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There is no hard evidence of this ever being the case.

It goes against the very basis of kirtan maryada in terms of Sirlek hukum - which is inheritant in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Sri Dasam Granth Sahib (i.e. Shabd Hazare), as well as Sri Sarbloh Granth Sahib.

If one looks at the earliest pothi Sahibs (before Adi Granth) i.e. Guru Harsahai and Goindval pothis - we can see that shabds had been handed down generation to generation from Guru Nanak Dev Ji in strict raag format.

This format and hukum was immortalised by 10th Master in creating Sri Guru Granth Sahib (final version).

If Guru Sahiban wanted to provide options, they would have done so in the sirlek i.e. partaal is a semi-optional instruction.

The singing of shabd in variant raags may certainly be a tradition more than 30 years old, but I cannot see that it was one stemming from Gurus era. If one is seriously interested in looking at puratan reetan, Gurbani Sangeet Prachin Reet Ratnavalin, Gurbani Sangeet Sagar and Gurmat Sangeet Sagar. These are written by some of the most resptected authorities on Gurmat Sangeet over the 50 years.

Also, get hold of 'Shabad De Bhav Te Raag Di Taseer' by Bhai Vir Singh.

As an example he states:

""Ragis have often abandoned the nuances of music and Rababis have embraced the msucial traditions of contemporary theater; music has been emphasized over Shabad to the point where the very words of the shabad are often unintelligible...; However, all is not completely lost yet, some Rababis and a very few Ragis still retain some of the seminal tunes [that are the essence of Gurmat Sangeet]".

We clearly see that even over 50 years ago, those in the know, saw that even the Rababis were prone to media influence and sangat demands (entertainment).

It was durnig these days that Hindustani Sangeet became hugely popular again and crossed over to Sikh Kirtan - where by the practice of showing off your raag vidya and musical skills became a prominant practice - where the Shabd and Gurdwara was used as a setting for classical sangeet performances.

There may be areas of Sikhi which are unclear and topics of serious debate in the Panth, but kirtan certainly isn not one of them - Guru Ji has made his intentions clear as crystal!

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i would have thought that over time sikhs would have got more and more into deeply understanding Raags and become a thoroughly musical community in this respect (e.g. Raag knowledge would be common amongst Sikhs- they could know a Raga by ear). but someweher along the line they lost this? where exactly?

i also think its sad that people are mistaking it for a performance art. i mean i rarely see sangat joining in the singing.

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Thats a very good question, one which deserves a long and detailed response. If you look the through the Gurmat Sangeet archive here, you will find many posts and articles which touch on on your question.

Only the Rababis and Raagis would ever have been masters of Sikh Musicology, sangatan would have learnt shabds/compositions as per their ability to travel to and spend time in Gurus darbar, these would then have been 'emulated', in their own homes as per Gurbanis hukum for their to be kirtan in every Sikh home.

This still happens today, only difference is peoples homes are filled with bhajan/sant style, Akhand Kirtan style, filmi style or semi classical darbaari style i.e. thumri.... kirtan. Rather than the dhrupadi and Gurbani folk style of kirtan Gurus instructed.

The main point of change was the introduction of recording equipment in the early 1900s and the ignorance/disrimination of those in charge. Alongside we had Christian missionery influence (hence intro of Vaaja), we had the onset of All India Radio and therefore the popularisation of certain styles of sangeet i.e. khayal.. the real nail in the coffin was the film industry, funnily enough, in the 1st decade, Indian Film kept many traditons inc hindustani sangeet alive. But during the 50s>>> western influence took route, and it all went downhill from then - in terms of Indian cinema and Indian music. Later we had the advent of the seperate music scene... etc.

There is much, much more that could be spoken of. I am working on some articles with some music students, so will hopefully have a more detailed response in the near future.

But I am glad that you spotted this obvious flaw in our evolution - i.e. better circumstances, resources, opportunities should equate to many more Grihisht Sikhs learning the true Sikhs arts and finer points therein.

I am glad to say that it is actually happening, but it attracts the intelligent youth who put effort in to research and find out about their heritage, sadly, these are still the minority.

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i would have thought that over time sikhs would have got more and more into deeply understanding Raags and become a thoroughly musical community in this respect (e.g. Raag knowledge would be common amongst Sikhs- they could know a Raga by ear). but someweher along the line they lost this? where exactly?

i also think its sad that people are mistaking it for a performance art. i mean i rarely see sangat joining in the singing.

They had let it go to pursue 'better' opportunities. Being a Raagi or to sing Shabads like the Marasis had become a taboo for many in the easily divisible Punjabi-Sikh community. This implication was all across the board regardless of Sampardaye. In the Namdhari Panth it was only with the Hukam of Satguru Partap Singh Ji to create awareness of Raag Vidya among the entire Sikh Panth, regardless of Sampardaye, that eventually preserved the knowledge in the Namdhari Panth. This Hukam was carried forward with even more zeal by Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji and so today we have a good amount of Raagis who have pretty good knowledge of Raag Vidya. There's always a problem of quality being lost in quantity and there's always room for improvement, but still, to a great extent things are much better than they were under the pro-british Punjab back in the 30's and 40's when there was exponential loss and no preservation/gain in the field.

