The Blind Minstrel The Bauls Of India And Bangladesh Music Review

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"Song of the Blind Minstrel - The Bauls of India and Bangladesh"

Read the chapter "Song of the Blind Minstrel" by William Dalrymple. (You'll find it in the India module on Canvas). Write a one-page double spaced reaction. Some questions you might try to answer:

1. What is a Baul?

2. What is the Baul lifestyle and philosophy?

3. Who can become a Baul? Is it hereditary or can anyone choose that life?

4. What kind of music do Bauls make?

5. How are Bauls thought of by the general public? What do people like or dislike about them?

6. Why was the man, Debdas, so set on becoming a Baul? What attracted him? Why did his family reject him?

7. Feel free to address other aspects of the chapter that you find interesting.

'His characteristic wit and sympathy are fully evident in the interviews he has conducted ... Beautifully illustrates the relationship between tradition and modernity in India' Spectator 'A fascinating text . . . It is an index of Dalrymple's ability as a writer and his complex immersion in Indian cultures that he deftly avoids any hint of "Orientalism" ... Dalrymple succeeds in juxtaposing the sacred and the secular without diverting the captivating flow of his prose. This is a rich book, teeming with fascinating characters and places worth visiting; it is a travel book that takes the reader not only across the wide expanse of the Indian subcontinent but also into intriguing aspects of India's past and present. In the process, it also provides much insight into such topical and convoluted matters as Islamist fundamentalism' Tabish Khair, Biblio NINE LIVES In Search of the Sacred in Modern India 'Dalrymple's storytelling skills and eye for the bizarre make this a fascinating and entertaining window onto spiritual India' Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times Books of the Year · 'A travel writer of huge talent, even genius' Outlook WILLIAM DALRYMPLE 'A fast-paced book, moving from the perspective of a Jain nun contemplating the slow and voluntary relinquishing of her life, to the dilemma of the Dalit theyyam who shuttles between his job as a prison warden to his life as a man in the grip of religious ecstasy. These are compelling contemporary stories, and Dalrymple seems to be channelling a modern-day avatar of Kipling' Business Standard 'From the start Dalrymple's wntmg has been characterised by rigorous scholarship as the self-effacing but brilliant young Scot stumbles across extraordinary cultures and adventures, and weaves them together into riveting, riotous stories rich in detail and understanding. In Nine Lives the author is on the road again, but deliberately takes a back seat, allowing his characters to tell their own spellbinding stories. Dalrymple's exhaustive research and deep feeling for Indian culture and ancient faiths mean he writes with clarity, erudition and engagement. With his guidance and context, each story reads like a rare insight into a multifarious and often impenetrable culture. Nine Lives is India at its most pure but also its most fragile. Dalrymple's stories always strive for a higher purpose than simply recounting adventures in the manner of so much contemporary travel writing. In Nine Lives, that purpose is to record and conserve these unique, fantastical histories, before they disappear forever' Kendall Hill, Sydney Morning Herald 'Dalrymple is widely read and admired, and Nine Lives is both moving and radiant: an austere, piercing, and exciting book on nine astonishing religious lives' Pradeep Sebastian, The Hindu B L 0 0 M S B U R Y LO:'WON ·BERLIN· NEW YORK EMORY UNfVERSilY LIBRARY This paperback edition published 20IO First published in Great Britain in 2009 Copyright © 2009 by William Dalrymple Map and illustrations © Olivia Fraser Extract from The Epic of Pabuji by John D. Smith© I99I The Faculty of Oriental Studies, published by Cambridge University Press and reproduced by permission Extracts from When God is a Customer by A.K. Ramanujan © I994 University of California Press and reproduced by permission Extract from Grace and Mercy in Her Wild Hair by Ramprasad Sen© I999 Ramprasad Sen and reproduced by permission of Hohm Press Extract from The Interior Landscape by A.K. Ramanujan © I994 reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press India, New Delhi The moral right of the author has been asserted 'The Daughters of Yellamma' and 'The Singer of Epics' were previously published in earlier form in the New Yorker No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the Publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews Every reasonable effort has been made to trace copyright holders of material reproduced in this book, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked the publishers would be glad to hear from them. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 36 Soho Square London WID 3QY Bloomsbury Publishing, London, New York and Berlin A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 I 4088 OI24 6 IO 9 8 7 6 54 3 2 I Typeset by Hewer Text UK Ltd, Edinburgh Printed in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc C JJ FSC Mixed Sources ,,odiKtgroupfrom-!1-managed foreots....aotMfdooun:es ~~':.~s~!~':i.~G~~·l06t To Sammy THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL 9 THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL On the feast of Makar Sakranti, the new moon night on which the sun passes through the winter solstice, from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn, a great gathering takes places on the Banks of the Ajoy River in West Bengal. Around the middle of January, several thousand saffron-clad wandering minstrels or Bauls - the word means simply 'mad' or 'possessed' in Bengali - begin to gather at Kenduli, in the flat floodplains near Tagore's old home of Shantiniketan. As they have done on this site for at least 500 years, the Bauls wander the huge campsite, greeting old friends, smoking ganja and exchanging gossip. Then, as the night draws in, they gather around their fires, and begin the singing and dancing that will carry on until dawn. You approach the festival through green wetlands, past bullocks ploughing the rich mud of the rice paddy. Reed-thatched or tintopped Bengali cottages are surrounded by clumps of young green bamboo and groves of giant banyans, through which evening clouds of parakeets whirr and screech. As you near the Baul monastery of Tamalatala, which acts as the focus of the festival, the stream of pilgrims slowly thickens along the roadsides. Bengali villagers herding their goats and ducks along the high embankments 235 give way to lines of lean, dark, wiry men with matted hair and straggling beards. Some travel in groups of two or three; others travel alone, carrying hand drums or the Bauls' simple singlestringed instrument, the ektara. Throughout their 500-year history, the Bauls of Bengal have refused to conform to the conventions of caste-conscious Bengali society. Subversive and seductive, wild and abandoned, they have preserved a series of esoteric spiritual teachings on breathing techniques, sex, asceticism, philosophy and mystical devotion. They have also amassed a treasury of beautifully melancholic and often enigmatic teaching songs which help map out their path to inner vision. For the Bauls believe that God is found not in a stone or bronze idol, or in the heavens, or even in the afterlife, but in the present moment, in the body of the man or woman who seeks the truth; all that is required is that you give up your possessions, take up the life of the road, find a guru