Significance of Puratan Reets!

February 14, 2006

Gur Fateh!Its been quite a while since I have been listening to kirtan done by ragis like Dharam Singh Zakhmi Ji, Bhai Autar Singh, Bhai Balbir Singh Ji. Most of the recordings are live and in the recordings,at times the kirtaneeias mention that they are singing a purtatan reet i.e doing kirtan as it was done in the past. Some of these reets date back to the times of Guru Ram Das Ji.

While listening I wondered what is the significance of purtatan reets. Must kirtan be done only according to purtantan reets? I was grappling with the issue for a while. I asked myself as to what the significance would be. In addition I spoke to Amardeep Ji and Prof. Surinder Singh Ji.

Before I go on to talk of to the Significance of the Puratan Reets, I would like to mention that our gurus instructed us to sing in title raag and in this article where ever I talk about experimentation it is within the Nirdharit Raag.

I realized that puritan reets were just the way kirtan was done in the past and that is part of our heritage. So we have an obligation to preserve as much of it as we can. Now when I talk about preserving our heritage, does it mean we have no room to experiment and come up with our own compositions? NO. The guru sahibs gave us the title raag, they did not mention that we should in dhrupad or khyal etc. So its perfectly ok to make a composition in the title raag.

However, this does not mean we chuck the puratan reets away. The reason for this I believe is that we have already lost a lot of our heritage. For instance, the community is divided over what does GHAR stand for in the Guru Granth Sahib JI( Click here to read more about ghar). Thus we ought to maintain and revive our heritage. Another example would be that we have lost the traditions of sining the 22 vaars in the Shri Guru Granth Sahib. Now the only two vaars that are sung are Assa Di War and Basant Ki Vaar. Even with Assa Di Waar we dont know what Tunde Aas raje Ki Dhune is. It is mentioned in the title so its a commmand to recite the vaar in the dhunie but its lost. Thus me must work to revove our heritage else 50 to 100 yrs down the road people may even start to forget some raags like Maajh that are only present in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The next question I asked myself was that why did these reets get lost? What made them unpopular? The puratan reets are generally set to a slow pace and that is what makes them unpopular. To sing at a slow pace the singer needs to be well trained and must have adequate control over his/her voice. In addition when one sings slow, the sangat also have to tune themselves in. They have to focus and pay attention. They have to make an effort too.

Now why is it that puratan reets were set to a slow pace. When one sings slow, he/she takes his time to say each word out clearly so that the listeners can also catch the words and try to contemplate on the meaning. The nirdharit raag aids in the understanding of the underlying message in the shabads. On the otherhand when kirtan is set to a fast pace. The singer, does not have the luxury of saying each word our clearly. As a result of which the sangat is unable to under the words. Numerous times I have wondered. Is it “Aisee Hoye Pare” or Kaysi hoye pare”, is it “Kaysee Aaarte Hove or Aisee Artee Hove”… The message gets lost and I believe that kirtan loses it purpose then.

At times people when people come out a darbar saying, “the kirtan was very happening!” they are generally referring to the beat and tune not the meaning of the shabad. Remember we can experiment with the beat and the pace but the Shabad has to be the pardhan not the music.

So does this mean kirtan should not be done at a fast pace. We have close to 5500 shabds in the Guru Granth Sahib. In addition we also have the Dasam Granth, Bhai Gurdas Ji’s Vaars and Bhai Nandlal Ji’s bani. There are some shabads which out to envoke battle spirit( bir raas) are to be sung fast. Now if we sing Deh Siva Bar Mohe Hain to a slow pace its not going to invoke Bir Raas. However, if we sing the shabad to a slow pace we will be better able to understand the meaning in the shabads. So depending on what we are trying to achive at that point will determine how the kirtan should be done with regards to the pace/tempo.

Now one may argue that we have the translations so on the projectors (at least here in Singapore we do) so singing fast it ok. All I’d say is that it is one thing to read an interpretation and a totally different thing to realize it for yourself.

Coming back to should we always stick to Puratan reets, what is the significance of these reets. I firmly believe that its perfectly ok to come up with our own compositions, In addition I believe that the puratan reets are a major part of our heritage and if we don’t work to preseve it, who will? When coming with our own composition we much try not to sing too fast, remember we need to drive home the message not the beat and the tune..

So I humbly request you to sit and try to focus the next time a kirtaneea is making an effort to sing slow. Make the effort and you will see the result of that in no time…remember..god takes care of everything but you are the one who has to take the first step.

Bhot Janam Bichrey They Mahdo rendered by Bhai Amrik Singh Zakhmi is a very good example of what I am trying to explain.

To listen to some kirtan done by some of the kiranteeas of today in Nirdhart Raags and at a slow pace:

Bhai Kawarpal Singh

Bhai Gupal Singh

Bhai Rai Singh

Please feel free to share you views.

Amardeep Ji if there is anything that I have mentioned is not correct please correct me or if there is anything you would like to add please do.

Guru Ang Sang Hove!

Angad Singh



5 Responses to “Significance of Puratan Reets!”

  1. I have never checked out this blog before. Very interesting topics! I would like to verify that there is a big difference between actually interpreting the Gurbani for yourself and just reading the translation.
    Chardi kala

  2. jatlee Says:

    what an excellent article! i agree to this with my soul! truely this is the truth! Its true the sangat has to make an effor too we just have to break those barriers and not be afraid to actually listen! because we are all one! what an amazing inspiring article!

  3. Puneet Kaur Says:

    Gurfateh Veera

    Once again you surprize me & leave me speechless with your post!I agree we need to take home the message in the Bani and not the tune and we need to incorporate the meaning of the Bani in our daily lives. I guess ragis sing at a fast pace when they realize that the sangat will only sit for a few minutes else they’d love to sing slowly while enjoying themselves too!
    Keep posting & i hope to learn more n more.

    Guru Rakha

  4. Sikhi Seeker Says:

    Wonderful article Angad! I don’t understand the raags that much, but i agree from what I’ve learned off your debate. It is indeed important to use those puratan reets. I can only imagine how much more blissful the experience it must be of using these tunes. But there is a probably risk as mentioned I think my Puneet KAur ji, the audience today vaires significantly and people like my sister and a few friends, can’t concentrate on slower music….they need some pace in the music to sustain their concentration in the Kirtan. I guess it is only fair to come up with a balance in the using of the old nad new reets.

  5. Angad Singh Says:

    Gur Fateh!

    Thanks for all your comments

    Yes we ought to strike a balance and the effort gotta come from both takes 2 to clap =)

    Phenji SS you might want to read some of the articles i have posted under highlights in the side bar

    Guru Ang Sang
    Angad Singh

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