Baul – The musical wanderers of Bengal

All these hectic schedules, the rules of punctuality, immense zeal to win, altogether a materialistic constitution designed just to live a life that precisely has no punctuality of death and birth but obviously it consists of the greatest truth and its certainty that is impossible to debate. For a while these will be your thoughts, where you will be completely oblivious of you in “you”, and your own life will seem like a drama well characterized by the faces that surrounds you, after you meet the Baul of Bengal who’ll drown you in their melancholy music of Ektara (A one-string musical instrument that is made out of carved epicarp of gourd) paired with their lyrics that’ll enchant your soul and hypnotize separating it from this materialistic world to a world of love and humanity.

Baul, wandering singers of Bengal . Photo from Flickr

Baul are a group of wandering singers of Bengal who mainly cover the areas of Assam and Bengal. As they lead a nomadic life traveling from land to land, not much is known about their origin and the name “Baul”. However they can be called among the group of Sufis and Vaishnavas who live their life as a devotee to the almighty. Though a very small group of Baul is found among the Bengali population, their role to the Bengali culture can be found in the earliest records of 18th century that proclaims their existence that has been followed in chastity till today. There are mainly two types of Baul , the first live their life as a full devotee who do not live in family and roam continuously to places without any proper belongings like money and the second group live in families but they maintain their solitary life with mingling much with the society.

Their music mainly conveys the message of love, and they believe in one god who resides not in shelters but in every tiny particle of nature in form of chastened love. Even one of the great poets Mr Rabindra Nath Tagore was so deeply inspired by their songs that he has used their concept of music in many of his composed songs that are popularly known as Rabindra Sangit. It is quiet strange to observe them singing lyrics that are deeply meant to splash the truth of life but more in a worldly manner. Baul songs were never recorded as they only convey it orally without ever caring to keep it in written forms, and this is the reason their knowledge can be truly appreciated where they don’t even need to correct their music and lyrics. With this observation of their capabilities it can be axiomatically proclaimed that though uneducated and isolated Baul spiritually have gained higher position in true sense of humanity. One of the examples of their lyrics that I luckily memorized is:

“Bhalobasha makor shar jaal , chede geley jor lagey naa, chedley bhalo basar bandhan tri jagat e thai mile naa, bhalo basha hayego jakhan tetul patay hoy sankulan , chedley bhalo bashar bandhan tri jagat-e thai mile na.”

It means “Love is like a Spider web, that if broken, can never be rejoined. If the knot of love is broken one cannot find any space even in three worlds- Sky, world, and earth, But if one has pure love in his heart then one can find space even in the tiniest leaf of tamarind in this world.

Ultimately, it will drive you to a world of reality where all the known realities to us will seem futile and all the definitions of life that we bear with us will seem contrary to their oral treatment of soul.

Author: Babit


  1. I am sure there must lot of groups like Baul exist in India. I read lot of flock songs exist in India. While singing, the singers come with new lyrics on the fly. This is truly amazing information about India.

  2. Great info about Baul, I read about them some time back during my college days for one of my course.

  3. Satavisa Chaudhuri says:

    Love the article. A brilliant start.. Being a Bengali, I often wander in the outskirts to follow these people…they live a simple lifestyle and this simplicity comes out in their songs…And one keeps wondering how the hard truths of life are so well…so simply sung by them..

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