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I have heard Satguru Jagjit Singh say that certain shabads, i think it was 'paavan naam jagat meh har ko', sung in 18beats dhrupad, raag hameer(written in another raag, shabad starting with 'nar achet paap teh darreh') was from the time of Guru Ram Das, that composition, or maybe I heard wrong? That is why I thought that there were other raags allowed.

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"Being a Raagi or to sing Shabads like the Marasis had become a taboo for many in the easily divisible Punjabi-Sikh community."

Being a Raagi/Rababi never had any stigma attached in the Gurus court, in fact, quite the opposite is true, the kirtani recieved patronage and high acclaim in the Gurus Dargah - right up until the present day. The main impact which you mention, was prevailent in Pakistan, where the Rababis skills were looked down upon and were uncalled for, hence they had to change their career to support their families, but even still, many of these Muslims cherished the Gurpurbs where they could go and perform for the small Sikh communities in the eastern Western Punjabi Gurdwarai.

In Eastern Punjab, your comment holds some truth, but the cause is different. When the British handed over the Gurdwarai (and a golden harmonium) back to the Sikhs in the early 1920s, the newly formed representatives of the Panth decided to please their British counterparts and cut costs at the same time - so they got rid of the fulltime employed jathaas (Tanti Saaj playing Raagis with generations of Raag and Reet vidya) and replaced them with cheaply employed amateurs, who had the assistance of microphone/loudspeakers (hence a jathaa of 8 became a jathaa of 2 or 3).

A Vaaja can be learnt and manipulated in a matter of weeks/months, a tanti saaj takes longer...

This caused the now unemployed Raagis to seek other means of employment or move over the vaaja and later start learning and singing the 'In-Demand' tunes and styles...

If we study the 20th C we see that their were always hugely talented and highly respected Raagis (who even had permanent slots on All India Radio Hindustani Sangeet programs) but we see that these Raagis sacrificed their Gurus rvaaj for the modern innovations in sangeet.

There were a few gems who kept the Gurus traditions alive like Bhai Jvala singh and his famous family, in fact he was so famous that the Maharaja of Patiala sent his best Raagi - Mahant Garja Singh to learn Dhrupad from Bhai Jvala Singh Ji, as the Patiala gharana had converted to Khayal style of singing like many of the other Gharanas in North India.

Later on Bhai Dharam Singh Zakhmi (former Muslim Rababis in lineage) kept Gurus traditions alive also...

The difference in the Namdhari Sampryada was the Namdhari Guru Partaap Singh Ji was a huge advocate of traditional kirtan, to the point he would not allow vaajai in his mahaan kirtan smaagams (at least in some cases). The Namdhari Raagis received patronage and encouragment from their Guru - so never had any need to change. We should all be grateful to Baba Partaap Singh Ji for his excellent foresight...

But its a shame that as of late, Khayal and other modern innovations like playing huge taanas within shabds etc have intercepted the previously traditional Dhrupadi Namdhari Darbaar.

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Whitegrass, what's the point in posting something you're not even sure or know about? There's enough misinformation around already.


You're basically saying the same thing with more explanation. The taboo is not in the sense that it was a 'wrong doing', but because it didn't 'pay' much and was inferior to say being a lawyer.

It's always a few gems that keep the arts alive. Even today, while many Raagis, without naming anyone, have gotten lazy and lagging in Naam Simran, hence the lack of Mastanas during Diwaans, there are still few good ones who pay no attention to monetary gains and with as much musical Gyaan as they have continue to learn more without any trace of boasting or hangkar in the art. It is only with the Satguru's Kirpa that the heritage has remained and continues to be passed on. In the Darbar of the Satguru at Bhaini Sahib, many kinds of classical music is performed. Only if you go and spend a significant amount of time will you be able to see it all. I completely agree that huge taans are annoying definitely when done by newbies, but if you ask the Hazoori Raagis, they will tell you they do so as a tribute and service to their Satguru, thanking him for sending them to the Classical Ustads and learning the art.

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Fateh Singh Ji,

Who would you say at present are gems (traditionalists) within the Namdhari Darbar?

Have they released any CDs or are there recordings of them available?


These gems don't release any CD's though. I am not aware of any recordings on the internet (thank god!). You'd have to go to Bhaini Sahib and hopefully if it is their cue that day to perform Asa Di Vaar or evening Kirtan, you'd certainly find out within a few minutes from their replacement of taans with tremendous parmaan tuks from both Granth Sahibs. I'm not naming anyone as most of them are young generation (20- early 30's).

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