There is a story attached to the composition of this Hymn. It is said that Adi Shankara, accompanied by his disciples, was walking along a street in Varanasi one day when he came across an aged scholar teaching the rules of Sanskrit grammar to his students by rote. Taking pity on him, Adi Shankara went up to the scholar and advised him not to waste his time on grammar at his age but to turn his mind to God in worship and adoration. The hymn “Bhaja Govindam” is said to have been composed on this occasion.
The composition consists of twenty-seven verses. Besides the refrain of the song beginning with the words “Bhaja Govindam”, Shankara is said to have sung twelve other verses. Hence, the hymn bears the title “Dvadasamanjarika-Stotra” (A hymn which is a bunch of twelve verse-blossoms). The fourteen disciples who were with the Master on that occasion are believed to have added one verse each. These fourteen verses are together called “Chaturdasa-manjarika-Stotra” (a hymn consisting of fourteen verse-blossoms).