Kiirtan, the music of the soul

Art in general in India is intimately connected with religion and spirituality and with music there is no exception.
The Raga is the structural element at the base (foundation) of Indian music. Raga means “to colour”, and in fact a raga is born as  a musical expression of human sentiment, as if to want to give colour to the sentiment giving it a definite structure. Every raga has it’s own ideation and reflects a particular state of mind and profound internal emotional state which the composer manages to express musically.
But when it comes to wanting to express one’s love for the Supreme, when one’s ideation is directed towards the Supreme Entity, in that moment kiirtan is born, the song of the devotee.
Kiirtan is one of the spiritual practices most widely diffused in India. Its execution is effected in a variety of styles according to geographical area and the context in which kiirtan is performed.
Kiirtan is born out of the strong love of the devotee towards the Supreme Entity. It is distinguished from Bhajan in which different tangential ideas are expressed as well as the central idea of the Supreme. In Kiirtan there is only the ideation of the Supreme. The meaning of the word kiirtan is “to sing the glory of the Supreme with a loud voice.”
Kiirtan usually implies a person who sings and the assembly that follows in the form of: call and response. It is accompanied by a dance, usually the “lalita marmika” dance. In India the instruments most commenly used are the harmonium, mrdanga and cymbals.
However kiirtan is a universal chant to which one can adapt instruments from any culture.

At present kiirtan is a spiritual chant widely diffused throughout all of India. However it did not originate like that and in the beginning was probably restricted to the priests who had the sole right to propagate the religious doctrine and practice the religious rituals.
It was thanks to Caetanya Mahaprabhu that the chanting of kiirtan became one of the most  popular spiritual and devotional practices. The melody of kiirtan does not have to be necessarily related to a Raga and therefore can be sung by anyone even those without any prior knowledge of music.
The continuous progress from the crude to the subtle, and from the subtle to the subtlest aspects of life, comes within the scope of aesthetic science. In this process of movement ultimately we reach a state in which our refined tastes and  refined feelings transport us into the realm of Eternal Beauty.

At that time we attain a state so intoxicated with joy that we lose our limited identity.
This exalted state beyond even aesthetic science is called Mohana Vijina'na or supra-aesthetic science. The diverse schools of music or dance that people have developed so far, are all meant to provide joy to people through aesthetic science. Kiirtan comes within the scope of supra-aesthetic science.

Kiirtan is a special type of song where the lyrics directly reflect the Supreme Consciuosness. A great saint Caetanya Mahaprabhu was instrumental in popularising kiirtan. Parvati, the wife of Shiva had invented a dance called “lalita marmika” 7000 years ago and Caetanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534 ) adopted this dance as the dance most suited to singing kiirtan, as it enables one to maintain adjustment without causing fatigue in the body.

In kiirtan one sings a mantra and this mantra should be a siddha mantra having 8 syllables.
On 8 oct 1970 Shrii Shrii Anandamurtiji introduced the universal siddha mantra, BABA NAM KEVALAM, which means “Everything is an expression of Infinite Love”

Supra-aesthetic science is the endeavour to ensconce the microcosmic entity, the individual entitative rhythm, in the eternal being, the infinite rhythm of Parama Purus'a. Kiirtana is the composite of song, dance and instrumental music.
These three aspects of music when combined together create such an unblemished, heavenly environment that people completely forget themselves. This is the charm, the excellence, of kiirtan.

Lalita Marmika, the dance of kiirtan

The heel of the foot corresponds to the sound “ta”, the ball of the foot to the sound “dhin” and the toes correspond to the sound “dhae”

“Dhae” is that part of the foot that relates to the spiritual aspect, “dhin” relates to the psychic aspect and “ta” refers to  the physical aspect.

The spirit of trhe Lalita Marmika dance is that “I am here on this earth to perform all my mundane, psychic and spiritual responsibilities but with placing the least possible pressure on the earth. That is why in kiirtan we touch the earth with our toes, with the “dhae” portion of the foot.

The position of the hands is above the shoulders in an open gesture. When the hands are above the level of the shoulders it indicates that the psycho spiritual force is active. When the hands are below the shoulders it indicates that the psychic force is active.

So in kiirtan the hands are above the shoulders indicating that one surrenders completely to the grace of Parama Purusa, the Supreme Consciousness.

 

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