BHAJAN MANDALIS (Group of devotional singing)

“Bhajan and Bhajan Mandalis to be encouraged

as an important Parish activity”  – says Fr. Ashol Ohol, S.J.

bhajan mandal 1 a The tradition of singing Bhajans (devotional songs) is an ancient one in Indian culture. The Varkari sect in Maharashtra has maintained the tradition since 13th Century till date (for eight centuries!!). The missionaries were fascinated with singing of Bhajan when they arrived in the Ahmednagar district in the mid of eighteenth century. Right from the inception of the mission, the missionaries encouraged Bhajan singing. Night long Bhajans were held whenever Fathers went for village Mass. The priest reached the village previous evening, stayed there for the night and celebrated Mass in the morning as there was no practice of celebrating evening Mass in those days. Singing of Bhajans was the main activity on the yatra night. Groups from villages travelled by bullock carts to the main mission station and after the Mass, joined in the singing of Bhajans for the whole night.

It is only in recent times, with the arrival of modern communication technology and hi tech media, Bhajans have been sidelined. As a traditional medium, Bhajan still remains as an effective means of value education, catechesis and to spread the Good News.

A Bhajan that goes:

           Ma̅za ka̅hi na̅hi re deva

           Tuzac he sa̅ra

           hya̅ srushti soundaryala̅

           mi ek ra̅khanda̅r

In this bhajan the singer tells God that he owns nothing in this world, everything belongs to Him. And, he is but only a caretaker of the creation and the beauty.

With commercialization and outburst of consumerism, the Bhajan teaches a value to be a care taker for God’s Creation and not merely to use it for his own purpose.

In another Bhajan the singer says-

           Kuni mhano Majala̅ Ka̅hi

           Mi baslo prabhucya paee

Meaning: Let anyone say anything but I have assembled at the feet our Lord. Even today’s highly materialistic world, the person has chosen to be at the feet of our Lord. This is something of great value.

In addition, Bhajan is also an effective means of Catechesis as it relies complete on Biblical themes using simple words that a common man can easily understand. Moreover, Bhajans are sung in open where people from other faiths also come forward and take interest in listening. Thus, it is an effective medium of spreading our faith to others who are interested.

bhajan mandal 2 aSmall Christian Communities, Women’s groups and youth groups have been encouraged in every parish. Much time and resources are spent for conducting various activities for these groups. Bhajan Mandalis (Bhajan Groups) being so effective and important also need to be treated as one of the Parish activity. It is heartening to see that in more and more parishes, Priests are now taking keen interest in Bhajan Mandalis. Bhajan Mandalis should be an important part of the parish activities. With collaborated efforts let us bring our people more closer to God, I am sure it will soon be. Amen

Rev. Fr. Ashok Ohol, SJ, is a Jesuit Priest
of the Poona Province.  He has been
instrumental in organizing the

Bhajan Groups in the Diocese of Nashik.