Bhajan refers to any devotional song with a religious theme or spiritual ideas, specifically among Indian religions, in any of the languages from the Indian subcontinent. The term bhajanam means reverence and originates from the root word bhaj, which means to revere, as in "bhaja govindam". The term 'bhajan' is also commonly used to refer to a group event, with one or more lead singers, accompanied with music, and sometimes dancing. Minimally there is a percussion accompaniment such as tabla, a dholak or tambourine. Handheld small cymbals (kartals) are commonly used to maintain the beat rhythm. A bhajan may be sung in a temple, in a home, under a tree in the open, near a river bank or a place of historic significance.
As a bhajan has no prescribed form, or set rules, it is in free form, normally lyrical and based on melodic ragas. It belongs to a genre of music and arts that developed with the Bhakti movement. It is found in the various traditions of Hinduism as well as Jainism. Within Hinduism, it is particularly prevalent in Vaishnavism. Ideas from scriptures, legendary epics, the teachings of saints and loving devotion to a deity are the typical subjects of bhajans.
South Indian bhakti pioneers, but bhajans have been widely composed anonymously and shared as a musical and arts tradition. Its genre such as Nirguni, Gorakhanathi, Vallabhapanthi, Ashtachhap, Madhura-bhakti and the traditional South Indian form Sampradaya Bhajan each have their own repertoire and methods of singing. The Sanskrit word bhajan or bhajana is derived from the root bhaj, which means "divide, share, partake, participate, to belong to". The word also connotes "attachment, devotion to, fondness for, homage, faith or love, worship, piety to something as a spiritual, religious principle or means of salvation".
A Bhajan in Hindu traditions is an informal, loosely structured devotional song with music in a regional language. They are found all over India and Nepal but are particularly popular among the Vaishnavism sub-traditions such as those driven by a devotion to avatars of Vishnu such as Krishna, Rama, Vitthal and Narayana (often with their consorts). In Southern India, Bhajanais follow a tradition (Sampradaya) called the Dakshina Bharatha Sampradaya Bhajanai. Bhajans and kirtans forge an emotional bond between the performer and the audience, making the art of performing a therapeutic and restorative experience. The entire universe is made of rhythms. When sounds are in harmony, there is music; non-harmonious sounds create chaos. Similarly, when there is rhythm or harmony in life, the heart blossoms. It is this rhythm that takes us back to our source. Today, bhajan and kirtan music has become popular around the world and is sung in a variety of styles and languages. The ancient Indian texts prescribe invoking of our ever blissful spiritual consciousness in the modern age through the medium of sound vibrations.