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Ragas and Raginis in Gurbani - are they compatible?

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Veer Shaheediyan, as you are close to Raj Academy and Professor Surinder Singh, please could you help with the following.

During his initial research and presentations (now widely available), some of the interesting points that Surinder Singh had raised related to aspects such as the terminology of “Ghar†in Gurbani, commonly taught as relating to a time cycle, however as Professor Singh explained it, actually relates to shrutis (the key point being made using a shabd in Partaal and with only one Ghar indicated, hence a misnomer by the standard understanding of Ghar).

From personal conversations with Professor Surinder Singh a few years back, he explained aside from the wider issue of non-raga based Kirtan, there also exists many misunderstandings of the raga structure and use within Gurbani owing to earlier texts written typically around early parts of the 20th century based largely on the personal rationale of the respective authors which have since become standardised and not developed as the wider decline of raga kirtan took over.

Other items include his refutation of the ‘time of day’ theory concerning Ragas (I think you've already posted a detailed thread on this topic) and incompatibility of common Raga and Ragini theories to the Gurbani ragas – on the latter subject, I would like to understand a little more from the standpoint of Professor Surinder Singh’s research the implications for the index at the end of the Guru Granth Sahib known as Ragamala. Most research to date on the subject (whether positive or negative) has typically come from non-musicians; it would be good to learn of this from the perspective of what is now termed “Gurmat Sangeetâ€.

Please could you help out.



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Veer Ji,

Sangeet tradition, both Sikh and otherwise has had one massive weakness, it has always been an oral tradition, as per Shastar Vidya, with only some references historical granth’s etc.

I think the biggest influence on and largest contributors to classical music were Bhatkande and Tagore Ji (need to check, this is just a quick post). Their works formed the basis of what nearly all classical musicians and sikh Raagis call Sangeet or Gurmat Sangeet. Even the various gharana have been heavily influenced. Also look up Rabindrasangeet.

Luckily, Sikhs still had some Rababi traditions and a few puratan raagis existing through this period i.e. Baba Shaam Singh ji and Baba Harnaam Singh Ji, and Namdhari efforts, specifically by Baba Partap Singh Ji, as well as “possible†traditions of Bhai Avatar singh Ji etc, so some efforts to preserve were made by various Sikh musicologists and scholars in the early to mid 20th c.

But back to the point, raags and raagnis. This and many other things aren’t so much to do with Prof Ji’s personal research, he certainly provides his input, but expects us to research for our self, which we do. Many of us varying opinions on different topics, but aim to resolve these through eventual research and publication, in a civilised manner!

Bharats Natya Shastra is a good place to start, as it is one of the first detailed manuscript detailing the emergence and of raag and Indian scale (saptak) systems, it also provides ample evidence for the correct ghar theory.

Raag and Raagnis, I have done a little research on this (not a huge amount), will dig out the sources when I have a spare moment, but basically they refer to a “specific†school of music (there were a few in the medieval times), which was famously used by Tansen, Akbars legendary Darbaari Raagi. There are also many (comparatively recent) mythological stories related to the raag/raagni topic. In the mean time look up Jayadeva’s “Geeta Govinda†and “Srimad Bhagavatamâ€. Please share your findings.

With regards to Maharaj, we see a specific system has been used which was prevalent at the time, this system does not use raagnis (as is evident in Gur-bani).

Raagmala, I am far from informed or an expert on the subject, so will digress. Sangat can discuss, debate and form conclusions as they wish.

To be honest I haven’t had a chance to listen to any Gursikhs kathaa on raagmala i.e. Jathaa Bhinderan/Baba Takur Singh Ji etc, would be interesting if someone could maybe summarise their kathaa on this thread.

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Thanks for the references and background information, however please could you comment upon the implications of say your research thus far or that espoused by Professor concerning Ragamala and its role within the framework of what is currently being established under Gurmat Sangeet circles? Bhai Balbir Singh's recording of it provides an interesting angle, but is this an innovation or tradition?

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"Bhai Balbir Singh's recording of it provides an interesting angle, but is this an innovation or tradition?"

Could you provide a link to this please. I don't think I am familiar with this.

Gurbani Raagmala is not something that has been specifically researched, by me or in my knowledge, by Prof Ji. If you would like to know his opinion; as you are already acquainted with him, I would suggest you ask him personally. I don't think it is a priority for him in any way, shape or form.

Personally, if raagmala should be in Maharaj, and I don't understand it's application, I can happily live with that. If it shouldn't be there, I can still completely and happily treat Guru Granth Sahib Ji as my infallible Satguru.

I don't think I'd be comfortable discussing Gurbani raag mala in critical terms at this time. Like I said, I have provided ample references and will seek to provide some more info, sangat can do their own research and come to their own conclusions.

I am sure that in the near future some brave, wise, ignorent, stupid (what ever tickles your taste buds) person will use their new found knowledge to create more holes in the panth.

Personally I think this issue will only be worth analysing when the "panth (in all it's colours)" and it's "governers" are open to discussion and "possible" change. Otherwise it will only worsen the current already sad state of the panth. There are much more pressing issues that need to be tackled at this moment in time.

Bhul chuk maaf

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Shaheediyan wrote: "I am sure that in the near future some brave, wise, ignorent, stupid (what ever tickles your taste buds) person will use their new found knowledge to create more holes in the panth"

Veer Jee, whilst you have made it clear that you do not wish to discuss this topic right now, I would like to clarify that perhaps you have read too far in my question, I am not debating Raagmala as Gurbani, that is quite separate and irrelevant to the question here, which is concerning the terminology used therein and its musical implications versus that currently being investigated under Gurmat Sangeet projects/institutions for that found in the remainder of the Guru Granth Sahib as well as that found in the Dasam Granth or Sri Sarabloh Prakash.

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Veer Ji,

Firstly, could you kindly expand on this either on-line or off:

"Bhai Balbir Singh's recording of it provides an interesting angle, but is this an innovation or tradition?"

Without meaning to sound abrupt or assuming, it seems like this may indirectly turn into a case of Devil's Advocate.

The discussion wil ultimately end in "is Raagmala Gurbani", because we will inevitably discuss is credibilty and function if it is critiqued by means of discussing the applicability of it's terminology.

I hope you can see where I'm coming from.

Like I said, Maharaj evidently does not use raag raagni musical system which existed around the 1200's from memory.

I am pretty sure Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji doesn't use raagni system either, and I have not had darshan of Sri Sarbloh Granth Sahib ji as yet, but from what I know, it is also raag based.

The raagni system predates the raag system used in the 3 Granth Sahibs.

If the raagni system does somehow apply, then I have yet to see how.

I think Bhai Baldeep Singh Ji may be a better person to ask this question, as they (Bhai Avtaar Singh and family), I think make assumptions from and utilise thaat and raag family system etc. We simply try and follow the crystal clear raag instructions given at the start of each shabd in Maharaj.

PS- The sentance you quoted wasn't refering to you (just in case you may have thought that)!!

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"Bhai Balbir Singh's recording of it provides an interesting angle, but is this an innovation or tradition?"

i.e. do we know of or have any recordings of something being done alongside lines before in Sikh circles. Ragamalas have been performed in wider Hindustani Sangeet in many variations. I personally quite like Balbir Singh's rendition, just want to know if anyone else has done this?

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