Every festival in India is preceded by loudspeakers bursting their hearts out with songs, and bhajans and vying for the attention of the God Almighty (HE is truly The Supreme, for a lesser being would have gone deaf by now!).
Nevertheless, collectively singing songs in praise of the Lord in the form of kirtans, kawwalis, bhajans, etc has been the prevalent custom in every religion. It has also been actively promoted by many saints of India like Sri Chaitanya Mahapraphu, Sri Tulsidas, Kabir, Meera Bai, Sri Anandmayi Ma, Sri Pakalpati Gurugaru, Sri Satya Sai Baba etc. for reasons that are far deeper than those commonly known. Many are the general psychological and physiological benefits to group singing, ranging from mental relaxation, and being a part of a social network, to renewing our faith in a higher guiding force.
Spiritual seekers for lack of adequate knowledge have been known to view such activities as being of a lower cadre when striving for higher goals. A case in particular is mentioned in the book “Sri Anandamayi Amma” authored by Pujya Acharya Sri Ekkirala Bharadwaja. He writes- Bhayiji, a close devotee of Anandamayi Ma and his friend Niranjan Rai never participated in the kirtans that were sung by and around Anandmayi Ma, night and day. One evening after the regular kirtan session however, Ma brought this to light by announcing, “Those who have not participated in kirtan today will have to sing now.” Astounded by her keen observation they began to sing. With time they noticed that due to the singing, their hearts were more and more infused with devotion because of which there was a marked improvement in their meditation too. Only then did they appreciate the value of devotional singing.“
Another explanation was given by Divyajanani Alivelu Mangamma in one of the satsangs at Nagole. She said that God is to be remembered and contemplated upon with manas, vacha and karmana- all three together. Accordingly, we observe that while doing bhajan or kirtan one thinks about God with one’s heart and mind, uses the power of speech to sing his deeds and glory, and finally sways his body involuntarily to the tune and rhythm of the bhajan and keeps the beat by clapping his hands. Through such complete involvement on the Lord, his grace is showered on us by intensifying devotion in us which slowly but surely brings us closer to Him.
JAI SAI MASTER!