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A devotional hymn, or collection of hymns, usually sung collectively (in satsaṅg). Singing bhajans is the principal mode of worship among bhakti sects in many regions of India. The hymns are often the work of medieval bhakti poet-saints (sants), such as Mirābāī, and they are frequently accompanied by music. Entire texts, such as the Gītagovinda, may be sung in this fashion. In the latter case, devotees may imagine themselves as Rādhā addressing her lover, Kṛṣṇa. It is quite usual for men to assume female roles when worshipping Kṛṣṇa in this way. Similarly, divisions of caste and social status, as well as of sex, may be overcome for the duration of the session, the shared intensity of the religious emotion aroused bonding the participants together. Weekly, monthly, and annual bhajana sessions of varying lengths may be organized by particular groups of devotees. These are perhaps more usually, but not exclusively, Vaiṣṇava in orientation: bhajans addressed to Kṛṣṇa or to Rāma being particularly popular. These frequently take the form of a continuous repetition of the deity's name or names. In the 20th century cassettes and CDs of bhajans have become popular with Hindu communities across the world, and the professionals who sing them attract a similar kind of attention to that enjoyed by pop or film stars. See also kīrtan(a).

Subjects: Music

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