and adhere to the path of love. Each man is alone, they believe, and must find his own way. Drawing elements from Sufisim, Tantra, Shakta, Sahajiya, Vaishnavism and Buddhism, they revere deities such as Krishna or Kali, and visit temples, mosques and wayside shrines - but only as helpful symbols and signposts along a road to Enlightenment, never as an end in themselves. Their goal is to discover the divine inner knowledge: the 'Unknown Bird', 'The Golden Man' or the 'Man of the Heart'Moner Manush - an ideal that they believe lives within the body of every man, but may take a lifetime to discover. As such they reject the authority of the Brahmins and the usefulness of religious rituals, while some - though not all - Bauls come close to a form of atheism, denying the existence of any transcendental deity, and seeking instead ultimate truth in this present physical world, in every human body and every human heart. Man is the final measure for the Bauls. The near-atheism and humanism of these singing philosophers is not in any sense a new departure in Indian thought, and dates back at least to the sceptical and materialistic Charvaka school of the sixth century BC, which rejected the idea of God and professed that no living creature was immortal. Ancient India in fact has a larger 236 NINE LIVES atheistic and agnostic literature than any other classical civilisation, and an Indian tradition of ambiguity in the face of eternity can be traced back as far the Rig Veda, which enshrines at its centre the idea of uncertainty about the divine. 'Who really knows?' it asks. 'Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? Perhaps it formed itself, perhaps it did not. The one who looks down on it from the highest heaven, only he knows - or perhaps he does not know.' The strange mix of spirituality and scepticism in Baul philosophy is thus rooted in a very ancient strand of Hindu agnostic thought. In pursuit of this path, the Bauls defy distinctions of caste and religion. Bauls can be from any background, and they straddle the frontiers of Hinduism and Islam. The music of 'God's Troubadours' reflects their impulsive restlessness and their love of the open road: The Mirror of the sky, reflects my soul. 0 Baul of the road, 0 Baul, my heart, What keeps you tied, to the corner of the room? As the storm rampages In your crumbling hut, the water rises to your bed. Your tattered quilt Floats on the flood, Your shelter is down. 0 Baul of the road, 0 Baul, my heart, What keeps you tied, to the corner of the room? Travelling from village to village, owning nothing but a multicoloured patchwork robe known as an alkhalla, they sit in THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL 237 tea shops and under roadside banyan trees, in the compartments of trains and at village bus stops, husking their ballads of love and mysticism, divine madness and universal brotherhood, and the goal of Mahasukha, the great bliss of the void, to gatherings of ordinary Bengali farmers and villagers. They break the rhythm of rural life, inviting intimacies and wooing and consoling their audience with poetry and song, rather than hectoring them with sermons or speeches. They sing of desire and devotion, ecstasy and madness; of life as a river and the body as a boat. They sing of Radha's mad love for the elusive Krishna, of the individual as the crazed Lover, and the Divine as the unattainable Beloved. They remind their listeners of the transitory nature of this life, and encourage them to renounce the divisions and hatreds of the world, so provoking them into facing themselves. Inner knowledge, they teach, is acquired not through power over others, but over the Self. Once a year, however, the Bauls leave their wanderings and converge on Kenduli for their biggest annual festival. It's the largest gathering of singers and Tantrics in South Asia. To get there I flew to Calcutta and took a train north to Shantiniketan, determined to see this gathering for myself. But first I had to find Manisha Ma's friend, Kanai Das Baul. • Manisha had told me something of Kanai's story when I was with her in the Tarapith cremation ground. When he was six months old, Kanai caught smallpox and went blind. His parents - day labourers - despaired as to how their son would make a living. Then one day, when Kanai was ten, a passing Baul guru heard the boy singing as he took a bath amid the water hyacinths of the village pond, or pukur. In Bengal, the pukur is to village life what the green was to medieval England: the centre of rural life, as well as acting as swimming pool, duck pond and communal laundromat. Kanai's voice was high, sad and elegiac, NINE LIVES THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL and the Baul guru asked Kenai's parents if they would consider letting him take Kanai as a pupil: 'Once your parents have gone,' he said, 'you will able to support yourself if you let us teach you to sing.' In due course, many years later, after a terrible family tragedy, Kanai remembered the guru's words and set off to find him. He joined him on the road, learning the songs and becoming in time one of the Bauls' most celebrated singers. Then, after the death of his guru, Kanai took up residence in the cremation ground of Tarapith, where Manisha, Tapan Sadhu and some of their friends helped arrange a marriage for him, to a young widow who looked after the shoes of visitors. Kanai, Manisha told me, had arrived at the Kenduli Mela a few days ahead of me, and had already joined up with an itinerant group of other Bauls. They were all staying in a small house off the main bazaar: to get there you had to leave the bathers washing on the banks of the Ajoy and pick your way through the usual melee of Indian religious festivals: street children selling balloons and marigold garlands; a contortionist and a holy man begging for alms; a group of argumentative naked Naga sadhus; a hissing snake goddess and her attendants; lines of bullock carts loaded up with clay images of the goddess Durga; beggars and mendicants; a man selling pink candyfloss to a blare of Bollywood strings emerging from a huge pink loudspeaker attached to the flossing machine. All along the main drag of the encampment, rival akharas, or monasteries, of the different Baul gurus had been erected, interspersed with tented temples full of brightly lit idols, constellations of clay lamps and camphor flames winking amid the wafts of sandalwood incense filling the warm, dusty Bengali darkness. By the time I found the house - a simple unfurnished Bengali hut - it was dark and Kanai's Bauls were in full song. They had scattered straw on the ground and were sitting in a circle around the fire, cross-legged on the floor, breaking their singing only to pass a chillum of ganja from one to the other. There were six of them: Kanai himself, a thin, delicate and selfpossessed man in his fifties with a straggling grey beard and a pair of small cymbals in his hand. Beside him sat a fabulously handsome old Baul, Kanai's great friend and travelling companion Debdas, singing with a dugi drum in one hand and an ektara in the other. His hair hung loose, as did his great fan of grey beard, while a string of copper bells was attached to the big toe of his right foot which he jingled as he sang. Facing them was another of the most celebrated Baul singers in Bengal, Paban Das Baul, who was flanked by his khepi or Baul partner, Mimlu Sen, and his two younger sisters. Paban was a lithe, handsome and hyperactive figure in his late forties, with full lips, a shock of wiry pepper-and-salt hair, a short goatee and bushy sideburns. He was playing a small, two-stringed dotara and dominating the group as much by the sheer manic energy of his performance as by his singing: 'Never plunge into the river of lust,' he sang with his rich, velvety voice, 'for you will not reach the shore.' 