by Madhava Smullen
“Vaishnav Songs!”, a new app for Android smartphones, promises to bring users deeper into the meaning of prayers written by our Vaishnava Acharyas.
The app was created by Jay Prakash, who completed his Bachelor of Technology at IIT Bombay, one of the most prestigious institutes in India. He also led the tech team at Housing.com, one of India’s leading startups of 2012.
Today he is the Chief Technical Officer at Lokavidya, a company he runs with fellow ISKCON devotee Ganesh Ramakrishnan (Gaurahari Das) to empower rural people in India with knowledge. He built Vaishnav Songs! in his spare time as volunteer service, with the help of other volunteers.
“My thinking behind it was that when we listen to Vaishnav songs, it makes a huge difference when we understand their meaning,” Prakash says. “Than we can truly feel the emotion and the devotion that our acharyas put into them.”
Vaishnav Songs! does this by having both the original lyrics of each bhajan, and the translation in English appear on screen when the bhajan is playing.
When the audio track reaches the end of a verse, the lyrics automatically scroll to the next verse. Word-for-word transliteration is also available on many songs.
Currently the app has about 200 songs by Vaishnav acharyas such as Bhaktivinode Thakur, Narottam Das Thakur, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami and many more. Through the user-friendly interface, devotees can click on an acharya’s picture, see how many songs they have authored, and select the one they want to hear.
Then, from a drop-down menu, they can choose who they’d like to hear sing the song – for example, Bhaktivinode Thakura’s “Amara Jivan” (“my life”) has recordings by Srila Prabhupada, Bhakti Charu Swami, Radhanath Swami, and Jai Sachinandana and Swarupa Damodar from ISKCON Chowpatty, Mumbai.
Other singers available for different songs include Vaiyasaki Das, Agnideva Das, Lokanath Swami, Sivarama Swami, and more.
There are many other features that add to both a user-friendly and deeply absorbing experience: Biographies of both each Vaishnava Acharya songwriter and each singer are available. Your preferred recording of a song can be favorited and then accessed quickly from the main menu. The advanced search feature allows you to find any song by typing in any word from it.
And you can download any song – or even a group of songs, such as all Srila Prabhupada’s recordings – so that they’re playable offline at any time.
What’s more, the app is available for free, at the Google Play Store.
Prakash is still hard at work on the app, and more features are coming up soon.
For instance, while the choice of singers is currently somewhat limited – Jai Sachinandana Das from Chowpatty sings many of the songs — Prakash promises that many more are on their way soon, according to user request.
More songs will also be added, including a huge one – the Song of God. The Bhagavad-gita will soon be available in full, sung by Radha Gopinath Das of ISKCON Chowpatty, and accompanied by verses, translations, and purports.
Other languages besides English will also be available soon, including Hindi, Marathi, Telegu, and beyond that other European languages such as Russian in the future.
The app will also have a notifications feature which will let users know when events like the Prerna monthly festival for newcomers in Chowpatty is coming up, and what the speakers and topics will be. Prakash is working with other temples too so that users can get notified for events at their own local ISKCON center.
While it’s only available for Android now, the plan is to make Vaishnav Songs! available for the iPhone soon too.
“The app is already very popular, with about 2,500 downloads in less than two weeks,” says Prakash. “I hope it gives people a better, fuller experience of Vaishnav songs, which are so important in a Vaishnav’s life, and carry with them the mood devotees want to have.”
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To download the app for free, visit https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.krishna.vaishnavsong