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The term baul designates a state of amorous ecstasy, a doctrine that is both artistic and philosophical. Songs and dances, its practical expression, are regarded as fundamental initiation rites. The baul masters initiate their disciples in the akhras, places where people meet rather than be indoctrinated. These masters managed to maintain a certain independence as “mystical beggars”. The baul world revolves around the here and now, peace and tolerance celebrated by its followers in songs, stories and other manifestations of an immensely rich oral tradition, which emerged from the principal religions of Bengal (Buddhism, tantrism, Sufism…). At the same time, they distance themselves from their rigour and their codes. This school of oriental thought, which espouses an anti-sectarian, non-conformist and anti-radical model, is also very critical of the cast system. As a result, it is the frequent target of threats by brahmins and the imams of “modern” Indian society.
Original booklet available below in English and French.