on to Uttarayan singing songs. This was the basis of Poush Utsav (the Festival of Poush) at Santiniketan. Poush Mela is an annual fair and festival that takes place in Santiniketan, in Birbhum District in the Indian state of West Bengal, marking the harvest season. Commencing on the 7th day of the month of Poush, the fair officially lasts for three days, although vendors may stay up until the month-end. Pous Mela is characterised by its live performances of Bengali folk music, specially bauls. Traditional bauls, wandering minstrels singing Bengali songs. Tribal dances (Santali) is also the part of the fair. In earlier days the mela (fair) was held in the ground on the north side of Brahma mandir (also referred to as glass temple). On that day, a firework display was held in earlier days after evening prayers. As the mela increased in size, it was shifted to the field in Purbapalli The students of Santiniketan present their splendid performance and make this festival more enjoyable and glamorous.

Left Bauls Singers are performing in the Poush Mela, Santiniketan Following Page Upasana Mandir of Santiniketan


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03

THE BAULS AND THEIR CULTURE : BACKGROUND INFORMATION


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BAULS For a Iong time a group of people, popularly known as Baul, has been operating and perpetuating a distinct way of life committed to an esoteric religious cult in the social and cultural context of Bengal, Traditionally, these people led their distinct pattern of life in small groups in ‘relatively isolated rural set up. In the rural settlements they pursued their esoteric religious life, oral literature and songs, living mainly as ‘religious mendicants’. Although they did not live in villages exclusively limited to their own community, they led a life of their own somewhat isolated from the rest of the rural Hindu community that is guided by Varna-Jati order. The attention given to the esoteric life-style, religious philosophy, poetical composition and music of the Bauls by poet Rabindranath Tagore aroused interest among the urban Bengali intelligentsia, for the first time, Rabindranath was so greatly moved and impressed by the Baul songs and their inner thoughts that he wrote in his book, Religion of Man (1931). He discovered in the musical culture and life style of the Bauls the universal aspect of human religion and aesthetic expression of the people through music and poetry. His initial deep impression led the poet to write about the Bauls and compose songs and poems in their style. Rabindranath’s pioneering interest attracted others to enquire about the traditions and creations of this particular group of people.


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ABOUT THE BAUL CULTURE The Baul are a group of mystic minstrels from Bengal which includes Indian State of West Bengal and the country of Bangladesh. Bauls constitute both a syncretic religious sect and a musical tradition. Bauls are a very heterogeneous group, with many sects, but their membership mainly consists of Vaishnava Hindus and Sufi Muslims. They can often be identified by their distinctive clothes and musical instruments. Not much is known of their origin. Lalon Fokir is regarded as the most important poet-practitioner of the Baul tradition. The Bauls are those who do not have any conventional social and religious canons. To him, a Baul is a Premer pagal (mad for love). But with whom? With Moner manus (the person within my mind). To merge with Him in love, a Baul forgets all the formal paraphernalia of social life. And that is why he appears to be mad — adverse to the worldly affairs. When the love for Moner manusa becomes intense the feelings of all worldly affairs are lost and the body reaches the state The Jyante morn (virtual death while the body is still alive).

exclusively to refer to a special group of people, the connotation of madness is still there. A Baul is one who dressed in tattered cast-off garments deliberately made up of remnants of clothing previously worn by both Hindus and Muslims, wanders incessantly, living on whatever those who listen to his songs, which are his only form of worship, choose to give him. Piyushkanti Mahapatra in his book ‘The Folk Cults of Bengal’, said: the believers of the Baul cult, who practise the rites to realise the Divine Being within the human body, are called Baul. Both from the textual and contextual evidences it appears that the Bauls are very much unconventional in their social and religious behaviour, and prefer to live independently. They advocate ‘Love for Moner mdnusa’ as their prime con-cern, and take the human body as the principal medium of their esoteric Sadhana.

Acordiing to Ramananda Das Baul : Bandhgora Bauls are the Karmer Karmik, i.e., all the Bauls should be engaged in Karma (Sddhand) and hence, they are Karmer Karmik. In his book ‘The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaisnava Sahajiya cult of Bengal’, Dimock remarked : The image which the Baul presented the world is like that of a madman, a man who tolerates no stricture of society, who goes deliberately against society to prove his independence of it. Although in modern Bengali the term Baul is no longer used in its generalized sense, but

Previous page A baul singing at Ajay River bank Left A baul (Raj Das Baul) singing in a mustard field of kopai village, Santiniketan


THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF BAULS The origin of Bauls is not known exactly, but the word “Baul” has appeared in Bengali texts as old as the 15th century. The word is found in the Chaitanya Bhagavata ofVrindavana Dasa Thakura as well as in the Chaitanya Charitamrita of Krishnadasa Kaviraja. Some scholars maintain that it is not clear when the word took its sectarian significance, as opposed to being a synonym for the word madcap, agitated. The beginning of the Baul movement was attributed to Birbhadra, the son of the Vaishnavite saint Nityananda, or to the 8th centuryPersian minstrels called Ba’al. Bauls are a part of the

culture of rural Bengal. Whatever their origin, Baul thought has mixed elements of Tantra, Sufi Islam, Vaishnavism and Buddhism. They are thought to have been influenced by the Hindu tantric sect of the Kartabhajas, as well as Tantric Vaishnava schools like the Vaishnava-Sahajiya. Some scholars find traces of these thoughts in the ancient practices of Yoga as well as theCharyapadas, which are Buddhist hymns that are the first known example of written Bengali. The Bauls themselves attribute their lack of historical records to their reluctance to leave traces behind. Dr. Jeanne Openshaw writes that the music of the Bauls appears to have been passed down entirely in oral form until the end of the 19th century, when it was first


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transcribed by outside observers. The Bauls were recorded as a major sect as early as mid 18th century.Regarding the origins of the sect, one recent theory suggests that Bauls are descendants of a branch of Sufism called ba’al. Votaries of this sect of Sufism in Iran, dating back to the 8th-9th centuries, were fond of music and participated in secret devotional practices. They used to roam about the desert singing. Like other Sufis, they also entered the South Asian subcontinent and spread out in various directions. It is also suggested that the term derives from the Sanskrit words vatul (mad, devoid of senses) and vyakul (wild, bewildered) which Bauls are often considered. Like the ba’al who rejects family life and all ties and roams the desert, singing in search of his beloved, the Baul too wanders about searching for his maner manus (the ideal being). The madness of the Baul may be compared to the frenzy or intoxication of the Sufi diwana. Like the Sufi, the Baul searches for the divine beloved and finds him housed in the human body. Bauls call the beloved sain (lord), murshid (guide), orguru (preceptor), and it is in his search that they go ‘mad’. There are two classes of Bauls: ascetic Bauls who reject family life and Bauls who live with their families. Ascetic Bauls renounce family life and society and survive on alms. They have no fixed dwelling place, but move from one akhda to another. Men wear white lungis and long, white tunics; women wear white saris. They carry a jhola or shoulder bag for alms. They do not beget or rear children. They are treated as jyante mara or outcastes. Women, dedicated to the service of ascetics, are known as sevadasis (seva, service+dasi, maidservant). A male Baul can have one or more sevadasis, who are associated with him in the act of devotion. Until 1976 the district of Kushtia had 252 ascetic Bauls. In 1982-83 the number rose to 905; in 2000, they numbered about 5,000.

Those who choose family life live with their wives, children and relations in a secluded part of a village. They do not mix freely with other members of the community. Unlike ascetic Bauls, their rituals are less strict. In order to become Bauls, they recite some mystic verses and observe certain rituals.

A review of the major trends of the research on the Bauls by different scholars can be found in Upendranath Bhattacharyya’s commendable work, ‘Banglar Baul o Baul Gan’, There are more than thirteen biographies of the Baul preceptors including Lalan Fakir. Bhattacharyya made extensive field work and collected a large number of Baul songs. Besides the collection of a large number of songs he also made an effort to trace the origin and development of the Baul cult in socio-political and religious background of Bengal and the characteristic features of the cult, its relation with the associated cults and sects. Rabindranath Tagore and Pandit Ksitimohon Sen have emphasised that the Baul songs, where the mysteries of the Infinite Being have been defined in terms of. Finite, have very nicely expressed the pangs of the human heart for union with the ‘Man of the heart’, in an elevated tone. But Bhattacharyya has practically challenged the validity of the older view and has tried to establish that distinctive feature of the religion of the Bauls is represented by the doctrines and practices of a secret nature involving sexo-yogic relations Besides pointing out the esoteric nature of the Baul Cult, Bhattacharyya classified the Bauls into two groups on the basis of their religious affinity to the Vaisnava-Sahajiya order and Sufism. According to him, these two groups are Vaisnava Bauls and Muslim Bauls. Left Rare photos of Nabani Das Khyapa Baul


THE BAUL PHILOSOPHY Baul roots are not only deep, they are also entangled with different cultures. A particular nature of human community is to be found amongst both the Hindu and the Muslim religious groups. We should bear in mind that the cultural and religious forces prevailing in Bengal changed after the Pal dynasty’s rule. During the time of the Pal dynasty, Buddhism also flourished in Bengal, it was one of the customary rites of the Buddhists to have their heads shaved, and this practice was shared by the Bauls. Vajra Yana and Sahaja Yana also spread during the same period widely. A large number of lower sections of Hindu society adopted Buddhism and became followers of the Sahaj Yana tradition. But after the Moghul invasion of Bengal the culture of Sufism spread to Bengal. Bauls converted themselves to Islam without leaving their former mode of life. They were named as shaven Fakirs. During the Vaishnava movement in Bengal, Chaitanyaoriented Vaishnavism as well as Sufism influenced the Bauls. Thus according to the opinion of some scholars the Bauls might have originated from the Buddhist Sahajiyas and in course of time they came to be influenced by Vaishnism as well as Sufism. Bauls are wandering musicians who are known for their unconventional life-style and a different approach to religion. The true beauty of the Baul lies in their free-spirited nature. They do not believe in rules and regulations pertaining to the orthodox religion. Their way of achieving ‘moksha’ is different from any other orthodox view; they offer a fresh insight towards seeking the Supreme Power. In Baul philosophy the human body is accorded the highest value. 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 iscomposed 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 unite with the Supreme Being through their human body. In Baul Sadhana, the human body deserves the highest value, and accordingly, the body is the seat for all Yogi Sadhana. It is believed that the cycle of life in this world is manifested in the body. The human body is the platform for all rituals and practices. For Yogic practice one has to know the two important words in Baul’s philosophy – one is chakra (wheels), the other is Padma (lotus). The lowest chakra of the body is the Muladhara chakra, which lies in the abdominal region of the male body. In Muladhara, there exists a coiled serpent power, which is known as Kula Kundalini Shakti. It is the passive female force and has potential power of creation. It is to be noted that ‘Man of the Heart’ plays in the lotus. This perplexity of nerves is supposed to constitute the living channels of life. The Man of the Heart is roaming around according to the situation of the body. In searching for this ‘Man of the Heart’ there is always a tendency of a downward direction of movement. Through painstaking sadhana the Baul tries his level best to move the ‘Man of the Heart’ in the upward direction. The Guru helps disciples to control their lust and passion and to increase the inner power and channelize it with the eternal flow in the circuit of chakra in one’s body through the triad of nerves for the sake of knowledge and devotion, which helps them to unite with the Supreme power. Apart from the body, the Bauls also place importance on the mind because they believe that all spiritual life is deeply rooted in the mind. The mind is considered an important


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means for achieving liberation. According to the Bauls, Prana and Mana (mind) are two separate factors which work together in the process of cosmic evolution. Man possesses five sense organs and six inherent vices (Ripus) that are obstacles in their way towards Ultimate Reality. So, if one fails to control one’s mind from withdrawing the senses from the respective eternal objects then attainment of ultimate reality is impossible. When the senses are effectively controlled by the mind, they follow, not their natural object, but the mind. The body and mind both, therefore, play a great part in man’s journey towards liberation. Liberation of the soul is possible only if knowledge of truth is obtained by a baul during the rapturous moment of the mystic union of the Supreme Being and the self. They attain divine love and bliss and enjoy the nonphysical joy at that moment. It leads to the desired good of a total extinction of all misery. So, bauls are interested not with the material/ physical world but in the achievement of knowledge, which is beyond the experience of the world, that is, metaphysical knowledge of the universe. Sadhana is not possible without proper control of body and mind. At the same time, one cannot perform such Sadhana without the technical instruction of a preceptor who train the bauls to control their indriyas (senseorgans) and ripus. The instruction of the spiritual Guru helps them to find the inner man or the Moner Manush. He works as the mediator between the man and the Absolute Being. Throughout their lives, the bauls are directed by Gurus and altered by them to take the right path of life because the sadhana involves a process of sexo- yogic practices, which cannot be attained without proper guidance of a Guru. The bauls inherit special culture, knowledge, stock of songs

and training in dance and music from their preceptors. They also bring forth some tribal traditions from their guru which folk-lore is inherited by the disciples. Therefore, the gurus function as pilots who steer the lives of bauls towards achieving Divine Personality. They are always in search of Moner Manush or the ‘Man of their Heart’. Moner Manush is nothing but the Divine Spirit dwelling within one’s body. The Formless Supreme Being is manifested in the human being or the Finite Being. When the Divine Personality is realised, the individual personality is annihilated into the Divine Personality and becomes the one and only soul. Only pure love can help in melting the individual personality in Divine Personality. It is apparent from the foregoing discussion that the Bauls have a rich philosophy of life. Their mode of life, the distinctive features of their religion, their doctrines, make it different from other philosophical views of life. Though they are influenced by many other philosophical thinking, their social and religious thinking are different from others. They give importance to the sexo-yogic practices and at the same time prioritize the freedom of spirit. This spirit can be assimilated with the Supreme Power with the help of rigorous sadhana. The most important part of their life is their music. All truth of life is mystically expressed in their songs. In fact, all their religious expressions are confined to their songs. The rhythms, the words of the songs, touch our hearts. Their music and literature continue to play an important role in the enrichment of the folk culture of Bengal. Nowadays these songs have become the branch of Indian folk music.


