Visiting Ragis – Parchaar or Business?


Dharig tinaa kaa jeevi-aa je likh likh vaycheh naa-o.
Cursed are the lives of those who read and write the Lord’s Name to sell it.
khaytee jin kee ujrhai khalvaarhay ki-aa thaa-o.
Their crop is devastated – what harvest will they have?
sachai sarmai baahray agai laheh na daad.
Lacking truth and humility, they shall not be appreciated in the world hereafter.
-Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 1245

We are immensely blessed in this age where we have access to immense sources from where we are able to get attracted to Gurbani (Guru Granth Sahib Ji). The internet is awash with several wonderful websites from where we can dowanload as much Kirtan and Katha we can to satiate our appetite for listening to and singing the Word of the Guru. Included in this is the bliss of getting to listen to some of the most blessed voices by inviting well-known and popular Ragi Jathas from around the world. Not only do they bring to us the message of the Gurus through their soothing and vairaag-filled vocals, they also inspire our coming generations that get a taste of the sugar-sweet Word of the Guru that turn around our life and destiny, and help focus our conscious towards the one Akaal Puarkh.

houmai vich gaavehi birathhaa jaae
In egotism, they sing, but it is wasted uselessly.

A sudden, but gradual, turn that is taking place is beginning to cause an opposite effect. To attract Sangat, some Gurudwaras around the world are inviting Ragi Jathas that are popular with the masses and even instruct them to avoid talking about facts about Sikhi that majority of Sangat do not like (no wonder they cannot be called Sadh Sangat). This is what corrupts our Ragi Jathas when many of them place a price that determines whether they accept the invitation to travel to other countries to sing Gurbani Kirtan for the Sangats there. There are only a select few of Ragi Jathas who have no lust for money as they are awake to the pricess message of Gurbani. Besides money, some of them engage in contests of whose style, voice and subject is better. The sole purpose of Gurbani Kirtan is to attract the soul to the nectar of Naam, as singing Kirtan itself is not Naam, it leads to Naam if what is sung is being understood and absorbed.

In the Shabad above, Guru Amar Das Ji makes it clear that all these Rehn-Sabais and Kirtan Darbaars we hold for show are simply wasted. Only those that love the Naam are able to sing the true Kirtan, GuruJi continues to add in the same Shabad, as (through love for the Naam), they contemplate the True Bani of the Word. According to GuruJi, only through Naam Japp can love be cultivated.

gaavan gaavehi jin naam piaar
Those who love the Naam, sing the song.
saachee baanee sabadh beechaar
They contemplate the True Bani of the Word, and the Shabad.
gaavath rehai jae sathigur bhaavai
They sing on and on, if it pleases the True Guru.
man than raathaa naam suhaavai. rehaao
Their minds and bodies are embellished and adorned,
attuned to the Naam, the Name of the Lord. Pause
eik gaavehi eik bhagath karaehi
Some sing, and some perform devotional worship.
naam n paavehi bin asanaeh
Without heart-felt love, the Naam is not obtained.
sachee bhagath gur sabadh piaar
True devotional worship consists of love for the Word of the Guru’s Shabad.
apanaa pir raakhiaa sadhaa our dhhaar
The devotee keeps his Beloved clasped tightly to his heart.
bhagath karehi moorakh aap janaavehi
The fools perform devotional worship by showing off;
nach nach ttapehi bahuth dhukh paavehi
they dance and dance and jump all around, but they only suffer in terrible pain.
nachiai ttapiai bhagath n hoe
By dancing and jumping, devotional worship is not performed.
sabadh marai bhagath paaeae jan soe
But one who dies in the Word of the Shabad, obtains devotional worship.
bhagath vashhal bhagath karaaeae soe
The Lord is the Lover of His devotees; He inspires them to perform devotional worship.
sachee bhagath vichahu aap khoe
True devotional worship consists of eliminating selfishness and conceit from within.
maeraa prabh saachaa sabh bidhh jaanai
My True God knows all ways and means.
naanak bakhasae naam pashhaanai
O Nanak, He forgives those who recognize the Naam.

