“On the occasion of Ashadi Ekadashi, when I sing abhangs here, I will consider that my prayers are being offered at the feet of the Lord in Pandharpur,” believes Jayateerth Mevundi, a Karnataka-based musician, who will be singing Marathi and Kannada abhangs at the Bolava Vitthal concert, to be held at the Shanmukhananda Hall, today. The sentiment of devotion, which dominated his chat, seemed to be a common thread that ran among every singer who would be performing today.
Apart from Mevundi, Rahul Deshpande, Carnatic singers Ranjani-Gayatri and the famous Suresh Wadkar will also be performing at the concert. “Lord Vitthal is very close to my heart and many saints, who have lived in Maharashtra and India have sung his praises,” says Wadkar, who will be singing several abhangs by many of these saints. “When we sing an abhang, people are absorbed by a feeling of devotion. They become one in the devotional atmosphere and the sentiment of bhakti becomes predominant,” he adds.
Lord Vitthal is believed to be a form of Krishna and saints like Tukaram, Namdev, Dyaneshwar, Gora Kumbhar and many others have written songs in praise of him. Their words have been rendered in different compositions and will be presented by the singers on stage.
The holy date
On Ashadi Ekadashi, which falls today this year, hundreds of devotees flock to Pandharpur in southern Maharashtra, for a glimpse of Lord Vitthal. “Ashadi Ekadashi is an auspicious day and involves a religious procession taken by devotees of Lord Vitthal. It is believed that on this day, Lord Vishnu falls asleep and wakes up four months later on Prabodhini Ekadashi in the Kartik month (Oct-Nov). On this day, people walk in huge processions from Alandi to Pandharpur, singing the abhangas of Vithoba, Sant Tukaram and Sant Dnyaneshwar,” informs Shashi Vyas, director, Pancham Nishad Creatives, which has organised the event along with INGA Foundation.
Though abhangs are usually sung in Marathi, this concert will witness a few Kannada abhangs too, by Mevundi, who hails from Hubli. “The joy in singing abhangs is completely different,” says Mevundi, who has been a part of Bolava Vitthal for the last six years.
Across the states
Ranjani and Gayatri, who are Carnatic singers from Chennai will perform several Marathi abhangs. When asked whether abhangs are popular in Chennai, Gayatri replies, “Our first concert where we sung an abhang was in Chennai, about 11 years back, and it was well-received. We learnt an abhang from a friend and we decided to sing it at our Carnatic music concert. People loved it.” She adds that abhangs have been heard and sung in Tamil Nadu for over 100 years. “Marathi words have been integrated into the system. And though people may not understand the words completely, they get the feel of the music and a sense of devotion. Good music is beyond words, it can be enjoyed even when the words are not completely understood,” she says.
Having spent their growing up years in Mumbai, learning Marathi wasn’t a problem. They also explain the meaning of the words and the song before they sing an abhang. “When we sing any piece, we combine musical elements with bhakti. Every song is for the Lord. Bhakti is a part of what we sing,” Gayatri shares.
The Bolava Vitthal concert, which started in Nashik yesterday, will move to Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolhapur, Satara and Goa after the Mumbai chapter.