Baul Project

Please support Tagore Society of Houston's continuing initiative to aid the Bauls of Bengal, India.

Baul (Bengali: ????) are a culture, a society of mystic minstrels from Bengal, India. Bauls constitute both a religious synthesis and a musical tradition. Bauls are a heterogeneous group, with many sects, but largely consisting of Vaishnava Hindus and Sufi Muslims.They can often be identified by their distinctive clothes and musical instruments.

The origin of Bauls is not known exactly, but the word "Baul" has appeared in Bengali texts as old as the 15th century. The origin of the word Baul is debated, but all derivations are consistent with the modern sense of the word, which denotes the inspired people with an ecstatic eagerness for a spiritual life, where a person can realise his union with the eternal beloved - the Moner Manush (the man of the heart).

Though Bauls comprise a very small segment of the Bengali population, their influence on the culture of Bengal is considerable. In 2005, the Baul tradition was included in the list of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.

The Bauls themselves attribute their lack of historical records to their reluctance to leave any footprint 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 transcribed by outside observers.

The Baul movement was at its peak in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Baul songs and lifestyle lifestyle left an undeniable imprint on Bengali culture, but nowhere more powerfully than on the work of Rabindranath Tagore, who talked of Bauls in a number of speeches in Europe in the 1930s. An essay based on these was compiled into his English book The Religion of Man. Below is a famous 

Rabindrasangeet (Tagore song), heavily influenced by Baul theme:

"amar paner manush achhe prane

tai here taye shokol khane

Achhe she noyon-taray, alok-dharay, tai na haraye--

ogo tai dekhi taye Jethay shethay

taka-i ami je dik-pane"

English translation:

"The man of my heart dwells inside me.

Everywhere I look, it is he.

In my every sight, in the sparkle of light

Oh, I can never lose him --

Here, there and everywhere,

Wherever I turn, he is right there!"

Bauls are found in the Indian state of Bengal and the eastern parts of Bihar and Jharkhand and the country of Bangladesh.

In Bengal, Bauls live mainly in the district of Birbhum near Shantiniketan, where Tagore founded his new age school and university.

In an age of technology where religious and spiritual concepts dominate discourses, policies and politics and international relations of the world, each sect or each religion propagates their own. All say theirs is the way. 

The Bauls however sing about a universal religion, embrace all religions, saying all are the way, accept all, what is important is inside of you, turn around and look within, God lives inside of you.

In 2013,the Baul community of Birbhum are poverty stricken, they have no assets, neither education nor land. 

They live day to day in abject poverty where bare necessities are a luxury. This is the community Tagore Society of Houston is determined to reach out to. Based on a similar concept of Adopt a Village and Habitat for Humanity, Tagore Society of Houston wants to meet this Baul Community's basic needs, shelter, food , education , medical treatment, and musical instruments which are key to their livelihood so they may continue to sing their songs and talk about love for all.

We would appeal to all to respond to the initiative of Tagore Society to help the Bauls and support this cause.

This may be the time in history that the world needs to learn about these gentle minstrel messengers of peace. 

The way of the Baul is probably the direction of the new world - where peace , acceptance and divine love are the guiding principles, and including all is a way of life.