The Baul Tradition in Bangladesh: Sustainability Activism for a Meatless Dietary Culture

The Baul Tradition in Bangladesh: Sustainability Activism for a Meatless Dietary Culture

Amzad Hossain (Curtin University, Australia & Rajshahi University, Bangladesh), Sayedul Islam Montu (Curtin University, Australia) and Md Abul Azad (Curtin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4757-0.ch011
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Humans' foremost desire is to achieve longevity through a healthy body and mind. The Baul philosophers of Bangladesh fulfil this sustainability desire through meatless diets and esoteric physio-spiritual practices. Their mission in life is to pursue voluntary community activism and social sustainability marketing by promoting the sermon of simplicity and that eating meat destroys longevity, personal and environmental health. This chapter analyses the role the Bauls play in guiding the Bangladesh population and counteracting western influences. It uses quotes from the oral wisdom of the Baul songs and orations included by UNESCO as part of the global intangible heritage of humanity.
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Introducing The Baul Tradition Of Bangladesh

The Bauls (also known as Baul Fakirs) “belong to a devotional tradition influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism, Bengali, Vasinavism and Sufi Islam, but yet distinctly different from them” (UNESCO, 2008, n.p.). There are both male and female Bauls and they do not identify with any specific religion, caste system, temples or sacred places (Tagore, 1970). By nature, the Bauls are singing mendicants, mystics, saintly and poetic thinkers. They are mostly unlettered, yet full of poetic, musical and philosophical talents. The Bauls are seen as being at the root of Bengali culture with influence over large sections of the Bangladesh population (UNESCO, 2008). As a tradition in the Bengali cultural context, the Bauls are unique in volunteering for socio-religious syncretisation in the culturally pluralistic country.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Flexitarianism: A predominantly plant-based diet which allows sporadic meat consumption when other options are not available and also during religious celebrations.

Sustainable Development Goals: A global sustainability agenda for 2016–2030 adopted by the United Nations; it includes 17 goals, namely: no poverty; no hunger; good health, quality education; renewable energy; good jobs and economic growth; innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; life below water; life on land; peace and justice; and partnerships for the goals.

Bangla: The language spoken in Bangladesh.

Functional Philosophy: A branch of philosophy which focusses on the moral and political stances guiding how people conduct themselves in the world.

Sufficiency: Condition, quantity or quality that is adequate for human wellbeing.

Naturalist: An adherent to a lifestyle in respect and close to nature.

Bauls: Mystic minstrels who live in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India and spread their wisdom through songs and charismatic discourses. They are included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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