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Bhalan – Gujarati Devotional Poet 15th Century CE – Sri Rama Poems

Bhalan is a Gujarati poet of the 15th-16th century CE (1459 – 1514). He hailed from Patan in north Gujarat. He is considered the first major composer of akhyanas, a genre of long narrative poems, generally divided in kadavas (small sections) and used for re-telling stories from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and Puranas in Gujarati. Set to traditional melodies and performed by bards in community settings, the akhyans are popular in Gujarat.

Little is known about Bhalan’s life except that he belonged to the modh Brahmin community, and was deeply devoted to Bhagavan Sri Rama in his later life.

Of his many akhyans, Nalakhyana (story of Nala), Ramabalacharita (Story of childhood of Sri Rama), Rama Vivaha (Marriage of Sri Rama and Mata Sita), Dasama Skandam (the tenth canto of Bhagavata Purana), Dhruvakhyana (story of Dhruva) and Shivabhiladi Samvad (the dialogue between Shiva and Goddess Parvati), among others, are known for their high literary quality.

In addition Bhalan translated Durga Saptashati and retold the story of the famous Sanskrit masterpiece Kadambari in Gujarati in the akhyana form. Bhalan’s Kadambari, the first rendering of the story in a poetic form is a regional Indian language is considered as one of his most elegant works.

He thus made Sanskrit literature available to the Gujarati speaking people in a poetic form.

Bhalan also composed devotional padas (lyrical compositions) in Gujarati and some in Braj, dedicated to Sri Krishna and Rama. Though a staunch devotee of Rama, as is indicated by his signature line, “Bhalan’s Bhagavan Raghunatha”, he was equally devoted to Krishna, and considered both as one and same. A large number of Bhalan’s devotional songs are about the childhood sports of the two gods. He excelled in expressing devotion in terms of Vatsalya Bhava (love or affection for one’s offspring).