Baul playing “air guitar” in W. Bengal by earthpages via Flickr

The Bauls are the wandering devotional minstrels of West Bengal, India. They belong to a longstanding bardic tradition that poetically glorifies God while rebuking worldly hypocrisy. Many practice left hand tantra. And living off alms, they are the peace, love and freedom “hippies” of West Bengal.

Today their timeless songs may be heard on trains and at public fairs called melas. The Bauls’ poetry had a tremendous influence on the Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, the outstanding Bengali figure who founded the open air, asram-style Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan.

But perhaps most important about the Bauls, they manage to accept people from both Islam (Sufism) and Hinduism (Vaishnavas) in a country where the tension between these two religious groups is usually so thick you could cut with a knife.


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