Guru Amar Das Ji exposes those that perform devotional worship only to show off and reveals to us that only when our ego is subdued (dying in the Word of the Shabad) can will our devotion be accepted in the Court of the True Lord. That is why those Ragis that perform Kirtan for the benefit of heavy monetary returns have little effect on the Sangat, because that kind of Kirtan is all a show and is not drenched in love for the Divine. It is a different matter when Ragis must earn from Kirtan as that is their way of life, but some fall down to greed and ego and all their efforts and means account for nothing. There is a difference between devotion and singing. For many Ragis, they are singers, not devotees (of Shabad). Often, they do not even realise their quiet ego when they attempt to impress the Sangat with their voices. Even the Sangat are not aware that they go to the Gurudwaras simply to entertain their ears; if it wasn’t so, they would not need to wait for a popular Jatha to come to listen to Shabad Kirtan. More often than not, our own resident Gurudwara Ragi Jathas are not recognised for their service (and gift) when they sing Gurbani Kirtan every single day. As soon as the visiting professional Ragi Jathas are gone, the Sangat at the Gurudwara dwindles. Many people are rarely seen at the Gurudwara as they come and sit for two hours only when their ‘favourite’ Jatha comes calling, who in return seeks their dimes.

Kirtan was meant to be a simple and humble way to connect to the Shabad and today we have so many different instruments to turn it into music. Kirtan is not music to please the ears, but to penetrate the soul through contemplation. People have begun to compete for tunes and the best voices. I was taken aback when I read a Kirtan competition some time back . . . how can Kirtan (praises of the one Lord) be turned into a competition which must have a winner and a loser? What a fall we have taken, to bring Kirtan down to our petty levels, even if such contests are to help bring out the best in us. That is not the purpose of Kirtan. Kirtan is meant to teach us come closer and closer and closer to the True Guru so that we can develop love for the Divine.

Our dilemma here is that we cannot say much to Ragi Jathas that come to our countries only if their fee is given. The Gurudwara committees manage to raise the fee (through Sangat’s offerings) only because that will guarantee that their Gurudwara will attarct more Sangat than other Gurudwaras. Then these Gurudwara committees rarely allow these visiting Ragis to hold diwans at other Gurudwaras until a formal request in writting is made to them and acknowledged in the Sangat. Even some Ragi Jathas have become timid in speaking out the real message of Sikhi and have to sugar-coat their parchaar, otherwise they would not be allowed to step in the country again. This rot is having a reverse effect on the Sikh Sangats as the numbers continue to dwindle.

A moorakh like myself considers himself a beneficiary of the visiting Ragi Jathas as I get to listen more and learn more about Gurbani which further helps me to develop Divine Love. But what of the youth, who find no message from the professional Ragi Jathas who come to collect dollars and fill our ears with tunes, rather than the message of Shabad? Many of these youth, end up chatting in the parking lots of the Gurudwaras while their parents sit inside.

But who can speak about this Cosmic Play? How can an unworthy one like me even judge anyone, as I have still a long journey ahead of me? But through this Play, the Merciful Lord teaches His child what true Kirtan of the Shabad is. When I notice a flaw in someone, the flaws inside me stand out taller, and that helps me to silence my discriminating mind so that I can work on my own. Just how Waheguru works His Ways, we probably will never understand, but we can learn from what happens around us . . .



  1. Serena Kaur said,

    August 29, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    Interesting post….

  2. Sundeep Singh said,

    August 29, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    Interesting. I’ve heard of a katha competition before, not a kirtan one. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that provided people go into it with the right mindset. Being exposed to new styles can allow one to enhance their own style. They can also learn new ways to reach the sangat and start using the most effective ones.

  3. upinder kaur said,

    August 30, 2006 at 11:58 am


  4. singhu said,

    September 1, 2006 at 9:45 am


    So true!!!….Sometimes i had the same feeling…One word to summarized: MAYA!!..It is Maya who had win all over us..The day people remove the “GOLAKA”, more then 95% people will not come to the Gurdwara. Only few gurmukh/saints are saved with his kirpa…Please save us Satguru Jee…Please save us…

  5. upinder kaur said,

    September 2, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    “Guru ki Golak Garib ka moohn” ( guru’s treasure is for poor and needy)Golak is a very important part of gurudwara… Though it is misused,this does not reduce the importance of the Golak.You go to gurdwaras and see the large number of poor people taking langar there.I do agree funds are being mismanaged but that should not prevent us from donating to guru ki golak. Still a large amount of this fund is used as charity.
    ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥੧॥
    Besides Raagies also need to earn their livelihood.I do agree they are not rational and they too want to earn a quick buck.We should not encourage this practice.

