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Devotional Songs In Hindi Website For Essay

Prentiss, Karen Pechilis. The Embodiment of Bhakti. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

--Though this work is primarily an in-depth study of a regional tradition of Tamil Shiva-bhakti (i.e, the nayanmars, cf. Poems to Shiva), it is valuable for its up-to-date and succinct summary of the history of the scholarly interpretation of ‘bhakti’ as a category. As such, it is replete with references to ‘orientalists’ and the many scholars that have worked in this field, but through all the detail a broad sense of the ‘hot spots’ of the history and present state of bhakti studies can be gained. See especially Part I, pp. 13-41.

Edited Volumes

Eck, Diana and Francoise Mallison. Devotion Divine: Bhakti Traditions from the Regions of India. Paris: Ecole Francaise D’Extreme-Orient, 1991.

--A collection of essays in tribute to the work of french scholar Charlotte Vaudeville. In keeping with this purpose, the essays approach Hinduism and bhakti mainly (though not exclusively) through their ‘folk’ origins. Essays on manifestations of bhakti such as the significance of the worship of footprints (Bakker, pp. 19-37) and on the dog as a symbol of bhakti itself (Tulpule, pp. 273-285).

Lele, Jayant, ed. Tradition and Modernity in Bhakti Movements. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981.

--Though a bit dated, this is the only collection of essays (that I have found) organized around the question of bhakti and modernization. Particular attention is paid to the Warkari (Maharastra) bhakti movement. Also contains an essay by Hawley on Sur Das’ poetry.

Schomer, Karine and W. H. McLeod, eds. The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India. Berkeley: Berkeley Religious Studies Series, 1987.

--By gathering a set of essays on the Sant tradition of bhakti in North India, this volume highlights the ways in which bhakti itself stretches the limits of religious traditions, informing Hindu, Sikh and Islamic belief and practice. Essays on several of the poets examined in Songs of the Saints of India, especially Kabir. Also, because of its topic, this volume has several essays dealing with the ‘nirguna/saguna’ distinction.


Primary Sources

Dimock, Edward C. and Denise Levertov, eds. In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali.Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

--A veritable dip in the ocean of madhurya-bhava (the erotic devotional mood) . Dimock and Levertov have arranged these Bengali Vaishnava devotional songs (kirtan) (mostly in the voice of Radha) according to traditional categories of the stages of a human love affair. Good for getting a ‘feel’ for the mutations of viraha (longing in separation).

Ramanujan, A. K.


--The necessary sectarian complement to Hymns for the Drowning. Unlike that work, however, these translations span a broad range of the South Indian Shaivate Nayanmar tradition, from Basavanna to the well-known female Virashaiva, Mahadeviyakka.

Schelling, Andrew. For the Love of the Dark One: Songs of Mirabai. Prescott, Arizona: Hohms

Press, 1998.

--Recent translations of about 80 of Mira’s poems. In his selection process, Schelling has paid attention to a wide range of themes in the poems, particularly that of Mir as yogini, but as he reminds us in his "Introduction"—"Even her asceticism rings with eroticism" and such is nowhere lacking in this volume. This provides a helpful supplement to the more common image of Mirabai as Krishna’s consort.

Vivekananda. Bhakti-Yoga. Calcutta: Sri Gouranga Press, 1922.

--Modern thoughts on the three principle margas (paths) from the man who become the icon of "Hinduism" in the West in the early 20th century. Like all of Vivekananda’s "writings" this book is a re-formulation of parts of several lectures and address, often delivered ex tempore. Particularly interesting are his comments on the relationship of Vedanta to bhakti-yoga.