238 I 2 39 It is a river without banks, where typhoons rage, and the current is strong. Only those who are masters, of the five rasas, the juices of love, Know the play of the tides. Their boats do not sink. Paddled by oars of Love, They row strongly upstream. The three men - Kanai, Debdas and Paban - were old friends, and as the music gathered momentum they passed verses and songs back and forth, so that when one would ask a philosophical question, the other would answer it: a symposium in song. Paban sang a verse of a traditional Bengali folksong about his wish to visit Krishna's home: 240 NINE LIVES The peacock cries Oh who will show me the way to Vrindavan? He raises his tail and cries: Krishna! Krishna! Kanai then answered with a verse reminding Paban that the only proper place of pilgrimage for a Baul was the human heart: Oh my deaf ears and blind eyes! How will I ever rid myself of this urge, to find you, except in my own soul? If you want to go to Vrindavan, Look first into your heart ... 'Who knows if the gods exist at all?' sang Debdas, supporting Kanai. Can you find them in the heavens? Or the Himalayas? On the earth, or in the air? Nowhere else can God be found, But in the heart of the seeker of Truth. The voices of all three men were perfectly complementary, Paban's resonant and smoky, alternately urgent and sensuous; Debdas's a fine tenor; Kanai's softer, more vulnerable, tender and high-pitched- at times almost a falsetto- with a fine, reedlike clarity. As Paban sang, he twanged a khomok hand drum or thundered away at the dubki, a sort of small, rustic tambourine. Kanai, in contrast, invariably sang with his sightless blue eyes fixed ecstatically upwards, gazing at the heavens. Paban would occasionally tickle his chin, and tease him: 'Don't give me that wicked smile, Kanai ... ' The songs all drew on the world and images of the Bengali village, and contained parables that anyone could understand: the body, sang Paban, is like a pot of clay; the human soul the THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL 241 water of love. Inner knowledge found with the help of the guru fires the pot and bakes the clay, for an unfired pot cannot contain water. Other songs were sprinkled with readily comprehensible images of boats and nets, rice fields, fish ponds and the village shop: Cut the rice stalks, 0 rice-growing brother. Cut them in a bunch Before they begin to smell Rotten like your body Without a living heart. Sell your goods, my store-keeping brother, While the market is brisk, When the sun fades And your customers depart, Your store is a lonely place ... • Later, after dinner, Paban and the other Bauls went out to hear a rival Baul singer perform in the Kenduli market place, leaving Kanai on his own, sitting cross-legged on the rug, singing softly. I sat beside him and asked what he was doing. 'This is how I remember the songs,' he said. 'I am blind, so I cannot read and write the verses. Instead, when I am left alone, I hum a few bars and repeat the songs to myself to help me commit them to memory. It is by repeating them that I remember.' Kanai smiled. 'There are some advantages to being blind,' he said. 'I can learn songs much quicker than other people, and pick up tunes very fast. Debdas says that I see with my ears. When he forgets, I have to remind him, even if it is a song that he originally taught me, or sometimes, even one he composed.' NINE LIVES THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL At Kanai's request, I lit a cigarette for him, and we chatted about his childhood, as he filled out the brief picture of his life that Manisha had painted for me. 'I was born in the village of Tetulia,' he said, leaning back and puffing contentedly away, 'not far from here, near Birbhum. I was born with eyes that could see, but lost my sight when I caught smallpox before my first birthday. Who knows? Maybe I did something wrong in a previous life to be punished like this. 'My father had no land of his own, so used to work during the harvest and the planting season for the local zamindar. The landlord gave him a small house, and eventually he got to own it. I had two sisters and a brother, as well as fourteen cousins, and at one point there were as many as twenty-three people sleeping in the house, so we used to take our rest in shifts. All my uncles were casual labourers too, except one who was a silk weaver: every day he used to go to the zamindar's estate house, where the looms were kept. The zamindar looked after the village and treated us all as if we were his extended family. He employed everyone in the village, either in his fields or in his silk business. He was a good man, but there was not much money- things were always tight for us. 'I was ten when my brother was killed in an accident involving a heavily laden bullock cart, and eleven when my father passed away too, from an asthma attack. This left me with the responsibility to feed my two sisters. They were growing girls and needed food. At first it wasn't too hard. Once I got used to begging from my own friends, from door to door, I found it wasn't difficult to get enough to fill all our stomachs. We were loved and looked after: I only had to say, "I am hungry,'' and I would be fed. The door of the poor man is always open - it is only the doors of the rich that close as you approach. If the people in the village came to hear that another family was going through a hard time they would always give them rice or a cow dung cake for fuel. 'I used to go out in the morning with my stick and my bowl, taking the name of Hari [Krishna], and would come back by lunch. Whatever I had collected we shared, and ate. People knew the family, and knew what had happened to us. They felt sorry for us, and although they were very poor themselves they would always give something: a rupee, or some rice and vegetables. The problems only began when one of my sisters became eligible for marnage. 'I was fifteen, and beginning to talk to prospective grooms, but it was clear from the beginning that it wasn't going to be easy. Some people in the village thought we were cursed because of all the bad luck we had suffered- first with me going blind, then the two deaths in rapid succession. Others considered my proposal, but demanded dowries I knew I would never be able to pay. I became more and more depressed, and without realising it I must have communicated this to my sister. One day I was at a friend's place drinking tea when I was told I had to go back home immediately. When I returned, I discovered that my sister had committed suicide. I had no idea she was even near doing such a thing: she must have thought she was too much of a burden on me, and that we could not afford the wedding. Whatever the reason, she hanged herself from the ceiling beam of our one room. 'Coming after the death of my father and brother, this sent me mad with grief: I was shattered, and blamed myself. I stayed at home for weeks and then I decided I couldn't remain in the village any longer; I must make a new life for myself. It was then that I remembered Gyananand Sadhu, the Baul guru who had heard me singing when I was bathing in the pukur as a boy. I had loved the way he sang just as much as he liked my voice. I knew that his ashram was near Rampurhat, so I decided to go and see if he would take me on as his disciple, his chela. 