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Kirtan in Maharashtra

by Swami Sivananda

Maharashtra also is celebrated for Kirtan. The spiritual influence of Sri Eknath, Tukaram, Namdev, Jnana Dev etc., the reputed saints of Maharashtra still exists.

It is understood that Maharashtra Kirtan begins with the invocation of the grace of Lord Ganapathi, with Kathak and music interspersed, ending with the recital of some Puranic story.

Maharashtrians do not use harmonium and Tablas. They use Ektar Sitar, Tambura and Kartals and Tepri (wooden pieces). They sing the Names of Lord Krishna or Vitthala or Vitthoba and the Bhajans or Abhangas of Saint Tukaram. They commence with Brahmanirupa or Avahan or Gurustotra and Ganesa Stotra and Bhajan.

They do Nama Saptaha. They have Palki procession also. They tie Gungru to their legs and do Nritya while doing Kirtan either in a circle or in two lines.

Jnana Dev was the founder of an institution called Warkari Sampradaya which is still alive in all its glory in Maharashtra. It is called 'Wari' to Pandharapur. All who have accepted this Wari undertake to go to Pandharpur on Ashadh Ekadasi (June-July) and Kartik Ekadasi (October-November) days. They must visit Pandharpur at least once, if not on both these days. It is considered so very sacred that except in the event of physical illness, they continue to go to Pandharpur the whole of life and from generation to generation. Devotees collect together and walk to Pandharpur from their villages. They do Kirtan on the way.

They start the Kirtan with 'Jay Jaya Rama Krishna Hari'. Saint Tukaram had initiation of the Mantra in his dream. In Alandi near Pune they do Akhanda Kirtan of 'Jnanadev and Tukaram.' In Ganigapur Kirtan of Lord Dattatreya is performed.


Before starting Akhanda Kirtan, a ceremony called Ardha Vasa is performed the previous night. A big Mandapa is erected. The Mandapa is decorated with mango leaves, flowers etc. Then the picture of Lord Krishna or Lord Rama is placed on the Simhasana, which is also nicely decorated. Just in front of the picture Vedi (a big pillar) or Tulasi plant is decorated by various pictures of Lord Krishna, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu etc.

The Kirtan is done till mid-night. In the end Puja is done with recitation of Stotras and Arati. Then the Lord goes to sleep by the recitation of Sayana Mantra.

In the early morning, the priest comes and does the Puja. Four Akhanda Dipas are placed in the four corners of the Vedi.

At the end of Akhanda Kirtan the devotees go for Nagar Kirtan, singing the Names of the Lord or Mahamantra in chorus. They come back and do the ceremony called Dadhi Kandon. Curd mixed with water and sandal paste is sprinkled by the Darbha grass over the persons. The following song is sung, when the water is sprinkled.

Lord Krishna speaks to Mother Yasoda:

O Deyya Mayya Makhan Kilade,

Makhan Kilade, Makhan Khilade,

Brindavan Key Kunj Galin Mein,

Dadhi Key Dhoom Machade (O Deyya Mayya)

O my Beloved Mother! Please feed me with butter.

O feed me with butter! Feed me with butter!

Let there be a bustling shower of curds,

Everywhere in the busy streets of Brindavan!

(O my Beloved Mother)

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