Chapter 3: Importance of Kirtan Bhakti
- Aim of Human Life
- Prakruti Marg
- Vikruti Marg
- Sanskruti Marg
- Devotional Behavior of human
- Pushtimarg means Seva Marg
- Kirtan Bhakti in Seva
- Meaning of Kirtans
- The Heritage of Indian Classical Music
- Importance of Kirtans in BhaktiMarg
Philosophers around the world have come to the conclusion that the sole aim of human life is to attain bliss i.e. “anand”. A person may have all the things in this world except bliss. To fulfill this, he/she accepts various means to achieve it or to search it. Thus a person, according to his characteristics, may accept any of the paths from the below mentioned, to fulfill his desires.
- Prakruti Marg
- Vikruti Marg
- Sanskruti Marg
Lord has given a fundamental behaviour to human. This is governed by our instincts. Same fundamental behavior is found in nature and its elements. These natural elements get happiness by becoming useful to others. Thus, they get bliss by making others happy. This was of getting happiness is known as “Prakruti Marg”. For e.g. Plants, Trees, etc.
Some of the people get happiness by making others uncomfortable and unhappy. They behave as bad animals. As a result, their mind becomes destructive and greedy. They live for their own and to satisfy their desires and lust. Thus, they completely become evil minded. This way of attaining happiness is the way of “Vikruti Marg”. In fact, the happiness which they get is not at all a permanent happiness, just a fleeting joy. This could not be called as Bliss.
Civilised behaviour is sanskruti marg. The culture, through which the human makes his/her inbuilt behaviour/characteristics to the best, is known as the path of “Sanskruti”. Those who does not stop and satisfy and think themselves as great by helping others, but , those who goes beyond this and serves the Lord is Sanskruti Marg. Just like, coming nearer to fire, feels hot, same way, if we come nearer to Lord we feel happiness and Bliss. There are ag and ain different subways in this path to attain Supreme Being as per the characteristics of Jeeva. Each human has different behaviour and interests and accordingly follows one of the paths mentioned below:
- Karma Marg
- Gyan Marg
- Bhakti Marg
Devotional Behavior of human
Devotion: “Bhakti” is driven mainly by emotions and love devoid of greed or other ulterior motives towards the Lord. This way of attaining Lord is called Bhakti Marg. The feel of Lord is done through the senses of human. The devotee i.e. the one who is fully devoted to the Lord wants his eyes to only see his beloved Lord, wants only to hear the praises of his own Lord, wants all his senses to be used for the Lord. He wants his tongue to sing the songs of praises of his Lord. To attain this type of devotion, from scriptures i.e. Vedas to Shreemad Bhagwat Mahapuran, has described different ways. This was very well established and made simple by Jagad Guru Shreemaad Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhuji, who established the Pushtimarg to attain this type of devotion in the simplest way.
Pushtimarg is the unconditional Love, without any motives including greed, for Lord Shree Krishna and through which the bhakta gets rid of “Ahamkar” (ego) and develops the “Deen bhav” and “Sharanagati” i.e. Total Surrender to Lord. This bhakti marg is different then other bhakti margas established by previous acharyas i.e. Shree Ramanujacharyaji was the proclaimar of Rajas Bhakti, Shree Nimbarkacharyaji was the proclaimer of Tamas Bhakti, and Shree Madhvacharya was the proclaimer of Satvik Bhakti. But Shree Jagad Guru Shree Vallabhacharyaji proclaimed “Nirguna Bhakti” which is the best of all bhakti margas.
The path which is established by Shreemad Vallabhacharyaji to serve the Lord with greedless and unconditional love is Pushtimarg. To retain and increase the concentration and thus extract the Ras of Bhakti during the seva of Lord, Shree Vallabhacharyaji introduced the “Raag, Bhog and Shrungar” in the Seva of Lord which became the integral part of Pushtimarg. This flourished under the care of his younger son, Shree Vitthalnathji, also popularly known as Shree Gusaiji.
Raag : Attachment – raag also means the aesthetic emotions in the Bhakta which leads him to attain the Bhakti and attain Lord Shree Krishna. For this, songs/hymns, musical intruments and dance “nrutya” are used to serve Lord. The song of praises i.e. “Kirtanas” are sung before the Lord in various different ragas, with intruments and in various taals. Different ragas are sung during different times of the day, and according to season.
Bhog : The Pure bhava of Bhakta, inspired by “Raag”, is offered to the Lord. This is called the “bhog”. In this, bhakta prepares with his different bhavas, the food to offer Lord. This is not a mere food but offering his/her prem, love, towards Lord.
