The Fourfold Heritage (Music of Punjab)

(Courtesy Alka Pande from "Folk Music & Musical Instruments of Punjab)

Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam, the dominant religious faiths of Punjab, each have their distinct musical repertoires, functional in character and linked to a specific setting. The four divisions of Punjab's musical repertoire, Sufiana Qalam, qawwali, Gurmatt Sangeet, bhakti sangeet, are rooted in religious experience. The Hindu kirtan, the Muslim milad and qawwali and the Sikh vaar and shabad kirtan are usually performed by trained musicians.

At the same time, a strong secular tradition also exists in Punjab's folk music.

Sufiyana Qalam

Although rooted in the classical traditions of Islamic mysticism as it developed in Arabia and Iran in the ninth and eleventh centuries, Sufism found wide acceptance in India in turn, the Sufi saints were influenced by the cultural traditions of the subcontinent.

The mahfil-e-sama, or the "Assembly for Listening" is essential to Sufi practice. Trained musicians guided by the sheikh, sing with the object of creating a spiritual bridge to the living spiritual guide, to departed saints, and ultimately to God. The aim is to achieve a spiritual experience of intensity and immediacy that transcends conscious striving.
Over the centuries, this practice has engendered a vast corpus of poetry articulating the mystical experience and the experience of the mystics.

Punjab has a strong Sufi tradition. In the four hundred years from the 14th to the 18th when the Gurus were laying the foundations of the Sikh faith, the Sufi saints were also teaching. Indeed the two religious philosophies complemented each other. To this day the Punjab countryside is dotted with the mazars and dargahs of Sufi saints. Typically the shrines are small white structures with a bit of green trim and occasionally figures painted on the walls. In many cases no written records of the shrine exist and one must search out the oldest inhabitants of a village to hear the local tradition of the shrine The local people, irrespective of their religion, look after these little shrines and constitute the following of the saint. Here is a true embodiment of the secular nature of bhakti.

Qalam means "pen" so Sufiana Qalam refers to writings of the Sufis. Their lyrical verses, called kafis constitute a very old form-perhaps the earliest poetic composition in Punjabi.
Some schools of thought consider the kafi to have a chhand couplet form; others
maintain that the kafi cannot be bound in the rigid format of any given lyrical order. The compositions of the Sufi saints Shah Hussain and Bullae Shah, are usually taken as the definitive model of the kafi but many of the varying lyrical compositions of the Sikh gurus are also of the same type. Older non-Sufi traditional folk compositions support this hypothesis. Kafi is an Arabic word equivalent to the Sanskrit sthai, beginning of a song. The sthai is taken to be the theme of the entire kafi and is repeated over and over. This form has come to be recognised as the basic identification of the kafi and sets it apart from other folk compositions. In a kafi, the rahaoo tuk, central idea, is repeatedly sung while in the shabad, hymn, it is sung only once and not repeated. This repetition distinguishes the kafi from the shabad but in terms of content and basic musical form the kafi and the shabad are very similar.

In the earliest Sufi majlis gathering, the saint would lead his followers in chanting litanies in praise of God. The versicle would be sung by the saint and the followers would return the one-line response which constituted the theme of the composition. This repetition of the theme gave it the name kafi. A typical kafi is composed of several verses; there are no restrictions to the number of verses or their format.

Wadali Brothers - Sufi Singers

Multan is believed to be the birthplace of the kafi and to this day, in Multan, Jhang and Maghiane, in West Punjab, the kafi is very popular. People involved in ordinary chores of life hum and sing these kafis. The theme of most is divine love. It has been the base of a number of Sufi compositions.

Traditional metaphors are predominant in the kafi-the spinning wheel and loom, the experiences of travellers or lovers, or the song of rivers flowing to the sea. Its open compositional style invites easy adaptation to folk life. Hearing experiences similar to their own, immortalised in the centuries-old kafis, the singer and his audience take heart and renew the human struggle for love, peace and contentment.