Women and Bhakti

Harlan, Lindsey. "Abandoning Shame: Mira and the Margins of Marriage." In From the Margins of Hindu Marriage: Essays on Gender, Religion, and Culture. eds., Lindsey Harlan and Paul Courtwright. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Hawley, John Stratton. "Mirabai as Wife and Yogi." In Asceticism, ed. Victor Wimbush. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

--The divide between the householder (in this case pativrata) and the ascetic has often been painted as so wide as to be unbridgeable. By paying close attention to an often overlooked aspect of Mira’s poems (her ascetic/yogic imagery), Hawley’s work suggests that bhakti complexifies this dichotomy. Hawley also pays close attention to the way the tradition(s) and even popular culture have interpreted Mira in relation to the ideals of the pativrata.

Kinsley, David. "Devotion as an Alternative to Marriage in the Lives of Some Hindu Women Devotees." In Tradition and Modernity in Bhakti Movements. ed. Jayant Lele. Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1981.

--Examines the ‘tension between bhakti and dharma’ (with emphasis on the ‘tension’) as manifested in the lives of several female bhakti saints. Brief and to the point.

Rukmani, T. S. "Bhakti, the Bhagavata Purana and the Empowerment of Women," Journal for the Study of Religion. 8, 1 (March 1995: 55-70).

--Good for an introduction to the range of literature and female figures that figure in the discussion of ‘bhakti’ and women. Attention is focused mostly on southern regions, though Mirabai and Lal Ded (Kashmir) are mentioned. The thesis is that bhakti has, if in a limited way, "paved the path for equality amongst the sexes."

Gupta, Sanjukta. "Women in the Shaiva/Shakta Ethos. In Roles and Rituals for Hindu Women." ed. Julia Leslie. London: Pinter Publishers, 1991.

--A comparison of three Virashaiva and three Vaishnava women saints, arguing that the Shaivite traditions, through its emphasis on shakti, provided a more female ‘friendly’ environment. A bit tendentious in places.


as Social and Political Phenomenon

Lorenzen, David N. "Introduction: The Historical Vicissitudes of Bhakti Religion." In Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action. ed. David N. Lorenzen. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

--Lorenzon posits bhakti as an underlying religious structure that informs both Sikh and Hindu traditions in North India, and examines the relationship of bhakti to the current debate over ‘communalism.’ Pays particular attention to the ideological implications and uses of nirguni and saguni bhakti. Ends with a helpful evaluation and expansion of Max Weber’s examination of class and religious affiliation.

Schaller, Joseph. "Sanskritization, Caste Uplift and Social Dissidence in the Sant Ravidas Panth." In Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action. ed. David N. Lorenzen. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

--An examination of contemporary followers of Ravidas, arguing that devotion to this "untouchable" (chamar) saint is intimately intertwined with political and economic factors of the situation of the devotees. Bhakti as a "dissident socioreligious ideology." Interesting comparisons to Ambedkar’s neo-Buddhism and the chamars of Agra.

Shobha, Savitri Chandra. Medieval India and Hindi Bhakti Poetry: A Social-Cultural Study. New Delhi: Har Anand Publications, 1996.

--Collection of essays by Shobha dealing with Kabir, Sur Das, and Tulsi, asking questions about bhakti

s relationship to dissent, protest and social philosophy in general. Chapter 5 deals with the ‘position of women’ in medieval bhakti poetry.


God, the Self and the self in Bhakti

Carman, John B. "Conceiving Hindu ‘Bhakti’ as Theistic Mysticism." In Mysticism and Religious Traditions, ed. Steven T. Katz. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

--Though for some ‘theistic mysticism’ may seem a contradiction in terms, Carman argues that the bhakti traditions, such as that expressed in the theology of Ramanuja or in the character of Prahlada in the Vishnu Purana, provoke a radical re-thinking of what ‘mysticism’ itself may mean.

Nelson, Lance E. "Bhakti-Rasa for the Advaitin Renunciate: Madhusudana Sarasvati’s Theory of Devotional Sentiment," Religious Traditions: A Journal in the Study of Religion. 12, 9 (1988:1-16).

