Editor: 'I visited the very beautiful San Jose Gurudwara in California. In the langar hall there were small boards put up where some practices and thoughts of Sikh Dharma were explained. Being a follower of Sanatana Dharma all the explanations seemed so familiar. I requested the author to explore if there were similarities between the two. We have uploaded pictures of each board at this link. To see pictures click here.
The word Kirtan comes from the Sanskrit word Kirtanam meaning 'sing the glory'. The ancient Rishis of Bharatvarsha advocated three paths to attain the final merging with the Divine. Karma Yoga, Gyana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga also known as Bhakti Marga - the path of devotion. Though prevalent in ancient India, Bhakti Yoga caught momentum in the 7th century in South India and spread North.
In a way it was a rebellious movement rejecting the caste system, denying the supremacy of Brahmins, their rituals and set aside the complexities of philosophy to allow devotees to simply express their love for God. They co - existed peacefully with the other paths of yoga as the final goal was the same, often incorporating the teachings of the Vedas in their hymns. These hyms were simple to understand.
Between 14th and 17th century this movement spread all over Bharatvarsha. Meera, Ramananda, Kabir, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Namdev, Tukaram, Tulsidas and Surdas were some of its proponents. Many of their compositions were incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib by Guru Nanak.
Guru Nanak, also a rebel sage, incorporated the Kirtan as a major part of his teachings. His childhood friend and follower Mardana was ever ready with his rabab to sing the hymns composed by Guru Nanak. The hymns are sung in traditional Raags by the Raagis who often undergo training in singing classical music. As is the case in the Bhakti movement the bhakta, while performing the Kirtan, dissolves in the melody and devotion to attain a state of Sat Chit Ananda - Supreme Bliss.
1. Bhakti in Indian Culture
2. Sat Chit Ananda - The Philosophy of the Upanishads