A Bhajan is a type of Hindu devotional song, often simple, lyrical and expressing love for the Divine. The music is based on Indian classical ragas and talas. Traditions of bhajan such as Nirguni, Gorakhanathi, Vallabhapanthi, Ashtachhap, Madhura-bhakti and the traditional South Indian form Sampradya Bhajan each have their own repertoire and methods of singing.
Anecdotes and episodes from the lives of Gods, the teachings of saints and descriptions of gods' glories have been the subject of bhajans. The Dhrupad style, Sufi qawwali and the kirtan or song in the Haridas tradition are related to bhajan. Nanak, Kabir, Mirabai, Narottama Dasa, Surdas and Tulsidas are notable composers.
and a few others are considered to be classic. The language of their works is influenced by several of the dialects of Hindi. They are widely enjoyed even among those who do not speak Hindi. Here is a representative selection of the best known bhajans by these poets.
Kabir: Chadaria Jhini Re Jhini
This bhajan has been recorded by several well known singers. Kabir refers to his body as a chadar, a sheet of cloth.
- This is fine, this is fine cloth.
- Dyed in the Ram Nam, the name of the lord,
- A spinning wheel like an eight-petalled lotus spins it,
- Five elements and three qualities are its pattern.
- The Lord tailored it in ten moons,
- Pressed the threads to get the weft tight.
- It has been worn by gods, men and sages:
- They soiled it with use.
- Says Kabir; I have covered myself with this cloth most carefully,
- And eventually will leave it as it was before.
Mirabai: Mane Chakar Rakho Ji
A version of this famous hymn was used in the 1947 Hindi film Meerabai. Mirabai operated in Rajasthan and her dialect of Hindi is more properly called a variety of Rajasthani. Because of Rajasthan's proximity to Gujarat, Rajasthani and Gujarati share many similar linguistic features, and Mirabai seemed equally at home in either language.
- Lord Girdhari (Krishna), make me your servant.
- As your servant, I will plant a garden, and see you every day.
- In the groves and lanes of Vrindavan, I will sing about you.
Tulsidas: Shri Ramachandra Kripalu Bhaju Man
- O my mind! Revere the kind Sri Rama, who can remove the fear of rebirths,
- Who has lotus eyes, lotus face and lotus hands, lotus feet, red like the rising sun.
Surdas: Main Nahi Makhan Khayo
A very popular pad in Raga Ramkali. The naughty child Krishna was caught with
freshly churned butter by his mother Yashoda, with some still on his face. He claims:
- I did not eat the butter, mother.
- I think my friends have smeared some on my face!
In modern times composers like Pt. V. D. Paluskar
and Pt. V. N. Bhatkhande
have tried to mingle Raga Sangeet
or Indian classical music
- which had been an exclusive domain of the elite - with bhajans, thereby democratizing the Rāga
tradition. Bhajan in a traditional form popularised by the name "Sringeri Bhajans" and "Jyothirbhajan" since 50 years by Sri.R.V.Krishnabhat in Bangalore besides his teacher profession. Bhajans with the flavour of classical ragas and touch of tala perfection is the speciality of Sringeri bhajans. It also has mix of modern bhajans, kirtans and traditional bhajans. Jyothirbhajan is the most important part of it which has gained popularity besides the usual bhajans.
Chanting of bhajans and kirtan continues to be a favorite mode of worship in the Bhakti tradition of Hinduism, a tradition often regarded as far more accessible to the average person. This popularity is also reflected in the emphasis of many different gurus on chanting.
While most Hindus devoutly sing bhajan in its more traditional form, members of some movements have also experimented with the incorporation of non-Indian instruments like the guitar and interspersing Western themes like jazz.
In Surat Shabd Yoga, the spiritual exercises (sadhanas) include repetition, particularly silent repetition, of a mantra given at initiation and bhajan (here meaning listening to inner sounds).