--The strengths of this short article are many. In the life and thought of this important medieval monk and intellectual, Nelson finds an apparent anomaly: a Krishna-devotee who is also a strict advaitin (non-dualist) philosopher. Though advaita certainly wins the day here, Nelson has pointed out that ‘on-the-ground’ neat categories never quite hold up.In addition, Nelson gives some brief and helpful discussions of important bhakti concepts such as rasa and the various bhavas in terms of aesthetic theory and Vaishnava theology.








A bhajan literally means "sharing".[1] It also refers to any song with religious theme or spiritual ideas, in a regional South Asian language.[1]

A bhajan has no prescribed form, or set rules, is in free form, normally lyrical and based on melodic ragas.[2] It belongs to a genre of music and arts that developed with the Bhakti movement.[1] It is found in the various traditions of Hinduism but particularly in Vaishnavism,[1] in Jainism.

Ideas from scriptures, legendary epics, the teachings of saints and loving devotion to a deity are the typical subjects of bhajans.[2] It is usually a group event, with one or more lead singers, accompanied with music, and sometimes dancing.[3] A bhajan may be sung in a temple, in a home, under a tree in open, near a river bank or a place of historic significance.[4]

The saints of the Bhakti movement are credited with pioneering many forms of bhajans, starting with the South Indian bhakti pioneers, but bhajans have been widely composed anonymously and shared as a musical and arts tradition. Its genre 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.[5]


The Sanskrit word bhajan or bhajana is derived from the root bhaj, which means "divide, share, partake, participate, to belong to".[6][7][8] The word also connotes "attachment, devotion to, fondness for, homage, faith or love, worship, piety to something as a spiritual, religious principle or means of salvation".[9]


Historical roots[edit]

In Hinduism, Bhajan and its Bhakti analog Kirtan, have roots in the ancient metric and musical traditions of the Vedic era, particularly the Samaveda. The Samaveda samhita is not meant to be read as a text, it is like a musical score sheet that must be heard.[10]

Other late Vedic texts mention the two scholars Shilalin (IAST: Śilālin) and Krishashva (Kṛśaśva), credited to be pioneers in the studies of ancient drama, singing and dance.[11] The art schools of Shilalin and Krishashva may have been associated with the performance of vedic rituals, which involved story telling with embedded ethical values.[11] The vedic traditions integrated rituals with performance arts, such as a dramatic play, where not only praises to gods were recited or sung, but the dialogues were part of a dramatic representation and discussion of spiritual themes.[13]

— Translated by David N. Lorenzen[15]
A lyric from a Hindu Bhajan

This body is but a guest of four days,
a house made of dirt.
On this earth your mark is made,
a symbol of your good work.

The Vedas and Upanishads celebrate Nada-Brahman, where certain sounds are considered elemental, triggering emotional feelings without necessarily having a literal meaning, and this is deemed sacred, liminal experience of the primeval ultimate reality and supreme truth.[16][17][18] This supreme truth is, states Guy Beck, considered as full of bliss and rasa (emotional taste) in the Hindu thought, and melodic sound considered a part of human spiritual experience.[16] Devotional music genre such as Bhajan are part of a tradition that emerged from these roots.[16]

Hindu Bhajans[edit]

A Bhajan in Hindu traditions is an informal, loosely structured devotional song with music in a regional language.[19] They are found all over India and Nepal, but are particularly popular among the Vaishnavism sub-traditions such as those driven by devotion to avatars of Vishnu such as Krishna, Rama, Vitthala and Narayana (often with their consorts).[1][19]

A Bhajan may be sung individually, or more commonly together as a choral event wherein the lyrics include religious or spiritual themes in the local language.[1][2] The themes are loving devotion to a deity, legends from the Epics or the Puranas, compositions of Bhakti movement saints, or spiritual themes from Hindu scriptures.[20] The Bhajans in many Hindu traditions are a form of congregational singing and bonding, that gives the individual an opportunity to share in the music-driven spiritual and liturgical experience as well as the community a shared sense of identity, wherein people share food, meet and reconnect.[21] The bhajans have played a significant role in community organization in 19th and 20th century colonial era, when Indian workers were brought to distant lands such as Trinidad, Fiji and South Africa as cheap labor on plantations.[22][23][24]

