December 29, 2021

Sikh Music Recital Tradition

A traditional Sikh Music performance or recital in Sikh Gurbani music has four stages:  

  1. SHAAN
  4. SHABAD (from RAHAO)

First of all, a “recital” is a musical (vocal or instrumental) performance. It can highlight a single performer, sometimes accompanied by a musical instrument, or a performance of the works of a single composer. A Sikh Music recital is a performance by an individual or a group following the four stages mentioned above, in the order specified. Further brief descriptions of these stages are below:

1. Shaan

This is the instrumental opening or the introduction at the start of the recital. It is played in the same raag as the raag of the first shabad to be recited. This opening therefore not only introduces the raag but also sets the scene or the mood for the performance to follow. This phase of the recital usually lasts for three or four minutes.

2. Manglacharan

Manglacharan in Gurbani appears at the beginning of every Bani. There are different types of Manglacharan. Manglacharans are written in reverence of the Creator. Many Ragis sing Manglacharan before starting Kirtan, but it must be remembered that Manglacharans are always read, sung or written at the beginning and never at the end. Manglacharan has two meanings:

  1. Manglachaar – a customary praise
  2. Praise of the Creator Lord that appears at beginning of the text\

Manglacharan can be preceded by “Sat(e) Naam(u) Vaheguroo”, with Manglacharan then recited starting from “Ek OnKar” and ending with “Gurprsaad”. This is a neutral Manglacharan which can be used at the beginning of any Gurmat Sangeet recital; however when a Manglacharan is present in the shabad title then we must use the assigned one.

A new trend has evolved where the singing of “Dandhot” has taken the position of the Manglacharan. The shabad “Dhandot bandan anik baar”, which we now commonly hear sung by many Ragis, is a Salok written in Raag Gauri in the chapter of ‘Baavan Akhree’ by Guru Arjan. It is not permitted to use this Salok as we please and sing it in different raags: it should be sung as part of ‘Baavan Akhree’ in its assigned Raag of Gauri.

3. Shabad title

During this stage the performer will introduce the Shabad to be performed, making specific reference to the following:

  1. The Raag – the name of the raag in which the shabad is composed
  2. Mhalla – i.e. making reference to the Sikh Guru who wrote and composed the shabad
  3. Highlighting any particular musical based instructions e.g. Partaal etc.
  4. Ghar – refers to tone, not rhythm, and is a specific and detailed assignment of an emotional signature which has an overall impact on the meaning of the shabad

4. Shabad

“Shabad”, according to the book Guru Granth Sahib – An Introduction Study, is a divine song. A Shabad in Guru Granth Sahib may consist of 1, 2-6, 8 or 16 sections, paras or parts called padas. A pada may consist of 1-5 verses or lines called “tukas”.

These padas may be formed as follows:

  1. Ek - tuka (one line) pada
  2. Do - tuka (two line) pada
  3. Ti - tuka (three line) pada
  4. Chau - tuka (four line) pada

A line may consist of a short tuk or a long tuk with a break or pause indicated by “II”. Considering now “rahao” (or pause): this is the equivalent of a chorus, as well as the main point of contemplation – this is where the Shabad is started from. In Siri Guru Granth Sahib, this is a special word denoting a verse that has been used in almost all shabads composed in musical measure. The rahao can be called the theme verse in the composition. Unlike padas or stanzas which are numbered or counted, rahao verses are not numbered in a Shabad composition. It must be noted that the word “rahao” is pronounced when reading aloud the words in the verses, but when singing the Shabad, the word “rahao” is not sung during the Shabad recital.


Neither the singer nor the singing style nor the instruments should dominate in a Sikh Music recital, as the focus, priority and dominance belong to the Shabad. The singing of sargam taans and extensive alaaps showing the vocal ability of the singer are not part of Sikh Music. “Bolh alaaps” where a tuk of the Shabad is sung as an alaap within the Shabad is permitted. However, the singing of “parmaans” (tuks from other shabads) is also not permitted.

The overall objective when singing Sikh Music is to keep the focus during the entire performance on the Shabad, where the Shabad can be understood and experienced without the need of translation. This is known as “Shabad Pardhaan”: this is the ultimate responsibility of any raagi, and means following the instructions set out clearly in the title, including singing the allocated Shabad in the specified raag, as well as applying any other instructions such as Ghar, Partaal, Vaar etc.

