Baul Song: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Bangladesh is the land of traditional folk songs. Baul, Jari, Shari, Bhawaya, Ghato, Palagan are some of the richest folk mystics in the world. UNESCO recognized Baul Song as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008. One of the special genres of Baul song is the Bauls- the folk artits/saints live either near a village or travel from place to place and earn their living from singing to the accompaniment of the ektara, the lute dotara, a simple one-stringed instrument, and a drum called dubki.

Bauls belong to an unorthodox devotional tradition, influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism, Bengali, Vasinavism and Sufi Islam, yet distinctly different from them. Bauls neither identify with any organized religion nor with the caste system, special deities, temples or sacred places. Their emphasis lies on the importance of a person’s physical body as the place where God resides. Bauls are admired for this freedom from convention as well as their music and poetry. Baul poetry, music, song and dance are devoted to finding humankind’s relationship to God, and to achieving spiritual liberation. Their devotional songs can be traced back to the fifteenth century when they first appeared in Bengali literature.

Lalon Shah and Shah Abdul Karim of Bangladesh are the greatest Baul Saints of the sub-continent. Lalon Akhra in Kusthia where Saint Lolon Shah lived and died is the holy place for Baul lovers. Annual Baul Festival is held here every year.