Kirtans are the recitations and narrations of the Indian religion. Kirtan mainly refers to listening. Just like in chanting japa, there lies inattentive chanting in kirtan as well. When we chant or sing something else, different from what the leader is singing, that is known as inattentive chanting.
In kirtans, there is no place for automatic pilots. You have to really listen in the case of kirtan. Kirtan usually offers a journey deep within the very heart of our soul. Kirtan is also an essence to yoga that links one with God.
Origin of Kirtan
Kirtans originated in India around 500 years ago. It was a way to share the philosophy of Bhakti yoga. A kirtan movement began in India and it was not until the 20th century, the movement spread west.
What Is Kirtan in Hinduism?
Kirtan is the call and response form of chanting that characterizes the Hare Krishna movement. Singing kirtan is the soul crying out to God to reunite with him. In Hinduism, kirtan is the essence of religion. Kirtan is the best way to facilitate linking with God.
It is the essence of yoga by chanting the names of the divine. In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the world’s foremost yoga texts, Arjun noted that yoga and meditation are not easy for many people. That is where the kirtan comes in. Lord Krishna said that of all the yogis, those who have immense faith in Him and worship Him, are united intimately with him the most in the form of yoga through kirtan.
Lord Krishna says that great souls are always chanting His glories. One can develop intimacy with Krishna, by chanting his name, which is the ultimate goal in life. However, chanting can employ Krishna’s original name, or many of his hundreds of names in any language or from any tradition.
What Is the Structure of Kirtan?
According to Prabhupada’s principles, a good Kirtan lasts for half an hour to forty-five minutes. The first half of the kirtan tends to be slow then it takes speed. It speeds up to a crescendo in the last ten minutes. In the public programs of kirtan, each party must consist of seven men, which are, two mrdanga, four karatalas, and one dancer. One of the karatala players needs to be a lead singer. The dancers should dance freely between the two lines of the instrument players, three on each side.
Another type of group can perform the kirtan where there should be two members playing the mrdanga and eight will play the cymbals. Two performers will play the tempura and one the harmonium. There will also be a leader of the party.
Srila Prabhupada, though taught many mantras but he also stressed the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. According to him, at least half of the arati kirtana should consist of the chanting of the maha mantra of Hare Krishna kirtan.
Kirtans should always be followed by responsive chanting. The good singer should lead and others should join in. This system gives the chanter rest and one gets to hear and chant at the same time. Any tune can be followed in the kirtan as long as you feel connected to Lord Krishna.
In the case of temple kirtanas, the devotees should sing specific traditional songs and melodies according to the time of the day. There are different melodies that are appropriate for the day and the evening. The devotees should sing it according to the time for the pleasure of the deities. The melodies should always remain very simple so that everyone can sing along easily.
Instruments to Be Used During Kirtan
Kirtans are mainly performed with mrdangas and karatalas. It is always best to follow the path of Sri Caitanya and His San Kirtana devotees.
The main motto of the Kirtan is to spread Krishna Consciousness and being Krishna Bhakts it is best to follow the system that has already been laid out.
Basic Behaviours During Kirtan
The first and the most important way to behave during a kirtan is to maintain unity. Without unity, kirtan will fail. Each devotee should feel each other. It might take some time to combine all the devotees but without their unity, a kirtan will not be successful. In the same way in the kirtan band, there are different people playing different instruments.
There is a conductor who leads the band. Although they have different instruments and parties, they pay as one and sound as one unit. If the devotees can combine themselves as one, they will feel an extraordinary sense of bliss and serenity.
State of Mind During Kirtan
For all the participants in kirtan, they should all naturally concentrate on the mood and the feeling that is being established by the leader of the kirtan. The focus and attention should entirely be on Lord Krishna. If all the devotees focus on Lord Krishna, there will be reciprocation from Krishna. All the devotees who are a part of the kirtan will feel a connection.
