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Golden Temple asked to remove harmoniums from Kirtans; Read on

Kirtans or Gurbani chanting is very important in Sikhism and has a lot of spiritual and cultural importance. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) was recently asked by Giani Harpreet Singh, the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, one of the five clergy or seats of power (popularly known as the Golden Temple) in the Sikh religion, to remove harmonium from Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) because it does not resonate with real Sikh traditions and was introduced by the British.

The Takht administration has granted the Kirtan committee three years to remove harmoniums from the committee and has encouraged the use of traditional string instruments for Kirtans and Gurbanis chanting within the Gurudwara.

While requests to remove Harmonium from the Kirtan were met with both support and opposition, here is all you need to know about the Golden Temple Harmonium debate.

The answer can be found in the resurgence of traditional customs. According to reports, a number of Gurmat Sangeet professors have backed this decision, claiming that the harmonium was introduced by the British. The harmonium, according to the community, was introduced by the British and has no relation to authentic Indian music.

Before the British arrived, each Gurdwara had its own property, with a portion of it going to Rabbis and Sikh Kirtanis. After the British arrived, this system of sustaining Ragi and Rabi failed.

Bhai Balwant Singh Namdhari, who specializes in Gurmat music and string instruments said, ‘The harmonium was an invasion of the British. But then it made inroads. We had met the Jathedar of Akal Takht and demanded revival of string instruments. It is good that they are taking steps in this direction’.

As per the report, at least 15 ragi jathas or groups of bhajan singers, are deployed to Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) every day to perform for 20 hours, mostly in one of 31 ragas, which are chosen based on the time of day and season.

Only five of these ensembles, according to SGPC authorities, have the competence and skill to play without harmonium, as has been done for years. Most vocalists are unfamiliar with stringed instruments such as the rabab and the Saranda. The majority of the more than 20 departments of Gurmat Sangeet in SGPC institutions have just begun instruction in string instruments.


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