The entire world vibrates with (Anhad Naad), the melody unstuck. Its faint murmur is enough to rouse men, birds and beasts to sing the wonders of the Lord who has created this beauteous world as an emblem of His infinite power. The moment He willed and uttered the Logos Divine, everything began to pulsate with divine energy. Within each being, there harbored a longing to hear the unheard melodies, “the ditties of no tune”. Consequently, music, one of the most ennobling arts, has remained a potent means of God-realization. Melodious couplets of Kabir, the mystic chants of Guru Nanak Dev, the song and dance of Chaitanya, 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 ineffable bliss. It is precisely for this reason that ‘Kirtan’ accompanies it.
Plants and animals to responds 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, play 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 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 is 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, 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 accompanied by Bhai Mardana, used Kirtan as a medium to convey the message of the Creator to the common man. That is how Kirtan is originated. It is said that Kirtan acquired importance is Sikh religion when Guru Nanak 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 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 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 tuned 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, Guru Nanak 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 says that both in the mornings and evenings Kirtan used to be sung amidst congregation. In the times of Guru Arjun Dev, the Sikhs in general, took to kirtan. The Fifth Guru himself was an expert on ‘Ragas’ and used ‘Siranda’ a string instrument. Guru Hargobind the sixth Guru invented a new instrument Taus and himself sang excellent Kirtan. Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru, sang as many as 235 ‘Ragas’ with the ‘Tanpura’ as is known from the “Sri Sarab Loh Parkash Granth”. 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 ther have been some very honored and recognized names among singers of Kirtan.
The last fifty years have seen the advent of new instruments. With the introduction and popularization of western instruments, the style of singing kirtan has undergone a sea 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 o patience and practice. The importance of Kirtan in the present-day world has been realized and revived by pious saint, Sant Baba Sucha Singh Ji, an ardent advocate of ‘Kirtan’ as an important mode of ‘Naam Japana’. He believes that to communicate with the almighty, Kirtan is the best way because the sacred syllables emanate from the music of the spheres. Singing of the hymns from the Holy Granth in the ‘Ragas’ in which they have been composed, leads to spiritual ecstasy. To accomplish this noble task, Sant ji planned a four-day mega event named “Aduti Gurmat Sangeet Sammelan” (Unique Gurmat Sangeet Feast) in the Gurdwara Guru Gian Prakash, Jawaddi Kalan, Ludhiana. Besides, Sant ji planned to organize regular ‘Kirtan darbars’ in future. He exhorts the singers to sing in the original ‘Ragas’ to revive the purity of kirtan. Encouraged by the response to and the success of this noble venture, Baba Ji was motivated to organize a ‘Raga Darbar’ in all the 31 ragas, in which the whole of ‘Gurbani’ is set, would be sung at the appropriate times for which each ‘Raga’ is meant. Many ‘Kirtan darbars’ have earlier been held but this would indeed be a unique venture. Although such attempts have been made to write the notation of the Ragas in the past by Bhai Gajja Singh, Bhai Avtar Singh and Bhai Gurcharan Singh but they did not meet with much success. The Darbar will be held from tenth to thirteenth October 1991. Many Ragis (Singers) of national and international repute who sing the verses in their original ‘Ragas’ have sent their gracious acceptance to participate in the ‘Darbar’.
The motivating idea behind organizing this Darbar is also to preserve and preach the traditional style of kirtan which is almost dying out. Video and Audio recordings of the entire Darbar will be made for the benefit of the sangat. Copies of these would be made available to the public at a no-profit, no-loss basis. There is another proposal to make audio and video recordings of the daily congregation at the Golden Temple, Sri Amritsar, namely: ‘Tripehra’, ‘Asa Di Vaar’, ‘Ramkali’, ‘Bilawal’, ‘Sarang’, ‘Sodar’ & ‘Kaanra’. Subsequently a Sangeet Academy will be established in the Gurdwara to train & educate students and ‘Raagis’. Training will be imparted in playing traditional string instruments. The trainees will also be educated in the philosophy of the Gurbani in Sikh History and culture, the Maryada i.e., the Sikh religious code. They will be transported and transformed to the glorious past Sikh tradition of Meditation, Seva and Simran. It will take about 6-10 years to finally train the Raagis and make them competent to return to the community to spread the sacred Word through Kirtan. All the basic/ daily needs of the students will be met by the institution itself and it will also be responsible for their livelihood after they complete their divine education.
A trust named the ‘Sukh Sagar Charitable Trust’ has been established with Baba Ji as its Chairman. For this great and noble venture, Baba Ji, needs land, a beautiful building, well trained and experienced teachers/ trainers, musical instruments, old and new publications on sangeet, etc. The Sikh community is requested to extend financial support for the realization of this noble task. Sant Baba Sucha Singh ji requests the sangat, for cooperation in all forms as per the noble Sikh tradition, because without the support of the sangat, nothing is possible.