This morning the whispers of a soul stirring song gently entered our home. Peeping out from the window I could just catch a glimpse of a man in a saffran robe strumming his ektara (a one-stringed instrument), while singing Payoji maine Ram ratan dhan payo (Yes, I have found the wealth of God’s blessing). Reckoning from his appearance and singing style, he was probably a Baul – a mystic minstrel from West Bengal.
The word Baul is said to have its roots in the Sanskrit word vatula (“mad cap”, from vayu – “air” or “wind”), referring to someone who is possessed or crazy. Possessed by their love for the almighty, the Bauls drift and wander wherever the wind takes them, singing songs to worship and experience the divine.
Within India’s devotional and music tradition, the Bauls form a small yet distinct group. Though influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism, Bengali Vasinavism and Sufi Islam, they are neither bound by creed nor caste. According to the Bauls, God resides within the human body itself, and thus the divine can be experienced through love for all human beings.
I could not find a recording of the same song in Baul style, but the video above gives a good idea of the magic of the Baul minstrels. Listen and be uplifted by the spirit of the wind.