India is a land of diverse faiths and beliefs and is bound by a common thread of music, which is an essential constituent of most religious practices. In the Vedic period (3000-1500 BC), music was solely ritualistic. Some of the major earlier forms of Indian Classical music like Prabandh Sangeet and Dhruvapada were all devotional in character. Gradually other forms of devotional music like bhajans, kirtans, shahbads and qawwalis came into being. 

Bhajans owe their origin to the Bhakti Movement. The word bhajan is derived from bhaj which means ‘to serve’ in Sanskrit. Bhajan is a popular form of devotional singing prevalent in north India. It is usually sung in temples in praise of god or is addressed as a plea to him. The lyrics are set to simple melodies, generally in one or more ragas. Bhajans are usually sung in groups. There is a lead singer who sings the first line or stanza and is followed by the choir. The compositions are usually based on Shanta Rasa. Stories and episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata are popular themes for bhajans, as are the episodes from the lives of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva. Bhajan singing is usually accompanied by musical instruments like jhanj, manjira, daphli, dholak and chimta. Originally bhajans were sung only in temples or at homes and their concert appearance is a comparatively recent phenomenon, traceable to the early 20th century. Meera Bai, Kabir, Surdas, Tulsidas, Guru Nanak and Narsi Mehta are some of the most significant names in bhajan singing. More recently, V. D. Paluskar and D. V. Paluskar have worked greatly towards the development of this form. Sharma Bandhu, Purushotam Jalota and Anup Jalota are a few contemporary bhajan singers.

The bhajan has a special place in India. 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  , Surdas, 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 songa popular form of music generated for the masses). The lowest poetic form is the dhun or kirtan, 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 name of the author. 


·        Kartal  - wooden clappers

·        Ektar  - one stringed lute

·        Dotar  - two stringed lute

·        Harmonium  - hand pumped organ

·        Manjira  - small cymbals

·        Sitar  - long necked lute

·        Dholak  - barrel shaped drum

·        Nal (dholaki) - barrel shaped drum

·        Tabla  - hand drums