Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Learning Gurmat Sangeet and Namdharhis

People often object to Gurmat Sangeet particularly if it is taught by an academy that employees Namdharhis. But please tell me how many kirtanis you know of who do Kirtan? I mean Kirtan as in proper Gurmat sangeet, such as Raag?

Now tell me how many people can teach this in the UK (London)?
Raj Academy is one of the only Gurmat Sangeet Academy’s in the world. Yes they employee Namdharhis, but until we have GurSikhs who capable of learning and actually doing Gurmat Sangeet, it is very difficult to teach over 400 students singhle handly variety of instruments, such as Saranda to Pakwaj. Prof Surinder Singh head of Raj Academy has always stated that he would replace the namdharhi if someone would provide him Gursikhs who are able to do Gurmat Sangeet.

But for those who suggest that Sikhs should not learn Gurmat Sangeet, I ask them is it better if I put on a bollywood music CD and string Gurbani words to it? That is what nowadays “famous kirtanis” are doing. They even have the cheek to go to the Darbar Sahib and play some Kaami tuni singing Gurbani to the Sangat. One even stated he had to sit through a film so he could get the tune of a song for a Sahbad.

The Vaaja (Harmonium) is not a instrument that was invented by the Sikhs. It is in fact an import from the British, when they had control over India. At the time there was much uproar in the Sikh community that this instrument should not be adopted into the community, however, due to the stupidity of the Sikh community at the time, we could not resist. The vaaja is an instrument which can be learnt within months if not days of practice, and it is very limited compared to instruments invented and given to us by our Guru Sahibs. Sikhi is the only dharm to have an authentic granth which was given and directed by our Guru Sahibs. At the same time they gave us Gurmat Sangeet, with certain instruments that allows us, Sikhs, to sing Gurabani.

It saddens me that we have pushed certain rehits out, such as Surbloh Bebik rehit, which was given by Mahraj to stop us, Sikhs, from becoming lazy. However, we always look for the easy way out. Bebik rehit advises that we Sikhs we live a active lifestyle, rather than a lazy lifestyle. Gurmat Sangeet takes years to master, thus, rather than simply listening to bollywood tunes to string on to Sahbads, Gurmat Sangeet actually allows you to learn very intensively the true meaning of Gurbani. As a result, years of dedication, similar to Bebik Rehit, this should be follow and thus, it will have an effect on our spirituality. We fell into a trap during the British Raaj, were educated Sikhs slipped down to low levels of education. For that reason, people lost faith, which gave room for the Christian preachers to move in and convert the Sikhs into Christian. At that time, respected parcharic, looked at Kachi bani and the Vaaja to bring people back in to Sikhi. But that was then, this is now, we are educated, and therefore we should revive this tradition and rehit of our Guru Sahibs. Whethers those Gursikhs where right at the time or not I am not one to judge but I will I can say Guru Sahib Ji titled shabads in in raag in Guru Granth Sahib from day one who are we to change that? Have we now beyond the Guru? Are we today any better then Namdharhis ourselves as we have started singing kachi bani and bollywood tunes.

Slowly we have pushed aside Gurmat Sangeet and non-title raag kirtan, infavor of the vaja and lustful bollywood tunes are more prevalent in our Gurdwaras. I ask you, which is better, Kaami (lustful) Bollywood tunes on a vaja, or Gurmat Sangeet sung on instruments made and or blessed by pur Guru Sahibs?

Gurmat Sangeet takes dedication and time to learn. Why does it seem that our com does not want to learn, or even open up facilities that teach Gurmat Sangeet.

We today have many issues with granthis, gyanis, and kirtani’s who have set times and hourly rates to do kirtan, I must say this they are not far of Satta and Balwand sorry to say. I would even suggest that they are probably worse. Our so called gyani’s are being accused of unbelievable practices and we are not far of from the scandals which are today being uncovered in church’s in England and USA. Our gyanis have no gyan. They have no idea of raag, the majority of them have learnt SRGM of vaja nothing beyond and as long as they say hanjee to the committee they are hired. I can give you plenty of examples in London Gurdwaras alone and I have my doubts if they are even amritdharhi. When a Kirtan smagam is advertised for sangat the first thing you will see are names of Kirtanis. These kirtanis are paid vast amount of cash and have set rates. So, these well known kirtanis have a lot of money and wealth to survive yet when attending programs in UK they make sure to notify organizers of there fees before hand.

