The Fiji Times » Krishna’s passion for religious songs

Avilash Krishna’s musical journey began in the late 90s. From an early age, the soft-spoken bhajan artist was immersed and accustomed to the sounds of various types of musical instruments while growing up in Sigatoka.

Krishna, reputed to be one of the most promising bhajan singers in the country, said he had come a long way and faced all kinds of challenges on his journey to becoming a bhajania.

He said it had been difficult trying to improve his art in order to establish his name in the local bhajan fraternity.

Krishna is a multi-talented performer who also plays dholak, shehnai baja (a wooden musical instrument widely used in special Hindu functions) and harmonium.

“I started singing bhajans when I was in 8th grade and I thank my father Karuna Gharan also known as Ashok, a well known bhajania himself, for looking after me well,” said 38 year old man.

At the time, Namata, the bhajania born in Sigatoka was taking her first steps in singing bhajans.

“Singing in the village mandalis has built confidence and brought forth artists, which was no exception for me either.

“At the time, I was very interested in learning to play dholak. I have performed dholak for prominent bhajanias such as Umesh Sharma, Suresh Mani and Arun Choy.

Krishna said that once he started performing in public gatherings, he gained confidence because his understanding of the different perspectives of bhajans increased.

“Bhajans or devotional songs give you a lot of guidance in life. I have also learned many things from other bhajanias when I sing alongside them during marni bhajan (songs that are sung after the death of a Hindu person).

He said that in Hinduism, bhajans played an important role as they contained words of praise to God taken from ancient scriptures which contained the teachings of Hindu sages and saints.

“Singing bhajans can have a therapeutic effect and is also a great way to connect with our soul. When we sing bhajans we are also reciting about God and it also invokes us spiritually.

Krishna said there was a lot of difference in how bhajans were sung in the past compared to how they are sung now.

“Previously, tambura bhajan and satsang bhajan were very popular, but nowadays bhajan tunes are mainly based on Bollywood music.

“There are so many young people who don’t understand bhajans at all.”

He said there were people who wanted bhajan singers to sing more competitive themed bhajans – but the problem with that was that it could lead to feelings of unease and arguments.

He said that at the time, people understood bhajan music well, and during bhajan marni (death), the whole community would gather to sing bhajans.

“I feel very happy when people appreciate me for my bhajan singing and it’s like motivation for me to keep singing and learning.”

Krishna said his bhajan ensemble was called “Team Avilash” and was made up of teenagers – all of whom played traditional musical instruments while he sang.

“I want to promote Hindu culture to young people so that they understand how deep and meaningful this music is. “My advice to upcoming bhajanias is that in Fiji one should not sing ‘rough bhajans’ as this will result in the slow loss of a very important part of our culture and also be an insult to our Santana Dharma.

“In my two decades of singing bhajans, one thing I’ve learned is that singing ‘rough bhajans’, which I used to do initially, will also ruin your image.

“Once I listened to other good bhajanias and gained more knowledge about bhajans, I realized my mistakes and made amends.”

He said he sang in his first bhajan muqabala (contest) at age 16.

Krishna knows he has a lot to learn and considers the prominent local bhajan singer Pravin Mani to be one of the best bhajania in the country. He also highly rated the bhajan prince of Nadi, Deepak Singh.

“Parvin Mani is a very capable bhajania and it is a pleasure to sing bhajans alongside him whenever the opportunity arises. Deepak Singh is a neat young bhajania and I admire his extensive knowledge of bhajans and that is a very good bhajan artist.

Ruth R. Culp