Shrungar : After the offering of Pure Bhava through “bhog”, bhakta now wants to go further to even adorn the Lord with different bhavas in the form of ornaments, clothes etc. This is called Shrungar.
From the above three integral part of Seva, “Raaga” is given the most importance in this article. Lord of Pushtimarg wakes up with kirtans, accepts the bhog with kirtans, and enjoys the different festivals with kirtans and go to sleep with kirtans. Each activity, in His daily seva and Utsav (festive) Seva routine, is done with kirtanas.
Kirtans have become an integral part of daily and Utsav Seva routine. Kirtans starts before Shree Prabhu i.e. Shree Krishna wakes up in morning and ends when Shree Prabhu goes to sleep. After Shree Prabhu goes to sleep, the “Ashraya padas” are sung .These ashraya padas are not sung in the presence of Shree Prabhu.
The Pushti Purushottam Lord Shree Krishna is the “Sangeet Shiromani” – best musician in the whole universe. He is the knower of all 64 kalas.
From our vaarta sahitya we can know that bhav is more important than mere technical singing ability. For example, Roopa Poriya was a watchman at Shreenathji’s Haveli in Vraj. He used to sing the kirtans in his own way, without a proper knowledge of ragas or sur. Inspite of being scolded many times the kirtaniya Shree Govindswami for singing in such a way, Shreenathji did not like to sleep unless He heard the kirtans sung by Roopa Poriya ! Thus, the bhava is more important in sangeet rather then ragas and swars.
There is a very divine and spontaneous effect of music i.e. sangeet. Music gives bliss to human especially the devotional hymns in praise of Lord.
Kirtans : Means the hymns/songs of praise for Lord Shree Krishna in which the fame i.e. “Kirti” of Lord is sung.
Kirtan word is used to mean two things:
- Pada Sahitya: The kirtans written in Vraj bhasa i.e. local dialect of Vraj. The kirtans are sung before Shree Prabhu. The songs describing the praise of Lord i.e. “kirti” are called as Kirtans.
- Kirtans means the padas of describing the leelas of Shree Prabhu.
One of the great acharyas & Scholar of our sect, Shree Lalubhattji has defined the word “kirtan” as “The devotional hymns describing the infinite names, leelas (divine sports) of Lord Shree Krishna is called Kirtans”. These kirtans are mostly composed in Sanskrit and Vraj language. These kirtans must be sung with a specific ragas and taal.
Shree Mahaprabhuji has ordered in Shree Subodhiniji (his commentary on Shreemaad Bhagwat Mahapuran), that “Gyaatva Paane Mahan Ras” i.e. Listening to the nector like devotional hymns of Shree Prabhu is like the Mahan Ras. The Ras is realized only by listening to praise of Lord. There are two types of Ras:
- Liquid form of Ras
- Solid form of Ras
The swaroop of Shree Govardhannathji is the Solid Form of Ras and Shree Yamunaji is the liquid form of Ras.
These kirtans are not the mere imagination of poets but they are the real experiences experienced by the fortunate and graced poet bhaktas of pushtimarg. These kirtans are thus called “Apta Vakya” or the 5 th Veda of Pushtimarg. Thus, kirtans are also treated as same way as Bhagwad Swaroop. Thus during the utsavs, the pushtak i.e. divine book, of kirtans are also offered Tilak with vermillion.
According to Shree Mahaprabhu Shree Vallabhacharyaji, the only reason of the appearance of this Universe is the desire of the Supreme being, Lord Shree Krishna, for divine play. Parmatma took form in the Universe as a Brahmin i.e. Shreemad Vallabhacharyaji. The Roop Shrusti and Naam Shrusti are the discovery of Paramatma himself. From the same Parmatma’s Shree Mukharvind appeared the Naad Shrusti. Thus, Parmatma’s one of the names is “Naad Brahm”. The Shrutis of Vedas also says “Naado Brahm Ne Samsyati”. Realisation of this Naad Brahm can be done by musical instruments and nritya i.e. dance. Thus, music, kirtans and dance constitute to form the Sangeet i.e. Naad Brahm.
In Shreemad Bhagwad Geetaji, Shree Krishna declares himself to be the “Samveda” amongst all the Vedas. Samveda consists of musical Shrutis. Thus, Bhagwan resides in each and every Naam Mantra inform of Naamatmak Swaroop. Thus, the reciting and singing his name is Bhagwad Gungaan. While doing this, the Rasas are experienced by our body through ears by hearing and becomes stationary in our heart. Thus, this helps in stabilizing and establishing the bhagwad Ras in bhakta’s heart. Due to this it is said that crores of pooja is equivalent to one stotra. Crores of stotras are equivalent to one Naam Jap and crores of Naam Jap is equivalent to One Kirtan.
