Everyone asks: "Lalan, what's your religion in this world?"
Lalan answers: "How does religion look?" I've never laid eyes on it.
Some wear malas [Hindu rosaries] around their necks, some tasbih [Muslim rosaries], and so people say they've got different religions.
But do you bear the sign of your religion when you come or when you go?
(Lalan Fakir, Baul)
India’s mystical spirit does not have a single face. Rather in each region certain gods and saints are especially revered. The Sufi spirit expresses itself differently in different parts of the country. Mystical practice and ritual and the music that accompanies that ritual is local not national.
So while the dohe of Kabir are held especially close to Sikhs, the bhajans of Meera have a strong hold on Rajasthanis. In Bengal, it is the songs of the Baul, and the sayings of Chaitanya that are most revered.
Baul is the name of a religious sect of Bengal. It has borrowed its religious ideas from different sources—Buddhism, yoga, Islam, Hinduism and the worship of Vishnu. It is the product of the medieval ages when mystic poets like Dadu, Nanak and Kabir appeared in different parts of northern India. During this time the great social reformer Chaitanya appeared in Bengal.
The Baul do not worship any idol of any God whom they realize within their inner soul. They express the ecstasy of their intense joy of union with God in songs accompanied with dance. The Baul do not believe in any written scripture. They preserve their own scripture in the form of songs alone.
Bauls are drawn from both major communities of Bengal—Hindu and Muslim. When they enter the sect they discard their individual religion and are known as either Vaishnava (Hindu) Baul or fakir (Muslim Baul).
The Baul describe their longings for union with the Supreme Being in their songs. They consider the Supreme Being to be their beloved and very near to their hearts and refer to him as Maner Manush (Man of the Inner Soul).
The first recording tonight is by a Bengali singer named Prahlad Brahmachari. Born in what is now Bangladesh in 1940, he learned Baul songs from the ‘Emperor’ of modern Baul singers, Purna Das Baul. In addition to Baul songs, Brahmachari is a well known singer of folk songs and has been extensively broadcast on All India Radio.
01 Premik Na Hoile Prem Koiro Na
02 Emon Bhaber Nadite Soire
03 Aat Kuthuri-Noi Darja
04 Nimer Dotara Tui More
05 Ajgubi Ek Katha Shune
06 Kanya Haste Kadamber Phool
07 Eso He Gourchandra
08 Guru Bole Premer Badam Tolo
09 Naire, Nayer Badam Tuila
10 O Bondhure, Amar Mon Korechho Churi
11 Dayal Guru Re
12 O Kanyalo Jaimu Ami Boideshete
|Ram Kanai Das|
The second selection is a recent CD of Bengali folk songs sung by the Bangladeshi classical singer, Ram Kanai Das. Now in his 80s, Das has long been at the very top rung of Bengali singers. From a family of folk singers in the Sylhet region of NE Bangladesh, Das studied classical music as a young man but claims the folk culture is his blood. This terrific collection, officially launched just last month, is issued by the Bengal Foundation.
|Krishna bhaktis, early morning, Dhaka, Bangladesh|
Bengal, like the Sindh, on the other side of the sub-continent has developed a unique and deeply syncretic culture that is proudly claimed and celebrated by both Hindus and Muslims. In this collection, Das sings songs composed by Hindu (Guru Bina Hoy Na) and Muslim (Alla Sabur Korlam) poets, as well his parents (Oshomoye Dhorlam Pari). His voice is strong and one feels he can keep singing till he’s at least a hundred.
01 Oshomoye Dhorlam Pari
02 Amar Mon Mojore
03 Ami Na Loilam
04 Joler Ghate Deikhkha Ailam
05 Ailare Nua Jamal
06 Monchora Kaliare
07 Jalailo Piriter Agun
08 Alla Sabur Korlam
09 O Shona Bhondure
10 Kanai Tumi Kheir Khelao
11 Ki Shopono Dekhilam
12 Guru Bina Hoy Na
13 Broje Jaito Re
14 Shua Urilo