Practicing a mantra tradition

How I got started

As a person seeking personal growth, I love this tool. Kirtan Chant is a type of repetitive music that soothes and relaxes, helping me to get into a meditative state.

Years ago, around 2004, I had the good fortune of being introduced to Kirtan devotional music. I had done a self-discovery journaling project by Cheryl Richardson and from there I began receiving Cheryl’s weekly newsletters. In one she talked about hearing this angelic music by artist Snatum Kaur. I decided to investigate and haven’t looked back since. I listened, I chanted and was so inspired. 

Then in 2010, I was introduced to Kundalini yoga … and was moved beyond words to discover that the practice included the group chanting of these ancient mantras. I fell in love all over again! I now have hundreds of songs from various artists with their unique styles of performing. But the essence of the music flows through, no matter who it is delivering their gift of sharing this devotional expression.

The Tradition

Kirtan means a hymn sung in the praise of God. It is seen as a Universal language of the Divine, the song of the soul and therefore, non-denominational. For me, it was like a homecoming. My soul heard, fell in love and swelled in the spirit behind the intention of the songs. I might not understand the words or what they mean or even know how to pronounce them, yet I have a sense of knowing this Universal language.

As a Sikh tradition, Kirtan began in the 16th century, although the 14th century mystic, Tallapaka Annamacharya, is the first known to marry the traditional prayers to music, known as Sankirtana. Sikhs consider the adoration expressed in song to be one of the highest forms of devotion. Kirtan comes from Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion.

Sand Mandala

Using mantra to get into a higher vibration

Every thought or feeling has a vibration, and one way we can direct that vibration to a higher state is through the chanting of these hymns or mantras. In Sanskit, one of the world’s most ancient languages and the sacred language of Hinduism, the word Mantra is the combination of “man” meaning mind, and “tra” meaning vehicle. A mantra is a tool for the control of the mind, using mind projection, either spoken or sung, aloud or silent from within. The mantra may be a word, a phrase or even a syllable, and often comes from Sikh scripture. Mantras are widely used in meditation practices to help control the monkey mind through deliberate focus.

Your Voice Matters

In Marathi Kirtan, there is usually one or two performers, known as the “Kirtankar”. The music is typically made from the combinational sounds of harmoniums, tablas, drums and hand cymbals. The words are often in Sanskrit. When sung, it is commonly done in a call-and-response style. What matters is the voice, the expression, being welcome and immersing oneself in the intention. The hymns are sacred and cannot be ruined by mispronunciations or out-of-tune voices. In Bhakti tradition, the Divine doesn’t need to hear only one version, just as a mother doesn’t expect her child to cry in only one way … she has heard and has responded. It is the intention behind the expression that the Divine hears.

A Sacred Experience

As for me, I never tire of the company of Kirtan music. It is so soothing and welcoming, relaxing and inspiring. It is what I listen to the most when I hunker down in my studio to play with my creative spirit. It is easy to get lost within the chanting … and yet also to be found! I listen to Kirtan music as I work around the house, while driving or entertaining a crowd. My music holds a sacred space on my phone so I can listen whenever, wherever. I have memories of traveling on the train to the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, Australia while listening to Gurunam Singh or listening to Snatum Kaur while traveling in India or while flying to Bali listening to Jai-Jagdeesh … or of all the many, many times I laughed in the cozy comfort of our home as my kids sang out their version of the words they thought they heard. The Divine heard them. And it still hears me … on a very regular basis. For this I give thanks!

To see the words and understand the meaning behind many of the Kirtan chants go to the Mantrapedia HERE

You can also access a great selection of Kirtan music HERE



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