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Their music represents a long heritage of preaching mysticism through songs in Bengal, as in the Shahebdhoni or Bolahadi sects.
Bauls concentrate much of their mystic energies on the four body fluids, on the nine-doors (openings of the body), on prakriti as "nature" or "primal motive force", and on breath Sadhana.
In 2005, the Baul tradition was included in the list of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.
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.
There are two classes of Bauls: ascetic Bauls who reject family life and Bauls who live with their families.
Ascetic Bauls renounce family life and society and survive on alms. Women, dedicated to the service of ascetics, are known as sevadasis (seva, service dasi, maidservant).
Bauls are an extension of the Sahajiya philosophy, which in turn derives from the Nath tradition.