Bhajana and Kirtana both mean "to praise" and "to
Deity through song, music and dance. Hindus from different
parts of India will use one term over the other,
in much the same way that havan and homa are interchanged by devotees from different
regions of India. Kirtana comes from the Sanskrit root kirt, "to call out" and bhajana comes from bhaj, "to practice."
Apart from praising a Deity through song and music, bhajana can also have
the added meaning of "spiritual practice." A devotee, for
example, may have a personal bhajana that he or she practices
on a daily basis that may include puja, japa,
study, meditation, prayer, and so on.
Used in the sense of praise and glorification, bhajana and kirtana involve a group of devotees coming together in a temple, hall or home, with musical instruments to sing the glories of a Deity or, more usually, many Deities. Bhajana and Kirtana are often preceded by a short puja for sanctification and to evoke the Deities who are the object of veneration. At the conclusion of bhajana and kirtana, prasada, in the form of offered food, is always distributed. Without this prasada the program is not complete.
Kirtana also has a variation called sankirtana which
is the public praise and glorification of a Deity. Sankirtana parties,
groups of devotees, go into the public areas of a city and
walk down the streets or sit in the parks singing and chanting
the names and a Deity. The Hare Krishna movement is famous
for the performance of sankirtana in many Western cities. In India sankirtana is
commonly performed by many other groups of devotees as