Bhajan a genre of devotional songs sung in praise of the divine. Initially only Hindu devotional songs were called bhajan. But with the widespread popularity of the genre during the 16th century, it no longer remained confined to a particular community. Bhajans began to be composed by different communities. A significant number of sufis, saints, ascetics, poets and singers became famous for their creative output in bhajans.
The fundamental theme of the bhajan is total dedication to the divine and to the idea that all caste and social divisions are false. Famous composers of bhajans include Meerabai as well as ascetics like Dadu, Kabir and Rajjab. The message of humanitarianism contained in these songs helped in the past a great deal in eradicating religious bigotry. A song of Kabir says, 'God is found not in masjid or temples alone but in the hearts of people as well. In one of his bhajans, Dadu says, 'Hindus and Muslims cannot be divided into separate communities'. In Bengal, lalon shah and hasan raja also had the same bhajans. Mahatma Gandhi's favourite bhajan was 'Ishwar, Allah tera nam, sabko sumati de Bhagavan' (Ishwar, Allah are your names, O God give everyone good sense to understand).
Though bhajans have been composed predominantly in Hindi, they have also been composed in Bangla as well as other regional languages of India. Among the outstanding composers of bhajans in Bangla are rammohun roy, ramprasad sen, rabindranath tagore, atulprasad sen, dwijendralal roy, rajanikanta sen and kazi nazrul islam. [Krishnapada Mandal]