On singing Bhajans
We at Heart to Heart
have received some queries about the proper way of conducting
bhajans. Some listeners ask,
What is the
standard format for conducting bhajans? With Ganesha always
being first... does it really matter if the Guru bhajan is
second... Or can the Mother bhajan be sung second?
Should all bhajans
be sung on one scale.... Or can the scale be changed with regard
to the type of voice of the singer?
Which one is more
important in keeping the beat? Is it the instrument or the
and so on.
We requested some of
the senior students and faculty members who conduct bhajans at
Prashanthi Nilayam to give us a reply. Here are 15 points given to
us by them.
Regarding the format: What is more important is that we have
bhajans on all Deities. Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Sarvadharma (Allah,
Esu, Buddha, Zoroaster, Nanak), Mother, etc. Depending on the
place and circumstances we can sing more on some particular name.
2. In Sai Samithis
(Centres) they sing bhajans in a particular format. However at
Prasanthi Nilayam, we do not have any particular order, except
that there should be a mix of all names. Two bhajans on the same
deity, i.e. two Krishna bhajans, or two Rama bhajans, or two Shiva
bhajans should not occur consecutively.
3. We do have an
order in terms of the type of bhajans, i.e. we sing bhajans which
have a slow tempo only in the beginning if it is a half an hour or
one hour session.
4. We are expected
to sing as many Namavalis (bhajans containing only names of Gods)
because they are easier to follow and they appeal to all.
5. Only those who
have a good voice and are able to sing well should lead the
bhajans. This is to ensure that the others will get concentration
and divine feelings.
6. The more the
number of people attending a session the more strict we must be on
the choice of singers and instrumentalists. That is to say, in a
very small gathering, like bhajans with family members etc., we
can relax the rules on the selection of singers...
7. There must be
considerable difference in the first and the second speed of any
bhajan - double the speed if possible.
8. Clapping should
be regular and single claps per cycle in the first speed. The
second speed clapping could be twice per cycle.
9. Discipline of the
singers is very important. They should not look around here and
there, or talk during bhajans. Passing of mikes, if any, must be
done so as not to disturb the others.
10. Apart from the
raga (tune) and tala (beat), the singers must be aware and feel
that they are singing only for pleasing GOD (thus sanctifying
their own lives) and not for the others gathered there.
11. Singers must do
regular practice and voice culture. They must sing only those
bhajans with which they are fully confident and which the people
around can easily follow. Depending on the following they must
select known bhajans.
12. New bhajans must first be sung in smaller gatherings (or
taught) so that the followers are familiar.
13. The scale of the
bhajans should be chosen in accordance with the singer's voice. Of
course one must keep in mind that the followers should be able to
follow, too. Usually, all bhajans cannot be sung in the same
scale. If instruments are there they help in choosing the right
scale, or else the scale has to be related to the previous bhajan
14. Singers are no
doubt very important and if they sing well and with pure feelings
it will uplift all others. The instrumentalists must give good
support and all in a spirit of dedication to the Lord.
15. There must not
be any time delay between ending of a bhajan and the beginning of
the next bhajan. If the instrument is giving the lead, it must do
it immediately and the singer should start as soon as possible.
Please note that
this article details the way bhajans are conducted at Prashanthi
Nilayam. This is just for the general edification of our readers
and in no way meant to force a particular format or a set of rules
on anyone. In certain Sai Centres, certain rules and guidelines
are laid down by their respective Sai Organizations, which should
be followed. The main thing to be kept in mind is the very purpose
of singing the bhajans - communion with the Divine.
Jai Sai Ram.
E-Magazine, 1st April 2004