LALON FAKIR Lalon, also known as Lalon Sain, Lalon Shah, Lalon Fakir or Mahatma Lalon (1772 – 17 October 1890) was a Bengali Baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker. Considered an archetypal icon of Bengali culture, Lalon inspired and influenced many poets, social and religious thinkers including Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam,and Allen Ginsberg albeit he “rejected all distinctions of caste and creed”. Though generally celebrated as an epitome of religious tolerance, he was also accused of heresy during his lifetime and after his death. Throughout his life, Lalon sang of a society where all religions and beliefs are in harmony. His disciples live mostly in Bangladesh and West Bengal. There are few reliable sources for the details of Lalon’s early life as he was reticent in revealing his past. It is not known whether he was born in a Hindu or a Muslim family.Lalon had no formal education. One account relates that Lalon, during a pilgrimage to the temple of Jagannath with others of his native village, he contracted smallpox and was abandoned by his companions on the banks of the Kaliganga River, from where Malam Shah and his wife Matijan, members of the weaver community in a Muslim populated village, Cheuriya, took him to their home to convalesce. They gave Lalon land to live where he founded a musical group and remained to compose and perform his songs, inspired by Shiraj Sain, a musician of that village. Lalon lost the sight of his one eye in smallpox. Researchers note that Lalon was a close friend of Kangal Harinath, one of the contemporary social reformers and was a disciple of Lalon. Lalon lived within the zamindari of the Tagores

in Kushtia and had visited the Tagore family. It is said that zamindar Jyotirindranath Tagore sketched the only portrait of Lalon in 1889 in his houseboat on the river Padma. Lalon died at Chheuriya on 17 October 1890 at the age of 116. The news of his death was first published in the newspaper Gram Barta Prokashika, run by Kangal Harinath. Lalon was buried at the middle of his dwelling place known as his Akhra. Lalon was against religious conflict and many of his songs mock identity politics that divide communities and generate violence. He even rejected nationalism at the apex of the anticolonial nationalist movements in the Indian subcontinent. He did not believe in classes or castes, the fragmented, hierarchical society, and took a stand against racism. Lalon does not fit the “mystical” or “spiritual” type who denies all worldly affairs in search of the soul: he embodies the socially transformative role of sub-continental bhakti and sufism. He believed in the power of music to alter the intellectual and emotional state in order to be able to understand and appreciate life itself. Lalon composed numerous songs and poems, which describe his philosophy. It is estimated that Lalon composed about 2,000 - 10,000 songs, of which only about 800 songs are generally considered authentic. Lalon left no written copies of his songs, which were transmitted orally and only later transcribed by his followers. Also, most of his followers could not read or write either, so few of his songs are found in written form. Rabindranath Tagore published some of the Lalon song in the monthly Prabasi magazine of Kolkata. The songs of Lalon aim at an indescribable reality beyond realism. He was observant of social conditions and his songs spoke of day-today problems in simple yet moving language.


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His philosophy was expressed orally, as well as through songs and musical compositions using folk instruments that could be made from materials available at home; the ektara (onestring musical instrument) and the duggi (drum).

Right above Lalon’s only portrait sketched during his lifetime by Jyotirindranath Tagore in 1889.


CLASSIFICATION OF THE BAULS On the basis of the religious influences of Vaisnavism and Sufi-Islam on the Baul cult, some scholars classified the Bauls into two categories, namely, Muslim Bauls and Hindu Bauls. the Bauls preferred to Categorise themselves as Kodea or MaiuidluTui and Kistidhari. The classification, they made, is based primarily on the nature of their ‘sacred pots’ they carry with them, and the names of the group are derived after the name of the ‘sacred pots’. The Maluidhari: Bauls carry with them a ‘sacred pot’ called Malui (hollow coconut-shell which is oval in shape) while those of the Kistidhari carry a Kisti (hollow coconut-shell which is elongated in shape). Both the groups of Maluidhdri and Kistidhari lead an Ashrama-centred life. Their means of subsistence is begging which is ritually sanctioned. The Maluidhari Bauls go out for begging only once in a day. They divide the collected materials into three equal divisions one, for Mahapram (Great preceptor), one for Guru (Precep-tor) and, the other, for self. The portion reserved for Mahaprauu is used only in Barsik Macchaba (annual ritualistic feasts). This is essential, and every Baul of this group should arrange a Macchaba at least once in a year. The Kistidhari Bauls do not do this. Practically, they are less concerned with the rites and rituals in contrast to the Maluidhari Bauls. The followers of both the group wear Dor (external under garment), Kaupin (inner under garment), and Jobber or Hal (upper outer garment) which are all unsewn. The Maluidhari Bauls use the dresses coloured with red ochre or simply white. They wear garlands of basil beads. The Kistidhar Bauls do not wear such garlands of basil beads. They put on any kind of garland as they like such as those of myrobalan or glass beads. They also do not use the dresses of white

colour. They use the dresses coloured with only orange or red ochre. The Bauls of both the group avoid barbers. They do not shave beard or cut head hair. The Maluidhari Bauls tie head hair in a conch-shell fashion. The Kistidhari. Bauls put pagdi (turban) on the head. Ancla (bag made of cloth) is found to be hanging on the shoulder of the Bauls of each group. The Maluidhari Bauls always carry with them Mdiui in Ancld while the Kistidhari Bauls, Kisti. The function of these ‘sacred pots’ is the same for the Bauls of all the two groups. They carry food or drinking water in these pots. In the case of Maluidhari Bauls, food must be self-cooked or may be taken from the persons initiated by the same Guru. Again, regarding the food items, there are some restrictions. Meat, egg, onion, garlic are total-ly prohibited for them. Such restrictions are not prescribed for the Kistidhari Bauls. They may take all kinds of food including meat, egg, garlic and the like. They may also take cooked food from persons of all castes, creeds and communities.


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Right above A group of Hindu Bauls Singing on Ashrama Right bottom A group of muslim bauls are performing with their typical attire


DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS Observing these esoteric religious mendicants at Bolpur, a rural town of Birbhum and in surrounding areas from a distance I became interested in knowing about the reality of their social life and culture, particularly their esoteric religious cult. I wanted to verify the•studies made by textual scholars in the humanities in the ‘contextual’ reality of social situation. I was particularly interested in finding out how, and how far, they maintained a caste-less social order while articulating with the caste-based society. I also wanted to find out whether the religious cult of the Bauls could, in reality, overcome the prevailing communal divide of the Hindus and the Muslims. In all textual studies there was a tendency to exclusively focus on the perennial essence of Baul metaphysics, their esoteric rituAls and songs. There was an atmosphere of search for the changeless essence of a group living in isolation from others. On the basis of a preliminary reconnoitre among some Baul settlements in urban and rural Birbhum from 2 to 15 January, 1980 I observed that the majority of the people who were labelled by the larger society as `Baul’ and also presented themselves as mauls, did not live in Ashramas in rural areas. They often lived in close association with the non-Baul Hin-dus and Muslims in the vicinity of large villages or urban centers. Many of them lived as Grhis (householder) with children and were exposed to modern media of communica-tion, like radio, cinema, printed materials and so on. I learnt that since the end of World War II, particularly since Independence of India, the esoteric sexoreligious cult and songs of the hitherto isolated inward-looking rural Bauls have increasingly attracted the attention of the urban Indians and also of foreigners. Some Bauls, like Puran Das, Kartik Das, Debidas, Paran Das

and Gaur Das have been sponsored for foreign trips to Europe, U.S.A., U.S.S.R. and Japan on many occasions. At Gopalnagar, a village lying about four kilometers away from Santiniketan, Puma Das Baul founded `The International Baul Parisad’ in 1974 where a number of visitors from many parts of India and abroad come and participate at the annual Baul festival. It become apparent that the Bauls, under the modern situation, have been drawn into a far-flung and complex network of relationship with urban centres than they were accustomed to, one or two generations back. Involvement in these far-flung networks and fast media of communication has naturally affected their social relations and the pattern and contents of their cults and associated songs. To provide general background information, I studied few previous surveys in some selected villages where the Bauls live. Most of the villages, inhabited by the Bauls, are adjacent to the bus and railway tracks. The Bauls live dispersely with one or two families in multicaste village. There was no demarcated Baulpada (Bauls’ neighbourhood) in any village.


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Right A map of Birbhum district which is showing the distribution of Baul households.


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04 ROLE OF RELIGION


THE GURU

The religious practices of the Bauls help a seeker to get his religious attainments. Right from the initiation or Diksha to the final stage of Sadhana — the entire process of the religious practices is very intricate. It was repeatedly stated by many Bauls that there is every possibility to be misguided and to face failure in the processes of Sad/Lana. Only the preceptor or Guru can help his Sisyo (male disciple) to reach the final stage of Sadhana. Without the proper guidance of the Guru, a Sisyo cannot merge with Moner manusa in love — the pltimate goal of Sadhana. A Guru is, therefore, very much essential in Baul Sadhana.

are Sthula, Prabartak, Sadhaka and Siddhi. A Baul who seeks for the status of a Guru must have to successfully perform the prescribed sexo-yogic activities of Rati Sadhana for Ataro danda nishdl at a stretch, i.e., during copulation with his Sadhan Sangini (female consort) he should retain Guru bastu (preceptor’s property) or semen for 7 hours 12 minutes. It is said to be the minimum qualification for the status of a Guru. After getting the status of a Guru one may show this excellence by extending the copulation hours in Sadhana throughout the rest of his life and finally reach the stage of Siddhi (bliss).

Almost all the Bauls were found to have the same notions, at least in terms of their verbal statements, as those of Sudhir Das Baul. I observed that ‘even at the time of their usual conversation whenever the names of their Guru were uttered the Bauls showed respect by touching the right hand to their forehead. An ideal Guru is the spiritual guide, who can clear up all the darkness of ignorance and imperfect feelings from the mind of his Sisyo. A Guru is not merely a temporary guide to conduct the Sadhana, he is the spiritual guiding force in the whole life of his Sisyo. And that is why he receives such respect from his Sisyo.

A Guru can understand the proper time when a Sisyo is able to show his competence in sexo-yogic activities prescribed for the stage of Sadhaka. If a Sisyo gets success in the ‘examination’, he achieves the status of Sadhaka. After attaining the status of a Sadhaka he may continue to live with his Guru at his Ashrama or may go away and establish Ashrama of his own where he starts to lead the life of a Guru by giving Diksha to the seekers if he likes. A Guru is very much concerned with the Sadhaka - status seeking ‘examination’ of his Sisyo. His prestige as well as status among the other Guru is directly related to the number of successful Sisyo he produces.