Lord Krishna’s mercy, ecstasy flows in kirtan where the participants are totally devoted. Kirtan should be done with full concentration and with hearts full of love and devotion.
The kirtan deity is nama which is considered as the holy name. while singing in kirtan the Lord is praised in the form of His holy name. It is considered one of the most merciful forms of the Lord. While performing kirtan, one should not think of something extraneous. One should just focus on the Holy Name.
What is Kirtan Yoga?
Kirtan yoga is for all people and a meditation technique. It does not include any kind of master’s. The practice itself is the teacher. One guides oneself in this.
Kirtans are basically Sanskrit forms of chanting and it is one of the traditional forms of Indian yoga practices. In this exercise, chanting is accompanied by classical Indian instruments, and the Sanskrit mantras are repeated that tends to still the mind and open the heart.
What Is the Difference Between Kirtans?
Kirtans are mainly categorized into five types, which are,
- Nam Kirtan- Singing the names of different Lords in the melody is Nam Kirtan. There is the repetition of different names of Lord Krishna. It is a Sadhana by itself. The main aim of Nam Kirtan is to attain Prema. This type of kirtan is a highly purifying form as it easily elevates the mind.
- San Kirtan- San Kirtan is mainly conducted in temples and houses early morning. In San Kirtan one devotee first sings the name of Lord Krishna and the others follow him.
- Lila Kirtan- The relation of love and friendship, between Lord Krishna and Radha and his sakhis is known as Lila. The songs that are sung based on such Lila are known as Lila Kirtan.
- Dhaap Kirtan- The kirtans sung by women are known as Dhaap Kirtan. During Shradhha ceremonies, Dhaap Kirtan is sung.
- Nagar Kirtan- This type of kirtan is performed in the evening. In this type of kirtan, the devotees along with their musical instruments go around town and return to the place where they started their journey. They perform aarti to Lord Krishna with great zeal.
Benefits of Kirtan in Our Life?
Basic Benefits of Kirtan
- Inner peace
- Connection with the Divine and other kirtan participants
- Opening of the heart with feelings of love and affection.
There are different benefits that one achieves from kirtan that are mentioned as follows,
- The first and most important benefit of kirtan is that the chanting kirtan destroys the negative energy. The Yoga Sutras have stated that chanting of Om can destroy diseases, procrastination, laziness, doubts, nervousness, and lamentation. It destroys all the seeds of negativity that are a result of bad karma in a previous life. It helps the person to be free from the burden of negativity so that they can live a peaceful life.
- The second benefit of kirtan is that it is easy to perform. Chanting the name of Hari can grant liberation if chanted only once.
- It awakens blissfulness and natural joy within the heart.
- Kirtans are described as one of the topmost spiritual processes. According to the Bhagavad Gita, it is the topmost form of sacrifice.
- Kirtan creates a divine connection. It is considered the greatest of all benefits. The love and affection that awakens during kirtan in the heart is a mutual feeling for both the chanter and the Divine. The chanter comes to love the divine and the Divine loves the chanter more.
Benefits of Kirtan in Our Life
- Cleanses the heart of all sinful impressions and desires.
- Destroys all kinds of suffering by ending the cycle of birth and death.
- Awakens the highest bliss.
- All auspiciousness and good fortune are awakened by kirtan.
- Delivers immortality in life.
- Kirtans purify all kinds of selfish desires that occur due to personal pleasure.
Hearing and chanting Krishna’s name during kirtan brings perfection in one’s life. The different melodies of the kirtan bring out the different moods and rasas. It makes it an easier way to approach Krishna and make an everlasting connection with him. Kirtans are one of the ancient techniques that connect us to our inner selves.
It makes a person feel alive, fresh, peaceful and rejuvenated. Exercise is needed for good health, but chanting is needed for the refreshment of the soul, heart, and spirit. The mantras and chanting trigger a deep flow of emotions within one’s body. It quietens the mind and ceases the internal voices and thoughts.