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They have no fixed dwelling place, but move from one akhda to another. A male Baul can have one or more sevadasis, who are associated with him in the act of devotion.Men wear white lungis and long, white tunics; women wear white saris. Until 1976 the district of Kushtia had 252 ascetic Bauls.Like the Sufi, the Baul searches for the divine beloved and finds him housed in the human body.Bauls call the beloved sain (lord), murshid (guide), or guru (preceptor), and it is in his search that they go 'mad'.Like the ba'al who rejects family life and all ties and roams the desert, singing in search of his beloved, the Baul too wanders about searching for his maner manus (the ideal being).The madness of the Baul may be compared to the frenzy or intoxication of the Sufi diwana.
The word Baul has its etymological origin in the Sanskrit word Vātūla ("mad", from vāyu - "air" or "wind") and is used for someone who is possessed or crazy.
Bauls are a very heterogeneous group, with many sects, but their membership mainly consists of Vaishnava Hindus and Sufi Muslims.
Although Bauls comprise only a small fraction of the Bengali population, their influence on the culture of Bengal is considerable.
Bauls are an extension of the Sahajiya philosophy, which in turn derives from the Nath tradition.
They believe in living the world as a half-sanyasi. Some modern scholars, like Shashibhusan Das Gupta have suggested that it may be derived either from Sanskrit word vatula, which means "enlightened, lashed by the wind to the point of losing one's sanity, god's madcap, detached from the world, and seeker of truth", or from vyakula, which means "restless, agitated" and both of these derivations are consistent with the modern sense of the word, which denotes the inspired people with an ecstatic eagerness for a spiritual life, where a person can realise his union with the eternal beloved – the Moner Manush (the person of the heart).
Their music represents a long heritage of preaching mysticism through songs in Bengal, as in the Shahebdhoni or Bolahadi sects.