s have been written on its meaning and ancient history. See: www.yogaofkirtan.com
Basically Kirtan is an Indian call and response style of singing prayers, sacred mantra's & chants in unison. It is a means of reaching out for and connecting with the Lord. Sankirtan or public kirtan especially of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra was popularized in Bengal over 500 years ago, by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu -- who was the original "Hare Krishna" -- and this chanting was predicted to spread to every town and village. This is the mantra which the Krishna community are most known for, hence the name "Hare Krishna's":
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare,
Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare.
Kirtan facilitates expressing ones heart and devotion, and traditionally it was sung in temples for Lord Krishna's pleasure, but it can be done anywhere.(Krishna is a name for God or the Supreme Divine Being). Invoking Divine presence in this way serves many purposes e.g. it sanctifies the atmosphere, cleanses the mind and heart, uplifts and refreshes ones spirit, gives joy, brings the community together and you can even get a good work-out when you dance. It is great fun!
Singing and dancing in glorification of the Lord are considered by the Krishna folk to be a natural expression of the soul -- watch carefree children come in contact with a kirtan -- they just start rocking it out. Growing up with this culture our Krishna youth have kirtan in their blood e.g. The Mayapuris . We consider kirtan to be the simplest means of worship in this age of quarrel and hypocrisy as it unites people from every background on a spiritual level. You don't have to be a Hare Krishna to participate, anyone can do it! :-)
Some of my Krishna youth friends on tour through Utah doing their fantastic kirtan. These are some fun pics they took enroute! :-D Check out their cool website: www.gauravani.com
Kirtan is typically accompanied by instruments like karatal (Indian style cymbals), Mridanga (traditional Indian double headed clay drum), gongs etc. Contemporary kirtan is often a fusion of Eastern and Western elements with instruments such as a base guitar, jembe, etc.
Bhajans are generally done sitting together and typically a harmonium -- which is like a cross between a piano and an accordian -- accompanies the singer.
Kirtan & bhajan are traditionally chanted in the ancient Sanskrit language, or in Bengali, Hindi or another dialect. Each provence in India has its own kirtan styles, and local saints who composed sacred chants.
Some places are famous for their cultural presentations
e.g. Orissa and Manipuri Drummers and dancers.
Check out: Contemporary Orrisan dancers.
Under the guidance of Srila Prabhupada -- the founder of ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) -- kirtan was brought out to the streets and parks of the the USA and worldwide in the 1960's and 1970's.
Today kirtan is becoming increasingly popular in the western world. You will find many yoga centers and people from all walks of life who host kirtan events and party's.
People from different faiths can also take up kirtan and even incorporate it into their own system of worship. In fact there is a Rabbi who has become known as the Kirtan Rabbi, who takes the kirtan principle and form, applies it to the Jewish prayers and ceremonies, and people are loving it. Check it out: http://www.kirtanrabbi.com/
So next time you see Hare Krishna people chanting out there on the streets, you will have a better idea what they are doing and maybe you can stop a moment and join in, or at least appreciate their endeavors.
Every year the Krishna folk host 24 hour kirtan festivals in various centers annually. In fact there will be one at our West Virginia Temple in October if you are interested to participate.
And every Sunday at every ISKCON Hare Krishna temple there is an open house for people to come and do kirtan, hear some philosophy and share a vegetarian dinner together. You can check out your local center at: Potomac Krishna Temple .
For some great kirtan music by our Krishna community and more info on it, why not check out these links:
Below are more samples of kirtans & bhajans with our Krishna community, it comes in all styles traditional, western & a fusion of both. Feel free to ask me any more questions on kirtan or the Krishna people and our way of life, I enjoy hearing from you!
Happy listening! :-)