'My mother and other sister were very angry at my decision. They said, "Why are you going? Don't you care for us?" I was very sad to leave them in this way, but I had a feeling this was what I needed to do in order for the family to survive. I was always very religious, but it wasn't just that; it seemed a practical decision too. A blind man cannot be a farmer, but he can be a singer. 'Ever since I was a boy I had been picking up holy songs and bhajans, and all though my childhood I used to sing the songs of the Bauls, and the shyama Kali sangeet of the Tantric sadhus, 242 243 NINE LIVES THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL playing the spokes of my father's bullock cart with a stick, like a drum. Because I had a good voice the sadhus and the Bauls loved me, and all the villagers would gather around when I sang; but it was the songs themselves that led me to the life of a singer. I said to myself, I will treat singing the songs as my form of devotion, my sadhana, and put my whole heart into it. That way I can live the life of the heart - and also save money to send to my mother and sister. At that moment, when my fortunes were at their lowest, it was my ability to sing that saved me. 'It was the season of the rains. I caught a bus to Tarapith, and changed buses there, and late that evening I arrived in Mallarpur, near Rampurhat, where Gyananand Sadhu's ashram was located. It was raining very heavily, and as it was late there was no one about to ask for directions. When I got off the bus, the water was already ankle-deep. As I walked on in the direction that the conductor had sent me, straight along the road, the water got deeper until it was up to my thighs. There was no one around to help, and there was nothing to do but carry on, even as the water rose to my waist and the thunder boomed overhead. 'But I persevered, and despite my fears, the road turned out to be the right one. Climbing a small hill, I hit dry land. Soon after that I came to the gate of the ashram. I was drenched, it was the middle of the night, and I expected to be turned away. But instead the chowkidar ushered me straight into the presence of Gyananand. The moment he saw me, he said, "I have been waiting for you. I always knew that boy in the pukur would come to me sooner or later." He welcomed me warmly, gave me food and dry clothes and took me on as his chela. I stayed there seven years, wandering in the cold season and staying with Gyananand in his akhara during the rains. He provided for my mother and sister, and gave me money to take home to them. 'I joined the Bauls partly because it seemed the only way I could make a livelihood. But my guru soon taught me that there are much more important things than getting by, or making money, or material pleasures. I am still very poor, but thanks to the lessons of my guru, my soul is rich. He taught me to seek inner knowledge and to inspire our people to seek this too. He told me to concentrate on singing and did not encourage me to take the path of a Tantric yogi, though I have picked up a lot of knowledge of this sort from other sadhus and Bauls over the years.' 'Is it a good life?' I asked. 'It is the best life,' said Kanai without hesitation. 'The world is my home. We Bauls can walk anywhere and are welcome anywhere. When you walk you are freed from the worries of ordinary life, from the imprisonment of being rooted in the same place. I cannot complain. Far from it- I am often in a state of bliss.' 'But don't you miss your home? Don't you tire of the road?' 'When you first become a Baul, you have to leave your family, and for twelve years you must wander in strange countries where you have no relatives. There is a saying, "No Baul should live under the same tree for more than three days.'' At first you feel alone, disorientated. But people are always pleased to see the Bauls: when the villagers see our coloured robes they shout: "Look, the madmen are coming! Now we can take the day off and have some fun!" 'Wherever we go, the people stop what they are doing and come and listen to us. They bring fish from the fish ponds, and cook some rice and dal for us, and while they do that we sing and teach them. We try to give back some of the love we receive, to reconcile people and offer them peace and solace. We try to help them with their difficulties, and to show them the path to discover the Man of the Heart.' I asked: 'How do you do that?' 'With our songs,' said Kanai. 'For us Bauls, our songs are a source of both love and knowledge. We tease the rich and the arrogant, and make digs at the hypocrisy of the Brahmins. We sing against caste, and against injustice. We tell the people that God is not in the temple, or in the Himalayas, nor in the skies or the earth or in the air. We teach that Krishna was just a man. What is special about him in essence is in me now. Whatever is in the cosmos is in our bodies; what is not in the body is not in the cosmos. It is all inside - truth lies within. If this is so, then 244 245 NINE LIVES THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL why bother going to the mosque or the temple? So to the Bauls a temple or a shrine has little value: it is just a way for the priests to make money and to mislead people. The body is the true temple, the true mosque, the true church.' 'But in what way?' 'We believe that the way to God lies not in rituals but in living a simple life, walking the country on foot and doing what your guru says. The joy of walking on foot along unknown roads brings you closer to God. You learn to recognise that the divine is everywhere -even in the rocks. You learn also that music and dance is a way of discovering the Unknown Bird. You come to understand that God is the purest form of joy- complete joy.' Kanai shook his long grey locks. 'There is no jealousy in this life,' he said. 'No Brahmin or Dalit, no Hindu or Muslim. Wherever I am, that is my home. 'For many years now I have wandered the roads of Bengal, spending the rains with my guru, and after he died, in the cremation ground at Tarapith. Sometimes when I have tired of walking, I would work the trains between Calcutta and Shantiniketan. That was how I first met Debdas.' 'In a train?' 'He was only sixteen,' said Kanai, 'and had just run away from home. He was from the family of a Pundit, and had a childhood in which he needed to ask for nothing. But then he was thrown out for mixing with Muslims and Bauls, and he was innocent of the ways of the world. He had an ektara, but at that stage he knew hardly any songs. Though I was blind, and he could see, it was I who taught him how to survive, and the words of the songs of the Bauls. Although we are from very different worlds, the road brought us together, and we have become inseparable friends.' Kanai smiled. 'But I shouldn't be telling you his story,' he said. 'You must ask him yourself.' So saying, without moving, Kanai went back to humming his songs to himself, remembering and repeating the words: You and I are bound together, In the six-petalled lotus of the heart. There is honey in this flower, the nectar of the moon, As sweet as Kama's dart. 246 247 Through the garden of emotion, A raging river flows. On its banks we're bound together, In the six-petalled lotus of the heart. • It was nearly midnight when Debdas rejoined us. He and Paban came back from their concert in high spirits, and as glasses of Old Monk rum and chillums of ganja were passed around the room, the music began again, and it was some time before I was able to get Debdas on his own and ask him about how he came to join up with Kanai. Eventually, when Paban left for another late-night concert at the akhara of a friend of his, Debdas settled back and told the story of how he and Kanai had first met. As he talked, Kanai occasionally interrupted, or corrected Debdas's version of events. 