ਪਿਰੁ ਰੀਸਾਲੂ ਤਾ ਮਿਲੈ ਜਾ ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਸੁਣੀ ॥੨॥
We meet with our Beloved, the Source of Joy, when we listen to the Word of the Guru’s Shabad.” ||2||
Celebrating the 1st parkash of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji – the only holy scripture wholly composed in musical ‘Ragas’. The place of honor accorded to ‘Shabad Kirtan’ in the Sikh religion is unparalleled and not found in any other faith or community.
San Jose Gurdwara and Bay Area Raag Naad Parivaar have planned a special 3-day event “31 Raag Gurmat Sangeet Darbar” – renowned international and local kirtanee’s, trained in this rich art form, will perform in ALL 31 Gurmat Sangeet Raga’s – everyone is invited to attend and marvel in the wonderment of Guru Nanak Dev JI’s treasured revelations set to glorious and divine Sikh music.
Music, one of the most ennobling arts, is a potent means of God-realization. Melodious couplets of Kabir, the mystic chants of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the heart touching intonations of the Buddhists and the mystic songs of the Sufis amply demonstrate the power music has over the human mind, and its efficacy as a way to seek the ultimate goal of human life. Wherever religious music (Kirtan) is sung, the entire atmosphere is transformed and the listeners get transported to a state of unimaginable bliss.
Plants and animals respond favorably to exposure to music. Scientists have established experimentally that cattle yield more milk and plants yield a better crop if they are periodically and frequently exposed to music. Therefore music, whether religious or non-religious, plays an important role in all aspects of one’s life.
Singing and listening to Kirtan touches the very fount of one’s being, the unconscious, which according to C.G. Jung, is the source of man’s creativity and a means of integration. Reaching the unconscious is to reach the innermost self, which lies hidden – the divine spark which once lighted leads to illumination and enlightenment. It is said that when Bhai Jhalu, Bhai Mukand, and Bhai Kidar prayed to the fifth Guru, Guru Arjun Dev Ji to lead them from darkness to light, from bondage to liberation, the Guru advised them to sing Kirtan because music alone can transcend the barriers of space and time.
The Adi Granth, the Sikh religious scripture, is the only holy book wholly composed in musical ‘Ragas’. The place of honor accorded to ‘Kirtan’ in the Sikh religion is not found elsewhere. In the age of ‘Kalyug’, ‘Kirtan’ is the most beautiful and the easiest way to reach the Absolute.
It is for this reason that the chant of hymns to the accompaniment of instrumental music is the most significant mode of worship at the Golden Temple – The most venerable shrine of the Sikhs. It was Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the First Master of the Sikhs and the founder of the faith who laid down the “Foundation of Kirtan” sang songs in praise of Waheguru (The Wonderful Lord). Guru Nanak Dev Ji accompanied by Bhai Mardana, used Kirtan as a medium to convey the message of the Creator to the common man. That is how Kirtan originated. It is said that Kirtan acquired importance in Sikhi when Guru Nanak Dev Ji heard Bhai Mardana play on his ‘Rabab’ and asked him to sing the verses in praise of God. The Guru said that this was the way towards Deliverance; Prophetic words of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the Rabab of Mardana dispelled darkness and gloom and opened for the suffering masses, the sunny vistas of wonder, joy, and peace.
It is said that when Bhai Mardana first played on the Rabab after obtaining the blessings of Guru Nanak, the trees in the forest began to sway with joy, birds got enchanted; the rigid became amiable and the cheats and looters gave up their evil ways and turned towards God. Guru Nanak had a special affection for the Rababi (a person who sings devotional songs). Offering Balwand, the Rababi who succeeded Mardana, to the second Guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji, Guru Nanak Dev Ji ordained that Balwand be protected as the tongue is protected between 32 teeth. Kirtan, thereafter, came to occupy an integral place in the Sikh community. Bhai Gurdas, the most venerable Sikh savant, referring to the daily routine of Guru Nanak Dev Ji says that both in the mornings and evenings Kirtan used to be sung amidst congregation. In the times of Guru Arjun Dev Ji, the Sikhs in general took to kirtan. The Fifth Guru himself was an expert on ‘Ragas’ and used ‘Siranda’ a string instrument. Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth Guru invented a new instrument, Taus and himself sang excellent Kirtan. Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the Tenth Guru, sang as many as 235 ‘Ragas’ with the ‘Tanpura’. He used to arrange ‘Kavi Darbars’ and ‘Raga Darbars’. Even during the famous battles, he insisted on the morning and evening congregation. People too started singing kirtan on their own and since then there have been some very honored and recognized names among singers of Kirtan.
The last century has seen the advent of new instruments. With the introduction and popularization of western instruments, the style of singing kirtan has undergone an immense change. The Harmonium has replaced the ‘Rabab’, ‘Siranda’ and ‘Dilruba’. The older style is waning in popularity as it is much more difficult to master and requires a lot of patience and practice. The importance of Gurmat Sangeet in the present-day world has been realized and is being revived by local and international Sikh Kirtanees, i.e. Bhai Avtar Singh, Bhai Kultar Singh, Dr. Gurnam Singh, Professor Dalbir Singh, etc.
This treasure of Gurmat Sangeet is accessible to any and all who are blessed to encounter and experience the unimaginable wonderment of Guru Nanak’s profound, mystic revelations set to pristine and glorious musical marvel.