Gurmat Sangeet takes years to master and its effect is such that is can change ones jeevan. We today are loosing our belief in mystics and spirituality. Today, I want you to believe this, when raaj, and gurbani come together and are sungh with pyar and nimrita, you will not even need Sikhi to the Max translations to have an effect on you.

It is the duty of each and every amritdharhi to be a granthi and gyani. Our guru Sahib’s eradicated the position of pandits/priests but instead I would say made it the duties of each and every Gursikh to have gyan of Gurbani.

I truly believe a Gursikh should have some knowledge of certain key areas, such as, Shaster Vidya (gatka), Gurmat Sangeet, Vidya of Gurbani and many more. A Sikhs is then able to look after them physically, spiritually and worldly.

One thing I would like to state is, great Sikh scholars have to learn from cults such as nirmalai but they have gone on to become panthic heerai. I don’t see why Amritdharhi Gursikhs can not learn from namdharhis and then go on to teach other Sikhs.

Not defending namdharhis but would you rather learn other types of sangeet from Hindu pandits or muslim ustads who use tobacco openly and tell there students to go and fetch them a fresh pack tobacco or other intoxicants, or would you rather learn from a namdharhi. At least they have some kind of moral standing. Also they will teach Gurmat Sangeet not shastery or any other dance sangeet. We need to firstly learn raags which are contained in Guru Granth Sahib ji before we learn so called classical Indian raags which are actually used for kanjar puna.

Why shouldn’t Gursikhs learn from namdharhis and exceed them. Imagine the effect we can have within our generation, we will have no need for namdharhis and therefore they will have no use. At this moment in time they claim the upper hand on Kirtan (Gurmat sangeet) without this, they have nothing.

So I say stop being lazy and follow Guru Sahibs rehit of Gurmat Sangeet.


Anonymous said...

waheguru ka khalsa waheguru jee ki fateh

how very true!!
u have uncovered wot many ppl are scared of sayin

straight frm the heart question
"why shouldn’t Gursikhs learn from namdharhis and exceed them"?

thank you
Manpreet singh

msingh said...

Agree on not being lazy and following Guru Sahibs rehit of Gurmat Sangeet, but learning gurmat sangeet from namdharhis - not so sure. I don't think it's as clear-cut as you make out.

By learning from Namdharis isn't one aknowledging their cause, giving their belief in living guru's after Guru Granth Sahib ji credibility? Using your argument, would it be okay to learn from an acomplished Nirankari singer?

And I'm not sure about there there being no sikh kirtani able to perform gurmat sangeet. Are you saying Namdharis are the only souurce for learning gurmat sangeet? And where/from whom did they learn?

I know, more questions than answers.


rsingh said...

Nope I havent stated anything about Nirankaris. Nirankaris are excommunicated by the Panth, there is no such Hukamnama against Namdharhis. There is a difference between the two sects. I’m not saying ones any better but you need to differentiate.

I’m not saying there are no other sources for Gurmat Sangeet but it seems we are very reliant upon them they currently hold the monopoly. There are very few actually Gursikhs who play Gurmat Sangeet (title Raag) on the original instruments given and used by our Guru Sahibs.

I believe learn from them then exceed them. Then we can cut them out of the picture and teach ourselves. I don’t support Namharhis or there view far from it I’m against there views and would never do roti di sanj (sharing of a meal), etc. My only interest with them is Gurmat Sangeet and nothing else, the musicianship of the instrument and how to play it. I don’t actually learn from a Namdharhi my self but this issue always comes up when I mention the name of the academy where I do learn kirtan from.

There are currently very few Sikhs actually performing and propagating Gurmat Sangeet. Namdharhis have resources which wee do not I see it as we have to exploits there and build our from scratch in the past we have neglect this heritage and that is why we are in this state. We either do this or we let Gurmat Sangeet die.

Anonymous said...

So isn't Prof. Surinder SIngh a Naam Dhree?

rsingh said...


Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

Interesting discussion topic.

