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Bhakti – an eternal flow of devotion and surrender

I never have been a morning person as far as I remember. And yet today I remember about those dawns. Announcements airing on Akashwani Nashik, FM 101.4 MHz around 6:00 am always disturbed my sleep. Soon after, the station used to air traditional Marathi abhangs penned by saints like Tukaram, Namdev, Ramdas, etc. The Voices of legends like Bharatratna Bhimsen Joshi and Lata Mangeshkar used to fill the atmosphere.

I used to be reluctant to wake up this early and the noise of the radio irritated me. Yet these tunes and words have formed strong memories. These songs gave me a basic introduction to Bhakti as a feeling. I was very young to understand it of course however, the impact these songs had on me was great.

My encounter with Alwar literature

My recent experiences of writings of some unfamiliar saints from other parts of India recalled this memory from my childhood. In the 2024 edition of Pune Kabir Festival, I was fortunate to listen to Priya Purushotamman, a fantastic vocalist of Agra Gharana. She presented renditions of Alwar saints, Akka Mahadevi, Basavanna and Kabir. I was clueless about the vast expanse of works of 12 Alvar saints. She sang a few couplets written by two of them. The meaning, she explained, blew my mind even though it’s Tamil literature. I would like to share a glimpse of the concert in which Priya sings Mirabai’s नाव किनारे लगाव प्रभुजी.

Priya Purushottaman sings Mirabai’s नाव किनारे लगाव प्रभुजी.
Moments from a concert of Mandar Karanjkar and Dakshayani Athalye
Moments from a concert of Mandar Karanjkar and Dakshayani Athalye

A few months ago, I came across writings of Saint Ravidas and Paltudas. My familiarity of Bhakti tradition from north India was limited to a few Mirabai and Kabir Bhajans. I am thankful to a duo of my favourite vocalists, Mandar Karanjkar and Dakshayani Athalye, for this introduction. One of my favourite couplet which stuck in my mind was

ना मै किया ना करी सको, साहेब करता मोर,
करत करावत आप है, पलटू पलटू शोर.

Saint Paltu Das

Common grounds in Bhakti tradition

Even though these wise people were from different eras, separated by centuries, they have some common message. What Paltu Das says in पलटू मन मुवा नही, चले जगत को त्याग is very similar to Sant Dnyaneshwar’s कर्म मी करेन। किंवा ते सोडेन। बोलणे हे जाण। अज्ञानाचे।।. While explaining works of these saints, Mandar emphasised on the similar examples, same words used by all the saints like Kabir das, paltu das, Gorakh nath, etc over 8 centuries.

These two concerts piqued my interest in exploring the writings of various saints from Bhakti tradition of India. Wisdom spread across in those writings in very simple words. If you get a chance to listen to any of these artists, don’t miss it. It’s a treat for ears even if they chose a different subject to present. They are wonderful musicians.

And if you have any memories about particular bhajan, hymns, and kalam which you cherish, do share them in comments.

Read more of my blogs here.

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla in collaboration with Bohemian Bibliophile.

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27 thoughts on “Bhakti – an eternal flow of devotion and surrender

  1. I come from a religious family and my mornings too started with the same abhang on akashwani or Arti from the local temple, and it would always give me happiness and peace. Udd jayega Hans akela by Bhimsen Joshi was a fav of mine ( may he rest in peace ). Thank you so much for sharing the video too, it was beautiful. Bhakti indeed makes life so much more positive.

  2. I’m glad that you are finding peace in the knowledge about all these saints. I have no idea about any of the above but I hope you have a good feeling every time you hear a bhajan.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s amazing how these timeless teachings resonate across centuries. My mother is quite fond of listening to bhajans and vaani’s of these saints.

  4. Once upon a time when I was a child I used to learn music and it was both Classical and Bhajan. Few Thumris also I learned but now after so many years with no practice I shifted far away from bhajans. have very little ideas about hymns, and kalam but about Bhajan I can say it takes you on a whole new avenue where you vizualize life with a positive mind. Yes, I used to practice those bhajans mostly in the morning hours as my parents used to push me up from bed for the morning practice. The morning calmness and the meaningful lines of Bhajan makes you fall in love with life again and again. To be noted being a Bengali I used to practice Bhajan in Bengali. Few Lines of my Favorite Bhajan In Bengali:

    Hey Krishno Koruna Shindhu Dino Bondho Jagatpaotae.