'For many years, I have been Kanai's eyes, and he my voice,' said Debdas, puffing at a chillum and exhaling a great cloud of strongly scented ganja smoke. 'He taught me everything: how to reject the outer garb of religion and to dive deep into the ocean of the heart. He is a friend, a teacher, a brother, a guru. He is my memory. He is everything to me.' 'And Debdas is my eyes, my helper, my student, my co-traveller and my friend,' said Kanai, tapping his heart. 'We have travelled the road together for many years now,' said Debdas. 'Pushkar, Varanasi, Pondicherry .. .' 'Allahabad, Hard war, Gangotri . . .' 248 NINE LIVES 'Always holding each other's hands. Over the years we have become very close' - he held up two fingers - 'like this. Chela, Kanai!' 'We are connected at the navel,' said Kanai, gesturing towards his belly button. 'When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Madman of Madmen, went to Keshava Bharati, who had initiated him as a sanyasi, he said to his friend, "Give me the world." Keshava Bharati asked, "What worlds can I give you?" Chaitanya replied, "The very same that I gave to you." We are like that, Debdas and I .. .' 'At times, I am Kanai's guru,' said Debdas. 'And at times, Kanai is my guru. He reminds me even of my own songs.' I asked Debdas to tell me about his childhood, and how he first came to meet his friend, and taking another puff of his chillum, he began his story. • 'I was born in a village about fifteen miles from that of Kanai, not very far from Tarapith,' he said, exhaling another great cloud of smoke, and passing the chillum to Kanai's waiting fingers, and helping his friend lift it to his mouth. 'But we were from very different backgrounds. My father was a purohit, the Brahmin of the village Kali temple. My father and I always had very different values. He was obsessed with his idols and his round of pujas. I was also pious, but I never embraced that sort of ritualistic religion. I didn't know what was in, or not in, the piece of stone in the sanctuary of my father's temple: how could I? How can anyone? For me, from the time I was very young, the company I kept was always more important to me than idols or rituals, status or material comforts. 'My best friend was a little Muslim boy, Anwar. His father made beedi cigarettes at the other end of the village. My father would smoke the beedis, but before he lit them he would always touch them against cow dung to purify them. He would pressure me not to mix so widely, and if I drank water in a Muslim house, he would make me have a bath before he let me inside our home. There was THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL 249 a house of some Bairagi sadhus in the village who sang wonderful Baul songs, and Krishna bhajans, and my father didn't like me going there either. I even shared cigarettes with the [untouchable] Doms who ran the village cremation ground. Even when I was very young, my mind was full of doubts about all these boundaries and restrictions my father thought were so important. 'It was the songs of the Bauls that lured me towards their path. In our locality lived the great singer, Sudhir Das Baul. One day, the schoolmaster invited him to come and sing to us on the feast of Saraswati Puja. I was thirteen or fourteen, and then and there I lost my heart to his music! He had such a voice, and such spirit: he could take a rasa to its very essence.' 'Oh, he was marvellous!' interjected Kanai, leaning forward, sightless eyes gazing upwards, with folded hands. 'What a voice!' 'It was after hearing him,' said Debdas, 'that I made up my mind to become a Baul and sing the songs of Krishna. After some time, I went and visited him at his home, and told him I wanted to learn music. So Sudhir said, "If you want to become a Baul you must attend the great festival at Kenduli." He called it "The great festival of the Enlightened". He told me the date- it's always at the middle or towards the end of January- and promised to take me along. 'I knew that my family would never allow it, so when the day came, I climbed the walls of the house and slipped out without telling anyone where I was going. I had agreed to meet Sudhir at the station in time to catch the 4 a.m. train to Shantiniketan. From the station there we walked on foot to the mela. 'The mela was beyond my dreams: you can see for yourself what it is like. The atmosphere was wonderful - the music-making, the dancing, the rapture, the matajis putting hair oil on the babajis, the intoxication of the madmen, the joy, the freedom ... I drank in the pure life of those Bauls, and understood for the first time the real pleasure of living. It made me yearn to roam through the world and escape from my village life.' 'And you never told your parents where you were?' Kanai giggled. NINE LIVES THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL 'Wait,' said Debdas, smiling. 'We'll come to that.' 'For four days I walked the lanes of the festival, happier than I had ever been, meeting the Bauls and learning their songs. On the fourth day, as everyone began to pack up, I asked Sudhir Das, "What do I do now?" I hadn't left my parents a note- nothing. He advised me to go back home quietly, and he took me back on the train, holding my hand to give me courage. We parted at the station, and I headed home. But I was frightened of what my father would say, so I doubled back and went to the home of my Muslim friend, Anwar, and ate there. 'By now it was dusk, and it was only after dark that I finally headed back home. Nobody said a word as I walked in. In silence I washed at the pump, but just as I was entering the house, my father stopped me and asked me to sit in the courtyard. My mother understood what was about to happen, and called me to join her in the kitchen, but just then my elder brother, who was the village police chief, blocked my way. He shouted at me that I had dishonoured the family, and that I was a good-for-nothing who only mixed with Muslims and vagrants. He said that he would teach me a lesson that I would never forget. 'He had his lathi with him, and he began beating me with it. My father joined in, using his wooden slippers. For nearly an hour they both beat me - it seemed like much longer, at that age things hurt more - until eventually the neighbours had to come and separate us. Then they kicked me out of the courtyard into the street. I sat there shuddering with tears, hurting both inside and out. There were welts all over my back, my shorts were torn and my shirt was covered in blood.' 'Your father really gave it to you,' said Kanai, shaking his head. 'For a while I just lay there, and then eventually I got up and went to the train station. I washed in the pump on the platform. I knew I would get into trouble, but I never thought it would be so bad. I now had to think what to do. I didn't have a rupee in my pocket, my clothes were torn, it was November and there was a chill in the air. So I thought very deep and hard. As I was thinking a train puffed in, heading for Howrah, and I jumped on, without any particular plan, and eventually got off at Burdwan Junction. I sat for a long time on the platform in the dark. I knew I wanted to become a Baul, but how to get there? How could I feed myself? 'As I was sitting there another train came in, the Toofan Express, coming from Vrindavan, the home of Lord Krishna. It was now r r.3o p.m. As I sat there in the half-light of the platform, a small group of Bauls and sadhus got off the train, carrying musical instruments, and they settled down close to where I was sitting. One was a very old man- he must have been at least ninety. He saw me sitting there with blood on my clothes, and a black eye coming up, so he walked over, and said, "You've run away from home, haven't you?" He asked me to bring him some water, which I did. He then said, "You must be hungry." So he gave me a chapatti from his tiffin, and shared his dal with me, and as we ate, I told him the whole story. 