Bhaja Govindam

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Adi Shankaracharya with his disciples. Raja Ravi Varma - Sankaracharya.jpg
Adi Shankaracharya with his disciples.

"Bhaja Govindam" (Sanskrit : भज गोविन्दं, meaning "Praise/Seek Govinda"), also known as "Moha Mudgara" ("Destroyer of illusion"), is a popular Hindu devotional poem in Sanskrit composed by Adi Shankara. This work of Adi Shankara underscores the view that bhakti (devotion) is also important along with jñāna (knowledge), as emphasised by the bhakti movement. [1]


Sanskrit Text

The first stanza of the composition, featuring the eponymous line "Bhaja Govindam", reads as follows: [2]

Devanagari ISO 15919 TransliterationTranslation

भज गोविन्दं भज गोविन्दं
गोविन्दं भज मूढमते ।
सम्प्राप्ते सन्निहिते काले
नहि नहि रक्षति डुकृङ्करणे ॥

bhaja govindaṁ bhaja govindaṁ
govindaṁ bhaja mūḍha-mate |
samprāpte sannihite kāle
nahi nahi rakṣati ḍukr̥ṅkaraṇe ||

Worship Govinda, worship Govinda,
Worship Govinda, oh deluded mind!
At the time of your death,
Rules of grammar will not save you.


There is a story related to the composition of this Hymn. It is said that Shri Adi Shankaracharya, accompanied by his disciples, was walking along a street in Varanasi one day when he came across an old aged scholar reciting the rules of Sanskrit grammar of Panini repeatedly on the street. Taking pity on him, Adi Shankara went up to the scholar and advised him not to waste his time on grammar at his age but to turn his mind to God in worship and adoration, which would only save him from this vicious cycle of life and death. The hymn "Bhaja Govindam" is said to have been composed on this occasion. [3]


This composition is a reminder that Adi Shankaracharya, who is often regarded as reviver of Hinduism Jnana Marga (Jnana Yoga) or the "Path of Knowledge" to attain Mukti, also was a proponent of Bhakti Marga (Bhakti Yoga) to attain the same goal, [4] and as C. Rajagopalachari put in his commentary, "When intelligence (jnana) matures and lodges securely in the heart, it becomes wisdom (vignyana). When that wisdom (vignyana) is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes devotion (bhakti). Knowledge (jnana) which has become mature is spoken of as devotion (bhakti). If it does not get transformed into devotion (bhakti), such knowledge (jnana) is useless tinsel." [5]

In this prayer, Adi Shankaracharya emphasizes the importance of devotion for God as a means to spiritual development and to liberation from the cycle of birth and death. The prayer leaves one in no doubt that the renunciation of our egotistical differences and surrender to God makes for salvation. Many scholars hold that this composition encapsulates with both brevity and simplicity the substance of all Vedantic thought found in whatever other works that Adi Shankaracharya wrote:

The refrain "Bhaja Govindam" which defines the composition and gives it its name invokes the almighty in the aspect of supreme god Shree Krishna; it is therefore very popular not only with Sri Adi Shankaracharya's immediate followers, the Smarthas, but also with Vaishnavas and others.

Meter / Chandas

The metre is moraic (मात्राछन्दस्). Apart from the first verse, all other verses have 16 matras, which tend to fit the description of the padakulakam variety of matrasamaka [मात्रासमक] in vrtta-ratnakara.

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  1. Bhaja Govindam, by Sankarācārya, Chinmayananda, Translated by Brahmacharini Sharada. Published by Chinmaya Publications Trust, 1967. Page5-7.
  2. "Bhaja Govindam". Sanskrit Documents Site. Translated by Giridhar, M. 22 November 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  3. The Hymns of Sankaracharya, by Śankaracarya, Telliyavaram Mahadevan Ponnambalam Mahadevan, Totakācārya, Sureśvarācārya. Published by Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 2002. ISBN   81-208-0097-4. Page 33.
  4. Bhaja Govindam Archived 6 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine Ancient Wisdom, Yogalife, Fall 2003 Issue. Sivananda.
  5. Commentary on Bhaja Govindam by C. Srinivas Kuchibhotla.

Further reading