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A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735.jpg
A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735 (Rajasthan)
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Abhang or abhanga (Marathi: अभंग) is a form of devotional poetry sung in praise of the Hindu god Vitthala, also known as Vithoba. The word "abhang" comes from a for "non-" and bhang for "ending" or "interrupting", in other words, a flawless, continuous process, in this case referring to a poem.[1] By contrast, the devotional songs known as Bhajans focus on the inward journey; abhangs are more exuberant expressions of the communitarian experience.[2] Abhanga is considered a form of the ovi. Abhangs are sung during piligramage to the temples of Pandarpur, by the devotees. [3]


Marathi Bhajan starts with the Naman(invocation of god), followed by the Roopancha Abhang (Portraying the physical beauty of god by personifying in the human form) and towards the end Bhajans giving Spiritual and Ethical messages are sung.
Some Famous Musicians in Abhangs are Bhimsen Joshi, Suresh Wadkar,Ranjani, Gayatri,Aruna Sairam and Jitendra Abhisheki. It is a form of music performed by both Classical and Non-Classical Musicians.[4] It has nowadays become an integral part in Bhajan concerts across South India.


Bhakti Sampradaya or Namasankeerthana Sampradhaya was pioneered by Sant Dnyaneshwar at around 1200AD. Around that time it was believed that the Knowledge of Sanskrit was required to attain Godliness.Both Sant Gyaneshwar and Sant Namdev through their works, devotion and bhakti could initiate a sampradaya which did not attach importance to caste or creed but only devotion to Lord Panduranga. This was the birth of "Bhakti Sampradaya" wherein it was possible to attain Godliness merely through Bhakti or devotion. Also this could be easily adopted and practised by the common masses. The womenfolk and children were easily attracted to this new form of worship. Thus was born the Namasankirtana cult and Varkari Sampradaya.All these happened around places like Paithan, Pandharpur, Mangal Veda, Alandi and slowly spread to the entire Maharashtra. Other prominent singers were Varkari saints like Eknath and Tukaram.

Tukaram was a seventeenth century poet who lived in the town of Dehu, which is located near modern day Pune. He was a popular poet and a leading figure in the Varkari Movement of the time, which sought to put the emphasis back on devotion and love towards God, in contrast to blind obedience of rituals and arcane religious practices. It is said that over 5000 Abhangas were written by Sant Tukaram . Many of them were devoted to the God Vitthal or Vithoba, but mostly criticized social injustices of the time. They were powerful sermons, useful even today.

A picture of the Syambhu Vithoba idol at the Pandharpur Temple
This is the oldest available image of Tukaram, 1832 A.D. It was a cover to a handwritten manuscript of Tukaram's abhangs belonging to a Varkari Haibatbaba Arphalkar
Sant Dnyaneshwar
A Varkari journeys from Alandi to Pandharpur. He carries a veena (lute) with saffron flag attached, and cymbals tied to strings in his hands.

Sant Ramdas who was also Chatrapati Shivaji's teacher was instrumental in taking this great tradition of Namsankirtan to Tanjavur. This led to the singing of Abhangs in the classical form in South India and made it an integral part of Carnatic and Bhajan concerts of South India.


  1. ^ Gowri Ramnarayan: Eclectic range at The Hindu, 8 November 2010
  2. ^ Serish Nanisetti, Gowri Ramnarayan: A mix of rhythm and melody at The Hindu, 7 November 2010
  3. ^ Christian Lee Novetzke (13 August 2013). Religion and Public Memory: A Cultural History of Saint Namdev in India. Columbia University Press. pp. 275, 279. ISBN 978-0-231-51256-5. 
  4. ^ "Concert conjures up magic of abhangs". Hindu. Hindu. 21 November 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 

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