20 April, 2012

Puraatan Kirtan Shabads

Sama Veda : Shabd is Brahm and "Silence" too is Brahm 
Brahm alone is vibrating everywhere.

ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਦੰ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਵੇਦੰ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਰਹਿਆ ਸਮਾਈ ॥
guramukh naadhan guramukh vaedhan guramukh rehiaa samaaee ||

The Guru's Word is the Sound-current of the Naad; the Guru's Word is the Wisdom of the Vedas; the Guru's Word is all-pervading.

ਗੁਰੁ ਈਸਰੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਗੋਰਖੁ ਬਰਮਾ ਗੁਰੁ ਪਾਰਬਤੀ ਮਾਈ ॥
gur eesar gur gorakh baramaa gur paarabathee maaee ||

The Guru is Shiva, the Guru is Vishnu and Brahma; the Guru is Paarvati and Lakhshmi.
~Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p. 2

Above: Raga Basant - Shabad rendition in the Shastriya style

Unknown to many Neo-Sikhs of today, the entire Shri Adi Guru Granthji including the Shri Dasam Granth of Shri Guru Gobind Singhji is written & compiled according to the prescribed Ragas taken from the traditional Hindu Vedic scripture known as Sama Veda - an ancient treatise which deals with the science of musical notes, Ragas, dance and theatre. The Shabads which are all arranged in chapters in the Shri Adi Granth bear the names of the Ragas. Each of these Ragas are unique & each Shabad must be sung in the specific Raga given by the Bhatt Brahmins,who were Raagis ( classical singers ). Further, to the Raga for each Shabad or hymn of the Shri Adi Granthji, they are also set to a specific numerical notation known as Tala or rhythm. This is an ancient tradition that goes back to the Vedic era & all the 31 Ragas mentioned in the Shri Adi Granthji are taken from the Hindu scriptures.

The first of the Ragas of the Shri Adi Granthji is the Shri Raga, followed by the Moolmantra & Japji Sahib. Towards the end of the Shri Adi Granth, there is special mention of hierarchy of Ragas known as Ragamala - the rosary of Ragas. It also contains ‘Barah-maha’ – the constant longing of the soul for the eternal God expressed over a period of twelve months. The Ragamala is usually meant to be read after the Mundavani chapter & then Bhog is served as sacred food or offering. 

Nowadays, this ancient tradition is slowly disappearing from all the Gurudvaras, where most of the 'Granthis' are busy 'singing' or reading the Banis in a very loud & monotone style while seated in front of the loudspeakers. It is more about making money, fooling the masses & self importance that the 'Granthis' are busy with - it is about going to the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom. The pre-Singh Sabha tradition of singing the Banis in their relative Ragas has now more or less disappeared, when the Raga in the form of sacred Naad (sound) accompanied by the sacred Shabda ( Naam ) was sung in a divine style, enabling the devotees in the Gurudvara to reach a spiritual climax. The Raga of the Shabad is designed to set a particular mood of devotees in the Gurudvara which makes it easy for them to reach out spiritually to the Supreme Akaal Purush. 

Shabd in Sanskrit is word along with sound - the first Primordial sound is known as AUMKAR. According to the Vedas, the Shabd existed by itself in a formless state. Nothing existed before this since before its manifestation, there was no form whatsoever, nor the sun, nor the moon, nor sky nor the Earth. All manifestation is the result of Shabd & without this nothing exists. The Rishis & Sadhus describe it as Mul or the Root of all manifestations. Shabd according to these ancient ascetics is the primal cause of birth, death & dissolution & again the re-creation of the Cosmos.

Guru AmarDasji :  ''Both the creation and the dissolution are from Shabd, 
And Shabd again is the cause of re-creation.''

Guru NanakDevji : ''With the True Word, one knows the Truth, 
With the True Sound, one sings the glory of the Lord.  It can be seen without eyes,
It can be heard without ears.

