The Importance of Gurbani Shabad Kirtan
Music had touched the human soul across all boundaries of time, space and genes. It has made a very large influence on the world. Music has the healing power, spiritual uplift and bringing people together. Music has sufficient means to offer a person's attitude to life, strengthen his/her will power and educate a number of positive qualities. According to Aristotle music has the power of forming the character and therefore should he introduced into the education of the young.
The world needs the power of ideas and the vision of individuals to lift us out of the rut. Guru Nanak Dev was blessed with a grand divine vision and unique ideas. He emphasized that singing of praise of AKAL PURAKH with deep devotion was the supreme form of worship especially when it was recited in the appropriate measure and rhythm prescribed for the Shabad.
ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਪਾਖੰਡ ਜੋ ਦੀਸਹਿ ਦਿਨ ਜਮੁ ਜਾਗਾਤਿ ਲੂਟੈ ||
ਨਿਰਬਾਣ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਗਾਵਹੁ ਕਰਤੇ ਕਾ ਨਿਮਖ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਜਿਤੁ ਛੂਟ
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 747
Ritualistic actions and poses of piety that you assume are subject to tax by Yama. Sing the immaculate laudations of the Creator, whose practice for even for an instant shall bring liberation.
Guru Aujun Dev ji also supports this:
ਜੈਸੋ ਗੁਰ ਉਪਦੇਸਿਆ ਮੈ ਤੈਸੋ ਕਹਿਆ ਪੁਕਾਰ ||
ਨਾਨਕ ਕਹੈ ਸੁਨਿ ਰੇ ਮਨਾ ਕਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਹੋਇ ਉਧਾਰੁ||
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 214
As my master has instructed me, I have proclaimed aloud. Says Nanak, O my mind sing the Lord's praise so that you may attain liberation.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhee, was the originator of Gurbani Shabad Kirtan. He was the most universal genius of music the world has ever known. Born with absolute pitch, infallible rhythm and natural comprehension of harmony Guru Ji had come into this world with an inexplicable complete gift. In his compositions, with super human powers he explores the farthest horizons of our human longing for the divine. Through out Guru Nanak's Udasis, spread over 30 years, Bhai Mardana was his companion. He was an expert player of Rabab. Through out its long and ancient history, the Rabab has helped to express some of the highest sentiments known to humanity. Guru Nanak made the instrument famous when he chose Bhai Mardana as Rababi. Thus, Rabab became the emblem of Shabad Kirtan for all time. Rabab was a musical bridge between the pre-existing philosophical systems and helped to create new ones like Sikhism. Rabab symbolized the mystical marriage between poetry and music and evolved a sense of timeless expression that cannot he erased from memory. It has always been associated with poetry, reflection and moments of spiritual elevation. Bhai Mardana chose the Rabab because it was well accepted by Hindu Muslim cultural milieu in which he lived. No doubt Rabab has mystical connotations in the context of Indian Philosophy where the inner Amritpan (nectar of immortality) is experienced through subtle vibrations of the sound-in the same way that a pond ripples when a stone is thrown, agitating the surface from its epicenter.1
During the Udasis whenever Guru Nanak had a spiritual dialogue with people, he would tell Bhai Mardana to start playing on the Rabab in a particular Raga and Guru Ji would substantiate his point by singing one of his poetical compositions in a melodious voice. Thus, the inner core of listeners' hearts were touched and had a profound and lasting effect on them.4 After the Udasis, when Guru Ji settled at Kartarpur, the daily singing of Kirtan, morning and evening, became a daily routine. The successor Gurus kept up this tradition and the tradition of Shabad Kirtan was established. Thus, Shabad Kirtan became the most important part of the Sikh congregational prayers. Guru Sahibans had a profound knowledge of music and were great poets. They all composed Gurbani in Ragas. Guru Arjun Dev invented Saranda and he compiled Pothi Sahib according to Ragas and Talas. After the death of Guru Gobind Singh the Rababi tradition almost vanished but the culmination of Sikh power under Maharaja Ranjit Singh saw the rebirth of Gurmat Sangeet. The Rababi tradition continued till 1947. Once more the tradition is being revived in India and abroad.