The status of a Guru is, thus, considered to be the highest among the Bauls. With the gaining of the status of a Guru a Baul is called a real Sadhaka. It may be mentioned here that all the Bauls do not get the status of a Guru or ‘real’ Sadhaka. To get this status, it is said that, they must have to show their competence in the sexo-yogic activities ofRati Sadhana which is prescribed for the Sadhaka stage. I was told that from the preliminary stage to the final stage there are four steps of Sadhana. These

The Sadhaka —status seeking examination is very much tough. Sisyo has to prove his worth in the presence of his Guru and the other Sadhaka who have already earned much reputation by showing their competence in the Sadhana. On the very day of his Sisyo’s examination the Guru invites his Gurubhais (ritual brothers) and other Sadhakas and their Sadhan sanginis reputed in the locality and other places as if ‘experts’ come to take ‘practical examination’. The Guru fixes up the day, date and time. With the instruction


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of the Guru, the Sisyo and his Sadhan Sangini enter into a closed room at night to appear at the examination. The invitee Sadhakas and their Sadhan sanginis sit outside the room and sing devotional songs as long as the Sisyo conlinues his Sadhana. They count the time by observing the movement of stars in the sky. As soon as the fixed time is over, an elderly and experienced Sadhan sangini (female consort) of a Sadhaka enters the room and examines the sex organ of the Sadhan sangini of the Sisyo. If she gets satisfied, she declares that the `examine’ did not ejaculate semen throughout the copulation period of Sadhana. He has shown his competence and may be offered the status of a Sadhaka. It was observed that one cannot earn Guruship easily. He has to get the honour of a Sadhaka at first. But the process or ‘examination’ of acquiring this honour is very tough. A Guru may

have several Sisyos, but he does not offer this honour to all of his Sisyos. Ideally, as the Guru plays the role of prime guiding force in the life of his Sisyo or, in other words, as the entire life of the Sisyo revolves around the Guru, Guruship is not offered loosely. It is very much restricted.

Right above Parvaty baul with her Guru Sanatan Das Baul and Guruma in his Ashrama.


DIKSHA DIKSHA It was the Baul cult Diksha is of three kinds, namely, Mantra diksha, Siksha diksha and Sannyas Diksha or Bairagya. In Mantra diksha ritual, Guru gives personal Mantra or Biz mantra and a ritual name to his Sisyo according to the Sisyo’s horoscope. In the Silesha diksha stage, Guru gives lessons to his Sisyo about the techniques and methods of esoteric Sadhana while in Sannyas diksha he gives his Sisyo Dor and Kaupin (lower outer and inner garments ritual-ly purified) for Sannyas or Bairagya (initiation into the path of renunciation). The role of taking Diksha is thus found to be increasing today. There is of course some reasons for such increased rate of Baulanization.

The following reasons seem to be conspicuous in this regard : money, fame and initiation open for all castes and creeds. The modern situation has attracted many people to be a Baul. Moreover, as there is no caste-bar for taking Diksha, a good number of people now want to be a Baul and gain a higher social status than is assigned in the caste system. It was observed in Birbhum that people belonging to wide range of castes like the upper caste Brahmin, the middle range castes like Kayastha, Sadgop, Gandhabanik, and the low untouchable caste like Bagdi, Hadi, Muci and Dom have been initiated into the cult . 83.01 percent of the total Baul population surveyed in my field research belongs to the Bagdi, Dom, Hadi, and


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Muci castes. As stated earlier that a Guru is needed in the every step of Baul religion. When a seeker wants to take Diksha he, at first, hunts for a Guru. Both the Guru and the seeker (Sisyo) have liberty to select their Sisyos and Gurus. They should not take into consider about the preinitiation state of caste identities. However, a Guru prefers to give Diksha to a man belonging to Brahmin and other higher castes. He believes that a man of Brahmin caste has already passed the first step (Sthula) of Sadhana by birth.

SADHANA Sadhana or religious practices of the Bauls are ideally directed towards realizing Moner manusa within the body. As stated earlier, to the Bauls Moiler manusa resides in the body, and hence they consider the body asthe temple of Moner manusa. The basic technique of Baul Sadhana is essentially a sexo-yogic act and, the medium of it is the human body. The Bauls think that there is a number of Cakras (plexuses) within the body, that are essential for Sadhana. I asked Sudhir Das Baul of Naryanpur village about the types and nature of these Cakras and the basic principles of Sadhana. There are five cakras in the body. These are Sahasra, Ajna, Manipura, Vishuddha and Muladhara. The Salmsra a lotus of thousand petals, is situated on the top of the head. There are 18 cells or Mokams (rooms) in the Sahasra cakra. In the central Mokeim, or Monikotct of the cakra Moner manusa resides. The female force of creation (Kundolini) resides in the Muladhara cakra, the lotus of four petals, situated at the lowest part of the body extreme opposite to the Sahasra. In between Sahasra and Muladhara, there are 3 more Cakras, like Ajna, Manipura and Vishuddha. The Ajnacakra, the lotus of two

petals, situates between the two eyebrows, while the Manipura cakra, the lotus of 10 petals and the Vishuddha cakra, the lotus of 16 petals situates in the chest and the navel-pit regions respectively. At the time of Sadhana, Moner manusa (or Bindu) comes down from its set position to the Mulidhara cakra. The Sadhana of the Bauls is to move Bindu upward to the Ajna cakra through the Vishud-dha and Manipura cakras, and from Afro cakra again to the Sahasra cakra. We, Bauls, call this Urdharata or Ultasadhan. When Bindu comes in the Sahasra (or in other words, Moner manusa is realised in the Sahasra) the external consciousness of the Sculhaka is lost and he reaches the state of Jyante mora.

It becomes obvious from the above description that the Sadhana of the Bauls is mainly a combination of sex and yoga. The main task of the Sadhana is to retain the semen within the body by applying various sexo-yogic acts even when the male Sadhaka gets excited in sexual union with his female consort. They believe that by this sexo-yogic act they are able to set semen or Bindu on the top of the head. The Bauls try to keep the procedures of their Sadhana secret. They do not want to tell the methods and techniques to an outsider.

Left above Sadhan Das Bairagya with his Sisyo and Sisya in his Ashrama, Kankalitala, santiniketan


FATE OF THE FAILURES IN SADHANA The Bauls say that to merge with Moner manusa in love through Sadhana as well as to get eternal tranquility is not a very easy task. They say that there are two possible oc-casions when a Sadhaka may face failure in his Sadhana. First, in the course of preparation for Siksha diksha, after Mantra diksha when Guru prescribes a lot of duties for Ashrcgna and several methods and techniques for Yoga Sa-dhana to his Sisyos; and second, in the course of actual practice of Sadhana, after Siksha diksha when a Sadhaka has to perform different rituals of Sadhana one by one. During the times of Sadhana, if the Sadhan sangini of a Sadhaka conceives, both she and her male partner are considered to be Aparadhi (sinner). They do not enjoy the status of Sadhaka any more and have to leave the Ashrama at once. The same thing, i.e., leaving the Ashrama, is also found to happen in the case of those who fail to attaint success after getting the Mantra diksha. Ideally, the unsuccessful Sadhakas are not considered as Bauls. No room is left for them in the cult. But it is actually observed in the field situation that an effort is made for this inclusion in the cult community. They hardly bother about the decision of expulsion by adherents of the cult.

Right parvathy baul with her Guru bhai in Ashrama. Next page A Baul is Singing at Sonajhuri, Santiniketan

All such rationalizations, they made, are only for getting the identity of `Baul’. Several reasons seem to be apparent behind their such behaviour. These are — first, they have no way to return to their original caste or creed identity from . where they have come; second, the adherents of the cult do not allow them further scope to get another chance for rectification; and third, the failures have lost both the original identity and the converted identity but without having any identity one cannot live with one’s wife and children in the society. o the failures require an ‘accessible platform’ for

their economic and social security. As they find it virtually impossible to gain recognition from their natal society, they present themselves as Grhi Baul (household Baul). Lot of such cases were found in Birbhum. Only two will be described below : Jaydas Baul of Sundipada, Bolpur who read upto class VIII, was a Brahmin in Purbashrama. He lived with his parents at Slinthia and was engaged as a worker in a local factory. Due to ill health, he lost his job and decided to get initiated in the cult. He successfully passed the pre- and postMantra diksha period and got Siksha diksha and San-nyas diksha from his Guru. He led only six year seEcessful Sadhanjivan and after that when his Sadhan sanjtni con-ceived, he left the Ashrama and settled at Sundipada. He could not go back to the parent family. The members of the parent family cut off relations with him since his conversion into the cult. So, he had no alternative but to pursue a life of a Grhi Baul. It seems that the existence of large number of failures is found due to intricate process of Sadhanct. Most of the people show interest to get initiated into the cult for one kind of economic -ecurity and also for a kind of social status, instead of achieving the attaintment of Sadhana. The rural poor people find an alternative way of living and get subsequently themselves initiated into the cult.


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05 SOCIAL ORGANIZATION


SOCIAL ORGANISATION Ideally, the Bauls are religious mendicants. They lead their Sadhanjivan in Ashrama with ashramites. They do not have any conventional kin or family like the common people. But, as stated earlier, many of the Bauls are found to have failed to attain success in their Sadhanjivan. They leave the Ashrama and lead a secular social life with their wives and children in different villages and towns and try to retain Baul identity as well. In this chapter, I shall describe the existing pattern of the social organisation of the householder Bauls in the context of what was presented as ideal model of Baul way of life in the cult unit of Ashrama.

FAMILY

Right Basudev Das Baul with his wife and his grand daughter in his house, Shyambati, Santiniketan

To the cult, the BAuls do not have family in terms of `husband’, ‘wife’ and ‘children’. They have a kind of family which is chiefly defined on the basis of cult organisation. They call it Paribar. According to them, there is only one Paribar called Nityananda of which all the Bauls belong. After being initiated to the secret and sacred spell, Namasrai or Mantrasrai, a seeker becomes one of the members of this sacred lineage, Paribar. Since then he lives with Babagosain (father preceptor), Ma-gosain (mother preceptor), Guru-bhai (ritual brother) Guru-bon (ritual sister) and Sadhan sangini (female consort) and leads Ashrama-centered way of life. Under the strict guidance of the Guru, he maintains the prescribed austerities in his life. He generally goes to villages for begging while his Sadhan sangini keeps herself busy in cleaning, washing and cooking. Guru and Guruma, however, do not do any such work. They get services from their Sisyos and Sisyas by virtue of their status and as a token of devotion. They give religious instruction to their Sisyos and Sisyas and keep a keen surveillance

upon them so that they can achieve success in every stage ofSeidharo. This is a conventional and obligatory service. Now-a-days, this sort of ideal activity of the ashramites were not observed as being followed by the Ball’s. Most of the Bauls, today, have wife and children and form family in a conventional sense. The members of such Baul families live in a common hut, take food from the common hearth and extend mutual economic cooperation to each other. Generally Baul families are nuclear, consisting of husband, wife and children. Sometimes a Baul gets married with another woman, even though he has a wife and children and it is not rare in the Baul society. In their cult, there is an option of getting more than one Stidhan sangini (female consort) for the sake ofSeidharzet. The Bauls of the present day are taking advantage of this norm of their cult for getting economic support chiefly. Most of the Bauls are poor who are precariously seeking economic stability. They want to get a working female partner who can earn and help to establish economic stability of the family. The status of a woman in the Baul society is thus found to have been shifted from female consort to ‘working female partner’.


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GOTRA The Bauls have only one Gotra (lineage). Accudananda, common to all of the Bauls. According to them, the Gotra is named after the name of their Mahaguru (Great preceptor) Accudananda. At the time of Diksha (initiation) a disciple gets the membership of the ritual family and ritual Gotra. Ideally, a Gotra acts at the time of different rites and rituals like initiation and death, when the Bauls offer Malsabhog to their Mahapravu Accudananda. Now-a-days, it is observed that the Bauls offer Malsabhog to their Mahapravu Accudananda at the time of family rites to prove that they belong to the ritual clan, i.e., they are the members of the Baul community. The Bauls offer Malsabhog to Accudiinanda at the time of birth of their child, marriage and death. It may be pointed out that though the Bauls pay respect to Accudananda by offering Malsabhog at the time of marriage, they do not want to consider this ‘ritual clan’ in the selection of brides and bridegrooms. They always prefer to select biides and bridegroom according to the caste and clan rule of Purbashrama, i.e., a Baul of Brahmanic origin always try to select a bride or a bridegroom of his own caste. Similar-ly, the Bauls of Kayastha and other castes try to arrange marriage with their own caste.

It is thus seen that at present, the Bauls make use of the concepts of the ‘ritual clan’ and the clan of Purbashrama according to their own convenience. On the one hand, they offer Malsabhog to Mahei-pravu Accudethanda in different family functions for maintaining their community identity, and on the other like the non-Bauls they follow the clan rules of Purbashrama and prefer the caste of their own group at the time of marriage to hold the

Purbashramic caste identity.

