Are we truly familiar with the deeper connotations of the terms ‘Baul-Bairagi-Dervish-Fakir-Sahajiya’ or for that matter the Sufi and the Udasin—terms that we often loosely apply to certain people or sects while ploughing through the routine walks of life? H.A. Wilson (The Various Religious Cults of India) or Akshaykumar Dutta had rightly spotted these people and produced seminal works on this community more than a century and a half ago. In Along Deep Lonely Alleys: Baul-Fakir-Dervish of Bengal, the author opens the doors to a new vision of this unique world of wandering minstrels. Having travelled through the districts of Nadia, Murshidabad, Birbhum and Bardhaman – cutting across tiny hamlets and settlements tucked away in the farthest corners of Bengal – he completed an intensive research over a period of time spanning two decades.
These spiritual communities and cults are unique as well as varied; the language they use and the norms of living they follow are remarkably mysterious and tinged with a certain rarity. The obscure mysticism in their songs and nuanced bends in their train of thoughts and philosophy have been portrayed in the book through an inclusive approach, with singular clarity and totality. A relatively unknown world thrives parallel to the extensive studies in folk sociology and rural cultural anthropology. Tracing this distinctive strain of folklore, music and spiritual beliefs, this book throws up certain characters which have no archetypes, lending a composite structure to it all.