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The bhajan has a special place in Indian society.  Most bhajans were written between the 14th through 17th centuries.  They are simple songs sung in the praise of God.  Complex spiritual truths are portrayed in the simple language of the farmers, merchants, and other common people of the time.

Bhajan is an important part of a Hindu revivalist movement which swept through India during the Mogul period; this movement was known as the Bhakti movement.  The crux of this movement was simple; spiritual salvation was attainable to anyone who had a pure and selfless love of God.  This salvation was not predicated upon formalised yagnas, pujas, knowledge of Sanskrit, or any of the characteristics of the older forms of Hinduism.  This was a spiritual empowerment of the masses.

Bhajan is difficult to describe musically because it is not defined by any musical characteristics; it is defined by a sense of devotion (bhakti).  Bhajans cover a broad spectrum of musical styles from the simple musical chant (dhun) to highly developed versions comparable to thumri.

The poetic content of the bhajan also covers a broad spectrum.  The more traditional ones by great saint musicians such as Mira, or Kabir are considered to be of the highest literary quality.  Many modern ones, although more easily understood by the masses, usually have a literary value no greater than a typical film song (a popular form of music generated for the masses).  The lowest poetic form is the dhun, which is actually nothing more than a musical version of a chant.

The structure of bhajan is very conventional.  It contains a single sthai and numerous antara.  The last antara has special significance because it contains the nom de plume of the author.

There are a number of musician/ saints who are famous for their bhajans.  The names Tulsidas, Surdas, Mira Bai, and Kabir are particularly well known.


Streaming Audio Bhajans by Chandra and David


Instruments Used in Bhajan


Other Indian Vocal Forms



Selected Video

Om Jaya Jagadish Hare

The Praise of Ganesh: Gaiye Ganapati


Thumak Chalat Ramchandra


Tu Dayal Din


Payoji Maine


Shankara Bhajan -- By Nachiketa


Begum Parveen Sultana, Awesome Bhajan


Ram Bhajan-Man Mein Ram Basale


Bhare Panduranga- Bhajan- Ms Subbulakshmi



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© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 David and Chandrakantha Courtney

For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at [email protected]