Sampradhaya Bhajan is the traditional form of bhajans (devotional songs in praise of God and his Divine love) in South India. "Sampradaya" means a tradition which is handed down by one's ancestors.

It is a structured form of Bhajan tradition followed in India, especially South India. It is the collection of Kirtanas (group chanting of religious hymns or songs to the accompaniment of instrumental music, mainly harmonium) and Namavalis (chanting different names of various deities with specific rhythm) in a particular order. This padhdhati (approach)has been formulated mainly by the efforts of great saints, Marudhanallur Sadguru Swamigal, Bodhendra Saraswathi Swamigal and Sridhara Ayyaval.

Some 300 years ago, when Bodendra Saraswathi Swamigal was asked by his guru to collect bhajans to make a book, he visited Puri. There, he was fascinated by the collective group singing by the community. He wanted to bring in the Bhajan tradition to the south and worked hard for the same. His contemporary sage, Sridara Ayyaval, who also had a liking for the tradition patronized it, which gave further fillip to this new movement of bhakthi. This was followed by further contributions by Marudanallur Sadguru Swamigal. The new system formulated by these trinities was further systematized and enriched by Pudukottai Sri. Gopalakrishna Bhagavathar. A great music composer, Sri Gopalakrishna Bharathi, gifted a lot of simple Tamil lyrics to this Bhajan tradition.

A complete, ideal Dakshina Bharatha Bhajan Sampradhayam consists of the following parts:

  • Pundareekam and Prathivachanam (Either a deity’s name (Bhagavan nama) is asked to be remembered or His victory is sung. The audience responds by remembering His name or singing victory of that )
  • Dhyana Slokam (These stanzas describe the deities who are going to be eulogized in the Bhajan)
  • Thodaya Mangalam (Compiled by Marudanallur Sadguru Swamigal. These songs were composed by great saints like Bhadrachala Ramdas , Annamacharya and Vijayagopala Swamigal.)
  • Guru Dhyanam (Songs praising god Dakshinamurthy and great Gurus, such as Adi Shankara, Bhodendral, Sridhara Ayyaval and Marudanallur Sadguru Swamigal, followed by meditation on these gurus.)
  • Guru Abhangs (Marathi devotional songs)
  • Sadhu Keertanas (hymns on saints)
  • Jayadevar’s Ashtapathi (Geeta Govindam)
  • Narayana Theerthar’s Krishna Leela Tharangini

These are followed by Panchapati: Five songs, one each in Telugu (of Bhadrachala Ramadas), Kannada (of Sri Purandaradasa), Sanskrit (of Sri Sadasiva Brahmendral), Tamil (of Sri Gopalakrishna Bharathi) and of compositions of Sri Thyagaraja. North Indian Bhajan compositions of Kabir Das, Meera Bai, Tulsidas or Surdas and Marathi Abhangs on Lord Panduranga are also sung.

Then sung are Dyana keertanas, which are hymns on various gods, and Pooja Sampradhaya Kritis.
With these, the pooja ends and divyanama bhajan starts with deepa pradakshinam (with lighted sacred lamp in the middle, considering the lamp as the prime deity, bhagavathars sing and dance around it, immersed in divine bliss). This circumambulation is equivalent to going around the earth.

Finally, the paddhati concludes with Dolotsavam (singing lullaby for the deity), followed by Anjaneya Utsavam and Mangalam.

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