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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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Astounding Facts Related To The Holy Kumbh Mela

The Kumbh Mela is held once in 12 years and between the Kumbh Melas at Haridwar and Nashik, there is a difference of around 3 years

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Kumbh Mela is organized periodically at one of the four places on rotational basis. Wikimedia Commons
Kumbh Mela is organized periodically at one of the four places on rotational basis. Wikimedia Commons
  • Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river
  • As per historic belief, bathing in holy rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all sins
  • The Kumbh Mela is held once in 12 years

“It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvellous to our kind of people, the cold whites.”

These were the words from Mark Twain, after visiting the Kumbh Mela in 1895.

Kumbh Mela or Kumbha Mela is recognized by the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river. Traditionally, four Melas are widely considered as the Kumbh Melas and are held in Haridwar, Nashik, Allahabad and Ujjain.

Also Read: 10 Facts To Know About The Historical Meenakshi Temple

These fairs are organized periodically at one of the following places by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik district, and Ujjain. The main festival site is located on the banks of a river: the Ganga at Haridwar. It is the junction where the Ganga, the Yamuna, the invisible Sarasvati at Allahabad, the Godavari at Nashik and the Shipra at Ujjain meets. As per historic belief, bathing in these rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all sins.

During the Kumbh Mela, the gathering of Bhakts by the banks of our sacred Indian rivers and is the greatest celebration in Hindu culture. Wikimedia Commons
During the Kumbh Mela, the gathering of Bhakts by the banks of our sacred Indian rivers and is the greatest celebration in Hindu culture. Wikimedia Commons

Heritage of India

First written evidence of the Kumbha Mela can be found in the accounts of the Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang or Xuanzang (602 – 664 A.D.) who visited India in 629 -645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana. Kumbh Mela is a glorious heritage of India.

There are various sadhus or saints visit the Mela. The list includes Nagas, who do not believe in wearing clothes; Urdhwavahurs, who believe in putting the body through severe austerities; Parivrajakas, who have taken a pledge of silence; Shirshasins, who stand 24 hours and meditate for hours standing on their heads; Kalpvasis, who take bath thrice a day.

The Kumbh Mela is held once in 12 years. Between the Kumbh Melas at Haridwar and Nashik, there is a difference of around 3 years, whereas the fairs at Nashik and Ujjain are celebrated in the same year or one year apart.

Also Read: 6 Lesser-Known Facts About Kamakhya Devi Temple

Upcoming Kumbh

The belief that originates from mythological times is, during a waging war between the demigods and demons for the possession of elixir of eternal life, a few drops of it had fallen on to four places that are today known as Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. the venue for Kumbh Mela is decided depends upon what position the Sun, Moon, and Jupiter hold in that period in different zodiac signs.

As per historic belief, bathing in holy rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all sins. Wikimedia Commons
As per historic belief, bathing in holy rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all sins. Wikimedia Commons

Magh Mela – Allahabad 2018 (Mini Kumbh)

The Magh Mela is also known as the Mini Kumbh. The Magh Mela is one of the greatest annual religious fairs for Hindus. Hindu mythology believes it to be the origin of the Magh Mela the beginning of the Universe. As a vital occasion for Hindus, the Magh Mela is held every year on the banks of Triveni Sangam in Prayag near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.

The Magh Mela is actually the other of Kumbh Mela. Hence, it is also known as mini Kumbh Mela.

Ardh Kumbh Mela- Allahabad 2019

After every six years, Ardh Kumbh Mela is celebrated in the month of January-February when Jupiter is in Aries or Taurus and Sun and Moon are in Capricorn during the Hindu month of Magha. In the year 2019, beginning from 15th January to 04th March; all this will once again be the centre of attraction.

Also Read: 8 Facts About Padmanabhaswamy Temple You Probably Didn’t Know

Facts related to Kumbh Mela have been compiled so that one can get a better understanding of this mega event.

  1. During the Kumbh Mela, the gathering of Bhakts by the banks of our sacred Indian rivers and is the greatest celebration in Hindu culture. Millions of pilgrims visit the four holy locations of the Kumbh Mela in order to bathe in the holy rivers and perform significant rituals.
  2. The place of Kumbh Mela changes in every three years between the four pilgrimage sites, which are – Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. All these towns have significant temples. The Mela returns to each location every 12 years.
  3. The origin of the Kumbh Mela dates back to the age when Gods used to reside on earth. It is said that the curse of Durvasa Muni had weakened the gods and they began to lose their powers. The Asuras ran amok through the three worlds and there was chaos everywhere.
  4. It is widely believed that those who take holy dips at the sacred locations during Kumbh Mela are eternally blessed by the power of the Gods. The sacred bath provides spiritual and material happiness and moves them towards the path of salvation.

    The Maha Kumbh Mela 2013, which occurs in 144 years, recorded an estimated pilgrim’s strength of 100 million devotees. Wikimedia Commons
    The Maha Kumbh Mela 2013, which occurs in 144 years, recorded an estimated pilgrim’s strength of 100 million devotees. Wikimedia Commons
  5. The festival is billed as the “biggest gathering on Earth”; in 2001 more than 40 million gathered on the busiest of its 55 days. The 2001 Kumbh Mela was remarkably conspicuous due to the planetary positions at the time, a pattern that repeats only once every 144 years.67.
  6. The Maha Kumbh Mela 2013, which occurs in 144 years, recorded an estimated pilgrim’s strength of 100 million devotees. The festival was acclaimed as the “biggest gathering on Earth”. The Guinness Book of World Records recognised the event as one of “The Best Managed” events of all times.
  7. An estimated amount of business earnings in Kumbh Mela is 12,000 crore rupees. Employment opportunities created during Kumbh Mela is approximately 65,000.