Music to human ears is heavenly. And if it's purely devotional, it's truly divine. Such a genre of music is the bhajan. Nothing can be more deeply rooted in the Indian tradition than bhajans. Bhajans are simple songs in soulful language expressing the many-splendored emotions of love for God, a complete submission or self-surrender to him through singing.
History and Origin
The groundwork for bhajans was laid in the hymns found in Sama Veda, the fourth Veda in the Hindu scriptures. They are distinguished from the Sanskrit shlokas (hymns that accompany religious rituals) by virtue of their easy lilting flow, the colloquial renderings and the profound appeal to the mass. These are sung in a group comprising devotees, with a lead singer. The fixed tunes, repetition of words and phrases lend a kind of tonal mesmerism. Anecdotes, episodes from the lives of Gods, preaching of saints, description of God's glories have been the subject of bhajans. Another form of the bhajan is the kirtan or songs in the Haridas tradition.
Types of Bhajans
A plunge into the past reveals, that bhajans, as a genre, have come a long way weaving a home for itself into the core of human hearts. Traditions of bhajan — singing have been formed over the ages — Nirguni, Gorakhanathi, Vallabhapanthi, Ashtachhap, Madhura-bhakti are some of them. Each sect has their own sets of bhajans and ways of singing them.
The medieval age saw devotees like Tulsidas , Surdas, Meera Bai , Kabir and others composing Bhajans. In the 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 Raga tradition.