What is Kirtan?

Kirtan is a call-and-response style song or chant where multiple singers express loving devotion to a deity. It may include dancing or direct expression of bhavas (emotive states) by the singer. Kirtan is sometimes accompanied by story-telling and acting. Texts typically cover religious, mythological or social subjects. An evening of kīrtana may last for several hours, often bringing about in the participants a state of religious exaltation.

What Popularized Kirtans?

Kirtans are a type of devotional music that originated in India. Hinduism is the main religion practiced in India, and kirtans are often sung as part of religious ceremonies and festivals. Over time, kirtans have become popular among people of all faiths, both in India and around the world.

There are many different theories about what popularized kirtans. One theory is that the popularity of kirtans began to rise in the 16th century when a new style of devotional music called bhajans became popular in India. Bhajans are similar to kirtans, but they typically feature shorter, simpler melodies and lyrics that focus on specific religious themes. Many of the most famous kirtan singers and composers, such as Mirabai and Kabir, were also known for their bhajans.

Another theory is that the popularity of kirtans was boosted by the spread of the Hare Krishna movement in the 1960s and 1970s. The Hare Krishna movement is a Hindu religious sect that encourages its followers to chant the names of God, or Krishna, as a means of spiritual devotion. The Hare Krishna movement popularized a specific type of kirtan known as the Maha Mantra, which is still chanted by devotees today.

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