What is Bhajan ?
Bhajans are divine, powerful and stir the deepest of our emotions. Singing bhajans is a simple yet meritorious way to discover our close connection to God. Bhajan is a Sanskrit word meaning “singing to glorify God. It is also the name of a Hindu genre of devotional songs and hymns.
The term covers a wide range of devotional music, from a simple mantra to the more complex Hindu dhrupad. Bhajans are typically lyrical and convey the love for the Divine. It can also refer to the inner music of the soul that yogis hear on their journey to oneness with the divine or higher Self. Most commonly, bhajans have lively melodies and repeating choruses that are easy to sing. Bhajans tend to appeal to the masses and are an important component of community and village life in India, as they are usually sung by groups rather than individuals
One person sings the first line or stanza, which is then followed by the choir. Popular themes for bhajans come from stories of the Hindu epics, such as the “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata,” as well as from tales of the lives of the gods, such as Rama, Krishna and Shiva.
The bhajan is also a key concept in the practice of Surat Shabd yoga, which focuses on meditation on the inner sounds of the Self. In this type of yoga, bhajan refers to the music of the soul. As the yogi meditates, he focuses on the Ajna (third eye) chakra, blocking out all external sounds and listening for the inner music. One asana used for this meditation is the bhajan squat pose (malasana) with the thumbs placed in the ears to block outside noise.
The term ‘Bhajan’ is used in India to refer to any devotional song. Bhajans are sung all across the country to praise God and express one’s deep love & devotion towards the almighty. Bhajans are gentle, melodious songs that provide immense peace and happiness to the person/s who sing it and those people who listen to it.
A bhajan can be sung with or without accompanying musical instruments. Usually, instruments such as dholak, manjira, jhanj, daphli and the chimta are played while singing devotional songs or bhajans.
Bhajans can be simple chants or a song that is constructed using ragas & other elements of Indian Classical Music. They can be sung individually or by groups of people together, in unison. Either way, they are known to spread good vibes and rekindle one’s love & faith in God.
History of Bhajans
The tradition of singing bhajans in India is age-old. Some of the earliest composers of bhajans were devotees like Mira Bai, Surdas, Kabir, Tulsidas, etc. The most popular bhajan themes include verses from the Ramayan and other Hindu scriptures, praises of Gods & Goddesses and their glory. In India, bhajans are sung in temples, at home and even played on CDs at commercial places, health clinics & shops, etc, especially in the mornings. It is believed that everyone should begin their day thinking of God. This is why, singing the aarti or listening to a devotional song in the morning is known to help in spending a safe, pleasant and happy day.
Aarti, Bhajan & Kirtan
In India, people sing Bhajans and take part in Kirtans, especially during religious events, rituals & special days. The aarti is another significant part of Hindu religious proceedings. Different Aartis are sung for different gods and goddesses. During a kirtan, the same chant or a series of bhajans are sung together by groups of people. Jagrans & kirtans are quite popular, especially in North