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The Origin of Kirtan/Bhajan Singing - 

A Mythological Story

The singing of Bhajans and the chanting of Mantras and Stotras is one of the oldest forms of worshipping God and, for many people, one of the easiest and nicest ways to get close to Him and to awaken His joy and love in their own hearts.

In the ancient Hindu scriptures, the singing of the Lord´s many names is described as one of nine ways to express or experience love for the Divine and it is called Kirtana Bhakti (devotion through singing of God´s names). Through the singing of the Lord´s names, one can experience complete stillness of the mind or, at least, the interruption of one´s day-to-day thoughts and worries.

But why has singing such positive effects on us? It is said that, before language was developed, music existed in the universe. Hindus believe in the all-pervading, omnipresent sound “OM”, the sound of creation and manifestation, through which everything came into existence and which is present in every little cell, every atom, ion… Hindu mythology says, that it was Lord Shiva who developed music and dance and gave it to His wife and all the gods and demigods in heaven. All the heavenly inhabitants rejoiced and drank the beauty of singing the highest Lord´s glory and dancing for Him. Once, Narada, the messenger of Lord Vishnu, travelled down to earth to see, what mankind was doing and how everything went down there. He was deeply worried when he found out, that human beings did not seem to enjoy their days like the heavenly inhabitants did- rather, they seemed to spend their lifes in darkness, fear, and hopelessness.

The worried Naradmuni sought help from His father, Brahmaji. He told him: “Venerated father, I fear, mankind has lost their way- it seems, the Holy Scriptures are of no use to them- to do penance, austerities and pujas as prescribed in the Vedas, seems too difficult. Please, have mercy and save them!”

Brahmaji meditated for a very long time and after He had completed His meditation, He spoke thus to Naradmuni: “Narada, the only way to safe humankind and to guide them back to their Creator is, to pass onto them the art of music and dance. I will call this the fifth Veda and it will be the easiest of the Vedas, as it is meant for everybody. Everybody, regardless of sex, origin, caste or age, can participate in the singing of the Lord´s names and thus be guided back to Him.”

This mythological story shows us, what integral part music plays in our lives and, especially, the worship of the Divine. Everybody who partakes in the singing (even if it is only the clapping of your hands)   will feel it’s positive and joy-bringing effects: it makes us inwardly calm and peaceful, as it stops the stream of our thoughts; it fills us with joy, as we feel, in singing with others, that we are part of something, co-creator of an atmosphere full of peace, happiness and oneness; it gives us a more positive attitude, as our mind gets filled with His names and attributes, whereas the thoughts which are not supportive for our self, get gradually erased- it is like with a glass of water, which, once filled up, cannot be filled up with more water.

Singing also has numerous physical benefits, and we should at least look at some of them: Singing supports a natural breathing from your belly (and not only from your chest), thus it decreases heart-bead and blood pressure, de-toxifies and re-juvenates the body, as more oxygen can come in. Another effect of this is the increased production of “good” hormons, which make you feel happy, calm, peace- and powerful. On the other hand, it decreases the production of so-called stress-or aggression-hormons. 

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