Folklore, Religion and the Songs of a Bengali Madman

A Journey between Performance and the Politics of Cultural Representation


This book explores historical and cultural aspects of modern and contemporary Bengal through the performance-centred study of a particular repertoire: the songs of the saint-composer Bhaba Pagla (1902-1984), who is particularly revered among Baul and Fakir singers. The author shows how songs, if examined as 'sacred scriptures', represent multi-dimensional texts for the study of South Asian religions. Revealing how previous studies about Bauls mirror the history of folkloristics in Bengal, this book presents sacred songs as a precious symbolic capital for a marginalized community of dislocated and unorthodox Hindus, who consider the practice of singing in itself an integral part of the path towards self-realization.

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Carola Erika Lorea, PhD (2015), University of Rome, is a researcher in Bengali oral traditions. She has published books on Bengali language and literature, translations of contemporary Bengali authors and several articles on the folklore and sacred songs of the Bauls of West Bengal.
“Lorea’s research provides some interesting new perspectives to approach the bāul-sphere. Her extensive knowledge of relevant critical theoretical concepts and her frequent dialogue with those is as applaudable as her honest confusions regarding Bhaba’s religious identity and his probable association with different religious groups.”
Ratul Ghosh, Cooch Behar, Folklore, Religion and the Songs of a Bengali Madman 116(2), 2021
All interested in Baul studies, Bengali literature, history of Bengal, especially Partition and post-Partition, oral traditions and verbal arts, vernacular Tantric studies, Shaktism and bhakti studies, ethnomusicology and the study of folk-songs.
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