Kirtan is: people coming together in
a family-like atmosphere for a music session which gives the result of
deep meditation. More specifically, it is the call-and-response singing used in
spiritual traditions from India. Also known as kirtan-yoga, kirtan is an integral part of
bhakti-yoga which is the yoga of developing pure spiritual love.
Origins of Kirtan (scroll below on this
Kirtan and 'Hinduism'
Quotes from Ancient Texts about
A history of the sacred practise of kirtan in story
form by Sri Prahlada Das
information on the Krishna mantra -
article, plus a review by George Harrison and John Lennon
Kirtan Articles on Kirtanretreat.com (Links to external site from
In India, people have been singing about Rama, Krishna, Govinda, etc in
their local languages or in Sanskrit for millennia.
In the early 1500's, kirtan was
introduced by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as the recommended spiritual path for the present age. Up until that time
mantras were chanted to a meter at Vedic ceremonies, but the particular stressing of the importance of
combining mantras with music as the most recommmended spiritual discipline for our current times, is due to
Chaitanya (image below).
He promoted singing mantras with Indian musical instruments, particularly the
khola (mridanga drum) and karatals (brass hand cymbals). Initially there was some resistance from caste
brahmanas, the established priestly class. But Chaitanya from the age of 15 had already defeated in debate the
greatest pandit ('pundit' - scholar) and he was already known as the most erudite and knowledgeable person of
his day. He explained on many different levels the benefits of chanting kirtan. Around the
world, kirtan was first introduced by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada -the founder of
ISKCON - from 1965.
Kirtan is a Sanskrit word meaning 'to chant', or it refers
to 'the process of chanting', and it includes a sense of 'repeating', 'describing', and 'glorifying'. Specifically,
it refers to the glorification of the Supreme. The reader will doubtlessly be familiar with other Sanskrit words
such as yoga, Avatar, mantra, guru, and karma which are in use worldwide. In the coming years, we can expect
'kirtan' will become another word that will be more familiar in general usage.
Images are © Copyright The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Inc www.krishna.com
The first painting is Krishna and the gopis (angels) in the spiritual world, where kirtan is seen as one activity
that goes on eternally. The second image is of Chaitanya (born 1486 A.D.)