Qawwali began as a mystical hymn sung at the shrines of saints and three of the five forms of qawwali remain religious in nature. They are the hamd, praises of God; nath Sharif praises of the saint and man kabat, songs of ecstasy. Two other forms are mundane or worldly. They are the ghazal (a song in praise of the mashooq, ladylove) and the light Punjabi form popularly sung at marriages and celebrations. These are of two types: the tasavuf rang songs praising the bounty of the Lord and the ishq ke gane, songs of love.

Qawwali is usually sung to the accompaniment of a harmonium and tabla. A characteristic form of clapping in tune to the rhythms is an essential feature.

Gurmatt Sangeet

Gurmatt Sangeet, also called shabad kirtan, combines the bani, teachings of the gurus and saints, with sangeet, music. Elements of classical music, devotional music and folk music merge in this form which goes back to the advent of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, in the 15th century. The traditions of Gurmatt Sangeet have been carried seena-va-seena, literally, from chest to chest, by the guru kirtaniye, raagis, dhadis, rababis and others. This form of music is an intimate part of Sikh life from birth to death, holding sway over all life-events such as christenings, coming-of-age ceremonies, marriages and house-warmings, celebrations of joyous events or gatherings where strength and guidance are sought in times of trouble or sorrow.

A keertan (Music) Sabha at Sri Bhaini Sahib (Ludhiana) with traditional musical instruments. Note especially the non-use of the harmonium, which is a French invention of the 20th century.

Guru Nanak popularised the rabab and madhyam veena, sitar, and during the period of Guru Gobind Singh the mayur veena or the taus was brought into use along with the sarinda, kachuwa, pakhwaj and tabla. In the holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, there is mention of the musical instruments like rabab, veena, baja, been, kingri, singhi, murli, pakhwaj, dholak, manjeer, ghungroo, naad and several others. Tanti saaz, string instruments feature prominently. The sarangi is not mentioned, but the sarinda, taus, dilruba, veena and tan pura have always been played. Among the percussion instruments, the atte-wallah dhamma or pakhwaj are used as accompaniment along with the baja, harmonium.

Sant Khazan Singh playing the Tabla with the 'Atte-wallah' dhamma.


A Rabab from the Middle-East

Although Gurmatt Sangeet has been influenced by both classical and folk forms its character is unique. One of the exclusive features of Gurmatt Sangeet is pardtaal, a style of singing which has significant compositions in dhrupad and khayal. It is typical of the Gurmatt Sangeet singing tradition and indeed no other musical form employs it.

The Guru Granth Sahib contains, in addition to the bani of the Sikh Gurus, the bani of many saints. These saints belonged to various regions and composed in their own languages. The Gurus themselves used several languages as they always preached in local idiom and made liberal use of local dialects. Thus the songs of Gurmatt Sangeet are written in several languages. The kafi, typical of Sufi musical expression, has also influenced the musical compositions in Gurmatt Sangeet.

Folk parampara in Gurmatt Sangeet
Guru Nanak was accompanied on his journeys by two companions, a Hindu named Bala and a Muslim named Mardana. Mardana, a member of the Mirasi community, played the rabab and it seems that Guru Nanak was partial to this instrument. The Guru Granth Sahib contains numerous references to it. Following Mardana, four generations of Mirasis were closely associated with the Sikh Gurus and, in the process, the hitherto "lowly" community gained social acceptability and recognition. Although the rabab was central to the establishment of the Gurmatt Sangeet, it was a difficult instrument to play, and in the course of time, many other stringed instruments, including the dilruba, taar shehnai and taus found their place in gurdwara orchestras.

Mardana playing the Rabab

It is worth mentioning that the mirasis were not only musicians and singers but also dancers. (mirasis are still to be found in Punjab and they remain the custodians of the great folk traditions of Punjab.) While folk singers were welcome in the court of the Gurus, dancers were kept away. The Gurus had no use for dancers. This was partly because of the "carnal" ambience that surrounded dancing at that time in North India, and also because the hostile conditions dictated a need for warriors, not dancers. The absence of dance from Punjab's bhakti tradition is in marked contrast to what is seen in southern and eastern India where dance, as a devotional form, was not only permissible but nurtured.


