abhaṅgas

Lyrical poems, the compositions of the mystics of Maharashtra, are popularly known as ‘abhaṅgas.’ ‘Abhaṅga’ literally means ‘unbroken or indivisible.’ The story goes that when Sant Tukārām, one of the greatest saints of Maharashtra, was compelled by his detractors to consign his poetical works to the river Indrāyaṇī, Lord Viṭṭhala (Viṣṇu) restored them to their author saying that the works were ‘abhaṅga’ (‘indestructible’). That apart, it is true that these poems and songs abound in philosophical, mystical and ethical teachings which are ‘abhaṅga’ and hence true for all time. Besides Tukārām, several other saints like Jñāneśvar, Nāmdev, Eknāth and Rāmdās, including women saints like Janābāi and Kānhopātrā have composed these abhaṅgas. Importance of the divine name and its repetition in spiritual life, God-realisation as the summum bonum of life, the necessity of acquiring guru’s grace, the harmony of worldly life and spiritual life, the need for inculcating moral values in day-to-day life are some of the oft-recurring themes of these compositions. If making the abstract spiritual truths intelligible and practicable to the common masses is the measure of success of religious reform movements, the Bhakti Movement of the saints of Maharashtra through their abhaṅgas has succeeded admirably. Even today these abhaṅgas are sung by the common folk.