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Seeking Bauls of Bengal

Seeking Bauls of Bengal


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Part of University of Cambridge Oriental Publications

  • Date Published: July 2002
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521811255

£ 90.00

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About the Authors
  • 'Bauls' have achieved fame as wandering minstrels and mystics in India and Bangladesh. They are recruited from both Hindu and Muslim communities and are renowned for their beautiful and often enigmatic songs. Despite their iconic status as representatives of the spiritual East, and although they have been the subject of a number of studies, systematic research with Bauls themselves has been neglected. Jeanne Openshaw's book is fresh, not only in analysing the rise of the Bauls to their present revered status, but in the depth of its ethnographic research and its reference to the lives of composers and singers as a context for their songs. The author uses her fieldwork, and oral and manuscript materials, to lead the reader from the conventional historical and textual approaches towards a world defined by people called 'Baul', where the human body and love are primary and where women may be extolled above men.

    • Was the first comprehensive English-language treatment of Bauls
    • Interdisciplinary approach to anthropologists, students of religion and cultural history
    • Narrative relies on empirical and textual discussion to interpret the spiritual and cultural practices of a fascinating people
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    • Winner of the Rabindranath Tagore Memorial Award by Pascimbanga Bangla Akademi (Government of West Bengal, India)

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Openshaw's excellent ethnographic and linguistic skills have enabled her to capture culture in the making. Her awareness of diverse bodies of literature makes her alert to nuances of meaning … this superb ethnography has implications for debates in many other fields and it is to be hoped that it will become known beyond the self-contained world of south Asian studies. It adds to the growing literature undermining 'the world religions' model of human religio-cultural activity. It is relevant to debates on cultural ideas about the body, and on the nature of the 'self'. And as for Orientalist and Indian nationality ideas about the 'spiritual east' here is have a classic example of indigenous Indian sceptical materialism.' Contemporary South Asia

    'this work, the fruit of nearly two decades of fieldwork, is a model of careful scholarship expressed in clear, crisp yet nuanced prose … Openshaw provides a fascinating analysis of the intricate thought-world and lifestyle of Bauls … Seeking Bauls of Bengal is a remarkable book, destined to become a landmark in the field.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

    'The book is bound to become a classic in the study of Bauls, as well as in Indian esotericism and folk cults.' South Asia Research

    'For specialists in South Asian studies, the book is a must read; startling, illuminating, erudite, and absolutely engrossing, it is one of the more original contributions to the field in several years.' Journal of Anthropological Research

    'This book is a tour de force, certainly the best book in English on the subject. It looks at Bauls with fresh eyes, is both thoughtful and thought-provoking, and provides many new insights into the subject. The book reflects Openshaw's dedication to her subject. … It will no doubt transform the way in which scholars view Bauls. It may even change popular perceptions.' Journal of the American Oriental Society

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2002
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521811255
    • length: 304 pages
    • dimensions: 236 x 159 x 26 mm
    • weight: 0.62kg
    • contains: 9 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Background: Literature on 'Bauls' and 'Baul-songs':
    1. 'What's in a name?' The advent of 'the Baul'
    2. The making of 'the Bauls': histories, themes, 'Baul-songs
    Part II. In Search of 'Bauls': 3. Fieldwork in Rarh
    4. Fieldwork in Bagri
    Part III. Received Classifications:
    5. Two shores, two refuges: householder and renouncer
    6. Evading the two shores: the guru
    Part IV. Reworking the Classifications:
    7. Affect: love and women
    8. Theory: images the 'I' and bartaman
    Part V. Practice and Talking about Practice:
    9. Practice (sadhana)
    10. Four moons practice and talking about practice (hari-katha)

  • Author

    Jeanne Openshaw, University of Edinburgh
    Jeanne Openshaw is lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh.


    • Winner of the Rabindranath Tagore Memorial Award by Pascimbanga Bangla Akademi (Government of West Bengal, India)

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