A Bhajan

A Vaishnava Bhajan composed in 19th-century, set to Indian classical music

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Some Bhajan songs are centuries old, popular on a pan-regional basis, passed down as a community tradition, while others newly composed. Everyone in Hindu tradition is free to compose a Bhajan with whatever ideas or in praise of any deity of their wish, but since they are sung, they typically follow meters of classical Indian music, the raga and the tala to go with the musical instruments.[25] They are sung in open air, inside temples such as those of Swaminarayan movement, in Vaishnava monasteries, during festivals or special events, and at pilgrimage centers.[21]

Bhajan versus Kirtan in the Hindu traditions[edit]

A Bhajan is closely related to Kirtan, with both sharing common aims, subjects, musical themes and being devotional performance arts. A Bhajan is more free in form, and can be singular melody that is performed by a single singer with or without one and more musical instruments. Kirtan, in contrast, differs in being a more structured team performance, typically with a call and response musical structure, similar to an intimate conversation or gentle sharing of ideas, and it includes two or more musical instruments,[26][27] with roots in the prosody principles of the Vedic era.[28]

Many Kirtan are structured for more audience participation, where the singer calls a spiritual chant, a hymn, a mantra or a theme, the audience then responds back by repeating the chant or by chanting back a reply of their shared beliefs.[29][30] A Bhajan, in contrast, is either experienced in silence or a "sing along".[26][31]


Stavan is a form of popular and historically pervasive genre of devotional music in Jainism.[32] The subject of a Stavan varies, ranging from praise of Jina, Jain religious ideas and its philosophy, in a manner similar to Bhakti Bhajans.[32]

Jainism rejects any Creator god, but accepts protector deities and rebirth of souls as heavenly beings, and its devotional singing traditions integrate these beliefs. Stavan may include dancing and worship rituals. Known as Bhajan in north and west Indian regional languages, a Stavan is typically sung as folk melodies by groups of Jain women, and are formal part of ceremonies and celebrations within Jainism.[33]

Nowadays Many old and new Jain Stavans are being sung and recorded by jain singers. You can listen online or download popular jain stavans from http://www.jaineworld.com/jain-stavans/


The Sikh tradition places major emphasis on devotional worship to one formless God, and Bhajans are a part of this worship.[34] A more common form of community singing is called Shabad Kirtan in Sikhism.[2][3] A Shabad Kirtan is performed by professional religious musicians, wherein bani (word, hymns) from the Sikh scripture are sung to a certain raga and tala.[35]

Modern composers and singers of Bhajans[edit]

A modern Bhajan has no fixed form: it may be as simple as a mantra or kirtan or as sophisticated as the dhrupad, thumri or kriti with music based on classicalragas and talas.[36]

V. D. Paluskar and V. N. Bhatkhande have combined Indian classical music with bhajan. Pandit Kumar Gandharva made famous the Nirguni Bhajans of Sant Kabir and Malwa Region. The dancer Mallika Sarabhai has produced performances based on bhajans. Abhinaya Chakravathi Sri JS Eswara Prasad Rao of Hyderabad, who is the disciple of AL Krishnamurthy Bhagavathar, Pudukkottai system, has produced performances based on Sampradaya bhajans under the title "Nitrya sankeerthnam".[citation needed]

Bhajans of Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism traditions, Vedic mantras and Yoga chants have been composed, published in Western musical sheet format or recorded by western singers such as Krishna Das, Deva Premal, Miten, and by various West Indies singers influenced by East Indian heritage.[37][38][39]

