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) are a group of mystic minstrels from Bengal, which includes the country of Bangladesh and the Indian State of West Bengal.
Bauls constitute both a syncretic religious sect and a musical tradition.
There are two classes of Bauls: ascetic Bauls who reject family life and Bauls who live with their families.
Ascetic Bauls renounce family life and society and survive on alms. Women, dedicated to the service of ascetics, are known as sevadasis (seva, service dasi, maidservant).
Like the ba'al who rejects family life and all ties and roams the desert, singing in search of his beloved, the Baul too wanders about searching for his maner manus (the ideal being).
The madness of the Baul may be compared to the frenzy or intoxication of the Sufi diwana.
In order to become Bauls, they recite some mystic verses and observe certain rituals.
Baul music celebrates celestial love, but does this in very earthy terms, as in declarations of love by the Baul for his bosh-tomi or lifemate. Some wear malas [Hindu rosaries] around their necks, some tasbis [Muslim rosaries], and so people say they've got different religions.
Bauls concentrate much of their mystic energies on the four body fluids, on the nine-doors (openings of the body), on prakriti as "nature" or "primal motive force", and on breath Sadhana.Some scholars maintain that it is not clear when the word took its sectarian significance, as opposed to being a synonym for the word madcap, agitated.The beginning of the Baul movement was attributed to Birbhadra, the son of the Vaishnavite saint Nityananda, or to the 8th century Persian minstrels called Ba'al. Whatever their origin, Baul thought has mixed elements of Tantra, Sufi Islam, Vaishnavism and Buddhism.They have no fixed dwelling place, but move from one akhda to another. A male Baul can have one or more sevadasis, who are associated with him in the act of devotion.Men wear white lungis and long, white tunics; women wear white saris. Until 1976 the district of Kushtia had 252 ascetic Bauls.