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Bauls: Exploring the mystic philosophy beyond plush rooms and books

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Picture Credit: flickr.com
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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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4 Christian Movies on Netflix That Teach You History

In fact, many of them are either dramatic adaptations of Bible canons or simply historical accounts of that particular era with some moral lessons thrown into the mix to fit the theme of the movies.

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Christian movies get a bad rap
Movies about religion or Christianity are not necessarily religious in nature.

Christian movies get a bad rap. Many people avoid watching them under the assumption that they are a personal soap box for the directors or writers to showcase their faith in God. While you can easily make this case for a certain number of them, movies about religion or Christianity are not necessarily religious in nature. In fact, many of them are either dramatic adaptations of Bible canons or simply historical accounts of that particular era with some moral lessons thrown into the mix to fit the theme of the movies. Either way, while they are not full on historical renditions, they can teach you a lot about that historical era. Without further ado, here are four Christian movies on Netflix that teach you history.

Joseph & Mary (2016)

Joseph & Mary is a historical biblical drama that follows the journey of Elijah, a devout rabbi, who swears revenge upon King Herod the Great, who slaughtered hundreds of innocents, including his two child proteges. Elijah’s quest for revenge gets a lot more complicated when he starts spending time with Joseph, Mary,and their young Son, who challenge the very beliefs that fuel his rage.

Starring Kevin Sorbo as Joseph – which you might remember from the light-hearted Tv Show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Captain Dylan Hunt in Andromeda –, and Lara Jean Chorostecki – of Hannibal and Designated Survivor fame -, the film, due to its heavy subject matter, might not be an easy watch for everybody.

However, history buffs will surely appreciate the care and detail that the writers and producers put into the décor, costumes,and script, as it feel very authentic from a historical standpoint. If you are interested to see more Christian movies that are historically accurate, make sure to check out this article on Netflix Guides, a website frequently updated with well-written guides and reviews.

Joseph: King of Dreams (2000)

Joseph: King of Dreams is a 2000 American animated biblical musical drama.  Serving as a prequel to the 1998 film The Prince of Egypt, the plot itself is an adaptation of the story of Joseph from the Book Of Genesis in the Bible. Not many people might think to get their history lessons from an animated musical, you will soon find out that Joseph: King of Dreams will shatter this perception. While the film does take some artistic liberties when it comes to historical facts, the animators made a great job of reconstructing the spirit and atmosphere of the era.

Featuring a stellar cast that includes Ben Affleck, Richard Herd (Get Out, Star Trek: Renegades) andMark Hamill (Luke Skywalker, and many other voice roles in animated shows and video games), King of Dreams is a great Christian film that will charm you with its smart direction, good music and enticing story.

The Book of Esther (2013)

Released in 2013, the film follows the story of Esther, a Jewish girl who is handpicked as the new queen consort to King Xerxes I of Persia. The story centers around Esther’s efforts to stop Lord Haman from exterminating her people. The film does take some artistic licenses from the Biblical account, but the main actress’ good performance compensates for any of the film’s shortcomings. If you are looking for an intrigue film with a historical Christian twist, then do not hesitate to try out The Book of Esther.

 Son of God (2014)

Christian movies get a bad rap
Christian Movies are worth watching.

Son of God is a direct adaptation of the ten-hour miniseries The Bible, which aired on the History channel throughout March 2013. Starring DiogoMorgado as Jesus Christ, Darwin Shaw as Saint Simon Peter, Sebastian Knapp as Saint John and Roma Downey as Mary, amongst others, the film is a retelling of the Biblical Story of Jesus, from his birthright until his crucifixion and ascended into Heaven.

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The story itself is seen through the eyes of an elderly John, one of Jesus’ most faithful followers, who is living in exile after being the sole survivor of the group. While the film does contain some recycled scenes from the miniseries (probably because they are produced by the same person, Mark Burnett, or simply due to budget constraints), Son of God stands on its own and is worth a view even if you have already seen the TV show. DiogoMorgado deserves special praise for his stellar acting, which is arguably one of the best interpretations of Jesus Christ after Jim Caviezel’s performance in The Passion of the Christ.

Conclusion

Many people tend to avoid watching Christian movies believing that they are either poor quality or too preachy. But in reality, only a small fraction of them are like this – most of them are quite balanced and made in such a way that even people who are not particularly religious can enjoy them. The movies that we have showcased in this write up, with their good casts and direction, appeal both to Christians, and people who enjoy good historical dramas. If you are looking for Christian movies but are unsure what to choose, do not hesitate to give these titles a try.