  6. Davinderpal Singh said,

    September 4, 2006 at 9:51 pm

    Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

    Very interesting pst really makes you think of whats going on around us.

    Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

  7. Manjit Singh said,

    October 6, 2006 at 6:29 pm

    Nice post topic. I understand it is sometimes hard, but I don’t think it is your or mine or anybody’s job to judge as to who is a great ragi or a corrupt ragi, a great gurdwara manager or a corrupt manager, a great sadh sangat or not so great sadh sangat. Afterall, each one of us is on the same spiritual journey but may be on different levels and paths. Ragis work hard to learn and teach to sing, play tabla, harmonium etc. and they need to live and eat and raise their families like you, me and everyone else. We need to leave it the judgement of who is wrong or right to Akal Purukh Waheguru. If I am sitting among sadh sangat and watching and judging people as to what they are doing. I am not really meditating on the naam, but merely doing a ritual and sitting in Guru’s darbar pretending like a crane waiting for a fish. How can you and I judge as to if a Kirtan darbar with thousands of people is wasted if we are all connecting with Guru at different level? A same kirtan darbar in Guru’s court connect each one of us to Guru differently.

  8. Jagjit Singh said,

    November 6, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    Althougth I agree with your post, I think your picture above it is inappropriate. In the picture, you have Bhai malkit Singh, and Bhai Amolak Singh. Both are niskam kirtanness who do seva without any monetary gain. They have been doing this for decades.

    There are ragis who are businessmen and there are sants who are businessmen, but these two Gursikhs are not.

  9. lakhvir said,

    November 6, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    Jagjit Singh Ji,

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

    My wholehearted apologies for the depiction of two of these Gurmukhs, who I was no earlier on aware of who they were. The image was used purely for illustrative purposes and not to pin-point anyone for any reason. I do humbly apologies for the wrong impression portrayed by the image of my choice – I truly share your concern. I’ll bring the image down and replace it with another, but one that is more general which does not bear any resemblance to an otherwise respected Nishkaam Sevak Kirtani. Hope I can find forgiveness at your humble feet.

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

  10. Jagjit Singh said,

    November 7, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

    Thats fine, veera, relax, you do not need to apologise. We all make mistakes, especially un-intentionally. A link to your blog was sent to me, and I thought I would just point that out. To be honest, I rarely have time to visit any blogs. But nice to see people trying to generate understanding of Gurmat.

    Like I said, I agree with your point, it was just thepicture was of Gursikhs, who do seva in the right manner, without any personal gain.

    WaheguruJi Ka Khalsa. WaheguruJi Ki Fateh.

  11. H Singh said,

    February 19, 2007 at 8:54 am

    Dear all,

    We should not forget that Raagis have family too, they have to support their families as well, when they fall sick they need to have money to get themselves treated. Without money they are not expected to fly out to distant countries and do Gurmat Prachar.

    How many of us want to be Raagis or Pracharaks, are you willing to take this as your full time career. But we are fortunate that we have a Maryada that within Gurudwaras we should only sing Gurbani from Guru Granth Sahib and should discuss the preachings of Gurus , which is mostly maintained. It is the duty of the Gurudwara Managements to make sure that they adhere to these rules.

    In the current state of affairs in which we live, they are doing a great job, the living proof would be people like you who have lived overseas and still have strong faith in our roots.

    As far as the point in consideration is concerned , we should be concerned from what we get from them, not what they are, or what their personality is. We go to Gurudwaras to remember God and get insipired from our history and Guru’s Bani. The Raagis are just the carriers of Guru’s Bani.

    No doubt there will be different types of Raagis as there would be different types of Sangat as well, but that is human nature. But on the same token we should reward those Raagis who are humble and try to abide by Guru’s words, rather than those who put up a huge fanfare and put financial gains in front of their duties.

