New Delhi: In Sikhism, Kirtans or the Gurbani chanting plays a vital role and holds great spiritual and traditional value. Recently, Giani Harpreet Singh the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, one of the five seats of power (popularly known as the Golden Temple) in the Sikh religion, asked the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to remove harmonium from Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) as it doesn’t resonate with the real Sikh traditions and was introduced by the British. The Takht administration has given three years deadline to remove harmoniums from the Kirtan committee and urged the usage of traditional string instruments for the chanting of Kirtans and Gurbanis inside the Gurudwara.
While the calls to remove Harmonium from the Kirtan received both supportive and opposing views within the community, here’s all you need to know about the Golden Temple Harmonium controversy
Why does Akal Takht want to drop Harmonium from kirtans?
The answer lies in the revival of old traditions. According to the Indian Express, a group of scholars in Gurmat Sangeet have supported this move, saying that the harmonium was introduced by the British. The community believes that the harmonium was introduced by the Britsh and has no parallel with real Indian music.
The believers opine that the first-ever Kirtan singer in Sikhism was Guru Nanak Dev Ji and at the time harmonium was not a part of Indian or traditional Sikh music. It was introduced only after the British came to India and imposed on the cultural music as a part of their intervention in hundreds of Sikh traditions.
Before the arrival of the British, each Gurdwara had a property and a part of it went to Rabbis and Sikh Kirtanis. This system of supporting Ragi and Rabi collapsed after the arrival of the British.
Who is opposing the removal of the harmonium?
While a group of Gurmat Sangeet scholars are supporting the move to phase out harmonium from the Kirtan groups, there are some scholars who beleive that the world cannot go back in time and harmonium has now been inculcated and become an integral part of Hindustani music.
“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,” Bhai Balwant Singh Namdhari, who specializes in Gurmat music and string instruments told Indian Express.
Is it feasible to remove Harmonium from Kirtans?
According to an Indian Express report, every day at least 15 ragi jathas or groups of bhajan singers are deployed at Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) to perform for 20 hours mainly in one of 31 ragas, selected depending on the time of day and the season.
According to SGPC officials, only five of these groups have the expertise and skill to perform without harmonium as it has been in practice for years. Most singers do not have the practice of using stringed instruments like rabab and Saranda. Most of the more than 20 departments of Gurmat Sangeet in colleges run by SGPC have recently started training in string instruments, reported Indian Express