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Awesome abhang

Listening to Godavaribai Bapurao Munde is akin to visiting the Vitthal shrine at Pandharpur...


AN ABHANG recital by Marathi singer Godavaribai Bapurao Munde was held in the city this past week under the auspices of the Panduranga Bhajan Mandali.

Abhang and gawlan comprised Godavaribai's presentation.

Godavaribai has been singing abhangs for the past 15 years. "There are four kinds of abhangs -- those of the Bhakti pad, Vairagya pad, Gyan pad and the Karma pad," says the singer.

Abhang means `that which cannot be destroyed'. The abhangs were initially written in Sanskrit, but later scripted in Prakrit. Saints such as Udhav, Namdev, Tukaram and Jnaneswar have composed hundreds of abhangs.

"The gawlan and bharude are variations of the abhang. The accompanying instruments are the pakhawaj, tabla, tanpura and taal," says Rameshbuva Sengaonkar, who initiated Godavaribai into the varkari sampradaya of abhangs.

"My father was an abhang singer and I would often accompany him to Pandharpur. It is believed that one attains moksha on singing abhangs. Each abhang includes the name of its composer in the verses," she says.

"Namdev's `Abhang gatha' and Tukaram's `Abhang granth' are some of the important texts of the varkari sampradaya," explains Sengaonkar. The varkari sampradaya saints wrote poems to propagate the message of dharma.

Pandurang or Vitthal is the main deity of the followers of the varkari sampradaya.

One of Tukaram' s best-known devotional poems, Sundara te dhyana, ube vite vaari, is dedicated to Lord Vitthal of Pandharpur. "The poem describes the figure of Vitthal as he stands with his hands akimbo. It is one of my favourite abhangs," says Godavaribai.

"Dharila Pandaricha chor, an abhang written by Jnanabai, is a favourite of abhang singers," she adds. The lines reflect on how the Lord of Pandharpur stole the hearts of the devotees.

Devotees sing abhangs on their way to the Pandharpur shrine. On every Ashad ekadasi (in July), devotees offer prayers at the samadhi of Jnaneshwar, at Alandi, and walk all the way to Pandharpur.

Godavaribai has over 30 abhang albums to her credit. She hails from the remote village of Gangakhed in Parbhani district of Maharashtra. The beauty of the abhang, she points out, lies in its poetic content and style of rendition.

S.S.

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