December 29, 2021

Raags of Sri Guru Granth Sahib

The 60 raags (musical moods) of Siri Guru Granth Sahib in order of appearance:

  1. Asa
  2. Goojri
  3. Gauri Deepakee
  4. Dhanasri
  5. Gauri Purbi
  6. Siri
  7. Majh
  8. Gauri Guarairee
  9. Gauri
  10. Gauri Dakhani
  11. Gauri Chaitee
  12. Gauri Bairagan
  13. Gauri Purbi Deepakee
  14. Gauri Majh
  15. Gauri Malva
  16. Gauri Mala
  17. Gauri Sorath
  18. Asa Kafi
  19. Asavari
  20. Asa Asavari
  1. Devgandhari
  2. Bihagra
  3. Vadhans
  4. Vadhans Dakhani
  5. Sorath
  6. Jaitsri
  7. Todi
  8. Bairarri
  9. Tilang
  10. Tilang Kafi
  11. Suhee
  12. Suhee Kafi
  13. Suhee Lalit
  14. Bilaval
  15. Bilaval Dakhani
  16. Gound
  17. Bilaval Gound
  18. Ramkali
  19. Ramkali Dakhani
  20. Nut Narayan
  1. Nut
  2. Mali Gaura
  3. Maroo
  4. Maroo Kafi
  5. Maroo Dakhani
  6. Tukhari
  7. Kedara
  8. Bhairow
  9. Basant
  10. Basant Hindol
  11. Sarang
  12. Malhar
  13. Kanra
  14. Kaliyaan
  15. Kaliyaan Bhopali
  16. Parbhati Bibhas
  17. Parbhati
  18. Parbhati Dakhani
  19. Bibhas Parbhati
  20. Jaijavanti

Mishrat Raag

This is when two separate raags are combined to create a new raag. For example, Raag Gauri has 12 variations: one is the original form of Raag Gauri, and the further 11 all contain the main identity and characteristics of Gauri as their foundation and are then influenced by a secondary raag.

Raag & Raagini

Within the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, no Shabad has the definition 'Raagini' in the title. All shabads clearly state 'Raag' (raga), and consequently, there are not 31 raags and 28 raaginis in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as is sometimes claimed, but 60 raags of equal and independent status.

December 28, 2021

Authors of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

The Source

Sri Guru Granth Sahib has the unique distinction of having been compiled by the Sikh Gurus themselves. As such it is a flawless representation of the Gurus’ thought, offering wisdom for the betterment of humankind. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is also known as Shabad Guru or the Living Guru (or Master).

The teachings deliver a universal, indiscriminate message. Musical moods (raags/ragas) are prescribed within the text to carry the diverse communications of love, faith, truth and justice.

At Raj Academy, our trainings follow the prescribed wisdom and framework from Sri Guru Granth Sahib and allow our learners to build their own spiritual connection to this universal wisdom as they desire.


Some insights on the spiritual wisdom that our trainings and framework is based on:

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a collection of 1,430 ang (a respectful term for pages), containing 3,384 poetic compositions (shabads/sabds). Its verse forms include swayas, saloks and vaars (ballads).

The shabads are composed in 60 raags (moods) by 43 authors. Sikh Gurus created 32 of the 60 raags: 31 raags were created by Guru Arjan (the fifth Sikh Master) and the 32nd, Raag Jaijavantee, was created by Guru Tegh Bahadur (the ninth Sikh Master). The remaining 28 raags already existed in Indian classical music and were carefully selected and allocated by the Gurus.

In 1604 Guru Arjan compiled the first draft of the scripture, known as Adi Granth (literally, “first book”). He installed it in Harmandir Sahib, today’s Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab. Adi Granth remained with the Gurus until the imposter Dhir Mal took it, hoping that by possessing the Granth he could succeed as Guru.

The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, dictated the entire scripture of Adi Granth to his scribes from memory, adding his father's hymns and one of his own compositions. Upon his death, he appointed the sacred scripture Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Living Guru of the Sikhs.

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Sri Guru Granth Sahib is an anthology not only of the sacred compositions of the Sikh Gurus, but also of some medieval Indian Bhagats (saints) and Bhatts (bards).

The inclusion of compositions by poets of different faiths, without distinguishing between them by label, adds to the uniqueness of the scripture. The authors come from a variety of class and creedal backgrounds, from Muslim to Hindu and from upper caste to low caste. The lack of discrimination is born of the progressive thought of the Sikh Masters.

The vocabulary of Guru Granth Sahib draws considerably from religion, philosophy, mysticism, mythology and law, as well as more common concerns of life. It includes the Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, Punjabi and Braj languages.

The authors of Guru Granth Sahib include:

  • Four Sikhs
  • Seven Sikh Gurus
  • Fifteen Bhagats
  • Seventeen Bhatts

Sikh Bard Authors

Descended from minstrel families, Sikh bards associated closely with the Gurus.

  1. Mardana - 3 saloks: Mardana, a minstrel from a Muslim family, played the Rabab and accompanied Guru Nanak on his travels.
  2. Satai - 1 vaar (ballad): Satai played the rebeck in the court of Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, and Guru Arjan.
  3. Balwand - 1 vaar (ballad): Balwand played drums in the court of Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, and Guru Arjan.
  4. Baba Sunder - 1 shabad: Baba Sunder, the great grandson of Guru Amar Das, composed a hymn titled ‘Sadd’ at the request of Guru Arjan following the death of his father, Guru Ram Das.

