Baul Song is the mystical song of the Baul religious community. They nourish one kind of worldly religious tenet that formed on the basis of the essence of the body (the doctrine that the body is the seat of all truths) and on the knowledge about God. This is known as the Baul religious tenet. It does not have any written literature or scripture. The Bauls express their religious doctrine, philosophy, view of life and their beliefs through literature, in the language of music. This oral music is known as Baul song. The Bauls regard their songs as part and parcel of their religion. They celebrate their religious occasions – both formal and informal – such as, religious gatherings and festivals and mendicancy by singing music. They try to find God by practicing the doctrine of dehotattwa (belief that body is the seat of all truths). They address God in symbolic terms, such as: human, lover or beloved, the unknown bird, Manuray, etc. They believe that God inhabits in the human body. So the main objective of celebrating the body is to facilitate the meeting of human soul with God. This meeting is possible through the love or devotion of the individual soul. The body-centric religious practice of the Bauls is reliant on a guru. The Bauls have to be initiated by a guru and perform many rites and rituals to acquire spiritual attainments or salvation. Baul music is largely concerned with body, spirit, God, guru, love and devotion, the mystery of creation and similar other issues. This is how, the following doctrines have become dominant in Baul music: the doctrines of spirit, body, guru, love, creation, human, etc. The doctrine of the spirit is concerned with the preparation of the mind, that of body with the rules of devotion, that of guru with the devotion to the guru, that of creation with the mystery of creation and existence of life, and that of human with meeting with God.
Lalon Shah (1774-1890) is the author of Baul song. He was born in the village of Bharra in kushtia, and according to another view in the village of Horixhpur in Jexxore district in present-day Bangladesh. He had his hermitage in the village of Chheuria in Kushtia and died there after living and practicing his ascetic austerities in Chheuria for a long time. He initiated many disciples and disciples' disciples and thus organised the Baul community. He composed Baul songs for himself and for his disciples to sing. Later on, Lalon's songs were collected from his disciples and disciples' disciples. Some of his prominent disciples are Duddu Xhah, Pabju Shah and pagla kanai. They also followed Lalon and composed many Baul songs. The number of Lalon's songs is from 2,000 to 2,500. His disciples also composed hundreds of songs.
rabindranath collected and published the songs of Lalon and gagan harkara. More than a hundred songs by Pagla Kanai have so far been collected, edited and published. Upendranath Bhattacharya in his book Babglar Baul O Baul Gan (The Bauls of Bengal and Their Songs, 1364) compiled 679 Baul songs written by 90 Baul poets some of whom are little known. “O Mind! You don't know how to cultivate land. / Such human land is left abandoned, / Which could yield gold if cultivated.” — This is the belief of the Bauls. Since the Supreme Being resides in the human body, the Bauls believe, if people know their own selves they will know God. In Lalon's words, “If you know yourself, you will know the Unknown.” According to Lalon, the human body and human life are above everything. He says: “Nothing is better than human. / God and god desire / To be born as human being.” He was strongly against caste-distinction and the caste system, as he states: “If I could get hold of caste, I would burn it.” Rabindranath highly praised the way of life of the Bauls, which is free from discrimination driven by caste, religion and communal denominations, and called it human religion.
The main musical instrument of the Baul songs is Ektara (one stringed musical instrument). Some Bauls bind the banya (a small semicircular musical instrument of percussion played along with the tabla) in the waist. They sing and dance – individually or collectively – and play the tabla by the right hand and banya by the left. Baul song creates a unique emotion and beauty through a combination of three things: music, dance and musical instruments. Music is part and parcel of their religious practices. Baul songs are like bhatiali (musical mode sung by boat-men) and it has stretched-out tone. these sons are also composed by a combination of the stretched-out and light music of kirtan (a singer of songs about Radha and Krishba). These and some other features have created an independent tradition of Baul songs. The sad mystic tone of the Baul songs has conquered the hearts of the people in this region.
In Bangladesh, Kushtia is the centre of Baul songs. In course of time, it has gradually spread from kushtia to the neighboring districts like jessore, faridpur, pabna dhaka, mymensingh and |sylhet. Similarly, it has also spread to Nadia, Bardhaman and Birbhum district of West Bengal. Baul song is regarded as an important element of the cultural tradition of this country. At present its practice is not limited to the Baul Singers only, but it is practiced now by the trained singers of the country and these song are being admired home and abroad. On the other hand, the humanistic perspective and beauty of Baul song have fascinated many people in the world. Recently, UNESCO has decided to preserve Baul song as a memorial to a tradition of humankind. [Wakil Ahmed]