KINSHIP According to the cult, the ritual family of the Bauls grows around the Guru in the Ashrama. The members of the family are : Babagosain, Magosain, Guru bhai, Guru bon and Sadhansangini. Babagosain, is the chief of the Ashrama. He is the ‘ritual father’ of his Sisyos and Sisyas. He has manifold functions, like initiating the seekers, arranging Macchaba feasts, Dharmalochona (religious discussions) and daily evenings Nam bhajan (religious songs). His Guru assigns all these work to him and gives the overall charge of the Ash-rama. Ma-gosain, the female consort of Baba-gosain is the `ritual mother’ of the Sisyos and Sisyas. She is the Sadhan sangini of Baba-gosain. She assists him in the Sadhana and at the time of Siksha diksha ritual when Baba-gosain gives practical demonstration to his Sisyos and Sisyas. Sisyos and Sisyas, the male and female disciples of Baba-gosain, regarded as the ‘ritual brother’ (Guru-bhai) and the `ritual sister’ (Guru-bon) to each other. Sisyos and Sisyas are the most active workers in the Ashrama. They contribute hard labour for the Ashrama. According to the cult, outdoor work like begging and marketing are done by Sisyos while the household works like cooking, cleaning, washing are done by Sisyas. In addressing their male partners a female consort uses the word Takur. Sisyos and Sisyas address each other by name. Among them who are elder in age are addressed as Dada (elder brother) in the case of males and Didi (elder sister) in the case of females. Terms common in Bengali kinship terminological system such as Mama (mother’s brother), Kaka (father’s


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brother), Mami (mother’s brother’s wife), Kaki (father’s brother’s wife), Masi (mother’s sister). and Pisi (father’s sister) are normally not found to be used among the Bauls. According to the norms of the cult, it is found that when a man or woman meets an elderly man or woman, he or she at first utters the word Jay guru before beginning the general conversation. Similarly, when meeting a man of the same age or younger in age, he uses the term Jay netai, and to a woman of the same age or younger in age, as Jay radhe. It was found that through the webs of kinship and affinity the Bauls of Birbhum are now found to perpetuate a fairly wide network of relationship with the non-Bauls. They use both the traditional kin terms recognised by the cult and the normal range of kin terms found in

the non-Baul Bengali Hindu society. If a nonBaul comes to meet a Baul from the father or from the mother’s side he or she is addressed, according to his or her sex, by the children of the Bauls as Kakti oil Pisi. When I first met Biswanath Das Baul’s sons in their house, they addressed me as Mantis kaka. The sons of Bankashyam Das Baul of Bahiri village and sons of Gangadhar Das Baul also used to address me as Waled- The addressing of persons as Kaka or Pisi by the children of the Bauls seems to carry direct influence of the natal society of the people from where they have come. Thus, it is found that the Bauls of Birbhum are very much influenced by the secular social life of the natal society and also of the larger society surrounding them.

Right Above A gruop of Bauls with their Guru Bhai , they present them as a Baul singer group


CASTE HIERARCHY

According to the cult, the Bauls do not believe in caste or class system. A few lines from Baul Lalan’s song to illustrate this point : Sab Loke Kay Lalan Ki Jat Samsare Lalan Kay, Jester Ki Rup, Dekhlam Na E Najare Chunnat Dile Hai Musalman, Nariloker Ki Hay Bidhan? Baman Jini Paitar Praman, Bamni cini Ki Dhare? ........ [Everybody asks what is the caste affiliation of Lalan. Lalan says, I do not find the nature of caste in this universe. A man belonging to the Muslim community becomes muslim by Chunnat ritual, but what would happen in the case of a woman who belongs to the muslim community? Similarly, a Brahmin is recognised by his Paita (sacred thread), but how a Bamni (wife of a Brahman male) proves her Brahmanic affiliation?] There is no caste or class in this universe other than Purusa (man) and Prakriti (woman) — the two Jat (caste) of the mankind. But within their tradition, they conceive of a sort of stratification based on competence shown is Sadhanet. To the cult, those who are more attached to the Sadhanjivana and show competence in Sadhana are con-sidered to have better status. Those of the Sthula and Pabartak stage of Sadhana are considered to be inferior to those of Sadhaka and Siddhi. Sadhakas belonging to the Siddhi stage get the highest status, among the Bauls. They are variously called by them as Sain, Khepa or Baba.

Right A Bauul Ashrama at Kankalitala, Santiniketan

A stratification based on their social origin is also seen among the Bauls of Birbhum. MoSt of the Bauls are converted, coming from the lower strata of the traditional Hindu society. The Bauls

are well aware of the Hindu Varna-Jati order. Even after initiation into the cult, they and their associates do not forget it. Caste consciousness prevails not in the form of untouchability or purity and pollution or norms of exchange of cooked food among them, it is seen conspicuously in the selection of Guru or Sisyo at the time of Dikslict and also in the selection of bride or bridegroom at the time of marriage.

OWNERSHIP AND INHERITANCE OF PROPERTY It is observed that among the Bauls of Birbhum, husband is the sole owner of the family property. Usually property is inherited from father by the eldest son. In few cases the ownership of property is established through wife also. It happens in the following way : after the death of the husband if the wife wants to remarry, the second husband gets the ownership of the property of his wife. Not only he gets the property, but also he takes all liabilities of his wife’s children if any. Sudhir Das Baul remarried a widow and owned property of the second wife. The Bauls who live in the Ashramas get the property of the Ashrama through Guru. The senior most Sisyo gets the property. After the death of Guru, Gangadhar Das Baul became heir of the three hundred years old Ashrama and its property.


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06 RITES OF PASSAGE


BIRTH As brith is not sanctioned by the cult, no fixed rules relating to the rites of birth has been formulated for the Baul community. However, it is seen that the Bauls who have stayed away from the ashramic way of life, practise the birth rituals almost in the same manner as their natal society of preconverted phase. They, however, also include some rituals of the esoteric religious life in these rites of passages in order to preserve their identity as Bauls a distinct religious cult-group. When the sign of first conception in the body of wife appears 7the husband makes an arrangement to offer Malsa-bhog to Mahapravu and Guru. This is done for obtaining the blessings of them for ensuring safe delivery and safety of the newly born child and the mother. The brith of the child now-a-days normally takes place in hospitals. As most of the Bauls are now living in towns or in villages adjacent to towns, they take the facilities of hospitals. Those who have no such facilities call for a local midwife who often belongs to the lowest caste group, to assist in the delivery. In the case of a professional local midwife, her caste, creed and community is not taken into consideration and the mode of payment is strictly in cash. The Bauls observe the pollution period or rituals relating to brith on the basis of the prescribed norms of the natal society from where they have come. Debidas Baul, a Brahmin by caste in the Purbashrama, observed fifteen days of pollution period. His wife gave birth one male child in the town Hospital. At the end of pollution period he called on a barber to pare the nails of the mother. The barber was paid both in cash and kind. The Bauls of Birbhum today try to rationalize the concept of birth which is a serious deviation

from their traditional norm. Padmabati Dasi of Pancra said : As the main aim of their Sac/ hand is to get Mahasuhka (great pleasure), she gets it in bearing children which is the most Sahajabhava (natural) of a woman. Again her husband Daya Das Baul said ; In bearing children we practically keep the great tradi-tion of Baul through generation, the holy task to be followed by all the followers of the religion. As a matter of fact, the Bauls think that they are not going against the norms of the religion by involving themselves in the procreation of children.

MARRIAGE It has already been stated that according to traditional norms the Bauls are not expected to get ‘married’ having ‘wife’ and ‘children’. They select females as Seldhansangini (female consorts) only for achieving success in Sadhana. The Bauls, both ashramites and householders, are now found to be very much concerned with the caste affiliation and caste status at the time of selection of their female partners. They generally preferred to select the bride belonging to their own caste. If a bride of the same caste was not available, they then preferred to select a bride of upper caste (in the case of Bauls of lower caste origin). The Bauls of higher caste origin did not like to settle marriage with brides of lower caste origin. It may be pointed out here that in the past the Bauls and their female consorts used to come normally from lower rank of the hierarchic based Hindu caste society. In the new cult they seemed to gain social security and a kind of freedom.


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After getting initiation into the cult they engaged themselves in the prescribed ritual activities of Ashrama life and lived away from their relatives of Purbashrama. Those who failed to achieve in the sexo-yogic Sadhana and had children had to live the Ashrama. The Bauls built up their habitatat the periphery of villages and used to lead their life as Grill Baul. They too lived on begging. They married girls belonging to lower caste groups. Those who married Bauls had to lose their caste status. Traditionally a Baul Sadhaka may take a number of female partners as Sadhansangini one after another, if he has to prove his worth in the Sadhana. But the Bauls rationalize their

frequent desertion of wives and change of partners as a cult convention. They frequently change their wives, if any annoyance and intermittent bickerings occur between the husband and wife. It raises the frequency of remarriage in the Baul society. Remarriage can also take place with widowed and divorced women. In all such cases, generally, children go with their mother. Relationship with the father is cut off. The father is not compelled to pay any financial assistance or any sort of compensation to his children and their mother. Right Above A Baul sadhak with his two sadhansangini performing in Joydev Kenduli Baul Mela.


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DEATH In contrast to the birth and marriage rituals the death rites.a the Bauls are found to be observed primarily in terms of the traditional norms of their cult. According to one of the Baul Guru bhais will make the arrangement to dig up the soil at one corner of the Ashrarta courtyard for the Monikota (burial chamber). After making the chamber they mixed salt with the soil. Then they put the mixture of soil and salt on the floor of the chamber. This process is called Nunmrttika. When the Nunmrttika and Monikota had been made completely, they placed the corpse in a sitting posture in the Monikota with its face directed to the east. They put all used articles of The deceased in the Monikota. Along with these articles, they also put eight earthen pots — seven full of Malsabhog and the rest, water, smoking materials like Bidis (country cigarettes), Ganja (hemp), Kalke (earthen pipe for smoking Ganja) and one pot of tea. They also kept a &will) (lighted earthen lamp) and incense. They placed all these articles in fornt of the deceased man as if he would use all these when necessary without the help of others. It may be mentioned here that normally the eldest or senior-most Sisyo remaining present at the death-bed has to prepare Nun mrttikti for the burial of his Guru. The number of pots containing Malsabhog is conven-tionally determined by the religious status of the dead person. For example, 14 pots of Malsabhog are offered to a man belonging to Siddhi stage at the time of his death. It is the highest number offered. Similarly, a person belonging to the next stage, Sadhaka is offered seven pots while the persons belonging to the Prabartak and Sthula are offered five and two pots respectively. Children are not offered any

pot of Mcilsa-bhog. They are simply buried under the ground. The number of pots of Malsabhog offered to the females also varies according to the status ofctheir male partners. My Guru was a man belonging to the stage of Sadhaka. We put seven pots of Malsabhog in his Monikorta. At the end of the ritual, everybody took bath, wore cleaned clothes and at last took part in the Kadamacchaba (a feast relating to death ritual). Items of the Kadamacchaba were Khicudi (cooked mixture of rice and pulses) and vegetables. None of them slept in that particular night. They put a lighted earthen lamp on the burial ground and kept keen surveillance on its ceaseless bunring. They continued to sing devotional songs throughout the night. In the morning the invitees dispersed. After a month they again came to attend the Biraha macchaba (a religious feast offered in memory of the deceased person). The items were the same as were in the Kada-macchaba. Throughout the month they offered food articles and water on the burial sopt in the morning and in the evening regularly. He also used to a lighted earthen lamp and incense regularly on the burial in every evening. Everyday in the evening he also arranged Namasankrtana (devotiopal songs) in the Ashrama.