Sikh Guru Authors

  1. First Guru Nanak - 974 shabads and saloks
  2. Second Guru Angad - 62 saloks
  3. Third Guru Amar Das - 907 shabads and saloks
  4. Fourth Guru Ram Das - 679 shabads and saloks
  5. Fifth Guru Arjan - 2,218 shabads and saloks
  6. Ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur - 59 shabads and 56 saloks
  7. Tenth Guru Gobind Singh - 1 salok

Bhagat Authors

  1. Bhagat Beni - 3 shabads
  2. Bhagat Bhikan - 2 shabads
  3. Bhagat Dhanna - 4 shabads
  4. Bhagat Farid - 4 shabads and 130 saloks
  5. Bhagat Jaidev - 2 shabads
  6. Bhagat Kabir - 292 shabads
  7. Bhagat Namdev - 60 shabads
  8. Bhagat Parmanand - 1 shabad
  9. Bhagat Pipa - 1 shabad
  10. Bhagat Ramanand - 1 shabad
  11. Bhagat Ravi Das - 41 shabads
  12. Bhagat Sadhna - 1 shabad
  13. Bhagat Sain - 1 shabad
  14. Bhagat Surdas - 1 shabad
  15. Bhagat Trilochan - 4 shabads

Bhatt Authors

  1. Bal - 5 swayas
  2. Bhal - 1 swaya
  3. Bhikha - 2 swayas
  4. Das - 1 swaya
  5. Gyand - 5 swayas
  6. Harbans - 2 swayas
  7. Jal* - 1 swaya
  8. Jalan - 2 swayas
  9. Jalap* - 4 swayas
  10. Kal* - 49 swayas
  11. Kalshar* - 4 swayas
  12. Kirat - 8 swayas
  13. Mathura - 10 swayas
  14. Nal - 6 swayas
  15. Sal - 3 swayas
  16. Sewak - 7 swayas
  17. Tal - 1 swaya

*Because of similar names and obscure records, various historians believe there were as few as 11 or as many as 19 Bhatts who contributed to compositions included in Guru Granth Sahib.

The Sections

The structure of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib can be divided into three sections: pre-raag section, raag section, and post-raag section.

The Pre-Raag (RAGA) Section (ang 1-13)

Pride of place is given to the sacred poetry of ‘Jap’ (ang 1-8), commonly known as ‘Japji’, a composition by Guru Nanak. It commences with philosophically dense ideas in Mool Mantra (ang 1), considered the basis of Sikh theology. ‘Jap’ comprises 38 pauris (stanzas), and the salok as the final verse.

After the ‘Jap’, the hymn of the evening prayer now referred to as ‘Rahiras’ (ang 8-12) is scripted in two parts: ‘So Dar’, comprising 5 shabads, followed by ‘So Purakh’, comprising 4 shabads. After this we come to the bedtime lullaby of ‘Kirtan Sohila’ (ang 12-13), which consists of 5 shabads.

The Pre-Raag (RAGA) Section (ang 14-1353)

The raag section is ordered principally according to raag: grouping together all the compositions in a particular raag and progressing through the 60. This gives the structural formation of Guru Granth Sahib a strong aesthetic value.

A raag creates a distinct mood in music by invoking specific feelings with its patterns of notes and tones of expression. Engaging the listener emotionally in this way increases the delivery power of a shabad. The raag not only complements but also elevates the overall message.

To understand the context and true meaning of each shabad, it is of supreme importance to acknowledge and apply the emotions of the specified raag. The raag enables us to capture the mood in which we are to receive the words. Without applying the raag, the shabad could be manipulated to produce various meanings, which would be unjust to its original purpose.

Among all ragas, that one is sublime, O Siblings of Destiny, by which God comes to abide in the mind.

Guru Ram Das on page 1423 of Guru Granth Sahib

Only a shabad’s prescribed raag creates the correct atmosphere for its content.

Within each raag segment the poetic material is organised first by meter: shabads, such as chaupadas (quatrains) and astpadis (octets), followed by chhants (six-line lyrics), then vaars (long narrative ballads consisting of pauris (stanzas) and saloks (a freer verse form)) and finally poems by Bhagats.

Within each meter, the compositions are further ordered by author. First the Gurus’ compositions are arranged in order of their succession of Guruship and with the term Mahalla/Mhala. Then the works of the Bhagats are set out, with Kabir given the principal place. The names of the Bhagats and saints are given with their compositions.

Within each author’s content, the final ordering is based on any 'ghar' that may be allocated to a shabad. Where the title of a shabad includes a numbered ‘ghar’, it is an instruction that a specific emotional tone (shruti) should be applied over the whole composition like a colour-filter. There are 17 ghars; they appear in numerical order from Ghar 1 to Ghar 17.

The Pre-Raag (RAGA) Section (ang 1353-1430)

The post-raag section contains saloks, swayas and other compositions. At the close (ang 1429) is ‘Mundavani’ (seal) to mark the end of the poetry of Siri Guru Granth Sahib so that no spurious compositions can be added thereafter. It is followed by a salok of Guru Arjan to give thanks for the successful completion of the great task by divine grace. At the end of the post-raag section is the ‘Raagmala’ (Ragamala) (ang 1429-1430).

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