'He listened very carefully, and then told me I should catch the Toofan Express back to Vrindavan, and that if I went there, Lord Krishna would help me. At 2 a.m., the Express hooted that it was about to leave. He helped me on, and gave me a blanket, and handed me his most precious possession, his ektara. "Don't worry," he said. "Just play the ektara, and sing the name of Krishna, and you'll be looked after." 'So with that ektara in my hand, and still wearing my torn vest and shorts, I got on, and we headed off, away from Bengal. I didn't eat again for four days - I didn't know how to beg, couldn't speak Hindi, couldn't play the ektara. I only knew the two songs I had learned at Kenduli, and of those I only knew a couple of verses. But when I reached Vrindavan, I heard there was food available to poor pilgrims at the Govind Mandir: they were giving out rice pudding as lungar [alms]. So I ate bowl after bowl, until I was no longer hungry. Then I went down to the banks of the Yamuna River and said a prayer, asking for the strength to become a Baul and never to give up and go back home and submit to my father. With that prayer on my lips, I threw my sacred thread into the river. 'For me, that ended for ever my identity as a Brahmin. That very day I changed my name. I had been Dev Kumar Bhattacharyya 250 251 NINE LIVES THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL - any Bengali knows that that is a Brahmin name, with all the privileges that go with it. But a Baul has to name himself as a Das- a slave of the Lord- so I became simple Debdas Baul. The Brahmins had rejected me, so I rejected them, just as I rejected their whole horrible idea of caste and the divisions it creates. I wanted freedom from that whole system. 'Then I took the blanket the old Baul had given me, and cut it into an alkhalla. In that attire, with the ektara, I found that people would always give me a little change if I sang a Krishna bhajan. I was only fourteen, and knew nothing of the world. At first, I was sure I had made a mistake. But I was too proud to go back, and slowly I learned how to survive. 'I stayed in a room in a temple and would wander from shrine to shrine, from akhara to akhara, making friends with the other sadhus, and trying to learn the words of the songs they were singing. With money that pilgrims had given me, I bought a notebook, and I would jot down all the words of the songs I heard the Bauls and the sadhus singing on the ghats at Vrindavan. My mind was totally focused on becoming a Baul; for me at that stage, God was the song I was singing. I just wanted to find out what was in those songs, and how to decode their hidden meanings. 'After two years, I went back home, and tried to make peace with my family. As I entered, my mother was sitting there right in front of me, in the middle of the courtyard. She kept sitting there, looking at me as if I was a ghost. I greeted her, and from inside came the voice of my father asking, "Who is there?" My mother said, "It is Debu." So my father came out and looked at me, amazed, without speaking. Then his face clouded over. "You've become a Baul," he said, firmly but not unkindly. "Now you must live with them. There is no place for a Baul in my house." Then my brother came back, and started threatening me with dire consequences if I didn't leave. My mother and sister were crying, and I was crying inside, but I was too scared to cling to them, or even say goodbye. The whole scene lasted less than an hour, maybe less than that. I've never seen them again. 'Just as I had two years earlier, I walked the road to the railway station, and again I boarded the first train that came in. I was miserable - it was one of the lowest points in my life. The train pulled out, and I sat gazing out of the window, feeling as if I might as well just throw myself out of the train into the river. But then something remarkable happened. After a few minutes, I heard some singing further down the train. It was Paban, and his brother and his father, and with them, in a different carriage, was Sudhir Das, the Baul who taken me to Kenduli, and with him was Kanai. 'I had known Paban's family since I was a boy, as they lived in the next village, and they were very surprised to see me living like a Baul and wearing the alkhalla. But they embraced me, and looked after me, and Kanai began to teach me songs. We began to sing together on the trains and to sleep on the platforms of stations. We were perpetually on the move - from train to train, festival to festival. I was very happy, partly because I was back in Bengal - the Bengalis understand our ways and love our songs - and partly because I really liked the freedom of this life. But mainly I was happy because Kanai and the others recognised me as another Baul, and made me their friend and companion. I forgot the pain of being rejected by my family and immersed myself in the family of the Bauls, and the kinship of their songs. Kanai and I were together from this time. 'There was only one time when I left him for an extended period. This was when I became obsessed with trying to live without food, like the saints and yogis in the old stories. These saints controlled all their desires and so never ate: they lived on air alone. I wanted to find out if it was still possible to do this. So I went off on my own, and found a bel - a wood apple tree - in a forest near a pond: we believe these trees are very auspicious. I sat there in a loincloth and meditated for two years, eating less and less until I stopped eating altogether, taking a vow that no food was to pass my lips until I reached my goal, and achieved Enlightenment. I don't know how I lived. I had matted dreadlocks down to my knees, and sat there not eating, not smoking and drinking nothing but water. I focused inwards, conserving my energies. I sat there like that through two monsoons and two cold winters.' 'I used to visit him,' said Kanai. 'The villagers knew where he was, and would lead me to him through the forest. They called him 252 2 53 254 NINE LIVES "Bel-talar Babaji"- the sadhu who sits under a wood apple tree. He was very thin and very weak. He hardly moved or talked- only very short sentences. I was very anxious that he wouldn't survive, and it pained me that he wouldn't eat. I brought him food, but he refused to eat it. He was very determined.' 'I don't know what I attained with this penance,' said Debdas, 'but I know my mind was at peace as never before. My hair was matted, but the knots of my heart were untied. After a certain point, I stopped feeling hunger. I was at the end of desire, beyond the senses. It was then that I started hallucinating. I was no longer living inside my body - I was somewhere outside of myself, in a state of ecstasy and rapture. I have never felt anything like it, before or since. 'Then one cold starry night, around the time of Makar Sakranti, I felt suddenly lost, as if my mind had finally detached itself from my body -like a bird flying high. It was Kanai who brought me back.' 'What do you mean?' 'I was unaware of it, but there had been a terrible storm. Kanai had a premonition that I was in trouble, and came over from Tarapith to see if I was all right. He arrived early in the morning with a group of villagers, and found me up to my neck in a pool of mud, fast asleep. They all thought I was dead- and I suppose I almost was. Kanai brought me back to his house in Tarapith, and nursed me back to health.' 