    May I ask Why there is more Sangat when there is a kirtan darbar where the Raagi Jatha consists of 10 people with guitars, keyboards and all that paraphernalia. ( But it is quite encouraging to see that the sikh Kirtan is still performed in a simple manner with a Tabla and Harmonium etc to avoid distracting our minds and to keep us focused on the Gurbani rather than the music )

    Sometimes I find it quite ludicurous when I hear some other form of devotional music ( fortunately not the Sikh Kirtan) based on the Filmi tunes and with full blast of Orchestra.

    Se we have some strict guidlines and Sikh Sangat does not accept gross neglect of these rules anywhere in the world. So we need not get carried away, we as individuals should aim at what we need to achieve, and on our way we take the help of preachers, books, historical facts to make us learn what they have to tell us .

    We should rely on ourselves to broaden our learning – read Guru Granth Sahib, understand what Guru Granth Sahib has to tell us, read and learn our history and draw our own inferences as well.

    As long as the Raagis sing Kirtan and talk about Guru Granth Sahib and the teachings of Guru within Gurudwaras, then we should be happy, as this is what we expect out of them.

    We will get what Sangat expects so we have to raise our standards as well.

    Sarbat Da Bhala

  12. Gurpreet Kaur said,

    April 28, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    kayi gavai raagi nadi bedi boho bhat kat nahi har har bheejai raam rajai. jina antar kapat vikaar hai tinna royee kiya keejai …………… Those who sing with true devotion from their heart also help to connect listeners’ hearts to guru ji’s charan. Those who merely sing tunes out of ego or kapat are as good as crying ……… (guru ji says ….. tinna royee kiya keejai….) so it is important for your soul to connect to guru ji’s charan that u listen to a kirtan sung by a true devotee……… when your heart fills with love of guru ji upon listening to a raagi’s kirtan, u know that raagi himself has done his homework. WJKK WJKF

  13. Gurpreet Kaur said,

    April 28, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    kayi gavai raagi nadi bedi boho bhat kar nahi har har bheejai raam rajai. jina antar kapat vikaar hai tinna royee kiya keejai …………… Those who sing with true devotion from their heart also help to connect listeners’ hearts to guru ji’s charan. Those who merely sing tunes out of ego or kapat are as good as crying ……… (guru ji says ….. tinna royee kiya keejai….) so it is important for your soul to connect to guru ji’s charan that u listen to a kirtan sung by a true devotee……… when your heart fills with love of guru ji upon listening to a raagi’s kirtan, u know that raagi himself has done his homework. WJKK WJKF

  14. supreet kaur said,

    June 6, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    we should never forget the teachings of what the gurus taught us. they are our soul. and plus they rck

  15. HS said,

    July 15, 2009 at 3:43 am

    More and more people have now started making Ragi Jathas and most of them make round the world trips. Some are good singers, some are good singers and excellent preachers, some have charisma and some have everything.

    There is more and more stress to bring a big jatha instead of small 3 men jatha – one singer, one tablchi and one for vocal support. The trend is to bring big jathas – with more and more musical instruments and computers and what not.

    However as long as they are doing their job of bringing more and more people to gurudwara and listen to the gurbani – their job is done.

    But we should somehow reward the jathas which follow the traditional way of Gurbani and dedicate their lives for learning and preaching gurubani and gurmat. Otherwise the gurbani will end up in T-Series cassettes with tunes based on cheap hindi movie songs as we see in the case of Bhagvati Jagrans.

  16. April 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

    respected bai sahib, MAI APKI BAHOT .BADI FAN HO .KYA WHO MAA JES NE APPKE JASE BETE KO PEDA KIYA HAI . MAI UNKE POTO DEKNA CHATE HU .JALDI -2 APNI WEB SITE BANAYE BALO BALO RE KIRTANIA. apke to atma tak kirtan karti hai abh tak to sangeet mera jeewan tha punjabi nahi ati samaj mai sab atti hai baba jee appaar maher hai bani samaj me bhi aati hai deep feelings hai sama bahut kast bara tha nikal; gaya amrtwela mela hai . AAP BAHOT TARKKI KAREGE AGE JAKE. THANKU WAHEGURU JI KA KALSA WAHEGURU JI KI FATEH.

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