(‘service, adoration’)

Bhakti or devotion to God is considered to be one of the earliest and the most efficacious forms of spiritual disciplines. Bhajana, also called kīrtana, which generally takes the form of singing devotional hymns and songs, is a popular mode of propagating the cult of bhakti or devotion among the masses.

These bhajans and kīrtanas may be set to classical tunes and sung by experts; or to simple popular tunes or even folk-tunes, so that the masses can easily follow. The latter is sometimes called ‘nāmāvalī-bhajanas’. Groups of singers of bhajanas, going round a village or a town or a temple is still a common sight, especially in rural India.

Institutions known as ‘bhajana-maṭhas’ have also come into existence, to organise congregational singing. Such singing, organised by the singers of different religious cults has resulted in different ‘bhajana-paddhatis’ or traditions of bhajanas.

Singing of tevārams and praban-dhams of the saints of Tamilnadu, the dāsapadas and vacanas of Karnataka, the abhaṅgas of Maharashtra, the Vaiṣṇava kīrtanas, the baūl songs and the Kālī-kīrtanas of Bengal, the bargīts of Śaṅkaradeva and his followers in Assam, the bhajanas of Mīrā, Tulasīdās, Kabīr, Sūradas and Nānak form the various bhajana-paddhatis or traditions of devotional songs.