'The blind man saved the man who could see,' said Kanai, chuckling to himself. 'Sometimes the mad and sightless can understand things better, and more clearly, than the sane and the sighted.' 'The blind are never deceived by appearances,' said Debdas. 'Maybe,' said Kanai, 'it is only those of us who have no eyes that can see through the lure of maya, and glimpse reality for what it is.' • THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL 2 55 For five days I followed Kanai and Debdas around the Kenduli mela, as Debdas held Kanai's hand and guided him. All over the huge campsite, at all hours of the day and night, you could see groups of musicians breaking into song. Sometimes this was part of a formal concert: the Bengal State Government had put up a small stage in honour of Kenduli's celebrated court poet Joydeb, the twelfth-century author of the great Sanskrit poem on the loves of Krishna, the Gita Govinda, and each night different Baul groups competed to sing the poem. Usually, however, the music was spontaneous. Groups of Bauls began singing around a camp fire and were soon joined by old friends not seen since the last festival. The Bauls were always happy to talk about their lives and songs and beliefs, but were not prepared to discuss in public the esoteric sexual practices which each guru teaches to his pupils when he considers they are ready. These folk Tantric practices of the Bauls, or sadhana, are closely guarded secrets, but embrace control of breathing and orgasm in elaborately ritualised sexual rites. Sometimes this involves sex with menstruating women, which in their songs they call 'the full moon at the new moon'. Occasionally this is combined with the ingestion of a drink compounded of semen, blood and bodily fluids- so making a firm Tantric statement about flouting established norms and taboos. Kanai talked briefly to me about the Bauls' sexual yoga, 'drinking nectar from the moon', explaining it as a way of awakening and controlling the latent erotic energies from the base of your body and bringing them to the fore. His words were explained to me by another new arrival at the festival: the Delhi-based writer on religion Bhaskar Bhattacharyya, who had once lived for an extended period with Kanai in Tarapith, and who had researched the customs of the Bauls as deeply as anyone. The Bauls, explained Bhaskar, seek to channel the mysteries of sexuality and the sexual urge - the most powerful emotional force in the human body- as a way of reaching and revealing the divinity of the inner self. 'They use it as a sort of booster rocket,' he explained. 'Just as a rocket uses huge amounts of energy to NINE LIVES THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL blast out of the field of gravity, so the Bauls use their Tantric sexual yoga as a powerhouse to drive the mind out of the gravity of everyday life, to make sex not so much enjoyable as something approaching a divine experience. Yet the sex is useless if it is not performed with love, and even then sex is just the beginning of a long journey. It's how you learn to use it, how you learn to control it, that is the real art.' For the Bauls, this sexual exotica is part of a much wider set of yogic practices which aim to make the sacred physiology of the body supple and coordinated with itself, using the mastery of breathing, meditation, posture and exercises as a way of charging and taming energies and drives, and perfecting the body in order to transform it. 'For the Bauls, the body is the chariot that can take you up into the sky, towards the sun,' as Bhaskar put it. For this reason, marriage is very important for the Bauls, and to be a fully initiated Baul you have to have a partner with whom you can perform Tantric sadhana. Debdas had in fact been married twice. His first wife was Radha Rani, the daughter of his guru, Sudhir Das, the Baul who had first taken him to Kenduli. Aged eighteen, he was staying in Sudhir Das's akhara when he caught a fever. 'I was almost unconscious and Radha Rani tended me,' Debdas told me. 'She was a beauty and a wonderful singer. The trap was laid: it was like a football match with only one goalpost. Whatever happened, happened. I was so ill that I was hardly aware of what was going on.' 'Ha!' said Kanai from across the room. 'I was snared,' said Debdas. 'Completely in love.' 'He was like an intoxicated elephant,' said Kanai. 'Ah- she was wonderful,' continued Debdas. 'I wanted to team up with her and travel Bengal with her, singing. But in the end we were only together two years. Our love soured. Things built up, and one day the bomb burst. I just walked out. By then we had a six-month-old baby. In life, happiness and sorrow go hand in hand. Sorrow is part of life. We have to find the happiness that lies beside it.' I asked how he had met his current wife. 'Several years later I joined the akhara of Ramananda Das Go swami,' said Debdas. 'After a while I asked him to give me both musical and spiritual direction, and to teach me Tantric sadhana. I wanted to learn how to close the mouth of the snake and boil the milk of bliss [to make love without ejaculating]. My guru replied, "You are asking for water, do you have a container?" He meant did I have a woman. I replied that I was single. So he said, "There is a girl with us, Hari Dasi, why don't you marry her and I will teach you both?" I agreed, and Hari Dasi and I have been together ever since. She has enriched me in many ways, and been my route to our secret practices. I can't tell you about our sadhana together - this can only be shared with initiated Bauls who have taken diksha but I can tell you it transformed my life.' Kanai came to marriage later than Debdas, and it was Manisha Ma who brought him together with his wife. When Debdas was at the akhara of Ramananda Das Goswami, Kanai spent the monsoon breaks in the cremation ground of Tarapith. 'My friends in the burning ground got together and decided it was about time I was married,' said Kanai. 'Arati, who became my khepi, had been married before, but her husband had fallen from a tree and had been totally disabled. He used to come to the cremation ground in a little cart and take care of the shoes at the entrance. After he died, Arati took over his job, and would sit by the entrance with her young son, all alone in the world. Manisha Ma said to her that she was very young, and needed a protector: why didn't she tie up with Kanai? All the sadhus thought it was a good idea, so my mother came and met her, and liked her. She wanted me looked after and settled before she died, so she said to Arati, "Look after my son- he may be blind, but he's a good boy." 'According to the Hindu shastras you marry only once, and Arati had already been married. So the purohit did what is usual in such cases: he married me to a banana tree, and then I put sindhoor on Arati's forehead. 'I was completely innocent when I was married. How could I know how to make the frog dance before the serpent? I can't see! 256 257 258 NINE LIVES THE SONG OF THE BLIND MINSTREL For this reason, my guru Gyananand had advised me to concentrate on singing, and not try to get involved in Tantric sadhana. So in these matters Arati was my guru. 