Poush Mela in Shantiniketan showcases Bauls coming to perform at the Mela from numerous villages in West Bengal. The evenings at the Poush Mela are mostly reserved for the Baul songs.
Who are the Bauls? Bauls are the famous wandering minstrels of Bengal, known for their songs on poet Lalon or Hindu Vaishnavas. Characterised by their colourful and flowing robes, and their rustic music instruments such as the Ektara, Baul music is very popular in Bengali culture. Singing songs of life, love and the soil, most Bauls songs transcend religion. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore is believed to have been greatly influenced by the Bauls.
Baul Singers @Poush Mela in Shantiniketan: We were amazed by the sheer scale of the folk programs, especially Baul programs at the Poush Mela. Think music from the soil, and this is where you get to hear it. Mesmerising. Intoxicating.
The Baul programs start only after sunset and carry on until midnight. People thronging the Mela often reach early to grab a place to sit. You do not need to buy tickets for the programs. And hence, expect a large crowd.
Wear your woollens and carry your shawls/jackets, for it can get quite chilly once the sun sets. Children can go a little restless, for they won’t understand the meaning of the songs. A great place to introduce them to genuine folk music though.
They make a huge tent with a stage for the performances. Do note that there are no chairs or benches kept for seating. Everybody sit in the ground to listen to the Bauls. You may carry old newspapers if cleanliness is an issue for you. Vendors go around selling peanuts and tea. You don’t mind both in the chilly December evening.