Des Raj Lakhane - Sufi Dhadhis


Another distinct group, which emerged in the age of the Gurus, was the dhadis (named for the small drum, dhad, which accompanied their songs). The sixth Guru Hargobind fostered these singers. While mirasis were Muslims, dhadis were not confined to a particular religious affiliation. Sufi dhadis sang in praise of a Divine Beloved while Sikh dhadis specialised in martial ballads called vaars. The Sufi dhadis usually performed at the mazaars of saints and at melas and festivals while the Sikh dhadis sang mainly at the gurdwaras. In modern Punjab, both Sufi and Sikh dhadis are still very much part of the musical scene.

Sikh Dhadhi Jatha performing inside a Sikh Temple (Gurdwara)
The dhadis are an integral part of Gurmatt Sangeet. Guru Nanak Dev himself used to call himself a dhadhi of God.

At the command of Guru Hargobind, the dhadis refined their repertoire. Their songs came to deal exclusively with tales of heroism and valour and they accompanied the armies of the Guru and sang to hearten the men. Two dhadis of that age are still remembered by name: they were Bhai Natha and Bhai Abdullah. The latter was a gifted poet and sang his own compositions in the Guru's court. These inspiring songs have come down through the ages. However, it must be noted that the singing of vaars (as these heroic ballads are called) has changed over the centuries. The dhadis once sang only verses from the Guru Granth Sahib; the contemporary dhadi repertoire has broadened to include many kissas and romances.

Regarding folk forms in Gurmatt Sangeet, a noted contemporary folk exponent and teacher, Jaswant Singh Bhanwra, points out: "We find ghoriyan, chhand, vaarsat, titheeyan, ruteen, barah mah, aarti, mangal, karhalae, vanjara, birhadae, alhauniyaan, anjaliyaan, sadh, pahre, din-rainee, vaar and souhile in the hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib. I believe that the Gurus deliberately chose these forms to make it easy for the common man to absorb and remember their teachings. The blending of folk and classical traditions in the hymns has been done in a beautiful manner".

The Taksals
The taksals have long been centres of instruction in Gurmatt Sangeet. Taksal, mint, is an institution where Sikh theology, scripture and rituals, including music, are taught. The taksals may be equated with the gharanas of classical music. There are five famous taksals:

Damdami Taksal (Guru Kanshi):
established by Guru Gobind Singh, regarded as the fifth takhat or seat.

Dodhar Taksal (Ludhiana):
begun by Nirmalae Thakur Sant Sudha Singh in thel8th century; famous exponents:
Bhai Veer Singh; Bhai Amrik Singh; Giani Sher Shokari; Giani Jaswant Singh Kular; Bhai Lakhman Singh Gandharve and Baba Harmohan Singh Gagda.

Hargana Taksal (Chamkaur Sahib):
established by Bhai Sampuran Singh; famous exponents: Prof.Tara Singh; Bhai Jaswant Singh Bhanwra; Pandit Dilip Chandra Bedi. At present Dr Gurnam Singh is working for the development and propagation of Gurmatt Sangeet from this taksal.

Taran Taraan Taksal (Taran Taraan):
established by Sant Essar Singh in the name of the Chief Khalsa Diwan in 1904; famous exponents: Bhai Bakshish Singh, Bhai Puran Singh and Bhai Samunder Singh.

Budhajord Taksal (Ganganagar):
established by Bhai Sukha Singh and Bhai Mahtab Singh in 1842; famous exponents: Bhai Gurmael Singh and Bhai Pritam Singh.

The Raagis
From the rababi tradition of Bhai Mardana evolved a group of Muslim singers who sang the gurbani. They baptised themselves and became Sikhs. Some well-known exponents are Bhai Gurmukh Singh Fakkar, Bhai Jaswant Singh, Bhai Pal Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh Zakhmi, Bhai Dilbagh Singh, Gulbagh Singh and Bhai Amrik Singh Zakhmi. The second groups are those who do not belong to the rababi tradition and yet are devoted to singing the gurbani. They are also known as the raagis or kirtankaars. Some well-known raagis are Bhai Samund Singh, Bhai Santa Singh, Bhai Jwala Singh, Bhai Avtar Singh, Bhai Gurcharan Singh, Bhai Balbir Singh, Bhai Bakshish Singh and Dr Jagir Singh.