'Nothing happened the first night. My education took place a week later in the new home the sadhus had helped me rent. She was a good teacher, and we now have four children. I owe this happiness to Manisha and the other sadhus of Tarapith: without them I would never have reached this plain of life. I tell you - there is such a lot of love in that place.' • On the last day of the Kenduli festival, I went for a walk with Kanai through the Baul encampment. The festival-goers were beginning to strike their tents and head off back on the road. Everywhere canvas awnings were being folded up and loaded on to bullock carts. Only two old people seemed to be sitting still. Near the Kenduli cremation ground, I came across a Baul couple who were old friends of Kanai. Both were sitting cross-legged on the projecting ledge of a small roadside temple. Subhol Kapa and his wife Lalita were old, but were still singing Baul songs to anyone who cared to stop and listen to them. They hailed Kanai, and he introduced us. 'I am eighty-three,' said Subhol, 'and Lalita is seventy. Our age prevents us walking the roads like we used to. But we can still dance and sing, and listen to the other Bauls. Lalita is a good singer - much better than I. These days I am so sick, but when I sing or listen to Lalita it makes me forget my illness.' 'It's true,' said Lalita. 'When I sing I forget everything else. Often I don't sing for anyone, just for myself, for my soul. I could not live without this life. I need to dance and to sing. I feel ecstatic when I sing.' 'It is enough for me too,' said Kanai. 'I need nothing else.' 'Song helps you transcend the material life,' said Subhol. 'It takes you to a different spiritual level.' 259 'When a Baul sings he gets so carried away he starts dancing,' said Kanai. 'The happiness and joy that comes with the music helps you find God inside yourself.' 'The songs of the Bauls are my companions in my old age,' said Subhol. 'We sing together, or with other Bauls like Debdas, Paban and Kanai if they come here. But when I am alone I take up my dubki, and sing to myself to keep myself company.' 'Did you both used to wander the roads together?' I asked. 'We used to be ordinary householders,' said Lalita. 'Only after I had finished rearing my four sons did we become Bauls togethersome twenty-five or thirty years back.' 'Even before then we used to sing,' said Subhol, 'but after we became Bauls we were welcomed everywhere, with love and warmth and respect. It has made our life complete.' 'For eighteen years we walked the roads of this country,' said Lalita, 'until we were too old to walk any more. This temple was my guru's ashram. Now we cannot wander, we live here following the Baul way, protecting our bodies and keeping our hearts alive.' 'But I thought Bauls didn't believe in temples?' 'This temple is just to attract people,' explained Subhol. 'For us Bauls it is just a building,' said Kanai. 'It has nothing to do with god.' 'But people come here and tell us about their problems,' said Subhol, 'and then we can give them solutions.' 'God resides in everything,' said Lalita, looking out over the nver. 'You have to learn to recognise god everywhere,' said Kanai. 'We have a song about this. You would like to hear it?' 'Very much,' I said. The old people went inside a room to one side of the shrine and returned a few minutes later, with Lalita carrying a harmonium and Subhol an ektara. Lalita squatted in front of the harmonium and Subhol plucked a few notes on the ektara, then began to sing, while Kanai provided a high, reedy descant. 260 NINE LIVES My soul cries out, Caught in the snare of beauty, Of the formless one. As I cry by myself, Night and day, Beauty amassed before my eyes, Surpasses moons and suns. If I look at the clouds in the sky, I see his beauty afloat. And I see him walk on the stars, Blazing within my heart. Before long, despite his age and fragility, Subhol was rocking backwards and forwards, hopping from one leg to another, transported by the music he was singing. Kanai and Lalita sat cross-legged, swaying to the music, lost in its beauty. When he had finished, the three settled together on the ledge of the temple, looking out in silence over the river. It was getting late now, and the sun was setting over the Ajoy- the time Bengalis call godhuli bela - cow dust time. 'When I hear this music,' said Lalita after a few minutes, breaking the silence, 'I don't care if I die tomorrow. It makes everything in life seem sweet.' 'It's true,' said Subhol. 'Thanks to this music, we live out our old age in great peace.' 'It makes us so happy,' said Kanai, 'that we don't remember what sadness is.' GLOSSARY Aarti Agarbatti Ahimsa Akhara Amavashya Aparigraha Appam Apsaras Artha Ashram Atta Avatar Azazeel Babaji Bakri Bairagi Barat Baul Bare/vi Beedi Bhajan Bhakti Bhang Bhomiyas Bhopa Chakra Charpoy Charvaka Ceremonial waving of a lamp in front of an effigy of a god as an offering of light during a puja. Incense sticks. Non-violence, from the Sanskrit for 'do no harm'. A community or monastery of holy men (lit. 'wrestling arena'). A night with no moon. A Jain term meaning to limit possessions to what is necessary or important. A Jain monk does not have any possessions except a brush, a water pot and a robe. A hopper or South Indian rice pancake. The courtesans and dancing girls of the Hindu gods; heavenly dispensers of erotic bliss. The creation of wealth. A place of religious retreat; hermitage. Flour. An incarnation. Satan. A respectful name for a sadhu. A goat. A Vaishnavite ascetic. A procession bringing the groom to a wedding. A wandering Bengali minstrel, ascetic and holy man. Sunnis Muslims in South Asia who reject the more puritanical reformed Islam of the Wahhabis, Salafis and Deobandis and who embrace the popular Islam of the Sufi cult of saints. The name derives from Maulana Raza Khan of Bareilly, who espoused a liberal form of Sufi Islam. A thin hand-rolled Indian cigarette wrapped in a leaf. A Hindu devotional song. Devotion, or the practice of focussing worship upon a much loved deity. Marijuana. Rajasthani warrior martyr-heroes who die attempting to rescue stolen cattle and are sometimes later deified. A shaman, bard and singer of epics. A sacred wheel or disc. A rope-strung bed on which the population of rural India spend much of their lives (lit. 'four feet'). A system of Indian philosophy within Hinduism which rejected a transcendental deity and assumed various forms of philosophical scepticism and religious indifference while embracing the search for wealth and pleasure in this life.

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School: University of Maryland




Reaction on the Song: The Blind Minstrel by William Dalrymple

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According to the song of blind minstrel by William Dalrymple, a Baul is a religion and
cultural group of people in India, often referred to as possessed or a madman. they are well
known through their songs and poems and their craziness for God, because of their singing and
dancing all night until dawn. Bauls lifestyle is interesting. They live in camp cottages and most
of their time greeting people and begging and singing. They put food on the table through
herding and gathering. They live as couples and men and men dress differently. Men wear
orange robes long beads while women wear white saffron saris. They walk in groups of two to
three people. Baul people are very conservative in that they have refused to conform to the
modern world. This makes them so distinct from other people. Bauls philosophy, they believed
that God lives within them in the present moment in the physical form of human beings that’s
men and wom...

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Tutor went the extra mile to help me with this essay. Citations were a bit shaky but I appreciated how well he handled APA styles and how ok he was to change them even though I didnt specify. Got a B+ which is believable and acceptable.

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