This article makes use of the author’s field research as well as primary and secondary textual sources to examine Islamic esoteric content, as mediated by local forms of Bengali Sufism, in Bāul Fakiri songs. I provide a general summary of Bāul Fakiri poets, including their relationship to Islam as well as their departure from Islamic orthodoxy, and present critical annotated translations of five songs attributed to the nineteenth-century Bengali poet Lālan Fakir (popularly known as “Lalon”). I also examine the relationship of Bāul Fakiri sexual rites (sādhanā) and principles of embodiment (dehatattva), framed in Islamic terminology, to extant scholarship on Haṭhayoga and Tantra. In the final part of the article I emphasize how the content of these songs demonstrates the importance of esotericism as a salient category in a Bāul Fakiri context and offer an argument for its explanatory power outside of domains that are perceived to be exclusively Western.
Sufism; Islam; Esotericism; Metaphysics; Traditionalism