Hum the hymns

A group of LKatha nd Kirtan singers at a gurudwara. Photo: K. R. Deepak   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

Music and faith have always been known to share a deep relationship with each other. Our tradition boasts a vast repertoire that comprises songs meant to praise, invoke, please and plead with the deity on ceremonies and special occasions. And for all the emphasis Sikhism lays on the practice of kirtan, music is an inherent part of Sikhism as well.

After all, the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev who first compiled the Guru Granth Sahib or Adi Granth, the expansive sacred texts of the religion, set the various shabads or hymns — called banis or the divine word uttered by different Sikh gurus — and compositions by other poets, bards like Bhai Mardana, the constant companion of Guru Nanak Dev who founded Sikhism, to ragas and singing styles. “Har Sachche Takht Rachaya” a six CD set narrating the history and significance of the five Takhts of Sikhism, launched by Music Today, is in accordance with the belief that music helps connect with the Almighty. It is the genre of shabad-kirtan, though the listeners will find one aarti, a few vaars sung by the Dhadi-s (ballad singers) or a pauri, which dominates the album. What renders novelty to the exercise is that the compositions have been grouped and clubbed together under various takhts, describing and presenting their historical development and relevance.

Takhts refer to the seat of authority which is instituted in five gurdwaras — Akal Takht Sahib (Amritsar), Harmandar Sahib (Patna), Keshgarh Sahib (Anandpur), Damdama Sahib (Sabo ki Talwandi, Bhatinda), Hazoor Sahib (Nanded) — where important decisions concerning the religious and social life of the Sikh community are taken.

Differentiating between the strong forceful renditions of Akal Takht Sahib and the soft compositions of Sri Patna Sahib, renowned Ragi singer, Bhai Balwinder Singh ‘Rangila' explains, “The time period from Guru Nanak Dev extending up to Guru Arjan Dev was largely peaceful, and the shabads like ‘Kirpa Kar Shyam' and ‘Jin Prem Kiyo' came into being during this time. Babur and Akbar followed the path of justice, but it was during the reign of Jahangir that things began turning ugly and unfair. Religious leaders like Guru Arjan Dev were being killed by him. Following his father's martyrdom, his son and the sixth Sikh guru, Guru Hargobind, began forming an army to fight against injustice and set up Akal Takht.”

Accounts of chivalry

Dhadi parampara, the practice of singing the accounts of chivalry of the brave heroes of the past to fill the warriors with vigour and confidence, is said to have originated during this time. “Which is why the music in this CD (Mahima Sri Akal Takht Sahib) is soaked in veer-ras. The folkish tunes, high pitch, use of dhadh marks this presentation of the Dhadi-s like Bhai Tarlochan Singh Bhammadi, Amarjit Singh Sandhu, C.S. Jalalabadi,” he adds.

A famous 17th Century vaar, “Pag teri ke Jahangir di” (praising Guru Hargobind), sung by two ballad singers Natha Mal and Abdullah, has also made it to this section.

Since at Keshgarh Sahib was established the crucial Khalsa Panth by Guru Gobind Singh, the compositions that have been incorporated elaborate on the central idea of Khalsa, which literally means ‘pure ones' — for instance “Khalsa mero roop hai khaas, khalse mein ho karo nivaas”, said to be the bani of Guru Gobind Singh. “A total of about 31 ragas have been used in the Guru Granth Sahib, but we have tried to keep the rendition simple so as to make it accessible to a common listener. Since Guru Granth Sahib recommends the use of tanti saaz or stringed instruments, the sitar has been used abundantly,” clarifies Singh, who has sung in the fourth CD of Damdama Sahib.

Guru Gobind Singh's last sermon which is now part of the daily routine at gurudwaras after ardaas, “Aagya bhai Akal ki tabhi chalayo panth, sab Sikhan ko hukum hai Guru Manyo Granth”, features in the Sri Hazoor Sahib CD. Another distinctive element of this particular CD is the aarti, “Gagan mein thaal” performed in the evenings at all gurudwaras. “Guru Nanak Dev said it outside Jagannath temple in Puri when the king told him, I worshipped the Lord with an elaborate puja but you didn't, and that's when he said, the entire universe — the sun, moon, stars, trees — are forever in his worship,” says the artiste.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 11:57:17 PM |

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