In the simplest way Kirtan signifies the act of reciting, singing of Shabads taken from Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. Kirtan is devotional hymn singing by a group or an individual
a. Kirtan means singing and scriptural compositions in traditional musical measure
b. In the congregation, Kirtan only of Gurbani (Guru Granth's or Guru Gobind Singh's hymns) and for its elaboration of the composition of Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lal, may be performed
c. It is improper, while singing hymns to rhythmic folk tunes or to traditional musical measures or in team singing to induct into them improvised and extraneous refrains. Only a line from the hymns should be a refrain. Guru Angad Dev ji emphasized the importance of Kirtan in one's life in the following words, "Har Keertan sune, Har Kirtan gave, Tis jan dookh, nikat na aave." Thus Kirtan becomes a medium or path which would eventually lead you to meet God.7
As explained by the late Sri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi Ji "In Siri Guru Granth Sahib, each Shabad has its own domain, power, ridhi (worldly riches), sidhi (spiritual power), and naunidhi (nine treasures). All occult powers are in the Shabad. The recitation of Shabad gives you the power to redeem the environments. Shabad is a part of the power of God, and when the Shabad merges in you, you become God."8
"The Lotus Feet of God is the Shabad of God. The sound itself will uplift you and take away the disease and sorrow from within you. Meditate on the Lotus Feet of God in your heart. The sound of the spirit is the Shabad. Decorate yourself with it. Shabad is the fountain of spirit. It will always keep you flowing and growing."4
The neutral mind records the Shabad, the Truth. When your mind is freaking out, the Shabad automatically comes. The Shabad has the power to control you and your mind, otherwise there is no way you or your mind can be controlled. Shabad brings inner balance. The power of inner balance is the Shabad, and the power of the Shabad is inner balance.2
When controlled, our minds can create great things, because the power of the mind is also very infinite. When disciplined, it can change the vibrations and the magnetic psyche of the earth. That is why we come before Siri Guru Granth Sahib and do Kirtan. Kirtan is to change the magnetic psyche of the universe with the vibrations of the Word of the Guru, the Naad, so that we can enrich the self in ecstasy.9
Gurbani Kirtan, when done correctly, adds more harmony to Gurbani, but when not done right can reverse the effect. Kirtan must be according to time, pure, straightforward, and the raag (musical mode) should be exact. It is a pure discipline. Everyone should participate and recite it in that discipline.5
Shabad Kirtan makes one conscious of the triumph over injustice, sickness, debt and death itself. To all that is ignoble or appealing, Shabad Kirtan is a potent antidote which tingles with the rapture of living - heart lifting victory of life. In Kirtan true meaning is revealed directly to the Surat (Consciousness) through cosmic vibrations. The body's energetic vibrations from our voices bound us to the spiritual light of universal intelligence. In chanting the verses the universe speaks to us in metaphoric images. The person experiences the essence of each word through the lightening energy in the brain and the calming vibrations in the body, all caused by the sound currents. They keep the mind to stay focused on the word. The inner thoughts are cleansed. The sound waves of the timely Raga connects the mind, body and spirit by alignment of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual entities. They implant in the psyche the basis for both spiritual and mental growth. Thus, Sangat chanting sacred hymns in unison is to be seen bubbling up spiritual energy.3
Gurbani Shabad Kirtan perfectly represents the spirit of revival, unity and cross - cultural dialogue at a time when the planet is moving toward global civilization. Music is the one universal language that is instinctively understood by all promoting peace, tranquility and harmony. Gurbani Shabad Kirtan can help to repair the torn fabric of heritage, spirituality and tradition which are the bed-rock of civilization. The soothing tones and vibration of Gurmat Sangeet are much needed balm for our troubled times. In a way Shabad Kirtan is a forward looking, joyful fulfilment of life, creative force and potent source of enlightenment. Gurbani Kirtan makes Sikhee a thoroughly modern and progressive religion for all times to come. No wonder, the Sikh psyche endorses and promotes the time-spirit. Hence, Gurbani Shabad Kirtan has given to Sikhee its sterling and unique character.
1. ਦੁਖ ਰੋਗ ਸੰਤਾਪ ਉਤਰੇ ਸੁਣੀ ਸੱਚੀ ਬਾਣੀ || (ਪੰਨਾ 922)
2. ਸੋ ਅਸਥਾਨੁ ਬਤਾਵਹੁ ਮੀਤਾ || ਜਾਕੈ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਨ ਨੀਤਾ ||1|| (ਪੰਨਾ 385)
3. ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਨ ਗਾਈਐ || ਇਹ ਅਸਥਾਨ ਗੁਰੂ ਤੇ ਪਾਈਐ ||1|| (ਪੰਨਾ 283)
4. ਹਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਿ ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਹੈ, ਸਿਰਿ ਕਰਮਨ ਕੈ ਕਰਮਾ || ਤੇਰੋ ਸੇਵਕੁ ਇਹ ਰੰਗਿ ਮਾਤਾ || ਭਇਓ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾਲ ਦੀਨ ਦੁਖ ਭੰਜਨੁ, ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਨਿ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਰਾਤਾ ||1||
5. ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਨਿਰਮੋਲਕੁ ਹੀਰਾ (ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਪੰਨਾ 893)
7. ਕੀਰਤਨ ਨਾਮੁ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਰਹਉ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਘਟਿ ਸਾਸ || (ਬਿਲ ਮ: 5, ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਪੰਨਾ 818)
8. ਕੀਰਤਿ ਸੂਰਤਿ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਇਕ ਨਾਈ - ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਪੰਨਾ 221
9. ਕੀਰਤਿ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਗਾਉ ਮੇਰੀ ਰਸਨਾ || (ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, ਪੰਨਾ 1298)
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All