Bhaja Govindam

Dr. Mohani Heitel

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Bhaja Govindam is a famous composition of th great saint Sri Adi Shankaracharya and some of his close disciples of the 8th century. It is said, that this poem was spontaneously composed by him as one day he was walking together with his disciples at Varanasi, where he saw an old man striving to learn the grammar rules of Sanskrit language in order to be able to read some day Sanskrit scriptures. Taking pity on him, he went up and advised him not to waste his time on grammar at his age but to turn his mind to God in worship and adoration. Besides the refrain of the song beginning with the words "Bhaja Govindam", Shankara is said to have sung twelve verses.The fourteen disciples who were with the Master then are believed to have added one verse each to this. »In the childhood one forgets oneself in the play, in youth by attachment to a woman. In old age one is entangled in worries. Hardly one has become engrossed in God similar-wise.« (Verse 7) Verses like this appeal to people directly, because they contain in all familiarity and openness the advice, to pause worldly affairs and worship God. With this Adi Shankara openly reprimands the stupidity of those who do not think to do this, because suddenly one often faces old age, disease, futility and grief about the transitoriness of life. Mohani Heitel has sung this whole poem in two different versions accompanying herself with Tanpura: the first one is very energetic and high powered, expressing the enthusiasm of this hymn. The second version is more contemplative, more suitable as an aid to learn the text and to sing along.

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