The Stavan compositions and literature of the Jainism tradition are extensive, with a historic overview provided by Sri Sudhara Stavan Sangrah, traditionally preserved in "puja box" by Jain families.[40] It is vectored text with Jain lyrics and is canonically inspired.[40]

Kripalu Maharaj is one of the modern era bhakti leaders and bhajan-kirtan composers.[41] He has composed eleven thousand one hundred and eleven doha (couplets) on the leela of Radha Krishn and the devotional philosophy called Radha Govind Geet; 1008 pad (songs) called Prem Ras Madira; hundreds of kirtan in the form of Yugal Shatak and Yugal Ras and twelve pad which fully describe the beauty and the decorations of Krishn, and thirteen pad which describe the beauty and the decorations of Radha Rani called Shree Krishn Dwadashi and Shree Radha Trayodashi.[42] Renditions of Shree Maharajji's bhajans and kirtans have been recorded by well-known singers in India such as Manna Dey[43]Anuradha Paudwal and Anup Jalota.[44][45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abcdefJames G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8. 
  2. ^ abcdDenise Cush; Catherine Robinson; Michael York (2012). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Routledge. pp. 87–88. ISBN 978-1-135-18979-2. 
  3. ^ abArnold P. Kaminsky; Roger D. Long (2011). India Today: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Republic. ABC-CLIO. pp. 484–485. ISBN 978-0-313-37463-0. 
  4. ^Anna King, John Brockington, The Intimate Other: Love Divine in Indic Religions, Orient Longman 2005, p 179.
  5. ^Amaresh Datta (1987). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: A-Devo. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 430–431. ISBN 978-81-260-1803-1. 
  6. ^Cutler, Norman (1987). Songs of Experience. Indiana University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-253-35334-4. 
  7. ^Pechilis Prentiss, Karen (1999). The Embodiment of Bhakti. US: Oxford University Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-19-512813-0. 
  8. ^Werner, Karel (1993). Love Divine: studies in bhakti and devotional mysticism. Routledge. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-7007-0235-0. 
  9. ^Monier Monier-Williams (1872). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 695. 
  10. ^Frits Staal (2009), Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143099864, pages 107-112
  11. ^ abNatalia Lidova (1994). Drama and Ritual of Early Hinduism. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 111–114. ISBN 978-81-208-1234-5. 
  12. ^ML Varadpande (1990), History of Indian Theatre, Volume 1, Abhinav, ISBN 978-8170172789, pages 45–47
  13. ^David N. Lorenzen (1995). Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action. State University of New York Press. p. 242. ISBN 978-0-7914-2025-6. 
  14. ^ abcGuy Beck (1998). Bruno Nettl; et al., eds. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: South Asia, the Indian subcontinent. Routledge. pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-0-8240-4946-1. 
  15. ^Annette Wilke; Oliver Moebus (2011). Sound and Communication: An Aesthetic Cultural History of Sanskrit Hinduism. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 886–898. ISBN 978-3-11-024003-0. 
  16. ^Stephen Breck Reid (2001). Psalms and Practice: Worship, Virtue, and Authority. Liturgical Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-8146-5080-6. 
  17. ^ abGuy Beck (1998). Bruno Nettl; et al., eds. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: South Asia, the Indian subcontinent. Routledge. pp. 251–254. ISBN 978-0-8240-4946-1. 
  18. ^Annette Wilke; Oliver Moebus (2011). Sound and Communication: An Aesthetic Cultural History of Sanskrit Hinduism. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 2–3, 33–37. ISBN 978-3-11-024003-0. 
  19. ^ abGuy Beck (1998). Bruno Nettl; et al., eds. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: South Asia, the Indian subcontinent. Routledge. pp. 254–255. ISBN 978-0-8240-4946-1. 
  20. ^Movindri Reddy (2015). Social Movements and the Indian Diaspora. Routledge. p. 164. ISBN 978-1-317-47897-3.

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