A Taus Player

A Sarangi player

A Pakhawaj being played at Sri Bhaini Sahib

Additional notes on Gurmatt Sangeet

Guru Nanak Dev
Guru Nanak Dev, the first guru of the Sikhs (born in 1469 at Talwandi in Punjab, Guru until his death in 1539 at Kartarpur) was a marvellous poet as well as a mystic. In the Indian tradition, poetry is sung rather than merely recited so it comes as no surprise that Guru Nanak used music to lodge his message of truth and service firmly in the hearts and minds of his listeners. History does not reveal the source of Guru Nanak's musical knowledge, but the lyrics and raags that have come down to us are proof enough that he was a talented and accomplished singer.

According to the Janam Sakhis, apocryphal tales of the Guru's life, Guru Nanak's song turned Sajan, a murdering thug, to repentance and atonement. Pir Dastagir, a saint of Mecca, was likewise swayed by his music. As a devout Muslim, the pir would have rejected the very idea of music-regarded throughout the Muslim world as an element of the carnal world- yet Guru Nanak's songs were all directed toward salvation.

In Guru Nanak's view, the seven svaras, musical notes, were beyond human understanding and directly reflected a higher spiritual realm. To sing was not only to express one's thoughts but also to communicate with the profoundest depths of atman and paramatman, soul and super-soul. He took a very dim view of music directed toward any concern other than spiritual and condemned those who "cheapened" music by singing for the sake of sensual pleasure. The true musician, he said, was one who sang to liberate himself and his listeners from ignorance and from base or mundane concerns.

Guru Nanak was a great traveller: he is said to have journeyed through West Asia as far as Rome, eastward as far as Assam, and south to Sri Lanka. The chronicles of the Sri Ranganathaswami temple, the great Vaislmava shrine at Trichi in Tamilnadu, record his visit and he left behind followers in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. It is possible that his exposure to many cultures influenced his musical compositions. Many of his raags bear the name dakhani, from the Sanskrit dakhan, meaning south, indicating a southern influence.

Guru Nanak used 19 raags; he is credited with the composition of Asa di Vaar. Nanak's raags are:
Asa, Gaudi, Prabhati, Suhi
Basant, Gujri, Ramkali, Tilang
Bhairav, Majh, Sarang, Tukhari
Bilawa, Malhar, Saurath, Vadhans
Dhanasri, Maru, Sri

Guru Nanak's talent and musical sophication are also evident from the 16 mixed raags which he composed: These are:
Asa Kafi Gaudi-Purvi-Deepki
Basant-Hindol Kafi
Gaudi-Bairagini Maru-Dakhani
Gaudi-Cheti Prabhati-Dakhani
Gaudi-DaIthani Prabhati-Vibhas
Gaudi-Deepki Ramkali-Dakhani
Gaudi-Gujri Vadhans-Dakhani
Gaudi-Mala Vibhas

Guru Nanak's compositions are short and this may have been a deliberate choice as the short length made it impossible for later singers to distort the lyrics with meaningless recombinations. By keeping the compositions simple, the Guru also ensured that the message would remain pre-eminent and listeners would not become distracted in puzzling out a musical brain4easer.

Guru Nanak has used the folk style of singing liberally in his bani. These poetic forms follow their own taals, rhythms or metres. In his PhD thesis (Musicological Study of Guru Nanak Bani and Allotted Raags, Panjab University, 1988) Gurnam Singh notes: "The freedom and spontaneity of these styles have been restricted by the related musical system and thereby a specific form provided to them. These different folk styles of singing along with their tunes have been given a special and respectable place in Guru Nanak's bani."

It is difficult to discuss these styles and the specified raags in the medieval context because more than 500 years have elapsed since Guru Nanak's time and the raags have undergone continuous evolution during this period. The old forms of many folk tunes are also matters of conjecture now and several forms of folk poetry are no longer popular.