Left Burial site of Gour Khyapa Baul near Kankalitala Ashrama, he died in2013. Following page Kankalitala Baul Ashrama, Santiniketan


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07 HABITAT


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HABITAT

Ideally, the Bauls keep themselves far away from the den and bustle of daily life of the larger society for three main reasons : (1) They are averse to worldly affairs and live in their own world with their own beliefs, feelings and practices, (2) their sexo-yogic religious practices are such that would appear morbid neurotic, anti-social to other people, and (3) the whole process of the intricate Sadharta and ultimate self realization is very austere and there is always a possibility of being unsuccessful and misguided if Sadhaka loses his concentration due to mixing with non-Baul folk. For this, in the past the Bauls preferred to select solitary, isolated and aban-doned places like the fringe of the jungles, the valleys or riversides which are generally inaccessible to the common people. Now-a-days, the Bauls do not live in isolated places. They set up their huts in the villages adjacent to the roads or railways tracks. They do not live in these villages in clusters or neighbourhood (Pada), but in a dispersed way. No settlement or neighbourhood (Pada) like Baulpada is found even in a single village of Birbhum. One or two or a maximum of three Baul families are found to have been living in a village. Sporadically dispersed habitation of the Bauls at the fringe of the village inhabited by lower castes is now common in Birbhum. Here I will give example of two municipal wards and an Ashrama. Sundipada is a ward of Bolpur municipality in Birbhum. It is situated on the eastern side of the Bolpur Railway Station. It is not far from the centre of Bolpur town where various modern facilities like market, hospital, school, col-lege, post-office are available. The internationally

known Visva-Bharati University, an educational centre founded by Poet Rabindranath Tagore is situated within a distance of 3 kilometers from Sundipada. Moreover, from Bolpur town a good Hof of buses are plying regularly towards various parts of the district and its adjoining places. Sundipada is thus well connected with the rest of the district through roads and railways. Though Sundipada is a municipal ward, it is practically not more than a rural hamlet. Only one metalled road has passed by this settlement. Like other villages of Birbhum Sundipada has thatched huts, wells, tubewells, and ponds. There is a lack of proper sanitation and health clinics. Though there is electricity in Sundipada, most of the households in the area do not have this facility. Sundipada is divided into two halves, namely, Dharmara-jtola and Sundipada. Dharmarajtola is constituted by four Peidas, namely, Materpada, Dharmarajtola, Bauripada. and Ghatouipacki, while Sundipada is constituted by three Pallas, Mariapada, Sundipada and Materpada. On the east and south of Sundipada there are paddy fields. This is also the less populated portion where people mainly belonging to lower castes groups, like the Bauri, Bagdi, Dom, Muci, Hach are found to live. A few people of higher caste groups, who are very poor, also live in this area.

Left The hose of Jaga Khyapa Baul, Shyambati, Santiniketan


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HOUSE TYPE

Living in the poor neighbours the Bauls have one-storied Car card (four roofs) mud house consisting of one bedroom and a small verandah attached to the room. At a corner of a verandah a mud hearth is constructed for cooking. In front of verandah there is a courtyard where, either at a corner or in the middle, the sacred basil (Tulsi) is planted. Construction of a house requires various kinds of labour. Like the neighbour non-Bauls, the Bauls employ different categories of labourers of different castes and tribes for dif-ferent jobs in constructing their house. Thus the Baul to-day, do not maintain the norms of the cult as Ashram dwelling monks. Most of them have their own family dwellings. They, however, ignore caste identity of the labourers in construction their houses. Bulk of the job is done by the local Santal labourers. The Bauls also employ other low caste people like the Bauri and the Bagdi for erecting the walls. The doms, who are experts in bamboo work, construct the thatched roof. Chutor (car-penters) prepare and fix the doors of the house. Thus the Bauls are connected with a number of labouring communities and receive the service of the non-Bauls for building their houses. Most of the Bauls now live in towns or in villages adjacent to the towns. They buy building materials from the nearby market. Sometimes they purchase doors and other materials from the Mela (fair).

Left A Baul’s house in Kenduli Village


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08

FOOD HABIT & ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES


FOOD HABIT

Ideally, the Bauls are vegetarian. They are prohibited from taking non-vegetarian food like meat, fish and eggs. They also avoid onion and garlic. Today, most of the Bauls, whether living in Ashrama or outside Ashrama, do not follow the norms prescribed by the cult.

their hemp smoking to establish their esoteric identity before non-Baul audience, particularly from urban centres.

Most of them are now found to take meat (except beef), egg and fish. However, most of the Bauls do not have the economic capacity to arrange for meat and fish. They mostly live on vegetarian diet.

MEANS OF SUBSISTENCE

Laksman Das Baul said “Don’t think that we are doing sin. Mover manusa live in our body. We should not suppress our desire. We should always keep the body happy, the temple of MoNer manusa”. Nobody would now find a Baul to take his food or drink in their sacred pot Malui. Again, it is prescribed by the cult that the Bauls should not take cooked food from the others, but none of them is now found to follow this rule in their daily life. The Bauls should not take liquor of any kind according to their cult. But, in fact, many of the Bauls were found addicted to drinking. Besides drinking, they have the habit of smoking Ganja, Bidi, cigarettes and taking tea. Regarding the utility of smoking hemp. Acording to Laksman Das Baul “Our Sadhana is basically a Darner 14 . Smoking Ganja helps to increase the power of retention of Dom (reten-tion of vital wind) in the body”. The real basis of this explanation connected with the biological system of the body, however, needs further physiological investigation. What was observed in the field is that almost all the Bauls have a practice of smoking hemp. Sometimes the Baul singers specially exhibit

Begging is traditionally the principal means of subsistence of the Bauls. It is religiously sanctioned by their cult. Accord-ing to their cult, a Baul should be obedient, modest and, above all, devoid of all sorts of passion and greed. Through begging, as one has to submit to others, he acquires the quality of modesty. Begging helps to destroy the innate pride of a man, which hinders to equate with Moner minusa in love. While they beg, the Bauls sing their songs. Both the categories of Bauls used to sustain their life by begging and singing. They wandered from door to door and fair to fair. One hand, they got economic support from the village householders, and on the other, they enjoyed themselves by s inging and also contributed to the joy of the villagers through aesthetic expression of their songs. As the Bauls now begin drifting towards the formation of independent—household and move out from the secluded village life, ideal views and attitudes towards ‘begging’ of the Bauls also changed. A careful follow up of their mode of begging brings into relief their urge for earning money by catering attractive songs putting on all the external paraphernalia of a ‘ideal’ Baul in dress, decoration and musi-cal instruments.


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Today, most of the Bauls do not wander from village to village, they often board compartments of local and long-running trains and entertain the travelling passengers with songs. The railway compartments provide them with a massive transient clientele without walking a long distance on foot from village to village. The trains also provide them contacts with people connected with modern peformance media like radio, cinema, television and cultural festivals in cities of the country and abroad. Most of the Bauls of Birbhum maintain their livelihood by begging and prefer to beg in the compartments of the trains running mainly through the Sahebganj loop line of the Eastern Railway, from Burdwan to Rampurhat.

However, many of the Bauls at Birbhum are now found to have organised cultural •group to give performance in public stages. It is another source of income. In this way some of the Bauls who are able to earn more money and reputation become professional ‘folk singers’. They settle down in towns or cities or in locations adjacent to the towns or cities. They organise group and frequent visit to foreign countries. They publish books on the Baul songs and give performance in radio, television and cinema. Only once in a year they visit their villages to arrange Macchba. By arranging the annul Macchaba they try to show their al-legiance to the rules of their religion and perpetuate the tradition of the cult.

Right Above Two baul s are singing on Sonajhuri Haat, Santiniketan


Left Above A Baul is Singing and begging in a Santiniketan-Howrah routetrain Right Kertik Das baul is performing in the stage of Baul Fakir Utsav, Kolkata

No doubt, begging and singing is the prmary stage through which a poor Baul can gradually get exposed to the wider public attention and patronage. But the route to attain high position in this modern phase of presenting a Baul to the outer world is cluttered with stiff competition.

So most of the Bauls of Birbhum have to live primarily as religious men-dicant singers on trains and fairs and festivals.


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LEISURE TIME Now-a-days the Bauls are observed as having very little leisure time. Throughout the day they are busy trying to earn money. As and when they get time, they arrange for Garter (tsar (musical soiree) in one of their houses in the evening. In this Garter eisar they also smoke Ganja and gossip with the villagers about mundane matters such as personal problems, scandals, the spurt in market prices and so on. The interested villagers prticularly local youths often come to smoke Ganja and spend some ‘good time’ with music and songs. Not only for smoking Ganja and listening to music and songs, in some cases it is found that the non-Bauls often go to the Bauls to ‘learn’ music and songs. The Bauls utilise their leisure time to coach such interested non-Bauls.

Left A baul is Smoking Ganja in a Akhda,santiniketan


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09 SOCIAL & CULTURAL COMMUNICATION


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As stated earlier, the Rallis of Birbhum became increasingly exposed to wider contacts from urban centres since the end of World War II and Independence of India in 1947. Through the modern means of transport and modern media of cultural communication like published literature, booklets, books, articles in newspapers and magazines, radio, cinema and later greater interest in ‘folk culture’ and ‘folk songs’, the cult arid the songs of the Bauls became a subject of interest for the urban intelligentsia. The traditional Bauls of earlier generation who are believed to have lived in Ashrama communities about twenty or thirty years back as ‘ascetics’ pursuing their special cult, felt pulled by the force of these interactions and started settling down in road-side villages and urban centres as ‘householders’, often depending upon their earning from begging and singing to the railway passengers. Even the Bauls, who continued to live in the Ashrama and did not settle down in road-side villages and urban centres, formed families with wife and children. They lived like the householder Bauls. Though such changes have occurred in the Blul’s way of life and culture, there are some cultural traits of their own which are still found to continue and function in different spheres of their life and culture for the maintenance of the social and cultural boundary of their cult groups. In this chapter both the changes and continuity of the traditions of the Bauls and the nature and media of social and cultural communications to which they are now exposed and adapt themselves will be described.

Left A group of Baul is performing in Poush Mela, Santiniketan


MEDIA OF COMMUNICATION

Various religious songs, Macchaba and Mela are the three traditional media of communication of the Bauls. These are being used by the Bauls even after World War II, particularly since Independence of India when modern means of communication and network of administration, development and political process have rapidly spread all over the country, including the remote rural areas. Songs are found to be the principal traditional medium through which the Bauls are trying to communicate as a special group to the massive and fast exposure to the larger society. The Bauls state that their songs have distinct sacred value. It can draw both the ‘singers’ and the ‘listeners’ to the religious world.

fund built up throug out the year by cumulative alms of the ashramites. They do not like the preence of non-Baul outsiders in such religious con-gregrations which are exclusively for the members of their cult. Now-a-days the Bauls are found to arrange Macchaba in their houses once a year. It is essential. If a Baul fails to arrange it individually due to shortage of money, he takes the help of other Bauls, and sometims, collects subscriptions from non-Bauls. They also invite them to participate in their Macchaba. Participation of non-Bauls in the Macchaba is, strictly prohibited according to their cult tradition. Every year on the occassion of the annual Jaydev Kenduli Mela on Pous Samkranti Bauls arrange Macchhaba at their huts.

MACCHABA

Right above Agroup of Baul is singing in a Akhra Right bottom Sadhan Das Bairagya Baul is singing along with his Sisyo and Sisya in his Ashrama Following page Peoples on the way to Joydev Kenduli Baul Mela

Though the Bauls are fairly expert in handling the modern media of communication and able to establish the wide network with the national and international centres for cultural performance they are still found to adhere to their traditional medium, Macchaba for perpetuating a meaningful arena Of cultural exchange among themselves. In the changed situa-tion they rationalize this traditional ritual in their own way. The traditional Bauls consider Macchaba as a religious congregation of Sadhaka which promotes the spiritual state of the members of their cult. It gives them an opportunity to get Sculhujan sanga and facilitates a regular communication among themselves. Ideally, they arrange it once a year in their respective Ashrama from a


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MELA

Like the Macchaba, the Mela (fair) is one of the traditional media of communication of the Bauls. Since the remote past the Bauls have been using this medium and spreading their `cultura l message’ among the villagers as a ‘specialist group’. Their interactions were, however, restricted to the rural people visiting the-village fairs (Mela) where they presented their spiritual conceptS through orally learned songs. Today, particularly even after the Independence of India when improved transport system and other modern media of communication have been spread all over the country includ-ing rural areas, the Bauls attend the rural fairs ritually. Instead of getting only rural folk, they now get wider audience of different categories in the Me/a. They are now able to make contracts with a wide clientele and present their ‘cultural messages’ through microphones. The Bauls of present day are more selective than the traditional Bauls of the past. They do not attend all the Mela held in different parts of Birbhum throughout the year. Altogether ten Mela of different nature are held in different parts of the district throughout the year. Most of the Bu1s attend only the two namely, Jaydeva Kenduli Mela at Jaydeva-Kenduli village and the Pous Mels at Santiniketan. The Mela begins on the last day of the Bengali calendar month ‘Paush’ and continues to the second of the month of ‘Magh.’ It is held on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, every year in the Birbhum district in West Bengal popularly known as Lal Mati-r Desh owing to the red soil found here. The three-day fair receives its name from the famous poet Jaydev Kenduli and is held about


42 km from Shantiniketan (Rabindranath Tagore’s adobe of peace) on the banks of the River Ajay which is the birthplace of the poet. It is also called Baul Mela or Jaydev Mela. The start of the fair commemorates the auspicious day on which the great poet Jaydev is claimed to have taken a bath at the Kadaambokhandi Ghat of the River Ajay.

The Kenduli Mela provides a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of the wandering minstrels called Bauls, who believe in the simplicity of love of life and who propagate universal love that transcends religion. Thousands of people from all over the country and overseas flock to this three-day musical event which celebrates soulful music and is an opportunity to meet the Bauls in their saffron attire carrying a musical instrument called the Ektara.

