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Bauls: Exploring the mystic philosophy beyond plush rooms and books

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Picture Credit: flickr.com

By Sreyashi Mazumdar

Crooning away to a music bereaved of religion, class, sex and creed, the bauls or the heretics of Bengal are on a persistent search for a world which is still clandestine; a world which beholds the supreme power.

Picture Credit: leonidfotos.com
Picture Credit: leonidfotos.com

Wading through the tumultuous stages of our lives, we have often called for that supreme soul or God to whom we render ourselves selflessly, waiting for that cosmic power to save us from the hardest times we run into, but have we ever trailed on the validity of its existence?

These mystics from the heart of rural Bengal are in an incessant search of God or the Moner Manush– as they address the supreme power. Baul philosophy has always been a subject of deliberation across intellectual circles; however, the discussions have always been restricted to plush rooms and books.

The term baul is derived from a Sanskrit word Batul– meaning the air around us. The very meaning of the term encapsulates the tenets of baul philosophy and sheds light on the lifestyle donned by a baul; like the air even a baul isn’t tethered by a constricted territory, societal rules and complex dogmas. The philosophy or the movement has no particular timeline which would direct one to its genesis. It can be precisely termed as an experience of eccentricity, an intoxicated state that one gets subjected to during his or her hunt for God.

A baul is bereft of worldly reveries and pain. Heading towards a never ending path, plucking their ektara, donning an orange robe, a baul fleshes out the apparitional meaning of life. Baul philosophy is considered to be a concoction of Hinduism and Islam with an essence of Buddhism in it.

Picture Credit: tanvirmokammel.com
Lalon Fakir, Picture Credit: tanvirmokammel.com

Lalon Fakir is considered to be the principal proponent of baul music. Originally set forth as a movement, baul music turned out to be a popular folk form later on.

Through their music, bauls retail the true meaning of life, a life that is otherwise considered to be a journey with episodes of good and bad. “We are on a constant run, trying to find out the supreme truth, the supreme father. We, bauls, through our music try to preach the real essence of life, try to heal the anguish etched in one’s mind,” says Ganesh Chandra Rai, who despite being a family man aspires to take to a baul’s lifestyle.

In order to become a baul, one needs to be devoid of temporal pleasures, one requires forsaking his worldly entanglements in order to transcend every barrier and finally reach the zenith- a point which would endorse the unison of the supreme soul and the individual. “I often ruminate if only I could let go every responsibility I am tied to and embark on a journey that would lead me to the supreme soul,” Ganesh rues while crooning away to his favourite song by Lalon Fakir.

Ganesh Chandra Rai, a baul settled in Garia,Kolkata
Ganesh Chandra Rai, a baul settled in Garia,Kolkata

Despite being an antediluvian form of music, bauls are gradually heading to a dead end, owing to the kind of popular culture creeping in, with the advent of Bollywood music and hard rock. Besides that, taking to reclusiveness isn’t an easy option; corporeal ties at times leashes ones desire to unearth the other world owing to which the search remains incomplete. “It’s not easy to give up your worldly pleasure and set forth on a journey completely devoid of somatic desires and financial responsibilities…Now a day, you will hardly find a person completely adopting a baul’s lifestyle,” adds Ganesh while plucking his ektara.

Transgressing their corporeal bonds, these mystics sweep across boundaries, hoping to veil the unveiled and finally blow the conch of triumph orchestrating their unison with the unknown, the supreme power, God.

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Kolkata Showcases in Top 100 Global Travel Destinations

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Kolkata
Whiteways and Laidlaw Building in Kolkata. Wikimedia

Oct 2, 2017: Kolkata is featured in the top 100 travel destinations globally alongside other Indian cities namely, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, and Bengaluru, as indicated by Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2017.

Chennai stands out in India, other than emerging among the top 10 destinations in Asia Pacific when it comes to overnight visitor arrivals.

Travel and tourism in India is on the rise, an authority of a main travel house in the city told PTI.

Durga Puja festival in Kolkata is a major attraction for foreigners with at least two- to three-day stay, he said.

Also Read:  Durga Puja Pandal Decoration Catches Cinema Style, Baahubali Palace Will Be In Cruise This Year In Kolkata 

According to the Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index 2017, there are no indications of the slowdown in travel and tourism in Asia Pacific with the region dominating visitor arrivals.

This is additionally affirmed with the main 10 cities in Asia Pacific destinations tracking the most noteworthy amount of global overnight visitor spending. Bringing USD 91.16 billion in travel use in 2016, Asia Pacific outpaced Europe (USD74.74 billion USD) and North America (USD55.02 billion), MasterCard said in an announcement.

Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94

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Rituals Exist in All Cultures and they are Important

Rituals play a prominent role in every culture

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Religion
Ancient Indian Religion.

Hinduism is a practice, which is known for its rich rituals. From the Vedic ages, Hindus perform certain activities right from the time they wake up in the morning until the time they sleep. These activities may include, Pooja (worshipping lord) and Karya (Working), which integrate their culture. The events manifest a certain beauty, without which Hinduism is incomplete.