These kirtans are sung in different ragas whose origin is Samveda. The Richas (verses / hymns) of Rigveda are also sung according to the Aroha and Avroha of Ragas. This is known as Samgaans. These Ragas are composed of Swaras. In the Samgaan, there is the importance of mainly three swaras
- Uddhat: Which is the swara of Aroha
- Anuddhat: Which is the swara of Avroha
- Swarit Swara: Which is Madhya swar.
The expansion of these three swaras is 7 swaras, which are enlisted below:
- Madhyam: Ma
- Gandhar: Ga
- Rushabh: Re
- Shadaj: Sa
- Dhaivat: Dha
- Nishad: Ni
- Pancham: Pa
The main aim of these 7 swaras is to be used in the composition in praise of Lord.
We do not get the exact meaning of “Bhakti” in Vedas and Upanishads, but in various statements of it, the bhakti bhava is implicitly felt. Thus, just like Gyan and Karma margas, bhakti marg is also described in Vedas. Shree Naradji and Shandilya Muni has written BHakti Sutras, wherein the description of Bhakti is found. After that, we find the description of bhaktimarg in Shreemad Bhagwad Geetaji and Shreemad Bhagwat Mahapuran. Bhaktimarg flourished mainly during 1000-1100 AD.
In Bhaktimarg, the aim is to keep Lord happy by constantly serving Him without any greed. This can be achieved by developing the pure love towards the Lord.
The Kirtan tradition in pushtimarg is known as “Dhrupad Style of Composition”. This is one of the one of the oldest styles of classical music still in vogue. In 1100 AD, a Bengali bhakta and poet Shree Jaydevji initiated and popularlised the Dhrupad style. Thus Shree Jaydevji is regarded as the first bhakta poet to start this parampara. His famous compostion, “Geet Govind”, is written in Sanskrit. Although it is in Sanskrit, it is not written be sung in chandas but to be sung in different ragas. Shree Jaydevji has composed his other works in different ragas known as Ashtapadis. Several of his ashtapadis are also accepted to be sung in pushtimarg and have been embedded in our utsav routine.
For example, from Vasant Pancharni to Maha Sud-Poonam, Shree Jaydevji’s ashtapadi is sung. This is originally sung in Raag vasant. In trutiya gruh of Kakaroli, on the day of Jeth Sud-Dasam and in the gruh of Shree Navnitpriyaji on day of Jeth Sud-Poonam, the ashtapadi “Rati sukh saare dhir samire” in raag Bihag is sung. During ushnakaal ie summer, when Shree Prabhu is offered chandan, at that time “Chandan charchit neel kalevar” ashtapadi is sung.
After Shree Jaydevji, several other Krishna Bhaktas contributed a lot to this tradition by writing Krishna leela poems in their own languages. Krishna bhakta shree Vidyapati from Bengal, Chandidas from north India, Kabir, Narsinha Mehta from Gujarat also composed several padas. Shree Vidyapati, from 1404 to 1438 A.D, wrote about his experience of various leelas of Shree Krishna. The padas describing his experiences have been accepted in the kirtan pranalika of Pushtimarg. For example, the kirtan of khandita “Bhali kini bhor bhaye aaye mere angana” in ramkali raag. Another pad of Hilag in Raag Asavani is “Nayana mai nahin karat kahyo” same way, the kirtan sung during vasant which is famous “Nav Vrundavan nav nav. Tarugan, nav nav vikasat phool” are all works of Shree Vidyapati.
12 th century, is regarded as the Golden period of Bhakti marg. During this period, the Bhaktimarg progressed a lot. During this time, the four major Acharyas disseminated the principles of Bhaktimarg. The first one was Shree Ramanujacharya, preached for Vishnu bhakti. He installed the Mandir of Govind Raj in Tirupati. He also stressed the importance of singing the padas and prepared the collection of about 4 thousand prabandhas. He also wrote a book called Sangeetmala.
Second Acharya to disseminated the principles of Bhaktimarg was Shree Nimbarkacharya. He also stressed on singing the padas. The third Acharya was Shree Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhuji. He established the kirtan tradition in a suitable way. At the same time in vrindavan, there were several other Krishna bhakas like Swami Haridasji and Shree Heet-Harivanshji also disseminated the Bhaktimarg and contributed much towards bhaktimarg.