Akhras An akhra is a gathering of people under a common roof for religious purpose. There are many akhras in Jayadev Kenduli and the people also set up pandala with a stage filled with lights and sound system. There are about 78 fixed akhras along the banks of the River Ajay. These are permanent concrete structures constructed in the memory of their Guru. There are many akhras from outside who set up their pandalas and stage. There are also modern akhras of urban Bauls with latest musical instruments and sound systems. Roughly, around 200 akhras participate in the Mela. At the Mela, the Bauls go from akhra to akhra through the night for three consecutive days. In this way, an akhra is never in dearth of a Baul singer. Usually, a Baul sings two to three songs more if the audience is cheering, if the Baul is

a renowned singer or if the next Baul has not arrived. He is then given a small token gift of Rs. 20 and the audience also gives him token gifts in the form of currency usually going up to the stage and pinning the note to the Baul’s robe or his turban.


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Previous page A baul is perorming in the Joydev Kenduli Baul mela Right above and bottom Bauls are sitting an singing in Akhra with their Baul bhai.


CULTURAL SHOWS AND PROGRAMMES

Most of the Bauls of Birbhum are now found to have organised cultural groups to give performance in public functions. Such economic enterpreneurial drive, in fact, expands the zone of cultural activities of the Bauls. They are invited to attend different cultural functions organised by the non-Bauls. Cultural functions may be held at the public stages or in individual houses. The Bauls present their performances either in solo or in groups according to the nature of programme. These invitations lead the Bauls to go to different towns, cities, state capitals and capital of India and abroad. Increasing demand of the Baul songs and music among the international audience has cropped up recently. It has got torrential shape since 1981. Before 1981 Puran Das Baul made a good number of foreign trips to U.S.A., Japan, London, Paris and Switzerland. It is he who impressed the interna-tional audience first in the early 70s by his practical demonstrations on Baul songs and music. Even now lot of Baul goes frequently to the foreign with his group and presents Baul songs. Besides sponsorships from abroad, Govt. of India also arranged a number of foreign trips for the Bauls. In all the Bharatutsab’ held in Japan, Soviet Union, France and America, Govt. of India sent the Bauls to present their songs and music. The Govt. of India has now recognised songs and music of the Baul as a significant representative of the Indian culture. It has got government patronage and national recognition. To exhibit our sanskriti, the Bauls were thus sent to the Tharatutsabs’ held abroad. Inside the country the Bauls too are invited to present their songs in different cultural functions organised by the Central Government and the Govt. of West Bengal.

The Bauls of Bengali were a family of itinerant street troubadours that Albert Grossman had met on a visit to India, and he invited them to stay in a converted barn in Bearsville in 1967. The brothers Luxman and Purna Das (that also can be seen posing with Bob Dylan on his John Wesley Harding album) became friends with the Band in Woodstock, and often visited them in Big Pink to inhale illegal substances and jam with the guys. One night, the Bauls wanted to jam, and Garth Hudson wanted to record, with Rick Danko and Levon sitting in with the Das brothers. The music was a bit too weird for the guys from the Band, so they left while Garth’s tape machine rolled for hours. The tapes were released, years after, as Bengali Bauls at Big Pink. Paban Das Baul is a noted Bengali baul singer and musician, who also plays a dubki, a small tambourine and sometimes an ektara as an accompaniment. He is known for pioneering traditional Baul music on the international music scene and for establishing a genre of folkfusion music.


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Right above Luxman Das, Bob Dylan and Purna Das, on the cover of John Wesley Harding, 1967 Right bottom Paban Baul is performing in Paris


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10 MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS


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MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS The effort of the Bauls to preserve the cultural identity is also found in the use of some traditional musical instruments. They singsongs with the accompaniment of traditional Ektara, Barna, Gabgubi and put on jingling ankle bells called Nupur for dancing and for maintaining rhythm while singing.


EKTARA

It is made of wood, bamboo splits, piece of tanned animal skin and string, hence it is called Ektara (single string musical instrument). A hollow circular wooden box of six inches height is covered at the bottom by a circular piece of tanned animal skin. Two pieces of bamboo split of 1.5 feet height each are attached with the hollow circular box and are intersected vertically. One string is connected with the cir-cular piece of skin attached to the hollow circular wooden box at the bottom on the one hand and with the meeting place of two bamboo splits on the other. Ektara is played by the fingers of the performer.

The khamak consists of three basico parts. A bowl which is often made out of wood is connected by several strings to another, smaller piece (also usually made out of wood). The bowl is held under the arm holding the smaller piece in the hand of same arm. Finally, the string are plucked by the other hand while adjusting the tension of strings creating the desired sound. It is generally used in Bengali boul (folk) songs. It is one of the most ancient string instruments in eastern India.

BAMA

The dotara is a stringed, pluck instrument, played in an open note combination, widely accompanying the beat and rhythm structure of folk percussions such as Dhhol, Khhol or Mandira. It is made out of neem or other species of hardwood, with an elongated, roundish belly for a sound box, tapering to a narrowish neck culminating in a peg box which is elaborately carved in the shape of peacock head, swan head or other animal motif. The narrow neck serves as the finger board, this is made of brass or steel (as in a sarod) and particularly lends the liquid form to the tonal quality (as opposed to the discrete quality of a fretted instruments). The sound box of the instrument is covered with a tightly stretched kidskin or lizard skin, as in a rabaab or a sarod. In fact, the dotara is a simpler version of sarod.

It is an earthen hollow musical instrument, one side of which is covered by a circular piece of tanned animal skin. To obtain uniform beat of sound, singer himself strikes on this circular skin part of the instrument by his fist of the left hand. The total height of the instrument is four inches and the diameter of the circular part is six inches. Generally Ektara and Bama are used together by the Baul singers at the time of singing.

KHAMAK Far right above Khamak Right above Ektara Right bottom Dotara

The Khamak is a string instrument close to ektara, originating in India, common in folk music of Bengal, Orissa and North East India, especially Baulgaan. It is a one-headed drum with a string attached to it which is plucked. The only difference from ektara is that no bamboo is used to stretch the string, which is held by one hand, while being plucked by another.

dotara

DUGGI Duggi is an Indian drum, with a kettle drum shape, played with fingers and palm of the hand. It is used in baul music of the Bengal and


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Bangladesh region. A duggi player provided rhythm accompaniment, but nowadays, a tabla player has the role. The duggi part in those ensembles consists of two drums, like a tabla and bayan, but smaller in size. The duggi has neither the resounding quality of the tabla nor the peculiarity that the tabla has of sustaining the frequencies of a note.

MANJIRA Manjiras are usually made of bronze, brass, copper, or zinc. The two cymbals may be connected by a cord passing through the holes in their centers or may not be connected at all. They produce a high-pitched percussive sound when struck together. The sound’s pitch varies according to their size, weight and the material of their construction. A player can also adjust the timbre by varying the point of contact while playing.

KHARTAL

Far right above Bama Right above Duggi Far right bottom Khartal Right bottom Manjira

Usually made wood or metal, a khartal player will hold one ‘male’ and ‘female’ khartal in each hand. The ‘male’ khartal is usually thicker and is held with the thumb while the ‘female’ khartal is usually thinner and is mainly balanced on the ring finger, which represents the fire element. It is associated with the sun and the root chakra. Its force provides staying power, stamina, and the power to be assertive. A pair of wooden castanets with bells attached to them was the earliest form of the khartal. These pieces of wood are not connected in any way. However, they can be clapped together at high speeds to make rapid, complex rhythms. Aside from being an excellent accompaniment instrument, khartal is the most portable percussion instrument in the world.

KHOL The khol is a drum with a hollow earthen body, with drumheads at both ends, one far smaller than the other. The drumheads are made of cow skin, and are three-layered and treated with a circle of rice paste, glue, and iron known as syahi.

Besides these musical instruments, some of them also sing to the accompaniment of non-traditional musical instruments like harmoniums, flutes and violins. Usually they want to use cult instruments along with these non-traditional instru-ments while they perform in the television screen and radio programmes or at public functions.


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Far left above Naal Left bottom Nupur Right above Khol Right bottom bamboo flute


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11 CLOTHING OF BAULS


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CLOTHING AND PHILOSOPHY Clothing is an intrinsic component of Baul culture, and has a history as rich as the culture itself. Their attire has seen several changes over the years. , in order to adapt to the different time periods. In the early years, the Bauls adorned themselves with an unstitched garment, which had fundamentally two pieces. Originally these garments were white in colour - a representation of the simple lifestyle the Bauls stand for. According to the norms of the cult, an ideal ascetic Baul wears a Dor and a Kaupin, which are the lower outer and inner garments. Dor and Kaupin are ritually purified before being worn. At the time of Diksha ritual, the Guru presents these to his Sisyo (or student). The Kaupin is a piece of loin cloth conventionally having a length of eight Mutti (the measure of male closed fist) and a breadth equivalent to the length in between two nipples of the male breast. The Dor is also a piece of loin cloth having a length and breadth equal to that of the hands. They also wear Alkhalla or Jobba or Hal as upper outer garment, which is a long gown running a little beyond the knees. Dor and Kaupin must be unsewn. They use orange or white colour dhoti as outer lower garment with a unique tying technique.

With the change in time, there arose a need for the Bauls to sustain themselves economically. They started performing for a larger audience which also demanded a change in their attire. After the Second World War they started migrating to more populated areas from the isolated villages which they inhabited. This caused a more widespread recognition of the Baul culture, as both the masses and the media started becoming more aware of this culture.

From the original white colour, the gar,ments changed to saffron. Saffron represented the strong connect of this culture to religion. Much of their ideologies were common to the Vaishnavs and the Bhakti movement, however the Bauls remained a distinct group with a sense of their own individuality. Later some of the members of the Baul community were influenced by the Tantric philosophy, which is deeply rooted in Hindusim. The saffron colour established it’s existence partly due to this reason. On the other hand, another sector of this community wanted to rid themselves of the identity crisis they had begun to face in reponse to unconsidered advancement. They therefore embraced the saffron colour as a distinct identity which would mark their separation from the rest of the society. The transition from white to saffron thus become an iconinc change, which was immediately associated with the members of this cult.

During the 60s and 70s, the Bauls started travelling far and wide as they gained immense popularity. They travelled to Europe and started collaborating and performing with musicians all over the world. This resulted in a requirement for winter clothing, as opposed to the clothing they had, suited to a humid climate. As Babukishan Das Baul claimed, he first created a patchwork dress, known as ‘Guduri’ which was fashioned out of rectangular patches of cloth for his father Purna Das Baul. The Guduri became so popular that others too started wearing it. The several colours and materials in the Guduri represented the oneness and unity of their culture. It symbolized a merging of castes, creeds, cultures and all the other boundaries that demarcate society. The Guduri thus became an embodiment of peace, tolerance and love.


The Bauls are a group of people who do not have riches or material possessions. Some of them believe that dress was made out of pieces of different cloths because they could be easily replaced if they were torn. The Guduri is easy to maintain - a Baul owns a single Guduri in his entire lifetime. In the Agradeep area of Nadia district and even in certain areas of Birbhum, there are villages having Muslim Bauls. Their attire is radically dif-

ferent from the Hindu Bauls in order to signify the difference in their roots. Their garments are traditionally black in clour. However, the form and functionality of the basic garment remains the same.


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EARLIER BAUL’S CLOTHING The dress. and ornaments of the Bauls are distinctive compared to the non-Bauls. As mentioned before, the Dor, the Kaupin, the Alkhalla and the Guduri were the basic components of their clothing. Initially, the Baul garments were synthesized keeping in mind their philosophy. The bauls denounce wordly possessions. Their simplicity and their lifestyle is reflected in their clothing as well.

