The term ‘Bhajan’ broadly means devotional song sung with or without music for the Lord. The lyrics of the bhajan constitute of praises for the virtues of the Supreme power, of philosophical teachings, of dialogues from ancient scriptures and spiritual literature. It is the most familiar form of doing bhakti – worship, in Indian tradition and is prevalent across the country.
Covering all dimensions of the country, bhajans form the core of the devotional expression and are an indelible part of the social culture of India. It is a way of connecting an individual or a group to the Lord and even to the true meaning of life. Sung in different forms like kirtan, mantra chants and often woven in the musical notes, bhajans are the most beautiful way of expressing joy and gratitude.
Dialogues from scriptures and Vedas, and famous teachings of saints are often blended with Classical or folk music forms to form these devotional songs. As a practice these are sung in satsangs – gathering of people to listen to knowledge and perform prayers. Bhajans are considered to be intoxicating and alleviates the mood of the people.
All the states of India have their flavors of bhajan and are reckoned with devotees who composed them. Meerabai from Rajasthan, Kabir from North India, Tulsi Dasa from Uttar Pradesh are renowned bhajan composers from ancient India and play a significant role in Indian philosophy and devotional literature.
A part of Indian culture, bhajans are known to one and all, from children to the elderly and are sung to unite the mind and the soul. This form of worship makes one feel in unison with the self and the Lord!
A bhajan or kirtan is a Hindu devotional song, often of ancient origin. Great importance is attributed to the singing of bhajans with Bhakti, i.e. loving devotion. “Rasanam Lakshanam Bhajanam” means the act by which we feel more closer to our inner self or God, is a bhajan. Acts which are done for the God is called bhajan.
Kirtans are deeply rooted in Vedic tradition. Bhajans are often simple songs in lyrical language expressing emotions of love for the Divine, whether for a single God/Goddess, or any number of divinities. Many bhajans feature several names and aspects of the chosen deity, especially in the case of Hindu sahasranamas, which list a divinity’s 1008 names.
Traditionally, the music has been Indian classical music, which is based on ragas and tala (rhythmic beat patterns) played on the Veena (or Been), Sarangi Venu (flute), Mridanga(or Tabla) (traditional Indian instruments). The Sikh Scripture contains 31 ragas and 17 talas which form the basis for kirtan music compositions.
The groundwork for the bhajans was laid in the hymns found in Sama Veda, the third Veda in the Hindu scriptures. They are distinguished from the Sanskrit shlokas by virtue of their easy, lilting flow, their colloquial renderings and their profound appeal to the masses. Bhajans are sung in a group of devotees, with a designated lead singer. Anecdotes, episodes from the lives of Gods, preachings of saints and descriptions of gods’ glories have been the subject of bhajans. The Dhrupad style is a famous form of bhajan. Another well-known form of the bhajan is the kirtan, or, song in the Haridas tradition.