    Gopi esho Gopika Kanto Radha kanto Namhostutae.

    Probhu Shoroane naoo tumi Amake.

  5. Like you, I have limited knowledge of Bhakti movement. But I do find the renditions calming. I would often listen to shabads. I have been planning to buy a radio for home for long and come back to the Akashvani morning pujas. They are certainly soothing and deeply moving.

  6. Your reflection on your journey through the realms of Bhakti tradition and the impact it has had on you is truly fascinating. It’s remarkable how childhood memories, like waking up to the sounds of traditional Marathi abhangs on the radio, can leave such a lasting impression, even if we initially resist them.
    Your journey of exploration and discovery within the Bhakti tradition serves as a beautiful reminder of the power of music and literature to transcend boundaries and touch the soul. Thank you for sharing your personal insights and experiences, reminding us of the timeless wisdom and beauty found within the Bhakti tradition.

  7. Morning assembly prayers at school are what I remember most vividly. I remember most of them by heart even today and it brings a smile to my face whenever I, even accidentally, happen to listen to them. Back then it was part of a chore and as you said, a little irritating too. Now its a beautiful memory 🙂

  8. I didn’t have memory of Bhajan. But in my childhood we used to have radio. I listened that Kabir dohe. I was very small but I still remember that aired in the morning only. We used to listen it.

  9. These melodies often hold special significance for many of us, evoking memories of moments shared with loved ones or moments of personal reflection and spiritual connection. Whether it’s the soothing chants of a bhajan during family gatherings or the uplifting hymns sung in community gatherings, these musical expressions have a way of touching our hearts and souls.Your recommendation to explore the writings of various saints from the Bhakti tradition is inspiring, and I’m sure many readers will be eager to explore deeper into this profound wisdom.

  10. I remember my mother used to sing Krishna’s bhajans and the same I used to sing for my daughters. I also have faint memories of kabir ke dohe. These memories are so divine and needs to be cherished through out our lives.

  11. You pick up any text or listen to any bhajan, they also have the same deeper meaning. Only the language changes. I also remember the AIR radio times. Lovely memories.

  12. My dad used to place the transistor on his belly and my earliest memories of Bhajan are of my dad singing shabads in our Gurudwara. You have sent me back to my childhood. The nostalgia feels really good.

  13. Enjoyed reading your post – bhajans and bhakti were not a big part of my life since we were not very religious as a family however, over time through school and other opportunities I did find my favourite bhajans. They have the quality of putting your mind to rest.

  14. I can relate to the power of early morning melodies and how they can shape our memories. Thank you for inviting us to share our own memories of bhajans, hymns, and kalam. Two years back, I remember waiting for my MRI reports. I was so anxious and overwhelmed with fear, my body started reacting negatively. At that moment, I put on a hymn, ‘God Will Make A Way’, and it helped me calm down.

  15. A lovely nostalgic trip down memory lane 🙂 I remember my mom’s tea maker which would go off early in the morning with the radio set as the alarm, so we would wake up to music in the mornings, and see mom sipping on her tea. This tradition of music in the mornings and with morning tea still continues in our house.

  16. Hi Aditya, Your post brings me a smile, for sure. I was never a morning riser, even not now. Except for my school days or early travel, I wake up early. I still remember those Sundays when my dad used to play Kishore Kumar or Manna Dey every Sunday morning while cooking delicious breakfasts for us. Such beautiful memories. 

  17. I have always seen my parents.. .doing Pooja… morning bhajans …in South the morning you get to listen some or the other bhajans…so I think I got the habit or interest from their …so I do play the bhajans while doing Pooja .

  18. Vishnu Sahasranama is my earliest memory of devotional hymns played in the morning. In Tamil Nadu, even to this day, Hindu households wake up to the sounds of Suprabhatam. These not just purify the surroundings, but also give us positive vibes to start the day.

  19. I felt so nice reading your post Adi. In my maternal house, we used to start the day listening to bhajans and to this day I remember and sing many. Although I am not at all religious, I like dohas as they are relevant no matter what age we r living in and they teach many lessons. There’s a particular bhajan of Anup Jalota called ‘Maati Kahe.’ It’s a medley of dohas of the bhakti age and I listen to it often as I look at it as a lesson in humility. It’s on YouTube.

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