As more and more people give up boozing and clubbing for cold-pressed juices and yoga, there is a growing need for healthy pastimes that provide a high without a hangover. If you like music and are looking for a soulful way to connect with others on a Saturday night, a kirtan gathering could be just the answer.
Kirtan comes from the bhakti yoga tradition, often defined as the yoga of devotion. Although born in India, the kirtan scene is spreading throughout the west, from concert halls, to yoga studios and holistic festivals, from Los Angeles to London. So, what is a kirtan gathering really like? Well, imagine a campfire sing-along with a group of friendly people, but forget the campfire and add an assortment of traditional Indian instruments. Sometimes the group sits in a circle, and sometimes it is more concert style with the leader or wallah up on a stage with other musicians and the audience on the floor down below. The wallah sings the mantra or chant and the ‘audience’ sings it back. A single chant can last up to 40 minutes, and during that time, voices can get softer or louder, faster or slower, and the crowd may get up and move freely around the space; it really depends on the collective energy of the group and the how the leader leads it. As the energy grows, there is this moment where everyone gets completely lost in the chant and no longer cares about how loudly they are singing, how bizarrely they are dancing or if they are slaying the Sanskrit mantra they’re repeating. Their hearts are open and their spirits are soaring. It might sound corny, but it is a truly liberating feeling … and completely drug free!
The word kirtan actually means ‘telling’ or ‘narrating’, and dates back to the ancient Vedic word anukirtana, or a ‘retelling’. These sung chants were originally used to retell the ancient vedic hymns before things were actually written down. Most often, Kirtan is sung in Sanskrit, the ancient, sacred language of India, which is looked upon as the language of the divine. It is also vibrational and mathematical, so when sung aloud, each syllable or word hits the air and creates a vibration which deeply touches each person who takes part in the experience, whether you are just listening to kirtan music or singing your heart out along with it!
Not only is this powwow a great way to quench your thirst for community because you are breathing, singing and dancing as one, but it is also a deeply meditative experience. And when the music stops, the silence is heavenly and your mind is at peace.
To get a taste of this music, check out Deva Primal, Krishna Das, Prema Hara, Bhagavad Das or Snatam Kaur. If you want to experience Kirtan live, try Triyoga, kirtanlondon.com for London, Bhakti Yoga Shala in LA, or kirtansoulrevival.com for New York.
This article was written for Warrior Addict by the amazing Alicia Anka