Kirtan is praise of the Lord by singing the Holy Hymns – Devotional Music or Holy Singing. Usually at the start, middle or end of such a singing, ‘Waheguru’ (God), or ‘Satte-Naamu-Waheguru’ (True God) is sung together by the principal (leading) singer and congregation. The congregation may also participate in singing some Holy Hymns.
Shabads for Kirtan may be selected for a particular occasion. These should be short and easy to understand.
A Ragi sings to God and Sangat, and he should do it with devotion. He should never select the Hymns not suitable to the occasion to avenge his discontentment or anger. For devotional singing, prerequisite is pure heart and mind, and no malice,!
Kirtan is rendered in different styles –
As for as possible, Kirtan should be rendered in the classical meter (Raag or Raga). In the Holy Book, a specific meter (Raag) might have been prescribed for the certain Hymn.
Most of the Ragis, render Kirtan in regular i.e. common, free or open strains not bound by the musical measures. They usually devise their own styles and tunes.
It is good to sing some Hymns in the usual style, but others should be rendered in Nirdharat-Raags (Prescribed classical measures).
Kirtan is a popular program, and is performed in most of the overseas Gurdwaras. Harmonium and Tabla – a pair of drums, are the usual instruments for this singing. Occasionally, some other instruments are added, may be the Western. Old style singing is done with Dholki (drum), Chhaanae (bronze discs) and Chimtae (calipers) etc.
In the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, singing only of its Holy Hymns is allowed. The Holy Hymns from Dassam Granth, compositions by Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Nand Lal, and very short references from the old time writings are permitted.
In Katha-Kirtan, Katha – sermon (preaching), is mixed with singing of Hymns.
A Kirtan or a Katha-Kirtan is usually for one hour.
Hallae Dae Shabad
In this style, the Hymns are sung with gusto and force as a chorus. The Sangat joins in, and their usual instruments are Dholak or Mirdang (double sided drum with both ends narrow), Chimtae (long iron tongs with bronze discs), Chhaaenae (bronze plates) and Kharrtaals (wooden blocks with small bronze plates).
Jotiaan Dae Shabad
In this style, two groups keep singing in turn – stanza by stanza (one stanza or couplet by one group, and the next one by the other group). The same stanza may be repeated by both the parties. Mostly, the men and women sing a stanza in turn.
Movie Style Singing
The Holy Hymns should not be rendered on the tunes of the ordinary street and movie songs. By listening to such songs, wrong scenes may spring up in the mind.
Neutral type, and non-political poems related to the Sikh faith and history, may be recited. Gurdwara is a place purely for worship. Political poems should not be permitted. The choice is that of Sangat.
In general, even outside the Gurdwaras, songs composed mimicking Gurbani and rendered like a Kirtan, should not be allowed. The people do not differentiate such singing from a Shabad-Kirtan and think, these ordinary poems are Gurbani (Holy Hymns). Otherwise, songs and poems related to the Sikh faith and history are easily understandable, and their singing like songs has its own value.
In a Kirtan-Darbar, (sort of concert), many Ragis (devotional singers) participate in Kirtan. This singing may continue for many hours. Usually, it is held in the evening.
Raaen-Sabaaee Kirtan, is singing the Holy Hymns all the night – from the night to the sunrise. It is night-vigil Kirtan. It continues throughout the night, and many Ragis participate. The followers of Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh, frequently hold such night-singing sessions. They do lot of Naam-Jaap in their singing.
Some groups, at Gurdwaras or homes, organize Naam Jaap in the Kirtan style – mixing “Waheguru” Jaap with singing of Shabads. At occasions, they add to it Sattenamu or “Sattenamu-Waheguru” Jaap. This is very elevating and has immediate effect to lift the mind. In fact, Kirtan is very rewarding and singing fixes the mind to the Lord, in an instant.
This is the morning vigil Kirtan. In it, a group of devotees keeps singing and moving about in the streets, in the early morning hours. Their vigil usually starts at a Gurdwara and ends with refreshments at some house.
Kirtan – Chowkee
A group of devotees sings and circumambulates (goes around) in the Parkarma (walkway) around a Gurdwara. It is usually carried out in a historical Gurdwara e.g. Golden Temple, Amritsar.
This routine of singing, has set times in the day.
It is a Kirtan program. It may be held anywhere. There is mostly a subject for Kirtan. Well-established, professional Ragis come together to display their expertise in Shabad-Kirtan. Classical music is very important for such sessions. Some Deras (establishments of saints) hold such a gathering regularly once a year.
Anand Sahib – Chhota
Short Anand Sahib (The first five and the last i.e. 40th Paurri) is sung at the end of Kirtan. Karrah Parshad must be placed before Guru Granth Sahib before reciting Anand Sahib. At some occasions when Parshad is not there, usually Anand Sahib is replaced with the singing of –
Vadihoon vaddaa apaar Taeraa martabaa..
(Guru Granth-5th Guru-Page 521-Line 16).
When singing of Anand Sahib (Chhota Anand Sahib – the first 5 and the last i.e. 40th Paurree) is complete, Sangat stands up for Ardas – invocation (humble beseeching to the Lord).
Before starting Ardas, the following complete Pauree (step) is recited. This singing gives time to everyone to get set for participating in Ardas –
“T.oo Th:aakuru t.um peh Ardaasu …..”
(Sukhmani-Ashtpadi 4-Pauree 8. Guru Granth-M: 5-Page 268-Line 1)
After the end of a session, full length Ardas, called Panthic Ardas is said.
Also, see Ardas, on pages given in index.
