Kirtan standards Committee progress report

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By Janananda Gosvami

Kirtana is our first duty. Letter to: Palika, 13 November, 1975

The Kirtan Standards Committee met in Vrndavana on the 12th November to discuss “Kirtan standards”.

We have a considerable amount of data (from different sources, primarily found in the Bhaktivedanta Vedabase) re kirtan and standards and will now be analyzing it specifically in different categories. We have enlisted some younger devotees outside of our committee to undertake this service. When this is completed we will definitely open up more to the general body of devotees for further discussion, feedback, clarification etc.

A website has been established to store all info, letters, etc. and to enable us to easily refer to the subjects.

We intend to produce a guidebook but only after sufficient research and discussion on many levels.

Our data will be seen in the light of the following:
1. Standards that are clearly to be followed having been established by Srila Prabhupada. e. g. - the tune to be sung at mangal arati. That the chanting of the maha mantra comprise the majority of any kirtan.
2. Those guidelines which are most preferable to Srila Prabhupada.
3. The many areas where there may not be any specific instruction from Srila Prabhupada in our evidences but are recommended standards in ISKCON. General points regarding Kirtan.

We are dealing not only with Kirtan and the appropriate songs and tunes, but also bhajans, instruments, dance, etiquette, mood, dress, amplification, related paraphernalia etc.

Our intention is to preserve the will and mood of Srila Prabhupada at the same time not to dampen the enthusiasm of the devotees for the performance of kirtan.

Remembering the goal of kirtan is to please the Lord and not just to enjoy musical sounds or let off steam etc. A good question is “Would we do it in front of Srila Prabhupada?”

We have also begun the process of interviewing notable kirtan leaders for their impressions and remembrances of Srila Prabhupada’s guidance re kirtan.

For those who don’t know the committee consists of the following: HH Lokanatha Swami, HH Bhakti Vikash Swami, HH Janananda Swami, HG Hari Sauri prabhu, HG Jagajeevan prabhu and HG Aniruddha prabhu.

Your servant on behalf of the Kirtan Standards Committee. Janananda Gosvami

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1 Unregistered

Dear Janananda Gosvami,

Thank you for this progress report. I’ve been thinking on this
subject myself for some time now. I was recently in London,
on Oxford street and I saw the Harinama party. Before seeing
the devotees I heard the sweet sound of Kirtana but was quite
shocked to see how the party looked. It seemed that it was
a fancy dress show or some halloween contest. Of course the
kirtana is most important but surely the presentation should
be nice. Dress should be neat and clean and there should be
modest behavior…dancing is fine but it should not be wild or crazy.

Another point is kirtana in the temple. I am not opposed
to other instruments being played on Harinama but inside
the temple, the trumpet playing jazz, is very, very disturbing.
It doesn’t enhance the mood of devotion at all, rather it destroys
the atmosphere. I’ve talked to a number of senior devotees and they
agree. They just walk out of the kirtana when such antics are
going on. Anyhow I hope this committee can help things move
in a positive direction. Thank you. Hare Krishna.

Comment posted by Devapriya on November 25th, 2007
2 Locanananda dasa

Here’s a nice quote from Srila Prabhupada concerning the use of other instruments in temple kirtana:

“Regarding instruments for temple kirtanas, karatala and mrdanga are sufficient. There is no need of other instruments.” (Letter to Rupanuga dated 2-2-75)

Personally, I would like to see the use of djembe drums banned. Based on my experience,
I would have to say they are a distraction from the mood of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana program. I have found hundreds of references to the potency of the mrdanga drum and absolutely no recommendation to use drums that are not part of Vedic culture. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Srila Prabhupada:

“My Guru Maharaja indicated that the mrdanga and the press are the mediums of our missionary propaganda activities, and we shall follow his path in the same way. We must have large quantities of mrdangas for vibrating in different parts of the world and we must distribute our literature also.” (Letter to Brahmananda dated 1-30-69)

While someone who is expert at playing some other instrument may be invited to join the sankirtana party, it should never distract attention from the chanting of the Holy Name, nor should it be allowed to overpower the glorious transcendental sound of sri mrdanga.

“My mind ever longs for the opportunity to hear the music of the mrdanga. Upon hearing the kind of kirtana ordained by Lord Gauracandra, my heart dances in ecstasy.” (Saranagati of Bhaktivinode Thakur)

In kirtanas I have been a part of, I found that a single djembe drum easily drowned out the sound of the mrdangas to the point where I could not even hear the mrdanga I myself was playing. These African drums have been in the world for a long time, but if Lord Caitanya did not make use of them, there is no justification for us to let the sound of these lower mode instruments permeate our performance of Krishna kirtana.

Just my humble opinion.

Your servant,
Locanananda dasa

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on December 5th, 2007
3 Krsna-Rupa d.d.

Hare Krsna
Dear Janananda Maharaja
Please accept my humble obesiances, All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Maharaja, I was wondering if the kirtan standards commitee was going to discuss whether the loud use of Karatals was accpetable in kirtan. Particularly in the temple room, the use of karatals can be so loud that it is damaging to the ear drums. Thus the very vessels of the bliss we are promoting are being destroyed by our method of promotion. If you take a decibel monitor into a kirtan you will find how often the sound rises to an illegal height. Why should devotees have to risk their ear drums in order to worship Krsna? Especially it is unattractive to visitors to the temple, as there is rarely such loud percussion heavy music heard in the western world. Christian music is usually based on chords, not percussion. It is a little off putting. I have to confess that this has often been the reason I leave the temple room before the end of kirtan. I know wearing ear plugs is a good solution, but I just cant get my head around why the other devotees think this over-loud clanging sounds so nice. Thus I feel the kirtan goes in a direction I cannot relate to. The sweet sound of bhajans praising the Lord can be stir the heart, but the clanging of karatals in kirtan can make one retreat to a more solitary worship.
I hope you will consider this for your commitee, as I am praying for the health of the Vaisnavas who need their hearing!
your aspiring servant
Krsna-Rupa d.d.

Comment posted by Krsna-Rupa d.d. on December 14th, 2007
4 Unregistered

Dear Janananda Maharaja,

Is there any further progress to report on this? Please contact me at

Thank you! Your servant… Guru Krsna das

Comment posted by Nimai dd on May 1st, 2008

Comments are closed. Please check back later.

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