Karnatik for Kids

For kids to enjoy and appreciate Karnatic music : a South-Indian Art Music Form

Dear Budding Musicians,

In this post we wish to discuss and attempt to learn about Bhajana Sampradayam and it’s origin. The word Bhajana in sanskrit literally means a religious song of praise. Sampradayam is sanskrit for tradition. Bhajana sampradayam constitutes singing a set collection of Kirtanams and Namavalis. Kirtan or Kirtanam or Sankirtanam on one hand stands for chanting the Lord’s name using mantras or hymns and often has a story associated with it. Kirtanam has been an age old practice of devotion in Hinduism, Sant traditions, even Sikhism. Namavali on the other hand is a string of Lord’s names(nAma – name; Avali- line/string). So combined together, Bhajana sampradayam is the singing of a set collection of Kirtanas and Namavalis in Lord’s name.

Bhajan or Bhajana singing is found in both North and South India. Bhajana was started as part of Bhakti movement in India in the Moghul era and assumed to have originated in Southern India.

Meerabai_paintingThe notable Bhajana propagators from the North are Mirabai, Kabir, Surdas and Tulasidas and their works are in dialects of Hindi. Sant Surdas was a blind saint whose famous bhajan is Charan Kamal bandho hari rai which means I pray to the Lotus feet of you Lord Hari. He composed a hundred thousand songs on the Lord in his magnum opus Sur Sagar(ocean of melody). Saint Tulasidas is remembered for his famous Ramacharitamanasa which is considered as one of the greatest works in Hindi literature.

Namdev_maharajIn the Western ghats, Maharashtra’s Varkari(pilgrim) group has had great Bhajana gurus like Saint Namdev, Eknath and Tukaram. Saint Namdev and Tukaram started composing Abhanga poetry – a Marathi genre of Bhajana which is simple and metrical and praises Lord Vittala Panduranga. Of Karnataka’s Haridasa groups, noteworthy gurus are Vyasaratirtha, Jayatirtha and Saint Purandaradasar who followed the Madhwa philosophy and propagated Hari’s name through their kirtanas. Saint Purandaradasar is a household name in Karnatic music and we will talk about him in detail in a later article. Bhadrachala Bhakta Ramadasa of Andhra pradesh who came much before Saint Tyagaraja composed a lot of Bhakti compositions known as Ramadasu Keertanalu.


In the South, Marudhanallur Sadguru Sri Venkataramana Swamigal has been instrumental in establishing the modern Bhajana format. The trinity of Dakshina(southern) Bhajana sampradaya are Bodhendra Swamigal, Sridhara Ayyaval and Marudhanallur Sadguru Swamigal. 

The other major Gurus in the Bhakti movement and whose compositions we still use in modern day Bhajana are Jayadeva(author of Gita Govinda), Sadashiva Brahmendra(sanskrit compositions) and Narayana Teertha(Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini). Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda comprises ashtapadis which are compositions with eight lines each and literally mean “eight steps”.  Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini by Narayana Teerthar is a sanskrit opera on the life of Lord Krishna which comprises of “Tarangas” – wave-like songs.The songs are popularly called “Tarangas” means waves. The lyrics are simple yet beautiful and effective. The Astapadis of Jayadeva are said to be the inspiration.

Hope this article was helpful in getting an overview of the origin and forms of Bhajana across India. Will discuss further about Bhajana sampradayam in future blogs, so please do have a tab on our website/facebook page.

Have a great weekend!



(Pictures above courtesy : en.wikipedia.org)