However, Raags Majh, Asa and Malhar frequently form the base of vaars and this has been so for centuries. Guru Nanak composed three vaars using these raags. In his Tunda Asraje di Vaar we can precisely compare the dhun, tune, of the vaar with a raag which the Guru has adapted elsewhere in his bani. This analysis reveals some fundamental similarities between the raags of Guru Nanak's bani and folk, poetic and musical form.

Tunda Asraje di Vaar is set to raag Asa, which is generally believed to have developed from the folk tune, Asa des. This popular tune has been passed down through the guru-shishya parampara and is preserved in an authentic form right up to the present by Punjab's rababis and dhadis. The recitation of Guru Nanak's vaar in raag Asa has remained in vogue in Gurmatt Sangeet from the very year of its composition; its pauris, verses, are sung in the traditional style and the raag also remains specific. As for the lyrics, Tunda Asraje recounts the valour of a maimed king (the actual historical figure might be Malik Murid or Chandrahara Sohia; both were Rajput warriors of the Akbar era).

Clearly, the tunes of the vaars in Guru Nanak's bani as well as of the popular folk-ballads adhere to the poetic form and their raags and tunes have a deep interrelationship. Because of the way it has come down intact through centuries, Tunda Asraje di Vaar can justifiably be described as one of the most valuable markers for the historian of Indian music.

Gurmatt Sangeet after Guru Nanak: 1469-1539
The Gurus who succeeded Nanak enhanced and enriched the musical legacy they inherited. History provides considerable details of their contributions.

Guru Angad Dev: 1504-1552
The second Guru (popularly known as Bhai Lehna, born in 1504 at Saraimatta in Punjab, Guru from 1538 until his death in1552, Khadurpur Sahib) became a follower of Guru Nanak as a young man and served him all his life. When he was quite an old man, Guru Nanak designated him as his spiritual heir.

Guru Angad used eight raags:
Asa Maru Sri.
Maajh Ramkali Suhi
Malhar Saurath

Guru Amardas: 1479-1574
The third Guru (born 1479 at Basarke in Punjab, Guru from 1552 until his death in 1574 at Goindwal Sahib) composed 907 shabads and used 17 of the 19 raags composed by Guru Nanak, namely:
Dhanasri Malhar
Gaudi Maru
Gujri Prabhati
Maajh Ramkali
sarang Vadhhans
Guru Ramdas: 1534-1581
The fourth Guru (born in 1534 at Lahore in Punjab, Guru from 1574 until his death in 1581) used 12 raags for his compositions. His use of raag Suhi is the most lively, in contrast to his very sombre raag Asa, which portrays his indifference to worldly matters. He contributed 679 shabads to the Guru Granth Sahib. The raags are:
Guru Arjan Dev: 1563-1606
The fifth Guru (born 1563 at Goindwal in Punjab, Guru from 1581 until his martyrdom in 1606 at Lahore) used the raags according to their time-character, that is:
Asa di vaar di chauki: 2:00a.m. to 6a.m.
Anand di chauki: 6:00a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Charan Kamal ki chauki: 10:00a.m. to 3:00p.m.
Sodaru ki chauki: 4:00a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Kalyan ki chauki: 7:00p.m. until 2:00 a.m.
The Guru instituted the practice of drawing musicians only from among the ranks of the Sikhs.

In 1604, 23 years after he ascended the throne of Nanak at the age of 18, Guru Arjan Dev began assembling the verses of the Gurus who preceded him and the composition of many other great mystical poets of the age irrespective of their religious faiths. The resulting anthology became the holy book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Arjan Dev was himself a remarkable poet and the author of 2,218 shabads utilising 12 raags, namely:
Guru Hargobind Rai: 1595-1644
The sixth Guru (born 1594, Guru from 1606 until his death in 1644) took over leadership of the Sikhs in 1606 and remained the spiritual head until 1645 when he named his grandson, Hari Rai, to succeed him. The vaars owe their popularity to the patronage of this warrior Guru.