The garments were also crafted according to the climate of the area they belonged from. The garments were made from cotton and were unstitched. The males draped the lower garment much like a dhoti and covered their torso with a similar unstitched piece of cloth. The females draped unstitched cloth in the form of saree. Later they also incorporated the blouse and petticoat into their normal clothing.

left above A Muslim Baul in his typica black Alkhalla and white dhoti performing in Baul Fakir Utsav, Kolkata Right A Baul with his sadhan sangini in their old typical attire


MODERN MALE BAUL’S CLOTHING Now-a-days, a few Bauls who live in the Ashrama and the Bauls who live outside the Ashrama are found to be very much particular about their dress pattern prescribed by the cult. Some exception is also found in using the colour of the dress. Some of the Bauls do not use the prescribed coloured Jobber and Dor Kaupin. Like the muslim Bauls, they wear a kind of odd Jobber, called Fatua, a squared shaped cloths made of pieces of different colours fabrics stiched together. Again, some of them wear orange coloured Jobber as upper outer garment and Lungi as lower outer garment. Some of them tie a piece Moth or Komarbandhi (orange or red coloured) on the waist and also use Pagdi (turban) on the head. Acording to Babukishan Das Baul Guduri (A types of Alkhalla)the patchwork dress (rectangular shaped cloths) that the Bauls are wearing today was created by Babukishan in the 1970’s, as an attractive dress for his father Purna Das Baul. This costume was on record covers, magazines covers and festival performances all over the world. He created this multi coloured dress for a symbol of oneness, unity and peace for the world. A Symbol of no caste, no creed, all colors in one, multi-cultural, peace and unity all getting along...love love one love.. Babu created this dress for his dad because in his mind he wanted to preserve Baul and while they were attending all the festival, concert hall, and doing lectures this dress would draw to what Baul was a multi coloured lineage. Most Baul performers are wearing this dress today without even knowing who the master minded behind it is. Babukishan would go around to all the tailors and collect bright colors and his mother Manju Das would sew them together by hand creating this bright Baul

costume. Unity Love to all people. This was Babukishan’s thought when he created the patch work Guduri for his father Purna Das Baul in the 1970’s.. it is the perfect symbol of what Baul is... and many Bauls started to wear the style he created.. Babu should have become a fashion designer as there is one Baul women who also wears the dress he created for a movie called Tagori the story of his aunt Radharani’s life.


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PAGDI

ALKHALLA OR GUDURI

KURTA OR JAMA

KOMARBANDHI

DHOTI


STEPS OF WEARING


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STEPS OF WEARING PAGDI


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THE COMPLETE LOOK


FATUA

Much of the clothing is described by Bauls as decorative, though some will claim the significance of certain items. For instance, the patchwork jacket or Fatua worn by some Bauls is said to represent their status as beggar, each piece of cloth received being sewn together

into a jacket. Those Bauls who wear white as opposed to ocher-colored cloth explain that the white symbolizes the shroud one wears at death, reminding us that Bauls who have under taken renunciation arc dead to the social world.


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THE LOOK IN FATUA


FLAT SKETCHES AND SIZES

FATUA

DHOTI


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ALKHALLA OR GUDURI

KURTA


FUNCTIONAL FACTORS OF THE COSTUME Acording to their performance activity the whole attire is well designed and higly functional. There are lot of body movements when they are performing. Somtimes they are playing three types of musical instruments along with singing and dancing where different body parts are involved. Most of their garment provides enough ease for free body movement, therefore the garments are loosely fitted and quite bigger than the body size. Simple recangulared shaped Alkhalla tyed on waist with Komarbandhani is perfect for their performence activity. They wear Naal on their feet and to follow rythm sometimes they have to hit the floor or jump, to make movements easier they tie the dhoti in such a way that they can freely strech their legs and do random moves. Their loose fitted quater length sleeve kurta is also highly fuctional for such activities which will not restrict their arms for dynamic movements and while playing instruments. Majorly the material being used in cotton which is perfect for the enviornment they live. From the construction perspective the garments are very simple, they can stitch it from anywhere even their wife or Sadhansangini can make it. Even in terms of surface detaling there are also some special functional factors which they can even relate with their philosophy. The Alkhalla or Fatua is mainly made of small pieces of cloths stitched together, if some parts are torn they can be easily repaired by using another small piece of cloth, instead of making a new one they can use it for life long.


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ACCESSORIES Both the male and female ascetic Bauls tie hair in a conch-shell fashion on the head. They also wear Tulsi mala or bead necklace around their neck. The ascetic male Baul use Ancla or Siddhi jhola (a bag made of cloth hanging on their shoulder). The Ancla is used for keeping alms collected from begging and also for carrying Malui (sacred pot) and Kalke. They do not use sandals or shoes while they walk on road. The Siddhi jholas have a patchwork similar to the Guduri. It is made our of scrap fabric in the

same way by the garment makers. The bags have a circuar base and a cloth strap to sling it across the body much like a hobo bag. The Ancla is a more primitive form of the Siddhi jhola in the which the strap is simply tied in a knot ascross the body. It is made up of a single piece of unstitched cloth.


FEMALE BAUL’S CLOTHING

Parvathy Baul wearing the Saffron coloue Sari in atpouro style

The female Bauls and wives of the Bauls wear both white and orange coloured Sari. Instead of using Sankha (bangles made of conch-shell) in hands and Sindur (vermilion) on the hair parting and on the forehead like the married non-Baul women, they also wear bangles made of glass. Some of them also use the garlands of glass beads along with the Tulsi beads. It is, thus, seen that despite changes, there is a tendency among

the Bauls to perpetuate a kind of peculiarity and distinctiveness in their dress which is not very much different from the traditional Baul life style.


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GARMENT MAKERS

Left above A Garment seller and maker Sk.Lalu Fakir, was making Baul garment’s panel. Right above Baul Garments are hanging on Sonajhuri haat for sale. Right bottom Fabric patch garment panel and stitching tools.

As Gopal Das Baul commented, In the early years, the Baul garments were made by their ‘Sadhan-Sanginis’ (life partners) at home. The material was cotton, sourced locally from the ‘haat’ (village market). Later, when stitched garments such as the Guduri started become popular, the garment was stitched from pieces of several scrap fabric. The garment could be repaired with a piece of fabric, easily available, if torn with use.

garments often have ‘kantha-stitch’ work or ‘batik-prints’ on them. On interacting with one of the makers at Sonajhuri Haat, I found out that the material for kurtas and fatuas come from the scrap material leftover from other garments. The surface work (kantha stitch, embroidery and batik) are usually done in the villages where they stay. Surul and Bhubandanga are two prime locations of manufacturing.

In the current day scenario, there are people dedicated to making Baul garments which they sell in the ‘haats’. They also sell ‘Satiniketani’ kurtas which are now worn by some Bauls on a daily basis. There has been a shift from the traditional Baul garments, primarily because they are not created at home anymore. These

The scrap fabrics undergo surface treatment (stitch/print work) and are then cut into square or retangular pieces. Different colours and textures of fabric are then put together by chain stitching or cross chain stitching. The final garment that is made is of a standardized size (free size). The pattern of the dress is


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punctutated by a round neck, a straight, rectangular form, and may have a small chest slit with button or may have buttons running down across the entire length like a shirt. They are usually short sleeved. Some kurtas having more modern design are made of a single coloured fabric without the patchwork. The colours are usually earthy. They may or maynot have pockets in the front, near the waist area. These garments have now become a style statement and are worn by non-Bauls too. They buy the garments from the traditional garment makers of Shatiniketan. The garments are especially popular among the youth in Bengal and worn during stage performances by different folk bands across the state.


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12

PRESENT scenario OF BAULS & THEIR practices


Exposure of Baul: Negotiating Tradition & Modernity In order to attract an International market some exponents of this so called folk music, attempt to modify their traditional form to suit popular taste by using catchy words and even slightly westernised tunes with musical interludes. Currently Baul compositions are incorporating objects of modernity; the Bauls have been modifying them into the structure of metaphorical songs through the use of their enigmatic jargons known as sandhya-bhasha and their cultural sexo-yogic practices of self-realisation. Regarding this, Shaktinath Jha notes: From the nineteenth century onwards the subject matter of Baul songs started to extend. The advancement of communication and technology helped them to flourish their songs make their voice reach toward the global audience. Bauls in course of their journey to the abroad came to know about Western culture, they started to fuse alien tunes, techniques, gimmicks in their songs, although they assimilate this influence in their songs in their own way. Globalisation works with its own sets of paradoxes. On the one hand it seeks out diversity because therein it finds fresh products that can be offered to the new and ever growing markets of this world.

Right page Kartik Das Baul Performing with ‘Bolepur Bluz’ which is Folk Fusion Band based on kolkata.

But at the same time, the diverse offerings it seeks to exploit must conform to the terms and conditions of the global market even at the risk of losing their unique identities and traits which made them eligible. It may argued justifiably that in any sphere those who are able to be in step with the times survive and others fall by the wayside and this is indeed one of the constricting pressures that globalisation has inflicted on many an existing artist and art forms especially music. Such is the impact of this aspect of globalisation that most forms of Indian music desperately try to conform to the successfully globalised Bollywoody Hindi

songs. On TV channels catering into the regional viewership, music videos provide ample proof of this homogenisation which has undoubtedly had a tragic impact on the diverse forms of musical expression in the country. Therefore songs with slow tempo or complex rhythms are usually rejected and what retained are the songs that can be converted into dance tracks with a primal beat. What happens in such situation to the innumerable artists who bare exponents of marginalised forms like classical music, folk music especially Baul. Apart from the problematising notions of authenticity attached to cultural identity, also makes possible an interrogation of the bifurcation of the global and local identities particularly in the onslaught of globalisation as a strategy, technique and ideology and Hall observes: “Perhaps instead of thinking of identity as an already accomplished fact, which the new cultural practices then represent, we should think instead, of identity as a production, which is never complete, always in process, and always constituted within, not outside representation”


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Dichotomy of Real & Unreal In Baul: Adaptation of New Compositions

Many of the Bauls of Birbhum now live in urban areas of Bolpur, Illumbazar, Rampurhat and Suri in these days perhaps to make their livelihood easier and their life more comfortable. Bolpur is a matter of attraction to local, regional as well as global tourists, Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan, at a distance of only one and a half kilometer, receives huge number of tourists, almost round the year and many of them come to visit in this town. Again Joydev which is famous for the Baul Mela is nearby from Illumbazar town, Suri is the capital city of Birbhum and Tarapith which is famous as a shakti-pith is in Rampurhat town, in order to have the facilities of these towns and to connect with foreign tourists the Bauls are shifting from their village households and Guru’s ashramas that lead the modification or modernisation of their traditional songs. Their leanings towards the secular world has expanded their field of activities and established a far-flung and complex network of interaction with the non-bauls, who are not descendants of traditional Baul families. Not only these non-Bauls are composing the tune and music of the Baul songs, they are now very much interested in writing the Baul songs in their traditional format.

Right page Parvathy Baul is performing in collaboration with Pakistani singer Areif Lohar.

Due to this the ‘Real Bauls’ are found to be very much concerned about their cult as instead of getting success in Sadhana the Bauls are now found to be more interested in recording their disces or in cassettes. After doing fieldworks I observed that at present Bauls have shown great capability in handling modern media and situations of communication by adapting new tunes, words and melodies in spite of retaining

the traditional format along with modern musical instruments with that of traditional Baul instruments like Ektara, dotara, dugi, dubki, gabgubi, and khamok.

The Authenticity of Baul amidst Fusion & Diffusion Thus it can be seen that the aesthetic and religious attitude of the Bauls is gradually being replaced by lyrics composed on the light social matters which are devoid of any professional thought, approach of mysticism. On the contrary, the verse and the tune are constructed commercially in order to make it catchy for mass entertainment but it is hardly acceptable as authentic Baul songs by its character. But due to the audience’s degraded taste while devoted Bauls hardly get any chance to present their songs from the core of their heart, most of the times fake Bauls are being introduced as the successful carriers of their artistic tradition, who sometimes find out various means to adopt different techniques to attract the minds of the present day audience, their Baul songs with improvisations and fusions of western and bollywood hit music gains popularity and in this way they exert a serious blow upon their ethnicity and their traditional background has now faced a challenge. Therefore as a living embodiment of the cultural heritage of Birbhum, the Bauls of this district need allrounded protection from decay or distortion as well as effective nurturing of their highly valued philosophical principles based on the universal


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brotherhood of mankind. The Baul communities of this district have never been given any special reward or any kind of economic security by the government despite its silent work for the people of this country. It is appropriate time to throw discernible light and all possible efforts to develop their condition among adverse situations and all possible efforts should be made to flourish their tradition even in the midst of modern trends of fusion and diffusion. In the last decades, it has been perceived as

more profitable to analyse instead the positive relation between folkloric productions and the impact of new means of reproduction and communication, such as radio, television and mobile phones. The aim of this study is likewise to argue in favour of these changes, taking into account the current scenario of this globalized world, we have to remember that changes are inevitable as the total scenario of this world has been changed due to globalisation.


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13 SUMMARY & CONCLUSION


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The study on the basis of which this document is prepared, has been presented in the form of ‘purposive ethnography’ on the Baul, a religious mendicant group of Birbhum, West Bengal. The esoteric sexoreligious cults, ideologies and songs of the Baul had attracted the attention of some creative writers and scholars in the humanities. In earlier studies on the Baul by scholars in the humanities, they were treated as a unique, isolated category of religious mendicants following and perpetuating a distinct way of life committed to an esoteric religious cult and philosophy of life. In principle, they do not profess to follow the standard norms of Brahmanic-Hindu theology nor the norms of Islam. They transgress the boundaries of Hin-duism and Islam and live as a marginal deviant cult group at the fringe of the larger society. The Bauls provide a cane of specialized esoteric religious pursuit and conceptualization by non-literate Gurus, distinctive character of Indian civilization.

