‘BHAJAN’ or ‘NAAMSAMARNA’ means group devotional singing of the glory of God. When and wherever His glory is sung, He is always there. Unless you sing bhajans for your own ecstacy, you cannot bring joy to others, thus preventing them from sharing ‘ANANDA’ i.e. bliss. With each bhajan sung the mind must be rendered purer, free from passion and stronger in faith.
When the chanting of the Name is done in community singing, it should be in a form in which the entire group can participate easily. The tune, the rhythm, etc. should be such that all can follow the bhajan. If the lead singer takes up a song that is not familiar to others, the response from the group will be poor. There will be no enthusiasm or genuine participation. Their minds will be distracted. When all the devotees participate in the bhajan, the vibrations that are produced will generate joy and harmony.
In this ‘KaliYuga’ the remembrance of the Lord’s name is enough to win His grace and attain liberation from the cycle of life and death.
Many who organize mass singing on special occasions are not aware what kind of bhajans should be sung then. A person who has an individual style of his own may sing as he likes in private, but he is not suitable for community singing.
There are some rules to be observed in conducting community bhajans. Alapana (elaboration of a raga) may be done in keerthana (individual singing), but it is wholly out of place in community bhajans. Hence, in such bhajans the accent should be entirely on the Name.
- Everybody should be seated a few minutes prior to start of the bhajan.
- Men should sit on one side of the prayer hall and women on the other.
- Bhajan leader and instrumentalists must be seated in the front few rows.
- Devotees arriving late must not disturb those already seated. They must quietly seat themselves behind the already seated devotees.
- Do not look around greeting one another, nor talk during the bhajan.
- Maintain perfect silence and restrict your movements to a minimum while sitting in the prayer hall.
- Sing sweet, familiar and devotional bhajans in any language which can be understood and sung by other devotees.
- Musical instruments used during bhajans should not drown the voices of the singers and those who follow, thus maintaining a balance between the instruments and singing.
- Do not clap out of tune.
- Do not monopolise the time in bhajans by singing one bhajan for six or ten minutes repeating the same lines again and again.
- Bhajans should be sung in two speeds: slow and fast. In the slow speed, sing each line twice and, in the fast speed only once except the last line which should be sung twice to signal the conclusion of the bhajan.
- Let those with a good voice and musical talent lead; the devotional singing must be pleasant and it should not jar on the ear. If your voice is not sweet or pleasant, it is best to remain silent; that is the best service you can do.
- Keep devotional songs as simple as you can, without competitive pomp or show. When you sing devotional songs, dwell on the meaning of the songs, and the message of each name and form of God, and roll on your tongue its sweetness.
- Bhajans are best held on Thursday evenings and Sunday evenings – but that is no unbreakable rule, for it is not the day that counts. It is the heart that must be ready and eager to sing the joy and share it.
- Some persons attending bhajans do not move their lips at all. They may say that they are singing the songs mentally within themselves. This is not proper … You must sing the names aloud, full-throated, as far as the voice can reach. Only then the Divine will respond in full measure and shower His grace. No one will go to the rescue of a drowning man if his cries are feeble.
- After bhajans there should be meditation for five to ten minutes.
- People should return from bhajan carrying the elevated, uplifted and sublime mood created by the atmosphere at the bhajan. Therefore, after the bhajan people should disperse quietly, maintaining silence. Then the joy and peace derived at the bhajan will linger and abide in the heart.