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The Secret of Eternal Appeal of ‘ABHANGS’ and Devotional Poetry.

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BHAKTI Sangeet or devotional music is a separate genre in itself. It is the product of medieval Hindu devotionalism. During the 13th to 17th century, Hinduism underwent a transformation which has been compared by historians to the reformation which was witnessed by the Western Christianity. In India, a new approach to God developed. It was emotional and passionate in character. It replaced the earlier attitude which was under the sway of sacrificial rites and rituals and monistic meditation. Realisation of a personal God was preached by the saint-poets and thus the form of religious expression also changed accordingly.

It was Addison who said: "Music is the only sensual gratification which mankind may indulge to morals or religion." Our saint-poets employed the medium of poetry set to music to reach their personal God.

In Maharashtra saint poets like Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram, Namdeo, Gora Kumbhar, Kanhopatra or Chokha Mela Sang their verses to Lord Vitthal of Pandharpur. They broke new ground by using the vernacular instead of Sanskrit. Their poetry was contemplative, sober and had an intense personal touch.

The present day maestros like Pt. Bhimsen Joshi have generously drawn upon their poems. The appeal of Marathi Bhakti poetry is so wide that even eminent singers from Tamil Nadu cannot resist the temptation to sing a few Marathi devotionals.

Ganeshkumar who sang at the Dnyaneshwar Mandir near Shivaji Park beach seems to have understood the spirit behind every ‘abhang’ that he sings. The devotional lyrics of saint-poets which he sang made an impact on the minds of the listeners. The secret of the eternal appeal of ‘abhang’ and similar devotional lies in the poetic content and in the style of rendering. As the singer accelerates the tempo, his voice soars to the upper octave swinging to the beat of the taal, he communicates his spiritual ecstacy to the audience which too gets drawn into the exercise.

Courtesy: Afternoon
Date: 24th July 2001.

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