All About the Sikh Tradition of Gurbani Kirtan

Shabads, Bhajans, and Hymns

Kirtan is considered by Sikhs to be the highest form of adoration and praise. Shabads or hymns are at the heart of the Sikh worship service, ceremonies and celebrations. Songs or bhajans are selected from Sikh scripture whose compositions are poetic and written to be sung in to music. In the Sikh tradition, no ceremony, event, or occasion is complete without the hymns of kirtan being sung.

Singing Kirtan
Singing Kirtan. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Kirtan is adoration expressed musically. The hymns or shabads sung in kirtan focus on praise and devotion are selected from the scripture of Guru Granth Sahib and the compositions of Guru Gobind Singh. Kirtan is performed by Sikhs for a variety of occasions.

Read more about kirtan basics:

Kirtan Adoration in Song
History of Gurbani Kirtan Maryada
13 Components of Classic Kirtan More »

Shabad of Guru Granth Sahib
Shabad of Guru Granth Sahib. Photo © [Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa]

Shabads or gyms are sacred sections from Sikhism's scripture Guru Granth Sahib. The divine shabads are composed in poetic form in classical raag, or the Indian style of music.

Read more about sacred hymns:

Shabad Hymns of Gurbani More »

Amrit Kirtan Hymnal on Harmonium
Amrit Kirtan Hymnal on Harmonium. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Amrit Kirtan is a Sikh hymnal. The hymns selected are from the poetic compositions of Guru Granth Sahib. Shabads in the collection of hymns are arranged according to spiritual themes.

Read more about Sikh hymnal:

Amrit Kirtan Hymns of Immortal Nectar More »

Ragis Perform Kirtan on a Float in the Yuba City Annual Sikh Parade Photo © Khalsa Panth

Nagar Kirtan is a kind of adoration expressed in song while parading through the streets of a town. Nagar kirtan is held on special commemorative gurpurab occasions and holidays. During the parade, kirtan may performed by devotees while riding on a float or while walking in a procession.

Read more about nagar kirtan:

Yuba City Annual Nagar Kirtan Parade Illustrated
Don't Rain On My (Nagar Kirtan) Parade Illustrated
Guru Gadee, the Inauguration Gurpurab
Guru Nanak's Nagar Kirtan Gurpurab
More »

Rain Sabaee Kirtan, Night so Beautiful!

Kirtan Rain Sabhaee - All Night Rain Sabahee Kirtan
Kirtan Rain Sabhaee. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Rain Sabaee kirtan is sung all night long. Rain sabee is usualy held on gurpurab or commemorative occasions, celebrations, and festivities. The kirtan worship service begins at sundown and continues until daybreak.

Read more about all night kirtan:

Night so Beautiful! A Gallery of All Night Worship in Song

Kirtan Classes and Camp

Children's Camp Kirtan Class
Children's Camp Kirtan Class. Photo © [Kulpreet Singh]

Children are given the opportunity to learn kirtan in the gurudwara. Classes are held on weekends and holidays camps. Kirtan class may be an informal gathering of hands on learning, or more structured if taught in the classical style of raag which requires in depth study. Lessons focus on learning to sing shabads from Guru Granth Sahib accompanied by various instruments:

Mother and Son Singing Kirtan
Mother and Son Singing Kirtan. Photo © [S Khalsa]

The hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib reflect the journey of the soul through life in partnership with the divine. All of life's important events are accompanied by the singing sacred verses of Kirtan appropriate to the occasion:

  • Hymns in Praise of Women
  • Hymns of the Sikh Wedding
  • Hymns of Hope and Blessings for a Child
  • Hymns of Encouragement During Hard Times
  • Hymns Sung in Praise of Khalsa Initiation
  • Hymns of Consolation for the Bereaved
More »

Top Gurbani Kirtan CD Reviews and Resources

Professor Surinder Singh and Raj Academy
Professor Surinder Singh and Raj Academy. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Uplift mind body and soul with the healing power of Gurbani kirtan. Audio CD recordings of top reformers include albums by:

  • Gurmat Gian Group - All female singers of classic raga kirtan led Gurpreet Kaur.
  • Professor Surinder Singh - Classic raga kirtan and naad yoga specialist.
  • Bhai Nirmal Singh Khalsa Pipli Wale - East meets West extravaganza.
Student taking lesson from Learn Gurbani Kirtan DVD with book.
Student taking lesson from Learn Gurbani Kirtan DVD with book. Photo © [S Khalsa]

The instruction Learn Gurbani Kirtan kit includes a booklet, DVD, and CD which together enable the student to advance step by step towards achieving the goal of singing and playing kirtan, the hymns of Gurbani. The DVD employs a series of finger and voice exercises showing proper finger placement for each note given in the booklet.

Read more about learning kirtan:

Learn Gurbani Kirtan Book DVD CD by Bhai Manmohan Singh More »