Anonymous said...

"I believe learn from them then exceed them. Then we can cut them out of the picture and teach ourselves."

I don't know if I'm speaking out of line here but Guru Nanak Dev ji had both a Muslim and a Hindu companion. I believe his message was about love and humnitarianism not about secularisation. You don't have to adopt all of other people's beliefs just because you have some things in common but equally you don't have to shun people because some of their beliefs are different.

bhul chuk maaf

msingh said...

Surely the Namdharis cannot be classed as just another sect or religion as far as Sikhs are concerned. For us, their belief in the current living gurus is a direct challange and threat to sikhism.

I'm not sure about this, but my gut feeling says that it just might be the correct thing to do if we shun Namdharis, because they are openly saying to us that the Guru Grnath Sahib Ji is not the real guru.

I don't see the same problem with learning from ustads of other religions (not namdharis)

But then again when I listen to the kirtan being performed by some of these Namdhari people, I cannot say I'm not moved or impressed.


Anonymous said...

"I don't know if I'm speaking out of line here but Guru Nanak Dev ji had both a Muslim and a Hindu companion."

>>>>> Guru Nanak Dev Ji's companion was Baba Mardana jee. Who was the Hindu companion?

Bhai Gurdaas jee says:
"Ek Baba Akaal Roop, DOOJA Rabaabee Mardaanaa."
- There is one Baba (i.e. Guru Nanak jee) who is the light and the image of Waheguru; the second person (who accompanies him) is (Baba) Mardana, who plays the Rabaab (rubeck)

Confused Khalsa said...

Bhai Mardana Ji was a life long companion of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, however there was also Bala, a Hindu who played Guru Ji.

I agree with your points on learning Gurmat Sangeet.

However, as it has been said before learning or even associating with people who distort Sikhism shouldn't be an option.

I understand that not many people know the art of Gurmat Sangeet, however it is better to get into difficulty and find someone who can teach you - even if its just once a month (and practice hard in your spare time) than go to a naamdhari.

Your funding someone who is distorting your religion.

Simply by associating with them you are saying that it is ok for people to do so (i know you said you dont, but your argument suggests that other Sikhs should).

We should 'take it back to the oldschool', however if it means learning from people who are a threat to our beliefs then there will always be a better way to learn. And if you really do want learn an ancient skill, then you should put the effort into finding someone who can teach you (who isnt distorting your religious beliefs).

Confused Khalsa

rsingh said...

One thing you guys seem to be picking up on is Guru Nanak Dev Sahib Ji and Mardana who played Rubab with Guru Ji. Bhai Marjana Ji was a Hindu in faith although he did not carry out the blind rituals most Hindus do today. Some sugest he just played and didn’t sing I have no idea about what truth is there so I will refraine from getting in to that. All I know is Bhai Mardana was originally a Hindu.

You also mention someone called “bhalla” as the other companion who is said to have been Muslim. This is false he didn’t not exsist even if he did he did not acomany Guru Sahib. If you read the accounts narroated by Bhalla, keeping in mind Sikh teachings, Gurbani as well as objective thinking you wil realise he infact wasn’t with Guru sahib.

There are suggestion he has been added to Sikh history later. Bhai Gurdass Ji writes:
Bhai Gurdaas jee says:
"Ek Baba Akaal Roop, DOOJA Rabaabee Mardaanaa."
- There is one Baba (i.e. Guru Nanak jee) who is the light and the image of Waheguru; the second person (who accompanies him) is (Baba) Mardana, who plays the Rabaab (rubeck)
Food for thought, Bhai Gurdass Ji could have easily wrote about Bhala, why didn’t he?
This topic is very long and I need to do more research then I will try and blog an article on it. If there was anyone along side Mardana and Guru Sahib it was Guru Angad Sahib Ji.

rsingh said...

With regards to learning from ustads of other faiths. Ustads of other faiths will not teach you Gurmat Sangeet. Mulims ustads, etc send students to buy paan, tobacco and so on. These people do not know about Raags of Guru Granth sahib or Gurbani and teaching Indian music not kirtan.

With regards to namdharhis and nto learning Gurmat Sangeet from them I would suggest you talk to Sri Akal takath sahib about declaring them Tankaya like Nirankaris and Radhaswomis.