During my initial encounters with the Bauls of Santiniketan I found that though the people were treated by the larger society in terms of a stereotype esoteric religious mendicants living mainly in small groups in relatively isolated rural set-up, they themselves were much inclined to be close to the total system of the larger society. In recent years specially since Independence they are found to be leaving their secluded ashramic way of life and settling down in roadside villages or towns and cities, and lead a householder way of life like the people of the larger society. Majority of them now live as Grhi with children and wife and are exposed to modern media of communication like radio, cineme, modern cultural functions and even television. Before World War II when transport and modern com-munication systems in the region were not so elaborate it appeared that many Bauls

of Birbhum district continued to live in small groups in relatively isolated rural set up. Even then only a section of the Bauls were ‘mendicants’ while others were ‘householders’. Both the categories of Bauls, however, sustained their life by begging and singing. They also wandered from door to door and from fair to fair. They did convey a message of other worldliness and religious symbolism to the lay villagers and play the role of mediators between repositories of the esoteric otherworldly religious traditions of the specialized ashramic community and those of the lay villagers, particularly those belonging to the low castes.

The traditional habit of the Bauls to spread the message of their cult through songs beyond their Ashrama community has extended phenomenally in modern times. They have been playing their roles in a wider arena, particularly after the World War II and Independence of India. The esoteric sexo-yogic cult and songs of the hitherto relatively isolated and inward looking rural Bauls have increasingly attracted the attention of urban intelligentsia of the country and abroad. Involvement in these farflung, fast growing networks and modern media of communication has affected the pattern of their life and culture. The Bauls are now mostly found to settle down in road-side villages and urban centres with their wives and children. A very small group of the Bauls also continue to live in the traditional Ashrama with wives and children.

Though the Transformation in the sphere of economic activities of the Bauls have led them to direct from their traditional Ashrama based collective social life to individual endeavours for selfmaintenance and domestic needs. Nowa-days an individual Baul earns for his own needs and to support the members of his family. This individualistic attitude, for uplifting the

Left page A Baul is singing in the bank of Ajay River,


living condition of their families, compels them to adopt secular professions like agricultural labour, casual day labour and professional singing and so on. Means subsistence of the Bauls has also gained a new shape both at the ideal and the operational levels. They often take the railway compartments as the main locale for begging instead of relying only on wandering on foot from door to door in the countryside. They also come out for begging at least twice in a day instead of once which is ideally prescribed by their cult. Their leanings towards the secular world has expanded their field of activities and established a far-flung and complex network of interaction with the non-Bauls. A few Bauls have been sponsored for foreign trips to Europe, U.S.A. and Japan on many occasions. The activities of the Bauls in towns, cities and metropolitan centres of the country are increasingly becoming frequent.

Though the Bauls and the non-Bauls usually do not participate in the rites of passage of one another, they are found to chare common platform in the ‘cultural performances’ of the village and also beyond the village. The Bauls now attend different public cultural functions organised by the non-Bauls. They often participate as professional singers in the musical programmes of the non-Bauls. They also compose songs and publish these in the books written by the non-Baul composers.

Right page A Baul after the performence in Joydev Kenduli Mela. Following page Baul Couple Doll which is very common in Santiniken market.

Under such changing situation the traditional habit of the Bauls to convey the spiritual message of their cult through songs to the village laity, urban literates and among themselves, has given way to their turning into specialist professional singers. But in the presentation of their songs the Bauls are very careful about preserving their esoteric cult identity and strike a balance between perennial mystical sexoyogic imageries and

introducing new popular secularized romantic and sentimental elements. In their dress and decorations, in smoking Ganja and in their stylized conversations they consciously try to present a substantial element of esoteric mysticism and their traditional beliefs and practices.

The Bauls today have shown great capability in handling modern media and situations of communication. They adopt new themes, words and melodies. But they also retain their capacity to present songs of traditional type in traditional manner. At the time of giving performances they dress themselves with traditional costumes. They start to sing with a song of Guru bandana. Along with the modern musical in-struments like harmonium, flute, piano, etc., they also use the traditional musical instruments like Ekteira and Barna. The Bauls thus present a capacity to preserve continuity of their core tradition in the midst of innovative adaptations in the changing situation and have been able to maintain social and cultural distinctiveness of their own cult group.

In the midst of these adaptations to the rapidly changing modern situation the Bauls are careful not only to maintain their boundary markers in dress and decora-tion, but also to profess their allegiance to spiritual quest ideally represented by the tradition of the Sadhaka in the Ashrtima. It appears that in spite of serving this ideal role the Sadhaka Bauls are, in reality, in a process of virtually disappearing from the scene. However, the cult of the traditional Bauls have been enmeshed in such a far-flung network, and so many ‘interest groups’ have grown around them that it is unlikely that the cult is likely to lose its identity and disappear. They are likely to maintain continuity of social and cultural identity in the course of an overall trend of secularization.


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BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCE BOOKS Ray, Manas. The Bauls of Birbhum : a study in persistence and change in communication in cultural context, Firma KLM Private Ltd, Calcutta, 1994. Mahapatra, Piyushkanti. The Folk Cults of Bengal, Indian Publications, 1972. Chakravarti, Surath Chandra. Bauls, the spiritual vikings, Firma KLM, 1980. Sen, Mimlu. Baulsphere, Random House India, 2011. Openshaw, Jeanne. Seeking Bauls of Bengal, Cambridge University Press, 2002. Chakraborty, Sudhir. Gabhir Nirjan Pathe, Ananda Publishers, 2008.

BLOGS Das Trishula. Bauls of Bengal “Mystic Bhakti of Birbhum”. March 1, 2016. http://lineagebaul.blogspot. in/ (Accessed 05.06.2016) Singh Supreeta. Live and let love. January 3, 2011. https://bppostscript.wordpress.com/tag/bauls/ (Accessed 21.06.2016) Mitra Shubhashis. The Baul Art. June 9, 2013. http://muktodhara.org/the-baul-art/ (Accessed 03.07.2016) Das Trishula. Who is Krishnendu Das Baul aka Babu Kishan?. September 30, 2011. http://babukishan. blogspot.in/2011/09/who-is-krishnendu-das-baul-aka-babu.html?view=classic (Accessed 14.07.2016)

Electronic Journal Article Kar (Dutta) Rina, Bauls: A Different Philosophy of Life, http://www.sncwgs.ac.in/wp-content/ uploads/2015/11/2.2-Art-6-Bauls-A-Different-Philosophy-of-Life.pdf (Accessed 19.08.2016) Mondal Bidhan, Dr. Sujay Kumar Mandal, The Bauls of Birbhum: Identity, Fusion and Diffusion Bidhan Mondal, http://www.irjims.com/files/Bidhan-Monadal---SKM_1y4w5o4l.pdf (Accessed 25.08.2016).


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Harris, Martin, RENOWNED BAUL SINGER SHARES HER MUSIC WITH SUFI, https://www.sufijournal.org/ an-exclusive-interview-with-parvathy-baul/ (Accessed 26.07.2016) Santiniketan, 20th January 2010, http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5495/ (Accessed 07.07.2016) Kenduli Mela, 14 January, 2016. http://www.festivalsofindia.in/Kenuli-Mela/ (Accessed18.08.2016) Kartik Das,August 5, 2008, https://baularchive.com/interviews/15 (Accessed18.08.2016) Chitra Katha Geethi, January 29th, 2013, http://parvathybaul.srijan.asia/?cat=1 (Accessed11.07.2016) DeNapoli, Antoinette E., Review, Contradictory Lives: Baul Women in India and Bangladesh by Lisa I. Knight, MAY 2012, http://www.jstor.org/ (Accessed 06.08.2016)

Capwell, Charles H., The Esoteric Belief of the Bauls of Bengal, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Feb., 1974), pp. 255-264, http://www.jstor.org/ (Accessed 11.08.2016) Dasgupta, Atis, The Bauls and Their Heretic Tradition, May - Jun., 1994, URL: http://www.jstor.org/ stable/3517903 Page Count: 14. (Accessed 19.08.2016) Das, Trishula, Guduri, the Baul dress created by Babukishan in the 1970’s, Sepember 7, 2012, http:// vedicgoddess.weebly.com/bhakti-masala-blog/. (Accessed 28.08.2016)


IMAGE CREDITS

Images for the project are credited as listed below..Images not credited in the following list have been made by Bijoy Prasad Saha, Cover page: Basuki Dasgupta Full title page: www.touchtalent.com Copyright page: www.thedailystar.net Page 12-13: Raj Das Baul Page 16: gypsyshack.com Page 18: www.india-wris.nrsc.gov.in Page 19: www.keyword-suggestions.com Page 20-21 : www.flickr.com Page 23: weaponsandwarfare.com Page 24: pinwallpaper.xyz Page 25: www.flickr.com Page 26: ilovereporting.wordpress.com www.slideshare.net photocamel.com Page 28,29: denzongleisure.blogspot.com Page 31: westbengalnews.blogspot.com Page 32: www.rickshawchallenge.com Page 37: www.thebridalbox.com blog.kaya.in Page 38: www.pinterest.com chezshuchi.com www.tripadvisor.in bazaarnest.com Page 39: bengalcuisine.in Page 40: www.gobollywood.com Page 42: www.sbstours.in .wikipedia.org pushpakbanerjee.wordpress.com Page 44: www.merryresortdarjeeling.com www.holidayiq.com www.pinterest.com Page 45: www.flickr.com Page 48: www.holidayiq.com Page 52: indiatoday.intoday.in Page 53: www.oldindianphotos.in Page 54: bolpur-santiniketan.com Page 56: muktodhara.org Page 57: ballavpur.westbengalonline.in

Page 58: thebgexperience.wordpress.com Page 60: www.csir.res.in Page 62: flickrhivemind.net www.flickr.com Page 64: www.panoramio.com Page 65: worldtravellocations.com Page 66-67: www.flickr.com Page 70: flickrhivemind.net Page 72-73: wikipedia.org Page 74: Dr. Raj Das Baul Page 76-77: https://commons.wikimedia.org Page 80: www.alicecarfraemultimedia.com Page 82: Dr. Raj Das Baul Page 84: mirrorofthesky.blogspot.com Page 89: appliedsentience.com Page 91: facebook.com/baulfakirutsav www.adem-geneve.com Page 97: www.hinduismtoday.com Page 101: ekatharakalari.org Page 109: blog.travel-exploration.com Page 115: cafedissensus.com Page 124: translation-anindya.blogspot.com Page 129: www.flickr.com Page 130: gobindaroy.wordpress.com Page 131: facebook.com/baulfakirutsav Page 132: www.flickr.com Page 136: www.shutterstock.com Page 139: sundargram.com www.flickr.com Page 140-141: www.cam2ophotowalkers.in Page 142: flickrhivemind.net Page 145: redscarabtravelandmedia.wordpress.com flickrhivemind.net Page 147: www.expectingrain.com www.markfoster.net Page 157: wikipedia.org www.indian-instruments.com Page 160: www.flickr.com


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Page 162: ekatharakalari.org Page 163: www.alicecarfraemultimedia.com Page 178: riadzany.blogspot.com Page 179: parvathybaul.srijan.asia cochinblogger.wordpress.com Page 183: www.flickriver.com Page 185: www.vidyouth.com Page 188: priobangla.net Page 191: www.flickr.com


contributors

KISHORE KRISHNA BANERJEE Formerly Director General, Raja Rammohan Roy Library Foundation and National Library, Kolkata, Mission Director NML, Ministry of Culture, Government of India. Project Director (Archives), East and NorthEast Zone, Prasar Bharati,

Dr. Raj Kumar SIngh (Raj Das Baul) Principal, Government General Degree College, Mangalkote, Burdwan, West Bengal.

SUVENDU SAHA M.phil Scholar, Modern History, Vidyasagar University.


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KANYAKA BANERJEE M.phil Scholar, Modern Indian History, Jadavpur University. Guest Lecturer in History at New Alipore College, Former Teacher at La Martiniere for Girls, Kolkata.

KANINIKA BANERJEE M.phil Scholar, Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University.


Bauls of Santiniketan : A documentation on choice, cult & costume  

This document attempts to string together the various aspects of Baul culture and their way of life. As a researcher, I realized the importa...

Bauls of Santiniketan : A documentation on choice, cult & costume  

This document attempts to string together the various aspects of Baul culture and their way of life. As a researcher, I realized the importa...

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