Guru Hari Rai: 1630~1661
The seventh Guru (born 1630 at Kiratpur, Guru from 1644 until his death in 1661 at Kartarpur) is chiefly remembered for his recitation of Asa di vaar. He propagated the kirtan tradition by sending Bhai Meru to Doab and Bhai Gandha to Kabul

Guru Harikrishan: 1656~1664
The eighth Guru (born 1656, Guru from 1661 until his death in 1664 at Delhi) died when he was only eight years old and had little time to contribute to the development of musical traditions but he is credited with strengthening the ritual performance and practice of gurmatt kirtan.

Guru Teg Bahadur: 1621-1675
The ninth Guru (born 1621 at Guru ka Mahal, Guru from 1664 until his martyrdom 1675 at Delhi) left a legacy of 115 shabads and shalokas utilising 15 raags, namely:
Saurath Tilang

Guru Gobind Singh: 1666-1708
The tenth Guru (born 1666 at Patna in Bihar, Guru from 1675 until he was murdered in 1708 at Nanded in Maharashtra) was an accomplished poet in Persian, Hindi, Punjabi and Sanskrit and he attracted the finest poets and musicians of the age to his court. In particular, players of the rabab and taus found a ready welcome. His works are contained in the Dasam Granth; these include: Shabad Hazare, Chandi di vaar, Parasnath Avtar, Rudra Avtaar along with many kavits, sorathas, seveya, dohas, chaupais. He popularised the khayal form and used 19raags, namely:
Adana Dhanasri Khayal Saurath
Basant Gaudi Maru Suhi Blairan Kafi Paraj Tilang Bilawal Kalyan Ramkali Tilang kafi Devgandhari Kedar Sarang

Specific Folk Elements in Gurmatt Sangeet

Aahouniya: a funeral dirge used by Guru Nanak to point out the transient nature of the human existence. The composition is emotion-charged.

Aarti: the practice of moving a lamp with a number of burning wicks, or a platter with several small lamps in a circular motion in front of an idol or revered person. A song of praise may be sung as aarti is performed. Instruments used during the aarti are dholak, khartaal, ghungaroo,shankh, mridang, toorhi, etc. Aartis composed by Kabir, Sen, Pipa, Dhanna and Ravidas are included in the Adi Granth.

Anjali: offering water to gods and souls of the ancestors is called anjali. Two anjali compositions of Guru Arjun in Maru raag have been included in the Adi Granth.

Barah Mah: the words mean "12 months"; the composition is in 12 parts each named for a month. Guru Nanak composed his barah mah in Tukhari raag and Guru Arjun composed it in Majh raag.

Bavan Akhri: the words mean "52 letters". (The Devnagiri script contains 52 letters.) Kabir Das and Guru Arjun Dev have used this form of composition in raag Gowdi.

Birhade: this word means "separation". Guru Arjan Dev composed three chhand in Aasa raag with the stipulation that they be sung in the chhant style.

Chaubole: a form of composition in which four languages are used. In the Adi Granth there are 11 shaloks of Guru Arjun Dev under the heading of choubolae.

Chhant: a folk form heard during marriages extolling the beauty and desirability of the bride. In the Gurbani the chhant is composed in raags Asa, Gowdi, Badhans, Dhanasri, Tukhari, Bilawal, Suhi, Sri, etc.

Dukhre: a Sindhi word meaning dhol (large drum). Shaloks sung to the beat of the dhol are called dukhre. Guru Arjan Dev has used dukhre in Maru raag. Five other dukhre have been written in Sri raag.

Din-Raen: this term means the propitiation of God in happiness and in sorrow. One such composition is in Majh raag.

Ghoriyaan: a joyful song sung just before the bridegroom mounts his decorated horse (Ghori) and leaves for the house of his bride, Guru Ramdas has used the folk elements of the Ghoriyaan in raag Badhans.

Mangal: this word means "auspicious", a mangal song is sung on happy occasions. Guru Ram Das composed this form in Bilawal raag.

Karhale: a Sindhi word meaning "camel rider", this is a traveller's song. Guru Amardas has composed two shabads m the form of karhalee in raag Gowdi and Gowdi Poorvi.