Bhagat Kabir : '' All sing of the Shabd without realizing that It is Videh or the Bodiless, No tongue can describe It, but soul may contact It within.'' 

Kabirji has described the sacred Shabd or Naam as one which is free from physical existence & can be only  apprehended by the soul when it is free from bodily attachments. 
The Upanishadic sages have described Shabd as "Pranav" or that which can be heard through the Pranic vibrations, without the help of tongue, lips and palate, for It is reverberating of Itself in and out of space. In Chhandogya Upanishad, it is mentioned that Naad (heavenly music) springs from the Universal Sun (of Brahmand ) and that this secret was given by Angiras Rishi to Lord Krishna, the son of Devki.
Guru Amar Das tells us, in Raga Bhairon, that Bhakt Prahlad was saved by 
Shabd :
It (Shabd) has been the saving lifeline in all the ages,
Prahlad, the son of the demon-king, knew neither Gayatri nor any rituals,
He became one with God through contact with the Shabd.
In the holy Shri Gita, Lord Krishna mentions: 
Though under the sway of the senses, one feels drawn toward the Cosmic Being
  by force of the habit acquired in previous births; nay, even the seeker of enlightenment  transcends the Shabd Brahm.
The  yogi,  however,  who  diligently  takes  up  this practice,
  attains perfection in this very life with the help of latencies of many births
  and being thoroughly purged of sin, forthwith reaches the supreme goal.
In the Rig Veda and the Atharv Veda there are hymns in praise of Shabd. In Hansa Upanishad of the latter it is given that one who does japa of the Hansa Mantra, millions of times, comes to the realization of Naad. It is also stated that Naad consists of ten different types of melodies, nine of which are to be passed over, and the tenth, which resembles the sound of the thunder of distant clouds, is to be meditated upon and practiced, for It takes one to Par-Brahma.

All our Gurus as well as Sadhus & Yogis have time & again laid emphasis on Shabd & Naad. 

Guru NanakDev ji :  With stone-deaf ears thou hast lost all thy wits, 
For thou hast not got contact with the Shabd,
And by slavery to the Mind thou hast forfeited thy human birth;
Without the Master-soul, one remains blind to the Reality.
Dhun or the Sound Current is both true knowledge and true meditation
and remains indescribable all the same. 
The mind when attuned with the Sound becomes detached 
and gets engrossed, In the heart of the Light within is a delectable Sound, that makes one fully absorbed in Akaal Purukh.

These are the beautiful divine words of our Gurus & Rishis who encouraged us to utter the Naam or mantra or listen to the Naam Shabd being sung by musicians who are vocalists & trained in the Raga system. 
What is nowadays the trend is that most 'Granthis' have begun singing out of tune, Shabad kirtans which are set to Bollywood tunes or just plain non -Raga tunes which display no skill, nor take the devotee to the heights & realms of Parabrahma - where is the spiritualism gone nowadays? The Puraatan Raagis who are skilled vocalists are nowhere to be seen nor heard, but instead they have been replaced by out of tune 'Besure' groups of vocalists all screeching at the top of their voices, beating away at the tablas & fanning away at the harmoniums. With the 'noise' these Granthis create, I wonder how easy it is for any devotee to sit there & experience the Divine realms of Supreme Brahman. It has become more of a Qawwali style singing with no rules in the singing styles. No particular Raga is sung for the Shabad Kirtan, but one that resembles a Bhangra / Qawwali song. 

The tradition of Shabad Kirtans bear roots in Sanatan Dharmic traditions & the Gurus constantly surrounded themselves with experienced Raagis like the Bhatt Brahmins, who were experts at singing in the classical styles at Shri Harimandirji, Amritsar. This beautiful tradition is being destroyed by the 'Paattre' Granthis of Punjab today. 

Here is an example of the deterioration that has crept into our heritage : 

Please bring back our Raagis & the pure Shastriya Sangeet music for our Shabads & Kirtans which are so part of the Sikhi heritage.