The Bhojpuri language is the village dialect of Hindi spoken throughout the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh and the neighboring state of Bihar. Since most of the people who speak this language are illiterate, they couldn’t rely on traditional teaching or books to carry on the religious traditions of their ancestors, so they developed a unique style of music to pass on the legends of the gods and goddesses to the next generation. These story-songs are called bhajans.
The bhajans served several purposes. They communicated the Hindu religion in a way that the villagers could understand—stories. They transcended illiteracy, enabling even the least-educated to grasp spiritual concepts. And, they entertained. Without TV or other forms of entertainment, sometimes most of the village would gather to hear a traveling music group perform “Kawali”—bhajans interspersed with interactive teaching.
As the Gospel took root among the Bhojpuri people, the mistake made in so many mission fields—replacing traditional music with Western-style songs—was, thankfully, avoided. Instead of adopting Western music, the local believers began writing their own bhajans with the same rhythmic, repeating story style, only now the stories were no longer about Hindu gods and goddesses and demons. Now the stories were Bible stories, and the songs brought the message of salvation through Jesus Christ!
Today, TellAsia promotes the spread of the Gospel in the Bhojpuri region by encouraging local musicians. Two of our church planters—Harinder and Lalmohar—have written their own songs in the bhajan style. TellAsia invested in helping them improve their skills, hiring a recording studio, finding talented musicians to provide the background music and vocals, and producing their albums. These albums are now being distributed across the Bhojpuri-speaking regions.
Releasing a new cassette in the Bhojpuri language
Even Lakshman, my “adopted” son and a native Bhojpuri speaker, is now writing Bhojpuri bhajans as the Holy Spirit inspires him. He’s written nine worship songs and one was included on a recent album.
Pray for the Gospel to continue to spread among the Bhojpuri language group.
~ Leanna Cinquanta, International Director