Kafi: means a refrain; songs with on-line refrains are typical of Sufi worship. In the Adi Granth the kafi has been composed in raags Aasa, Tilang, Suhi and Maru.

Paehre: refers to the four divisions of the day and symbolises the four stages of a man's life. This form is associated with gypsies. Nanak Dev, Guru Ramdas and Guru Arjun have composed paehrae in Sri raag.

Path: bani based on varanmala of Gurmukhi is called patti.Guru Nanak and Guru Amar Das have used it in Asa raag.

Ruti: from the Sanskrit word ritu meaning "season". India has six seasons so ruti songs are in six parts, each reflecting a season. Guru Arjun Dev has used it in Ramkali raag.

Saddh: a song of lament. An example of this is the sikhya lamenting the separation of the disciple from his guru, composed by Baba Sunder at the demise of Guru Amardas.

Sohila: a song of rejoicing, often sung at the birth of a son, usually on the sixth or twelfth day. Sohila is also called mangal. Though sohila is a song of rejoicing, in Gurmatt sohila is recited at night, a prayer before sleeping and also during the ritual of the death sanskaar.

Tithi: from the Sanskrit word tithi meaning dates of the calendar. The 15 compositions of tithi mirror the 15 days from new moon to full moon, the stanzas are called chhand. Guru Nanak Dev composed tithis in raag Bilawal and Kabir composed them in raag Gowdi.

Vanjara: this word means "gypsy" and reflects the musical style of nomadic tribes that roamed India in medieval times. Guru Ram Das has composed it in Sri raag.

Vaar: the word means recitation of an episode, singing at the doorway, a call for help or singing in praise of someone. A vaar commemorates brave deeds and lives of heroes. The Gurus composed 21 vaars in various raags. The 22nd vaar was composed by Satta Balwanda singers in the court of Arjan Dev. The characteristic of the 9 vaars in the Guru Granth Sahib is that they have been given along with the instruction of how they are to be sung on the basis of popular folk compositions. Vaars are sung on the dhadi format. There are nine vaars in the Guru Granth Sahib, namely:
Vaar Majh: Tune of Malak Mureed and Chandrahada Sohiya
Vaar Asa: Tune of Tunde Asraje
Vaar Gowdi: Tune of Rai Kamaal di Mojdi di vaar.
Vaar Gujri: Tune of Sikander Birahim ki vaar
Vaar Badhans: Tune of Lalla Bahalima
Vaar Ramkali: Tune of Yodhe Veere Purbani
Vaar Sarang: Tune of Rai Mahme Hasane
Vaar Mallaar: Tune of Rane Kailash Tatha Malde
Vaar Kannada: Tune of Moose ki vaar.

(All the above extracts are with courtesy of Alka Pande from her book 'Folk Music and Musical Instruments of Punjab')


























A different variation of Rabab




Saraswati Veena

Saraswati Veena (upper part)










Tar Shehnai




"Gurmat Sangeet" - definition:

Gurmat Sangeet is the music, which is laid out in the Guru Granth Sahib according to the various ragas and taals. The Gurus accorded so much emphasis on the Raga that they placed the 'name of the raga' even before 'Ek Onkar', e.g. Raag Assa Mahala 1. Ekonkar Satgur Prasad……..

The whole purpose of this was to facilitate and prompt the Sikh Ragis to sing in that very Raag and taal as specified by the respective Guru for that respective shabad. This rule is rarely adopted by the modern Ragis, who have adopted their own ways of singing Gurbani in their own pop tunes. This is a highly violation of the Guru's Word. If the Gurus had wanted the Gurbani to be sung in any other way, then they would not have given the Shabads their actual Raag and Ghar (taal). There are only a handful of ragis that adhere to this rule. The rest do as they please and violate the actual purpose of the great Gurbani. I implore the Sangat not to encourage such ragis. (Kanwal)

Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji contains more than six thousand shabads but Ragi-Singh's do not sing all the SHABADS which are written in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
We have elaborated all the shabads which Ragi-Singh's do not recite in this
Article which is in Punjabi & in PDF form.