Different sects of Hindus worship different deities. Various Poojas are held for different festivities and occasions called the ‘Utsavas’. People during different festivals not just gather to worship the god, but also come together to celebrate life, with beautiful colours, clothes and delicious food. This itself proves that rituals manifest the beauty and celebration of life in Hinduism.

Meaning Of Rituals:

However, certain sections of the society have a preconceived notion about the rituals Hindus perform, which leads to them being called ‘superstitious’ or ‘overtly religious’. But is it fair to tag them? What is the meaning of the ritual? Ritual can be any activity which you perform. It is a way of communication. A teacher teaching his or her students can be a ritual. A mother feeding her baby is a ritual. Ritual is a generic term, which must not be linked with traditions, religion and beliefs? And, even if it is associated with these customs, then Hinduism should not be the only target. Every religion follows some beliefs. For example, a Muslim reading Namaz is a ritual; Christians visiting church on every Sunday is a ritual or Thanksgivings, when people have dinners with their friends and families. Hindus may have more rituals to act on than Muslims or Christians, but this gives no one the right to invalidate their belief. The rituals which Hindus perform don’t just have a connection with God, but also scientific reasons behind them. For example, Surya Namaskar is good for health as facing the light at that time of the day is good for your eyes, and makes you a morning person.

Also Read: Navratri 5th Day, The Tales That Speaks About Mother-Son Relationship

The reason why people not like rituals is due to their stifling and obligatory nature. Since our childhood, we have been asked to adhere to certain activities, and never taught the reason behind them. This develops disconnection towards them.

Benefits Of Rituals:

Rituals should be seen as art. We must not do it for the sake of doing it. We must sense its meaning like we sense the meaning of art. There is a side of these customs which we don’t want as well, but at the end of the day, they generate a sense of unity and belongingness. They bind you as a community. As long as we live as humans, these practices will have an integral role to play in our life, which can not be neglected.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.      Megha can be reached at Twitter @ImMeghaacharya.

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Kashmere Gate Durga Puja is the 108 Years Old Annual Ritual in Delhi

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Kashmere Gate Durga Puja
Durga Puja. IANS

New Delhi, Sep 24, 2017: Kolkata might be the cynosure of Durga Puja celebrations, but not far behind is the national capital, which plays host to more than 350 pandals (marquees). And the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja has been continuing this yearly ritual for the past 108 years, making it Delhi’s oldest Puja.

Its theme has always been traditional. From maintaining the quintessential “sabeki ek-chala-thakur” (traditional one platform) goddess Durga to carrying the idol in a bullock cart for the “visarjan” (immersion), this Puja stands out against the rest.

“The bullock cart visarjan is organised only by us. No other pandals organise such a procession in the national capital,” Samarendra Bose, a committee member of the Delhi Durga Puja Samiti, told IANS.

“And the Bhog! It is also a highlight of our celebration. Every year we feed the afternoon meal to around five to six thousand people. And on Ashtami (the eighth day), the turnout crosses more than 10,000. It’s a big responsibility on our shoulders and we make sure that everything goes smoothly during the Puja,” he said.

Also Read: Devotees Offer Prayers to Goddess Durga and Observe Fast for Nine Divine Nights, Starting Today

There’s quite a history attached to this Puja. Due to the efforts of an unnamed railway employee, the first Puja was organised in 1909 at the Roshanpura Kali Mandir near Nai Sarak. From 1913 to 1946, the Puja used to be organised in a dharamshala (community hall) near Fatehpuri Mosque. Later it was shifted to the Bengali Senior Secondary School at Alipur Road near Civil Lines but the nomenclature continued unchanged.

“In the initial years, the idol used to be brought from Benaras, but from 1926, the idol began to be made in the city itself. And now it’s made within the school premises,” Bose stated.

What hasn’t changed are the customs associated with the Puja. No matter how popular theme pujas are becoming, the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja continues to be a traditional one.

“Theme idols can never reflect the charm or the beauty of a traditional one. We don’t bring the idol from CR Park or Kolkata; rather it is made inside the school premises, like the way it happens in home Pujas,” Bose pointed out.

For the five days the Puja lasts, the atmoshphere within the pandal turns into a mini Bengal. From people clad in their traditional attire to cultural programmes and, of course, Bengali’s favourite cuisine — biryani — turns it into a major draw.

“We organise cultural programmes but only the local residents participate. We don’t invite artists (like most pandals do). Also, we make sure that at least during the five days, all the functions are conducted in Bengali,” Bose said.

The charm of this Durga Puja couldn’t even be ignored by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who visited the pandal in 1969. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is also believed to have attended the celebrations in 1935.

“The priest and the dhakis (drummers) have been brought from Kolkata. We make sure that there is no dearth of bhog. After all it’s a major attraction of Kashmere Gate Durga Puja,” Bose said.

So, make sure that Kashmere Gate Puja is on the must-visit pandals list this year! (IANS)