A true example of national integration can be found in the Namsankirtana Sampradaya founded by Sant Namdev of Maharashtra, which can hold thousands spellbound whether in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu or Delhi.

Sant Tukaram
The renowned 17th century saint-poet Tukaram, who lived in Dehu near Pune, was a devotee of Lord Vithala of Pandharpur. His devotion to the God Vithala, is expressed in nearly 5000 abhangs or poem that he wrote in the course of a short life. Vithala, affectionately called as Vithoba, accompanied by his consort Rukhumabai has been worshipped for almost eight centuries throughout Maharashtra, in parts of north Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh by the members of Varkari panth.

Bhakti cult
It was about 800 years ago (1200AD) that Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Namdev Pioneered the "Bhakti Sampradaya" and "Namsankirtana Sampradaya" in Maharashtra.

This was the time when only though the knowledge of Sanskrit and Gyan, it was believed, one could attain godliness.
Sant Dnyaneshwar wrote "Dnyaneshwari", a commentary on Srimad Bhagvat Geeta in Prakrit (Marathi) a language, which could be understood by the masses. Both Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Namdev through their works, devotion and bhakta could initiate a sampradaya, which did not attach importance to caste or creed but only devotion to the Lord.

Music for the masses
Thus, was born the Namsankirtana cult and Varkari Sampradaya, a tradition of chorus singing swayed the masses into enchanted bhakta. Women and children could easily join this new form of workship with their menfolk without inhibition, latter, Sant Chokhamela, Janabai, Swata Mali, Narahari Sonar, Gora Kumbhar and May Other Sants also wrote and sung hundreds of abhangs.

Abhangs would mean a +bhang that which cannot be destroyed. Sant Ramdas (Shivaji’s guru) who wrote many shlokas for daily chanting (Manache shlok - karunshtake etc.) also took to preaching the bhakta tradition. He was instrumental in taking this great tradition of Namsankirtana to Tanjavur in TAMIL Nadu. Thereafter, it is known that saints of South India like Maruthanallur Sadguru Swamigal and others integrated the bhajana paddhati or divyanama Sampradaya.

Crossing boundries
Brahmanand, Meerabai, Kabir, Tulsidas, Surdas from the north, Jayadeva Chaitanya Maha Prabhu of the east, Sadguru Swamigal, Bodendra Swamigal, Annamacharya, Purandaradasa of the south and many more have all greatly contributed to this rich tradition.

Rendering of Namsankirtana attaches a great importance to "Nama", the Bhava and Chorus singing. Even today, one can see thousands thronging to the rendered with great fervors in cities towns and remotest villages.

Ganesh Kumar

( Fine Arts Rasika Vol.2 Issue 3 Dec. 2002 )

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