KIRTAN, chants and hymns of devotion
The timeless tradition from India of Divine Singing
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In the world of Yoga today, chanting and Kirtan have been rapidly growing in popularity. Kirtan is based on the repetition of mantric sounds, names and phrases. Kirtan is "mantric music" and thus if one wants to understand it and relate to its spiritual essence, we need to look more deeply into the science of mantra.
Let us remember that mantra is not music - mantra connects us to the profound yoga philosphy and ancient wisdom from India and can be a powerful form of meditation. This deep use of mantra requires special training and adaptation at an individual level with a teacher trained in the tradition - who can offer the right material and the right music related to it.
Kirtan (Sanskrit: कीर्तन) is a Sanskrit word with Vedic roots that means "telling, narrating, describing, enumerating, reporting." The style is characterized by a call-and-response type of chanting, a genre of religious performance arts that developed thru the India's bhakti devotional traditions. This musical recitation of hymns, mantras and the praise of deities has ancient roots in Sanatan Dharma (known also as Hinduism), as evidenced by our ancient Vedic literature.
KIRTAN IS A Musical recitation of hymns, mantras and the praise of deities has ancient roots in Hinduism, as evidenced by the sāmaveda सामवेद and other Vedic literature.
Geographical distribution of the Vedic era texts. Samaveda recensions from the Kauthuma (north India) and Jaiminiya (central India) regions are among those that have survived, and their manuscripts have been found in different parts of India.
The Sāmaveda is the Veda of Chants, or "storehouse of knowledge of chants." It is a fusion of older melodies (sāman) and the Rig verses. The Sāmaveda consists of 1,549 unique verses, taken almost entirely from Rigveda, except for 75 verses. The purpose of Sāmaveda was liturgical and would be recited by priests.
The Sāmaveda text contains notated melodies, and these are probably the world's oldest surviving ones. The musical notation is written usually immediately above, sometimes within, the line of Sāmaveda text, either in syllabic or a numerical form...
— Sāmaveda 1.1.1,
In India, the tradition of chant is revered as the highest form of devotion: a form of vocal meditation that is practiced by common people and saints who wander through every village and city of the subcontinent.
the true kirtan is quite different from what some popular western singers present in the name of it. in India, the tradition of kirtan happens spontaneously and everywhere. you go to the temple, and there is a group singing kirtan, also in home gatherings, on the train, in the streets. the concept of a 'kirtan concert' is not so common, since this is a religious tradition and its true essence is far from being entertainment or commercial music. The leaders at a kirtan concert are called wallahs, and everyone is part of the music.
kirtan is a simple and powerful way of entering a meditative state through prayer. it is joyful and the music does the work with its character and rhythm. kirtan is a practice of Bhakti (devotion) and it can help us transport through the prayer to our own being, to out heart, by chanting the different names and aspects of the divine.