History:

Abhang, or Abhanga, is a form of devotional poetry sung in praise of the Hindu god Vitthala also known as Vithoba. It was popular from the 13th thru 17th centuries Marathi Region of India. The word “abhang” comes from a for “non-” and bhang for “ending” or “interrupting”, in other words, a flawless, continuous process, in this case referring to a poem. By contrast, the devotional songs known as Bhajans focus on the inward journey. Abhangs are more exuberant expressions of the communitarian experience, and Abhangs are sung during pilgrimage to the temples of Pandharpur, by the devotees.

Abhanga is a stanzaic form and though commonly used for devotional purposes can also be used for cynicism, satire and reflective moods.

Rules:

A note: The thing to remember with forms that are originating in a language other than your own, in this case English, is that the syllable counts that are widely agreed upon once the form is translated, are just that, an approximation. Languages work very differently, and this is no exception. So when the rules say “6 syllables in this line” it’s a flexible rule. Know what I mean? Cool. Onward.

There are two types of Abhanga.

In the first:

  • 4 line stanzas, any number of stanzas
  • syllabic, 6/6/6/4 syllables each
  • lines 2 and 3 rhyme with each other, lines 1 and 4 do not
  • often internal rhyme is used, but it’s not official

In the second:

  • 2 line stanzas
  • 6-12 syllables per line
  • both lines rhyme with each other

In both types, the final stanza bears the name of the poet.

 

A cool reference I found for information on this form: One Hundred Poems of Tukaram by Mhatre Chandrakant. Also, as always, wikipedia.

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