Ardas – Panthic
Complete Ardas approved by the Panth – the Sikh world, is called Panthic Ardas.
After the prayer-session is complete, the full length Panthic Ardas is recited (and not its short version i.e. only starting Paurree of Ardas).
See Ardas, on pages given in index.
Hukam – Order of the Guru i.e. his incentive for the day. It is taken according to the instructions – humility, devotion, surrender etc. See
We commonly use the term Hukam-Namah, but in fact it means a written order.
According to Reht Maryada printed by S.G.P.C., reprint 1998 AD., Page 15, direction for Hukam is that in the congregation (Gurdwara or anywhere else), only a Sikh man or woman should be in Tabeaa (attendance) of Guru Granth Sahib. Further, it says that (there) only a Sikh should recite Paath – Gurbani (to Sangat, there). It further says that any other person can take Hukam for his or her own self. It is presumed that in the Gurdwara Sangat a Sikh (Amritdhari?) man or woman should recite Gurbani and take Hukam.
Parshad – sanctified pudding
It is distributed to the sangat after Kirpan Bhaet, and Hukam.
See index for more pages on Parshad.
Parshad – Kirpan Bhaet
Passing Kirpan through Karrah Parshad.
Do not pass Kirpan through Parshad immediately after Ardas, but wait and do it after Hukam has been taken. Kirpan Bhaet is to offer it to the Guru. Naturally, it should done after Hukam.
Parshad becomes sanctified after offering it to the Guru, Hukam, and passing Kirpan through it.
Nothing becomes a Guru’s Parshad unless it is offered to the Guru, Ardas is said, and Kirpan is passed through it. Besides eatables, Kirpan is touched to the article offered to the Guru. This is the Sikh way.
At Hazoor Sahib, besides Karrah-Parshad, all other offerings made by the devotees are touched with an all steel arrow after a very short supplication by a Sewadar.
Parshad – Bhog Lao, Parvan Karo
In Ardas, for eatables e.g. Parshad, Langar etc., an Ardasia should not say “Bhog lao jee” – please, eat it, but should request, “Parvaan karo jee” – please, accept it – approve it.
Parshad – Reserve Parshad
To start with, a portion of Parshad is taken out in a bowl, and it is kept aside, usually close to Guru Granth Sahib or under its cot. This portion is the reserve for emergency and for Bhai ji – anyone in Tabeaa i.e. in attendance to Guru Granth Sahib.
Parshad for Panj Piaarae
After this, the five portions of Parshad for Panj Piarae (the five beloved of the Guru) are taken out naming each one of them.
These five portions are distributed amongst the five Amritdhari Sikhs, present there in Sangat.
Alternatively, these portions are mixed back into the main Parshad (from which these portions were taken out).
If Amritdharis are less than five, the portions of Parshad is given to them and the rest of it is mixed back into the main Parshad.
If no such Sikhs are there, all portions are mixed back. After this, Parshad is distributed to Sangat, including those who got it first.
The reserve kept aside, may be used by the one who is in Tabeaa, and as well be given to the visitors if the main Parshad is finished.
In Akhand Paath and Sampatt Paath, Parshad is given to the visitors whenever they comes, may be day or night
Panj-Piarae – the five beloved of the Guru. These are Amritdharee Sikhs.
It may be helpful if the names of Panj-Piaarae are written, framed and kept handy for reading them out by a novice
Names of Panj Piaarae – five beloved of the Guru –
Discipline of Distributing Parshad
Take care of the following –
* Distribution of the napkins – Hands should be washed with soap and water immediately before distributing napkins. Mostly children eagerly do this job. Someone should monitor them.
* Parshad – It is a boon from the Guru and Waheguru (the Lord). Immediately before touching it for distribution, hands should be nicely washed with soap and water. The nails should be kept properly trimmed.
* The bowl of Parshad should be held on hand and not against body. If needed, one person may hold the bowl and the other distribute it.
* At the time of its distribution, the server should avoid mixing, kneading, pressing or making balls of Parshad. It does not look nice. He or she should take out a portion as it is, and give to the Sangat.
* Generally, Parshad is distributed d with naked hands. Take care that the hands are healthy, nails are cut, and no medication has been applied to them. Hands should be free from any disease like eczema.
* There should be sufficient persons for the distribution of Parshad in the sections of men and as well of women. If the Sangat is more, a few should start distributing from the entry-door side i.e. front of the hall (the end away from stage).
* Parshad is distributed in equal quantity to everyone and without any prejudice or preference. All should be considered equal. Proportionately small amount may be given to the children, or to those who ask for a smaller quantity. A child’s portion may be given to an elder e.g. mother, or father.
* No talking or saying anything while distributing Parshad. Better, wrap a cloth across the mouth. Even “Waheguru” should be said in the heart (mind), unless the mouth is covered. If it is must, move Parshad away from the mouth. It prevents its pollution, contamination.
* No touching of any body part – not even face or hair, or anything else, when distributing Parshad.
* The Sangat should be reminded in every session (gathering) to pick up Parshad falling on the floor or carpet. Parshad should not get trampled. Sikhs rever Parshad. Also, it saves carpet.
* It is a good idea to cover the carpet with cloth sheets before the Sangat arrives, remove and wash them after the session.
* The Holy Book should not be closed till Parshad is being distributed.
* If Parshad is too hot and time is short, a ladle or spoon may be used to distribute it, and it may be taken on napkins kept on both the hands joined together. Rather than using bare hands, it may be a good idea to distribute it with a spoon. Thin gloves may be desirable. The Gurdwara management can decide such minor things with consent of the Sangat.