Babuji Bose wrote on August 6, 2009
From my limited understanding and based on a visit to Keduli (near Shantiniketan), the annual ilgrimage West Bengal Bauls make to birthplace of patron-sant Joydev ... Bauls are poet-singer akirs, who have renounced the world and material possessions ... in West Bengal side they would generally follow Vaishnavite traditions, songs emphasizing Krishna ... on Bangladesh, side, the patron saint is Lalon fakir, and reaching to ecstasy/union with a more abstract divine entity ... m not sure whether boatmen (bhatiyali) songs of Bangladesh are Baul origin-ed, but have mesmerizing lyrics on thes same theme ... but more from the experts.To add an observation, and though it may sound contrarian, it is something, which will come up in honest debate ... is the issue of the validation of the religious ecstasy experience ... whether Sufi or Baul ... sure it appeals, it stirs emotions, evokes sublime thoughts and feelings ... but in a technical sense, is it valid ?! ... more valid, than say any other out-of-normal body experience, say hypnosis, or hallucinatory ... can the age-old subject-object dichotomy be obliterated in a sublime ecstasy experience ? ... is union, or even vision of God, technically possible ? ... can we crash through the wall to reach the 'unknowable" ??
It would be unfair to delineate bAUls on geographical lines, cause if we are to look at the times of Fakir Lalon Shah, Kushtia was in Nadiya district of West Bengal - the hub of the spiritual renaissance with Joydeb and many others shining their 'light' or lamp.
I have tried to gather more information on the origins of the bAULs but frankly think its an exercise in futility for most that have been written and/or documented are based on myths and half truths. Not worth my time really....
The other notion that the bAUL philosophy is unique to Bengal is also a trivialization. bAULs couldn't have simply dropped off from 'hEAVEN' and in my continuous research I am able to go back to pre-Abrahamic periods - even up to the time of Hermes the great in Egypt.
What I find very interesting are things that Joydeb, Lalon etc said, wrote or preached, to even things the modern day fAKIRs are saying - is nothing new in the realms of 'spirituality'. Its just that most of these later day sAINTs became saint because they could unlock the 'mysteries of nature' and have access to 'keys of all tEMPLEs'.
The bAULS believe that a BIGGER LAMP will always light SMALLER LAMPS and this will continue apparently till eternity. Explains perhaps like Lalon most of the bAULs are called sHAH - or among other 'regal lamps'.
Its a popular misconception that bAULs renounce the world. Far from it there are very many category of bAULs and the ones I know all have families and many have children. There are Grihi, Krishi, Charen and various others - who have to look for a livelihood as part of their belief system.
Exception perhaps are the sADHUs who literally sing and beg for an existence and live of largesse of various sHRINEs and aKHRAAZ...what is amazing is many of them also have 'families' of sort...sHEBA dASHIs - female companions - and in some cases more than one.
How they manage not to have children is a story for another day :)
jOI gURU /\
Dhaka, 9th August 2009