You don’t have much choice at least these particular Namdharhis have some moral standing even if we disagree with the views. You say not to associate with them where as well known Kirtanis, etc do. One kirtani from DamDami Taksal who is in UK and did kirtan at darbar sahib was talking to them at a Kirtan event. People keep saying like we shouldn’t talk to them yet its ok for known kirtanis and so on to?

Gurmat Sangeet is not an “ancient skill” as Sikhi is only 500 odd years old and Sikh instruments are therefore even younger. That’s what makes it worse. We havent been able to preserve out musical heritage for a few hundred years. Now we are in a postion where we don’t have much choice but people are still insisting we do.

I have said please recommend Sikhs who teach Gurmat Sangeet who meet the standards set by the namdharhis. These Namdhrhis are highly skilled how many people are there in the UK?

Let me ask you something. We know people learning “sharster vidya” from so called “nihangs” so endlessly go on about anti panthic, Anti Gurmat views. YET the youth say its fine they are just learning the vidya. One minute that’s ok but us to learn from a Namdharhi who doesn’t talk about there views is wrong, that’s blatant double standards in the youth today. You’re supporting someone who is destroying our religion!

You see where I’m coming from? Now we either learn and perform kirtan the way it was done in darbar of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Guru Gobind Singh Ji or we sit back let it die and singing bollywood tunes at Darbar Sahib and say, “Naamdharhis, have to give them one thing they know there kirtan.”

Pull Chuk Maff

MR Singh said...

very interesting topic here. As an ec raj acadmey student I would like to make a few points about what has been raised. Firstly one cannot argue that the mission raj academy are promoting is not a great one, however, when the head of the academy goes on stage in front of hundreds of children, puts up a picture of Bhai Randhir Singh and labels him as the downfall of kirtan, who calls all Sikhs who sing kirtan out of title raag manmukhs, is very very wrong. They claim to be promoting gurmat, yet how is cussing Bhai Randhir Singh, Sant Attar Singh etc gurmat?? Mr R Singh, on ur blog u have great articles from Bhai Rama Singhs autobiography. ur learning off someone who has absolutely no respect for Bhai Sahib. Ive heard him with my on mouth say people who do kirtan out of title raag, he has no respect for.
As from learning from Naamdharis the view will be divided. But wat is completely wrong is sitting on stage with them in Gurus hazoori and performing kirtan with them. Someone who leads the sangat in kirtan should be a tyaar bar tyaar gursikh whose jeevan is exemplary. How can one who dismisses our True Guru and believes in a fake living Guru lead Guru's sangat?? It is not possible, what difference would it be having a druggie or an alcoholic leading the sangat??
Claiming to be Gurmat and claming everyone else is manmukh is a very bold statement by the head of raaj academy, in my eyes this a massive sign of haumai.
FOrgive for ne mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Namdharis had very good intentions when they was first set out introduced by Balak Singh, they stressed the importance of the divine Nam for salvation
The Namdharis believe in the soteriological efficacy of remembering the divine Name nam-simaran). Namdharis are strict vegetarians who do not drink or smoke. They believe that food not prepared from their own hands should not be eaten.

The reason why it all went wrong for the Namdharis is when Ram Singh was head of the Jatha and the British began to fear revolution and in 1863 ordered Ram Singh not to hold religious assemblies and not to leave his village. Bhai Ram singh was well know for hes protests and campaigns against British rule.

The British threw Bhai Ram Singh in Jail. While Bhai Ram Singh was in jail the British made up accusations and lies telling the Namdharis that Bhai Ram Singh claims to be the Guru, and dont believe in Guru Granth coz Bhai Ram Singh is your guru, the British twisted everything Ram .Ssingh tried telling everyone that he wasn’t the guru and to keep their faith in Guru Granth but it was very hard for him has he was in jail and was not allowed to see anyone. and that’s why Namdharis believe this to today.

Anonymous said...

yeah i agree wit the last comment. Namdharis were orginally set up as a jatha which were promoting Gurbani Kirtan in raag, and also sources show that before 1864 Namdharis believed in Guru Granth Sahib as their Guru.